April 21, 2020  |  

Relative Performance of MinION (Oxford Nanopore Technologies) versus Sequel (Pacific Biosciences) Third-Generation Sequencing Instruments in Identification of Agricultural and Forest Fungal Pathogens.

Culture-based molecular identification methods have revolutionized detection of pathogens, yet these methods are slow and may yield inconclusive results from environmental materials. The second-generation sequencing tools have much-improved precision and sensitivity of detection, but these analyses are costly and may take several days to months. Of the third-generation sequencing techniques, the portable MinION device (Oxford Nanopore Technologies) has received much attention because of its small size and possibility of rapid analysis at reasonable cost. Here, we compare the relative performances of two third-generation sequencing instruments, MinION and Sequel (Pacific Biosciences), in identification and diagnostics of fungal and oomycete pathogens from conifer (Pinaceae) needles and potato (Solanum tuberosum) leaves and tubers. We demonstrate that the Sequel instrument is efficient for metabarcoding of complex samples, whereas MinION is not suited for this purpose due to a high error rate and multiple biases. However, we find that MinION can be utilized for rapid and accurate identification of dominant pathogenic organisms and other associated organisms from plant tissues following both amplicon-based and PCR-free metagenomics approaches. Using the metagenomics approach with shortened DNA extraction and incubation times, we performed the entire MinION workflow, from sample preparation through DNA extraction, sequencing, bioinformatics, and interpretation, in 2.5 h. We advocate the use of MinION for rapid diagnostics of pathogens and potentially other organisms, but care needs to be taken to control or account for multiple potential technical biases.IMPORTANCE Microbial pathogens cause enormous losses to agriculture and forestry, but current combined culturing- and molecular identification-based detection methods are too slow for rapid identification and application of countermeasures. Here, we develop new and rapid protocols for Oxford Nanopore MinION-based third-generation diagnostics of plant pathogens that greatly improve the speed of diagnostics. However, due to high error rate and technical biases in MinION, the Pacific BioSciences Sequel platform is more useful for in-depth amplicon-based biodiversity monitoring (metabarcoding) from complex environmental samples.Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.


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  |  

Sequential evolution of virulence and resistance during clonal spread of community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

The past two decades have witnessed an alarming expansion of staphylococcal disease caused by community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA). The factors underlying the epidemic expansion of CA-MRSA lineages such as USA300, the predominant CA-MRSA clone in the United States, are largely unknown. Previously described virulence and antimicrobial resistance genes that promote the dissemination of CA-MRSA are carried by mobile genetic elements, including phages and plasmids. Here, we used high-resolution genomics and experimental infections to characterize the evolution of a USA300 variant plaguing a patient population at increased risk of infection to understand the mechanisms underlying the emergence of genetic elements that facilitate clonal spread of the pathogen. Genetic analyses provided conclusive evidence that fitness (manifest as emergence of a dominant clone) changed coincidently with the stepwise emergence of (i) a unique prophage and mutation of the regulator of the pyrimidine nucleotide biosynthetic operon that promoted abscess formation and colonization, respectively, thereby priming the clone for success; and (ii) a unique plasmid that conferred resistance to two topical microbiocides, mupirocin and chlorhexidine, frequently used for decolonization and infection prevention. The resistance plasmid evolved through successive incorporation of DNA elements from non-S. aureus spp. into an indigenous cryptic plasmid, suggesting a mechanism for interspecies genetic exchange that promotes antimicrobial resistance. Collectively, the data suggest that clonal spread in a vulnerable population resulted from extensive clinical intervention and intense selection pressure toward a pathogen lifestyle that involved the evolution of consequential mutations and mobile genetic elements.


April 21, 2020  |  

Development of CRISPR-Cas systems for genome editing and beyond

The development of clustered regularly interspaced short-palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-Cas systems for genome editing has transformed the way life science research is conducted and holds enormous potential for the treatment of disease as well as for many aspects of biotech- nology. Here, I provide a personal perspective on the development of CRISPR-Cas9 for genome editing within the broader context of the field and discuss our work to discover novel Cas effectors and develop them into additional molecular tools. The initial demonstra- tion of Cas9-mediated genome editing launched the development of many other technologies, enabled new lines of biological inquiry, and motivated a deeper examination of natural CRISPR-Cas systems, including the discovery of new types of CRISPR-Cas systems. These new discoveries in turn spurred further technological developments. I review these exciting discoveries and technologies as well as provide an overview of the broad array of applications of these technologies in basic research and in the improvement of human health. It is clear that we are only just beginning to unravel the potential within microbial diversity, and it is quite likely that we will continue to discover other exciting phenomena, some of which it may be possible to repurpose as molecular technologies. The transformation of mysterious natural phenomena to powerful tools, however, takes a collective effort to discover, characterize, and engineer them, and it has been a privilege to join the numerous researchers who have contributed to this transformation of CRISPR-Cas systems.


April 21, 2020  |  

Featherweight long read alignment using partitioned reference indexes.

The advent of Nanopore sequencing has realised portable genomic research and applications. However, state of the art long read aligners and large reference genomes are not compatible with most mobile computing devices due to their high memory requirements. We show how memory requirements can be reduced through parameter optimisation and reference genome partitioning, but highlight the associated limitations and caveats of these approaches. We then demonstrate how these issues can be overcome through an appropriate merging technique. We incorporated multi-index merging into the Minimap2 aligner and demonstrate that long read alignment to the human genome can be performed on a system with 2?GB RAM with negligible impact on accuracy.


April 21, 2020  |  

FDA-ARGOS is a database with public quality-controlled reference genomes for diagnostic use and regulatory science.

FDA proactively invests in tools to support innovation of emerging technologies, such as infectious disease next generation sequencing (ID-NGS). Here, we introduce FDA-ARGOS quality-controlled reference genomes as a public database for diagnostic purposes and demonstrate its utility on the example of two use cases. We provide quality control metrics for the FDA-ARGOS genomic database resource and outline the need for genome quality gap filling in the public domain. In the first use case, we show more accurate microbial identification of Enterococcus avium from metagenomic samples with FDA-ARGOS reference genomes compared to non-curated GenBank genomes. In the second use case, we demonstrate the utility of FDA-ARGOS reference genomes for Ebola virus target sequence comparison as part of a composite validation strategy for ID-NGS diagnostic tests. The use of FDA-ARGOS as an in silico target sequence comparator tool combined with representative clinical testing could reduce the burden for completing ID-NGS clinical trials.


April 21, 2020  |  

Strain-level metagenomic assignment and compositional estimation for long reads with MetaMaps.

Metagenomic sequence classification should be fast, accurate and information-rich. Emerging long-read sequencing technologies promise to improve the balance between these factors but most existing methods were designed for short reads. MetaMaps is a new method, specifically developed for long reads, capable of mapping a long-read metagenome to a comprehensive RefSeq database with >12,000 genomes in <16?GB or RAM on a laptop computer. Integrating approximate mapping with probabilistic scoring and EM-based estimation of sample composition, MetaMaps achieves >94% accuracy for species-level read assignment and r2?>?0.97 for the estimation of sample composition on both simulated and real data when the sample genomes or close relatives are present in the classification database. To address novel species and genera, which are comparatively harder to predict, MetaMaps outputs mapping locations and qualities for all classified reads, enabling functional studies (e.g. gene presence/absence) and detection of incongruities between sample and reference genomes.


April 21, 2020  |  

Single-molecule sequencing detection of N6-methyladenine in microbial reference materials.

The DNA base modification N6-methyladenine (m6A) is involved in many pathways related to the survival of bacteria and their interactions with hosts. Nanopore sequencing offers a new, portable method to detect base modifications. Here, we show that a neural network can improve m6A detection at trained sequence contexts compared to previously published methods using deviations between measured and expected current values as each adenine travels through a pore. The model, implemented as the mCaller software package, can be extended to detect known or confirm suspected methyltransferase target motifs based on predictions of methylation at untrained contexts. We use PacBio, Oxford Nanopore, methylated DNA immunoprecipitation sequencing (MeDIP-seq), and whole-genome bisulfite sequencing data to generate and orthogonally validate methylomes for eight microbial reference species. These well-characterized microbial references can serve as controls in the development and evaluation of future methods for the identification of base modifications from single-molecule sequencing data.


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