June 1, 2021  |  

Epigenome characterization of human genomes using the PacBio platform

In addition to the genome and transcriptome, epigenetic information is essential to understand biological processes and their regulation, and their misregulation underlying disease. Traditionally, epigenetic DNA modifications are detected using upfront sample preparation steps such as bisulfite conversion, followed by sequencing. Bisulfite sequencing has provided a wealth of knowledge about human epigenetics, however it does not access the entire genome due to limitations in read length and GC- bias of the sequencing technologies used. In contrast, Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) DNA Sequencing is unique in that it can detect DNA base modifications as part of the sequencing process. It can thereby leverage the long read lengths and lack of GC bias for more comprehensive views of the human epigenome. I will highlight several examples of this capability towards the generation of new biological insights, including the resolution of methylation states in repetitive and GC-rich regions of the genome, and large-scale changes in the methylation status across a cancer genome as a function of drug sensitivity.

June 1, 2021  |  

Genome in a Bottle: You’ve sequenced. How well did you do?

Purpose: Clinical laboratories, research laboratories and technology developers all need DNA samples with reliably known genotypes in order to help validate and improve their methods. The Genome in a Bottle Consortium (genomeinabottle.org) has been developing Reference Materials with high-accuracy whole genome sequences to support these efforts.Methodology: Our pilot reference material is based on Coriell sample NA12878 and was released in May 2015 as NIST RM 8398 (tinyurl.com/giabpilot). To minimize bias and improve accuracy, 11 whole-genome and 3 exome data sets produced using 5 different technologies were integrated using a systematic arbitration method [1]. The Genome in a Bottle Analysis Group is adapting these methods and developing new methods to characterize 2 families, one Asian and one Ashkenazi Jewish from the Personal Genome Project, which are consented for public release of sequencing and phenotype data. We have generated a larger and even more diverse data set on these samples, including high-depth Illumina paired-end and mate-pair, Complete Genomics, and Ion Torrent short-read data, as well as Moleculo, 10X, Oxford Nanopore, PacBio, and BioNano Genomics long-read data. We are analyzing these data to provide an accurate assessment of not just small variants but also large structural variants (SVs) in both “easy” regions of the genome and in some “hard” repetitive regions. We have also made all of the input data sources publicly available for download, analysis, and publication.Results: Our arbitration method produced a reference data set of 2,787,291 single nucleotide variants (SNVs), 365,135 indels, 2744 SVs, and 2.2 billion homozygous reference calls for our pilot genome. We found that our call set is highly sensitive and specific in comparison to independent reference data sets. We have also generated preliminary assemblies and structural variant calls for the next 2 trios from long read data and are currently integrating and validating these.Discussion: We combined the strengths of each of our input datasets to develop a comprehensive and accurate benchmark call set. In the short time it has been available, over 20 published or submitted papers have used our data. Many challenges exist in comparing to our benchmark calls, and thus we have worked with the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health to develop standardized methods, performance metrics, and software to assist in its use.[1] Zook et al, Nat Biotech. 2014.

June 1, 2021  |  

Genome and transcriptome of the refeneration-competent flatworm, Macrostomum lignano

The free-living flatworm, Macrostomum lignano, much like its better known planarian relative, Schmidtea mediterranea, has an impressive regenerative capacity. Following injury, this species has the ability to regenerate almost an entirely new organism. This is attributable to the presence of an abundant somatic stem cell population, the neoblasts. These cells are also essential for the ongoing maintenance of most tissues, as their loss leads to irreversible degeneration of the animal. This set of unique properties makes a subset of flatworms attractive organisms for studying the evolution of pathways involved in tissue self-renewal, cell fate specification, and regeneration. The use of these organisms as models, however, is hampered by the lack of a well-assembled and annotated genome sequences, fundamental to modern genetic and molecular studies. Here we report the genomic sequence of Macrostomum lignano and an accompanying characterization of its transcriptome. The genome structure of M. lignano is remarkably complex, with ~75% of its sequence being comprised of simple repeats and transposon sequences. This has made high quality assembly from Illumina reads alone impossible (N50=222 bp). We therefore generated 130X coverage by long sequencing reads from the PacBio platform to create a substantially improved assembly with an N50 of 64 Kbp. We complemented the reference genome with an assembled and annotated transcriptome, and used both of these datasets in combination to probe gene expression patterns during regeneration, examining pathways important to stem cell function. As a whole, our data will provide a crucial resource for the community for the study not only of invertebrate evolution and phylogeny but also of regeneration and somatic pluripotency.

April 21, 2020  |  

Chromosome-scale assemblies reveal the structural evolution of African cichlid genomes.

African cichlid fishes are well known for their rapid radiations and are a model system for studying evolutionary processes. Here we compare multiple, high-quality, chromosome-scale genome assemblies to elucidate the genetic mechanisms underlying cichlid diversification and study how genome structure evolves in rapidly radiating lineages.We re-anchored our recent assembly of the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) genome using a new high-density genetic map. We also developed a new de novo genome assembly of the Lake Malawi cichlid, Metriaclima zebra, using high-coverage Pacific Biosciences sequencing, and anchored contigs to linkage groups (LGs) using 4 different genetic maps. These new anchored assemblies allow the first chromosome-scale comparisons of African cichlid genomes. Large intra-chromosomal structural differences (~2-28 megabase pairs) among species are common, while inter-chromosomal differences are rare (<10 megabase pairs total). Placement of the centromeres within the chromosome-scale assemblies identifies large structural differences that explain many of the karyotype differences among species. Structural differences are also associated with unique patterns of recombination on sex chromosomes. Structural differences on LG9, LG11, and LG20 are associated with reduced recombination, indicative of inversions between the rock- and sand-dwelling clades of Lake Malawi cichlids. M. zebra has a larger number of recent transposable element insertions compared with O. niloticus, suggesting that several transposable element families have a higher rate of insertion in the haplochromine cichlid lineage.This study identifies novel structural variation among East African cichlid genomes and provides a new set of genomic resources to support research on the mechanisms driving cichlid adaptation and speciation. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press.

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  |  

DNA Methylation at the Schizophrenia and Intelligence GWAS-Implicated MIR137HG Locus May Be Associated with Disease and Cognitive Functions

The largest genome-wide association studies have identified schizophrenia and intelligence associated variants in the MIR137HG locus containing genes encoding microRNA-137 and microRNA-2682. In the present study, we investigated DNA methylation in the MIR137HG intragenic CpG island (CGI) in the peripheral blood of 44 patients with schizophrenia and 50 healthy controls. The CGI included the entire MIR137 gene and the region adjacent to the 5′-end of MIR2682. The aim of the study was to examine the relationship of the CGI methylation with schizophrenia and cognitive functioning. The methylation level of 91 CpG located in the selected region was established for each participant by means of single-molecule real-time bisulfite sequencing. All subjects completed the battery of neuropsychological tests. We found that the CGI was hypomethylated in both groups, except for one site—CpG (chr1: 98?511?049), with significant interindividual variability in methylation. A higher level of methylation of this CpG was seen in male patients and was associated with a decrease in the cognitive index in the combined sample of patients and controls. Our data suggest that further investigation of mechanisms that regulate the MIR137 and MIR2682 genes expression might help to understand the molecular basis of cognitive deficits in schizophrenia.

April 21, 2020  |  

Chromosome-level genome assembly of Triplophysa tibetana, a fish adapted to the harsh high-altitude environment of the Tibetan Plateau.

Triplophysa is an endemic fish genus of the Tibetan Plateau in China. Triplophysa tibetana, which lives at a recorded altitude of ~4,000 m and plays an important role in the highland aquatic ecosystem, serves as an excellent model for investigating high-altitude environmental adaptation. However, evolutionary and conservation studies of T. tibetana have been limited by scarce genomic resources for the genus Triplophysa. In the present study, we applied PacBio sequencing and the Hi-C technique to assemble the T. tibetana genome. A 652-Mb genome with 1,325 contigs with an N50 length of 3.1 Mb was obtained. The 1,137 contigs were further assembled into 25 chromosomes, representing 98.7% and 80.47% of all contigs at the base and sequence number level, respectively. Approximately 260 Mb of sequence, accounting for ~39.8% of the genome, was identified as repetitive elements. DNA transposons (16.3%), long interspersed nuclear elements (12.4%) and long terminal repeats (11.0%) were the most repetitive types. In total, 24,372 protein-coding genes were predicted in the genome, and ~95% of the genes were functionally annotated via a search in public databases. Using whole genome sequence information, we found that T. tibetana diverged from its common ancestor with Danio rerio ~121.4 million years ago. The high-quality genome assembled in this work not only provides a valuable genomic resource for future population and conservation studies of T. tibetana, but it also lays a solid foundation for further investigation into the mechanisms of environmental adaptation of endemic fishes in the Tibetan Plateau. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

April 21, 2020  |  

CRISPR/CAS9 targeted CAPTURE of mammalian genomic regions for characterization by NGS.

The robust detection of structural variants in mammalian genomes remains a challenge. It is particularly difficult in the case of genetically unstable Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell lines with only draft genome assemblies available. We explore the potential of the CRISPR/Cas9 system for the targeted capture of genomic loci containing integrated vectors in CHO-K1-based cell lines followed by next generation sequencing (NGS), and compare it to popular target-enrichment sequencing methods and to whole genome sequencing (WGS). Three different CRISPR/Cas9-based techniques were evaluated; all of them allow for amplification-free enrichment of target genomic regions in the range from 5 to 60 fold, and for recovery of ~15 kb-long sequences with no sequencing artifacts introduced. The utility of these protocols has been proven by the identification of transgene integration sites and flanking sequences in three CHO cell lines. The long enriched fragments helped to identify Escherichia coli genome sequences co-integrated with vectors, and were further characterized by Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS). Other advantages of CRISPR/Cas9-based methods are the ease of bioinformatics analysis, potential for multiplexing, and the production of long target templates for real-time sequencing.

October 23, 2019  |  

Transmission, evolution, and endogenization: Lessons learned from recent retroviral invasions.

Viruses of the subfamily Orthoretrovirinaeare defined by the ability to reverse transcribe an RNA genome into DNA that integrates into the host cell genome during the intracellular virus life cycle. Exogenous retroviruses (XRVs) are horizontally transmitted between host individuals, with disease outcome depending on interactions between the retrovirus and the host organism. When retroviruses infect germ line cells of the host, they may become endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), which are permanent elements in the host germ line that are subject to vertical transmission. These ERVs sometimes remain infectious and can themselves give rise to XRVs. This review integrates recent developments in the phylogenetic classification of retroviruses and the identification of retroviral receptors to elucidate the origins and evolution of XRVs and ERVs. We consider whether ERVs may recurrently pressure XRVs to shift receptor usage to sidestep ERV interference. We discuss how related retroviruses undergo alternative fates in different host lineages after endogenization, with koala retrovirus (KoRV) receiving notable interest as a recent invader of its host germ line. KoRV is heritable but also infectious, which provides insights into the early stages of germ line invasions as well as XRV generation from ERVs. The relationship of KoRV to primate and other retroviruses is placed in the context of host biogeography and the potential role of bats and rodents as vectors for interspecies viral transmission. Combining studies of extant XRVs and “fossil” endogenous retroviruses in koalas and other Australasian species has broadened our understanding of the evolution of retroviruses and host-retrovirus interactions. Copyright © 2017 American Society for Microbiology.

September 22, 2019  |  

A survey of transcriptome complexity in Sus scrofa using single-molecule long-read sequencing.

Alternative splicing (AS) and fusion transcripts produce a vast expansion of transcriptomes and proteomes diversity. However, the reliability of these events and the extend of epigenetic mechanisms have not been adequately addressed due to its limitation of uncertainties about the complete structure of mRNA. Here we combined single-molecule real-time sequencing, Illumina RNA-seq and DNA methylation data to characterize the landscapes of DNA methylation on AS, fusion isoforms formation and lncRNA feature and further to unveil the transcriptome complexity of pig. Our analysis identified an unprecedented scale of high-quality full-length isoforms with over 28,127 novel isoforms from 26,881 novel genes. More than 92,000 novel AS events were detected and intron retention predominated in AS model, followed by exon skipping. Interestingly, we found that DNA methylation played an important role in generating various AS isoforms by regulating splicing sites, promoter regions and first exons. Furthermore, we identified a large of fusion transcripts and novel lncRNAs, and found that DNA methylation of the promoter and gene body could regulate lncRNA expression. Our results significantly improved existed gene models of pig and unveiled that pig AS and epigenetic modify were more complex than previously thought.

September 22, 2019  |  

Defining cell identity with single cell omics.

Cells are a fundamental unit of life, and the ability to study the phenotypes and behaviors of individual cells is crucial to understanding the workings of complex biological systems. Cell phenotypes (epigenomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, and metabolomic) exhibit dramatic heterogeneity between and within the different cell types and states underlying cellular functional diversity. Cell genotypes can also display heterogeneity throughout an organism, in the form of somatic genetic variation-most notably in the emergence and evolution of tumors. Recent technical advances in single-cell isolation and the development of omics approaches sensitive enough to reveal these aspects of cell identity have enabled a revolution in the study of multicellular systems. In this review, we discuss the technologies available to resolve the genomes, epigenomes, transcriptomes, proteomes, and metabolomes of single cells from a wide variety of living systems.© 2018 The Authors. Proteomics Published by WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.

September 22, 2019  |  

Long reads: their purpose and place.

In recent years long-read technologies have moved from being a niche and specialist field to a point of relative maturity likely to feature frequently in the genomic landscape. Analogous to next generation sequencing, the cost of sequencing using long-read technologies has materially dropped whilst the instrument throughput continues to increase. Together these changes present the prospect of sequencing large numbers of individuals with the aim of fully characterizing genomes at high resolution. In this article, we will endeavour to present an introduction to long-read technologies showing: what long reads are; how they are distinct from short reads; why long reads are useful and how they are being used. We will highlight the recent developments in this field, and the applications and potential of these technologies in medical research, and clinical diagnostics and therapeutics.

September 22, 2019  |  

Transcription-associated mutation promotes RNA complexity in highly expressed genes – A major new source of selectable variation.

Alternatively spliced transcript isoforms are thought to play a critical role for functional diversity. However, the mechanism generating the enormous diversity of spliced transcript isoforms remains unknown, and its biological significance remains unclear. We analyzed transcriptomes in saker falcons, chickens, and mice to show that alternative splicing occurs more frequently, yielding more isoforms, in highly expressed genes. We focused on hemoglobin in the falcon, the most abundantly expressed genes in blood, finding that alternative splicing produces 10-fold more isoforms than expected from the number of splice junctions in the genome. These isoforms were produced mainly by alternative use of de novo splice sites generated by transcription-associated mutation (TAM), not by the RNA editing mechanism normally invoked. We found that high expression of globin genes increases mutation frequencies during transcription, especially on nontranscribed DNA strands. After DNA replication, transcribed strands inherit these somatic mutations, creating de novo splice sites, and generating multiple distinct isoforms in the cell clone. Bisulfate sequencing revealed that DNA methylation may counteract this process by suppressing TAM, suggesting DNA methylation can spatially regulate RNA complexity. RNA profiling showed that falcons living on the high Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau possess greater global gene expression levels and higher diversity of mean to high abundance isoforms (reads per kilobases per million mapped reads?=18) than their low-altitude counterparts, and we speculate that this may enhance their oxygen transport capacity under low-oxygen environments. Thus, TAM-induced RNA diversity may be physiologically significant, providing an alternative strategy in lifestyle evolution.

September 22, 2019  |  

N4-cytosine DNA methylation regulates transcription and pathogenesis in Helicobacter pylori.

Many bacterial genomes exclusively display an N4-methyl cytosine base (m4C), whose physiological significance is not yet clear. Helicobacter pylori is a carcinogenic bacterium and the leading cause of gastric cancer in humans. Helicobacter pylori strain 26695 harbors a single m4C cytosine methyltransferase, M2.HpyAII which recognizes 5′ TCTTC 3′ sequence and methylates the first cytosine residue. To understand the role of m4C modification, M2.hpyAII deletion strain was constructed. Deletion strain displayed lower adherence to host AGS cells and reduced potential to induce inflammation and apoptosis. M2.hpyAII gene deletion strain exhibited reduced capacity for natural transformation, which was rescued in the complemented strain carrying an active copy of M2.hpyAII gene in the genome. Genome-wide gene expression and proteomic analysis were carried out to discern the possible reasons behind the altered phenotype of the M2.hpyAII gene deletion strain. Upon the loss of m4C modification a total of 102 genes belonging to virulence, ribosome assembly and cellular components were differentially expressed. The present study adds a functional role for the presence of m4C modification in H. pylori and provides the first evidence that m4C signal acts as a global epigenetic regulator in H. pylori.

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