June 1, 2021  |  

Sequencing of expanded CGG repeats in the FMR1 gene.

Alleles of the FMR1 gene with more than 200 CGG repeats generally undergo methylation-coupled gene silencing, resulting in fragile X syndrome, the leading heritable form of cognitive impairment. Smaller expansions (55-200 CGG repeats) result in elevated levels of FMR1 mRNA, which is directly responsible for the late-onset neurodegenerative disorder, fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS). For mechanistic studies and genetic counseling, it is important to know with precision the number of CGG repeats; however, no existing DNA sequencing method is capable of sequencing through more than ~100 CGG repeats, thus limiting the ability to precisely characterize the disease-causing alleles. The recent development of single molecule, real-time sequencing represents a novel approach to DNA sequencing that couples the intrinsic processivity of DNA polymerase with the ability to read polymerase activity on a single-molecule basis. Further, the accuracy of the method is improved through the use of circular templates, such that each molecule can be read multiple times to produce a circular consensus sequence (CCS). We have succeeded in generating CCS reads representing multiple passes through both strands of repeat tracts exceeding 700 CGGs (>2 kb of 100 percent CG) flanked by native FMR1 sequence, with single-molecule readlengths exceeding 12 kb. This sequencing approach thus enables us to fully characterize the previously intractable CGG-repeat sequence, leading to a better understanding of the distinct associated molecular pathologies. Real-time kinetic data also provides insight into the activity of DNA polymerase inside this unique sequence. The methodology should be widely applicable for studies of the molecular pathogenesis of an increasing number of repeat expansion-associated neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental disorders, and for the efficient identification of such disorders in the clinical setting.


June 1, 2021  |  

Enrichment of unamplified DNA and long-read SMRT Sequencing in unlocking the underlying biological disease mechanisms of repeat expansion disorders

For many of the repeat expansion disorders, the disease gene has been discovered, however the underlying biological mechanisms have not yet been fully understood. This is mainly due to technological limitations that do not allow for the needed base-pair resolution of the long, repetitive genomic regions. We have developed a novel, amplification-free enrichment technique that uses the CRISPR/Cas9 system to target large repeat expansions. This method, in conjunction with PacBio’s long reads and uniform coverage, enables sequencing of these complex genomic regions. By using a PCR-free amplification method, we are able to access not only the repetitive elements and interruption sequences accurately, but also the epigenetic information.


June 1, 2021  |  

Enrichment of unamplified DNA and long-read SMRT Sequencing to unlock repeat expansion disorders

Nucleotide repeat expansions are a major cause of neurological and neuromuscular disease in humans, however, the nature of these genomic regions makes characterizing them extremely challenging. Accurate DNA sequencing of repeat expansions using short-read sequencing technologies is difficult, as short-read technologies often cannot read through regions of low sequence complexity. Additionally, these short reads do not span the entire region of interest and therefore sequence assembly is required. Lastly, most target enrichment methods are reliant upon amplification which adds the additional caveat of PCR bias. We have developed a novel, amplification-free enrichment technique that employs the CRISPR/Cas9 system for specific targeting of individual human genes. This method, in conjunction with PacBio’s long reads and uniform coverage, enables sequencing of complex genomic regions that cannot be investigated with other technologies. Using human genomic DNA samples and this strategy, we have successfully targeted the loci of Huntington’s Disease (HTT; CAG repeat), Fragile X (FMR1; CGG repeat), ALS (C9orf72; GGGGCC repeat), and Spinocerebellar ataxia type 10 (SCA10; variable ATTCT repeat) for examination. With this data, we demonstrate the ability to isolate hundreds of individual on-target molecules in a single SMRT Cell and accurately sequence through long repeat stretches, regardless of the extreme GC-content. The method is compatible with multiplexing of multiple targets and multiple samples in a single reaction. This technique also captures native DNA molecules for sequencing, allowing for the possibility of direct detection and characterization of epigenetic signatures.


June 1, 2021  |  

Alternative splicing in FMR1 premutations carriers

Over 40% of males and ~16% of female carriers of a FMR1 premutation allele (55-200 CGG repeats) are at risk for developing Fragile X-associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS), an adult onset neurodegenerative disorder while, about 20% of female carriers will develop Fragile X-associated Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (FXPOI), in addition to a number of adult-onset clinical problems (FMR1 associated disorders). Marked elevation in FMR1 mRNA levels have been observed with premutation alleles and the resulting RNA toxicity is believed to be the leading molecular mechanism proposed for these disorders. The FMR1 gene, as many housekeeping genes, undergoes alternative splicing. Using long-read isoform sequencing (SMRT) and qRT-PCR we have recently reported that, although the relative abundance of all FMR1 mRNA isoforms is significantly increased in the premutation group compared to controls, there is a disproportionate increase, relative to the overall increase in mRNA, in the abundance of isoforms spliced at both exons 12 and 14. In total, we confirmed the existence of 16 out of 24 predicted isoforms in our samples. However, it is unknown, which isoforms, when overexpressed, may contribute to the premutation pathology. To address this question we have further defined the transcriptional FMR1 isoforms distribution pattern in different tissues, including heart, muscle, brain and testis derived from FXTAS premutation carriers and age-matched controls. Preliminary data indicates the presence of a transcriptional signature of the FMR1 gene, which clusters more by individual than by tissue type. We identified additional isoforms than the 16 reported in our previous study, including a group with particular splice patterns that were observed only in premutations but not in controls. Our findings suggest that the characterization of expression levels of the different FMR1 isoforms is fundamental for understanding the regulation of the FMR1 gene as well as for elucidating the mechanism(s) by which “toxic gain of function” of the FMR1 mRNA may play a role in FXTAS and/or in the other FMR1-associated conditions. In addition to the elevated levels of FMR1 isoforms, the altered abundance/ratio of the corresponding FMRP isomers may affect the overall function of FMRP in premutations.


June 1, 2021  |  

Targeted SMRT Sequencing of difficult regions of the genome using a Cas9, non-amplification based method

Targeted sequencing has proven to be an economical means of obtaining sequence information for one or more defined regions of a larger genome. However, most target enrichment methods are reliant upon some form of amplification. Amplification removes the epigenetic marks present in native DNA, and some genomic regions, such as those with extreme GC content and repetitive sequences, are recalcitrant to faithful amplification. Yet, a large number of genetic disorders are caused by expansions of repeat sequences. Furthermore, for some disorders, methylation status has been shown to be a key factor in the mechanism of disease. We have developed a novel, amplification-free enrichment technique that employs the CRISPR/Cas9 system for specific targeting of individual human genes. This method, in conjunction with SMRT Sequencing’s long reads, high consensus accuracy, and uniform coverage, allows the sequencing of complex genomic regions that cannot be investigated with other technologies.


June 1, 2021  |  

Amplification-free targeted enrichment and SMRT Sequencing of repeat-expansion genomic regions

Targeted sequencing has proven to be an economical means of obtaining sequence information for one or more defined regions of a larger genome. However, most target enrichment methods are reliant upon some form of amplification. Amplification removes the epigenetic marks present in native DNA, and some genomic regions, such as those with extreme GC content and repetitive sequences, are recalcitrant to faithful amplification. Yet, a large number of genetic disorders are caused by expansions of repeat sequences. Furthermore, for some disorders, methylation status has been shown to be a key factor in the mechanism of disease.


June 1, 2021  |  

Amplification-free, CRISPR-Cas9 targeted enrichment and SMRT Sequencing of repeat-expansion disease causative genomic regions

Targeted sequencing has proven to be economical for obtaining sequence information for defined regions of the genome. However, most target enrichment methods are reliant upon some form of amplification which can negatively impact downstream analysis. For example, amplification removes epigenetic marks present in native DNA, including nucleotide methylation, which are hypothesized to contribute to disease mechanisms in some disorders. In addition, some genomic regions known to be causative of many genetic disorders have extreme GC content and/or repetitive sequences that tend to be recalcitrant to faithful amplification. We have developed a novel, amplification-free enrichment technique that employs the CRISPR/Cas9 system to target individual genes. This method, in conjunction with the long reads, high consensus accuracy, and uniform coverage of SMRT Sequencing, allows accurate sequence analysis of complex genomic regions that cannot be investigated with other technologies. Using this strategy, we have successfully targeted a number of repeat expansion disorder loci (HTT, FMR1, ATXN10, C9orf72).With this data, we demonstrate the ability to isolate thousands of individual on-target molecules and, using the Sequel System, accurately sequence through long repeats regardless of the extreme GC-content. The method is compatible with multiplexing of multiple target loci and multiple samples in a single reaction. Furthermore, because there is no amplification step, this technique also preserves native DNA molecules for sequencing, allowing for the direct detection and characterization of epigenetic signatures. To this end, we demonstrate the detection of 5-mC in the CGG repeat of the FMR1 gene that is responsible for Fragile X syndrome.


June 1, 2021  |  

Amplification-free targeted enrichment powered by CRISPR-Cas9 and long-read Single Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing can efficiently and accurately sequence challenging repeat expansion disorders

Genomic regions with extreme base composition bias and repetitive sequences have long proven challenging for targeted enrichment methods, as they rely upon some form of amplification. Similarly, most DNA sequencing technologies struggle to faithfully sequence regions of low complexity. This has been especially trying for repeat expansion disorders such as Fragile-X disease, Huntington disease and various Ataxias, where the repetitive elements range from several hundreds of bases to tens of kilobases. We have developed a robust, amplification-free targeted enrichment technique, called No-Amp Targeted Sequencing, that employs the CRISPR-Cas9 system. In conjunction with SMRT Sequencing, which delivers long reads spanning the entire repeat expansion, high consensus accuracy, and uniform coverage, these previously inaccessible regions are now accessible. This method is completely amplification-free, therefore removing any PCR errors and biases from the experiment. Furthermore, this technique also preserves native DNA molecules, allowing for direct detection and characterization of epigenetic signatures. The No-Amp method is a two-day protocol that is compatible with multiplexing of multiple targets and multiple samples in a single reaction, using as little as 1 µg of genomic DNA input per sample. We have successfully targeted a number of repeat expansion disorder loci including HTT, FMR1, C9orf7,2 as well as built an Ataxia panel which consists of 15 different disease-causing repeat expansion regions. Using the No-Amp method we have isolated hundreds of individual on-target molecules, allowing for reliable repeat size estimation, mosaicism detection and identification of interruption sequences with alleles as long as >2700 repeat unites ( >13 kb). In addition to multiplexing several targets, we have also multiplexed at least 20 samples in one experiment making the No-Amp Targeted Sequencing method a cost-effective option. Combining the CRISPR-Cas9 enrichment method with Single Molecule, Real-Time Sequencing provided us with base-level resolution of previously inaccessible regions of the genome, like disease-causing repeat expansions. No-Amp Targeted Sequencing captures, in one experiment, many aspects of repeat expansion disorders which are important for better understanding the underlying disease mechanisms.


April 21, 2020  |  

Single-Molecule Sequencing: Towards Clinical Applications.

In the past several years, single-molecule sequencing platforms, such as those by Pacific Biosciences and Oxford Nanopore Technologies, have become available to researchers and are currently being tested for clinical applications. They offer exceptionally long reads that permit direct sequencing through regions of the genome inaccessible or difficult to analyze by short-read platforms. This includes disease-causing long repetitive elements, extreme GC content regions, and complex gene loci. Similarly, these platforms enable structural variation characterization at previously unparalleled resolution and direct detection of epigenetic marks in native DNA. Here, we review how these technologies are opening up new clinical avenues that are being applied to pathogenic microorganisms and viruses, constitutional disorders, pharmacogenomics, cancer, and more.Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


April 21, 2020  |  

Long-Read Sequencing Emerging in Medical Genetics

The wide implementation of next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies has revolutionized the field of medical genetics. However, the short read lengths of currently used sequencing approaches pose a limitation for identification of structural variants, sequencing repetitive regions, phasing alleles and distinguishing highly homologous genomic regions. These limitations may significantly contribute to the diagnostic gap in patients with genetic disorders who have undergone standard NGS, like whole exome or even genome sequencing. Now, the emerging long-read sequencing (LRS) technologies may offer improvements in the characterization of genetic variation and regions that are difficult to assess with the currently prevailing NGS approaches. LRS has so far mainly been used to investigate genetic disorders with previously known or strongly suspected disease loci. While these targeted approaches already show the potential of LRS, it remains to be seen whether LRS technologies can soon enable true whole genome sequencing routinely. Ultimately, this could allow the de novo assembly of individual whole genomes used as a generic test for genetic disorders. In this article, we summarize the current LRS-based research on human genetic disorders and discuss the potential of these technologies to facilitate the next major advancements in medical genetics.


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