June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing solutions for plant genomes and transcriptomes

Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing provides efficient, streamlined solutions to address new frontiers in plant genomes and transcriptomes. Inherent challenges presented by highly repetitive, low-complexity regions and duplication events are directly addressed with multi- kilobase read lengths exceeding 8.5 kb on average, with many exceeding 20 kb. Differentiating between transcript isoforms that are difficult to resolve with short-read technologies is also now possible. We present solutions available for both reference genome and transcriptome research that best leverage long reads in several plant projects including algae, Arabidopsis, rice, and spinach using only the PacBio platform. Benefits for these applications are further realized with consistent use of size-selection of input sample using the BluePippin™ device from Sage Science. We will share highlights from our genome projects using the latest P5- C3 chemistry to generate high-quality reference genomes with the highest contiguity, contig N50 exceeding 1 Mb, and average base quality of QV50. Additionally, the value of long, intact reads to provide a no-assembly approach to investigate transcript isoforms using our Iso-Seq protocol will be presented for full transcriptome characterization and targeted surveys of genes with complex structures. PacBio provides the most comprehensive assembly with annotation when combining offerings for both genome and transcriptome research efforts. For more focused investigation, PacBio also offers researchers opportunities to easily investigate and survey genes with complex structures.


June 1, 2021  |  

Old school/new school genome sequencing: One step backward — a quantum leap forward.

As the costs for genome sequencing have decreased the number of “genome” sequences have increased at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, the quality and completeness of these so–called “genome” sequences have suffered enormously. We prefer to call such genome assemblies as “gene assembly space” (GAS). We believe it is important to distinguish GAS assemblies from reference genome assemblies (RGAs) as all subsequent research that depends on accurate genome assemblies can be highly compromised if the only assembly available is a GAS assembly.


June 1, 2021  |  

De novo assembly of a complex panicoid grass genome using ultra-long PacBio reads with P6C4 chemistry

Drought is responsible for much of the global losses in crop yields and understanding how plants naturally cope with drought stress is essential for breeding and engineering crops for the changing climate. Resurrection plants desiccate to complete dryness during times of drought, then “come back to life” once water is available making them an excellent model for studying drought tolerance. Understanding the molecular networks governing how resurrection plants handle desiccation will provide targets for crop engineering. Oropetium thomaeum (Oro) is a resurrection plant that also has the smallest known grass genome at 250 Mb compared to Brachypodium distachyon (300 Mb) and rice (350 Mb). Plant genomes, especially grasses, have complex repeat structures such as telomeres, centromeres, and ribosomal gene cassettes, and high heterozygosity, which makes them difficult to assembly using short read next generation sequencing technologies. Ultra-long PacBio reads using the new P6C4 chemistry and the latest 15kb Blue Pippin size-selection protocol to generate 20kb insert libraries that yielded an average read length of 12kb providing ~72X coverage, and 10X coverage with reads over 20kb. The HGAP assembly covers 98% of the genome with a contig N50 of 2.4 Mb, which makes it one of the highest quality and most complete plant genomes assembled to date. Oro has a compact genome structure compared to other grasses with only 16% repeat sequences but has very good collinearity with other grasses. Understanding the genomic mechanisms of extreme desiccation tolerance in resurrection plants like Oro will provide insights for engineering and intelligent breeding of improved food, fuel, and fiber crops.


June 1, 2021  |  

Genome assembly strategies of the recent polyploid, Coffea arabica.

Arabica coffee, revered for its taste and aroma, has a complex genome. It is an allotetraploid (2n=4x=44) with a genome size of approximately 1.3 Gb, derived from the recent (< 0.6 Mya) hybridization of two diploid progenitors (2n=2x=22), C. canephora (710 Mb) and C. eugenioides (670 Mb). Both parental species diverged recently (< 4.2Mya) and their genomes are highly homologous. To facilitate assembly, a dihaploid plant was chosen for sequencing. Initial genome assembly attempts with short read data produced an assembly covering 1,031 Mb of the C. arabica genome with a contig L50 of 9kb. By implementation of long read PacBio at greater than 50x coverage and cutting-edge PacBio software, a de novo PacBio-only genome assembly was constructed that covers 1,042 Mb of the genome with an L50 of 267 kb. The two assemblies were assessed and compared to determine gene content, chimeric regions, and the ability to separate the parental genomes. A genetic map that contains 600 SSRs is being used for anchoring the contigs and improve the sub-genome differentiation together with the search of sub-genome specific SNPs. PacBio transcriptome sequencing is currently being added to finalize gene annotation of the polished assembly. The finished genome assembly will be used to guide re-sequencing assemblies of parental genomes (C. canephora and C. eugenioides) as well as a template for GBS analysis and whole genome re-sequencing of a set of C. arabica accessions representative of the species diversity. The obtained data will provide powerful genomic tools to enable more efficient coffee breeding strategies for this crop, which is highly susceptible to climate change and is the main source of income for millions of small farmers in producing countries.


June 1, 2021  |  

Long read sequencing technology to solve complex genomic regions assembly in plants

Numerous whole genome sequencing projects already achieved or ongoing have highlighted the fact that obtaining a high quality genome sequence is necessary to address comparative genomics questions such as structural variations among genotypes and gain or loss of specific function. Despite the spectacular progress that has been done regarding sequencing technologies, accurate and reliable data are still challenging, at the whole genome scale but also when targeting specific genomic regions. These issues are even more noticeable for complex plant genomes. Most plant genomes are known to be particularly challenging due to their size, high density of repetitive elements and various levels of ploidy. To overcome these issues, we have developed a strategy in order to reduce the genome complexity by using the large insert BAC libraries combined with next generation sequencing technologies. We have compared two different technologies (Roche-454 and Pacific Biosciences PacBio RS II) to sequence pools of BAC clones in order to obtain the best quality sequence. We targeted nine BAC clones from different species (maize, wheat, strawberry, barley, sugarcane and sunflower) known to be complex in terms of sequence assembly. We sequenced the pools of the nine BAC clones with both technologies. We have compared results of assembly and highlighted differences due to the sequencing technologies used. We demonstrated that the long reads obtained with the PacBio RS II technology enables to obtain a better and more reliable assembly notably by preventing errors due to duplicated or repetitive sequences in the same region.


June 1, 2021  |  

Reconstruction of the spinach coding genome using full-length transcriptome without a reference genome

For highly complex and large genomes, a well-annotated genome may be computationally challenging and costly, yet the study of alternative splicing events and gene annotations usually rely on the existence of a genome. Long-read sequencing technology provides new opportunities to sequence full-length cDNAs, avoiding computational challenges that short read transcript assembly brings. The use of single molecule, real-time sequencing from PacBio to sequence transcriptomes (the Iso-Seq method), which produces de novo, high-quality, full-length transcripts, has revealed an astonishing amount of alternative splicing in eukaryotic species. With the Iso-Seq method, it is now possible to reconstruct the transcribed regions of the genome using just the transcripts themselves. We present Cogent, a tool for finding gene families and reconstructing the coding genome in the absence of a high-quality reference genome. Cogent uses k-mer similarities to first partition the transcripts into different gene families. Then, for each gene family, the transcripts are used to build a splice graph. Cogent identifies bubbles resulting from sequencing errors, minor variants, and exon skipping events, and attempts to resolve each splice graph down to the minimal set of reconstructed contigs. We apply Cogent to the Iso-Seq data for spinach, Spinacia oleracea, for which there is also a PacBio-based draft genome to validate the reconstruction. The Iso-Seq dataset consists of 68,263 fulllength, Quiver-polished transcript sequences ranging from 528 bp to 6 kbp long (mean: 2.1 kbp). Using the genome mapping as ground truth, we found that 95% (8045/8446) of the Cogent gene families found corresponded to a single genomic loci. For families that contained multiple loci, they were often homologous genes that would be categorized as belonging to the same gene family. Coding genome reconstruction was then performed individually for each gene family. A total of 86% (7283/8446) of the gene families were resolved to a single contig by Cogent, and was validated to be also a single contig in the genome. In 59 cases, Cogent reconstructed a single contig, however the contig corresponded to 2 or more loci in the genome, suggesting possible scaffolding opportunities. In 24 cases, the transcripts had no hits to the genome, though Pfam and BLAST searches of the transcripts show that they were indeed coding, suggesting that the genome is missing certain coding portions. Given the high quality of the spinach genome, we were not surprised to find that Cogent only minorly improved the genome space. However the ability of Cogent to accurately identify gene families and reconstruct the coding genome in a de novo fashion shows that it will be extremely powerful when applied to datasets for which there is no or low-quality reference genome.


June 1, 2021  |  

Best practices for diploid assembly of complex genomes using PacBio: A case study of Cascade Hops

A high quality reference genome is an essential resource for plant and animal breeding and functional and evolutionary studies. The common hop (Humulus lupulus, Cannabaceae) is an economically important crop plant used to flavor and preserve beer. Its genome is large (flow cytometrybased estimates of diploid length >5.4Gb1), highly repetitive, and individual plants display high levels of heterozygosity, which make assembly of an accurate and contiguous reference genome challenging with conventional short-read methods. We present a contig assembly of Cascade Hops using PacBio long reads and the diploid genome assembler, FALCON-Unzip2. The assembly has dramatically improved contiguity and completeness over earlier short-read assemblies. The genome is primarily assembled as haplotypes due to the outbred nature of the organism. We explore patterns of haplotype divergence across the assembly and present strategies to deduplicate haplotypes prior to scaffolding


June 1, 2021  |  

Characterizing the pan-genome of maize with PacBio SMRT Sequencing

Maize is an amazingly diverse crop. A study in 20051 demonstrated that half of the genome sequence and one-third of the gene content between two inbred lines of maize were not shared. This diversity, which is more than two orders of magnitude larger than the diversity found between humans and chimpanzees, highlights the inability of a single reference genome to represent the full pan-genome of maize and all its variants. Here we present and review several efforts to characterize the complete diversity within maize using the highly accurate long reads of PacBio Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing. These methods provide a framework for a pan-genomic approach that can be applied to studies of a wide variety of important crop species.


June 1, 2021  |  

Structural variant detection in crops using low-fold coverage long-read sequencing

Genomics studies have shown that the insertions, deletions, duplications, translocations, inversions, and tandem repeat expansions in the structural variant (SV) size range (>50 bp) contribute to the evolution of traits and often have significant associations with agronomically important phenotypes. However, most SVs are too small to detect with array comparative genomic hybridization and too large to reliably discover with short-read DNA sequencing. While de novo assembly is the most comprehensive way to identify variants in a genome, recent studies in human genomes show that PacBio SMRT Sequencing sensitively detects structural variants at low coverage. Here we present SV characterization in the major crop species Oryza sativa subsp. indica (rice) with low-fold coverage of long reads. In addition, we provide recommendations for sequencing and analysis for the application of this workflow to other important agricultural species.


February 5, 2021  |  

Movie: The new biology

This documentary film features the wave of cutting-edge technologies that now provide the opportunity to create predictive models of living systems, and gain wisdom about the fundamental nature of life…


February 5, 2021  |  

Movie: The new biology part II – cancer

Part II of The New Biology documentary. This documentary film features the wave of cutting-edge technologies that now provide the opportunity to create predictive models of living systems, and gain…


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