April 21, 2020  |  

RNA sequencing: the teenage years.

Over the past decade, RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) has become an indispensable tool for transcriptome-wide analysis of differential gene expression and differential splicing of mRNAs. However, as next-generation sequencing technologies have developed, so too has RNA-seq. Now, RNA-seq methods are available for studying many different aspects of RNA biology, including single-cell gene expression, translation (the translatome) and RNA structure (the structurome). Exciting new applications are being explored, such as spatial transcriptomics (spatialomics). Together with new long-read and direct RNA-seq technologies and better computational tools for data analysis, innovations in RNA-seq are contributing to a fuller understanding of RNA biology, from questions such as when and where transcription occurs to the folding and intermolecular interactions that govern RNA function.


April 21, 2020  |  

Loss-of-function tolerance of enhancers in the human genome

Previous studies have surveyed the potential impact of loss-of-function (LoF) variants and identified LoF-tolerant protein-coding genes. However, the tolerance of human genomes to losing enhancers has not yet been evaluated. Here we present the catalog of LoF-tolerant enhancers using structural variants from whole-genome sequences. Using a conservative approach, we estimate that each individual human genome possesses at least 28 LoF-tolerant enhancers on average. We assessed the properties of LoF-tolerant enhancers in a unified regulatory network constructed by integrating tissue-specific enhancers and gene-gene interactions. We find that LoF-tolerant enhancers are more tissue-specific and regulate fewer and more dispensable genes. They are enriched in immune-related cells while LoF-intolerant enhancers are enriched in kidney and brain/neuronal stem cells. We developed a supervised learning approach to predict the LoF- tolerance of enhancers, which achieved an AUROC of 96%. We predict 5,677 more enhancers would be likely tolerant to LoF and 75 enhancers that would be highly LoF-intolerant. Our predictions are supported by known set of disease enhancers and novel deletions from PacBio sequencing. The LoF-tolerance scores provided here will serve as an important reference for disease studies.


April 21, 2020  |  

Schizophrenia risk variants influence multiple classes of transcripts of sorting nexin 19 (SNX19).

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified many genomic loci associated with risk for schizophrenia, but unambiguous identification of the relationship between disease-associated variants and specific genes, and in particular their effect on risk conferring transcripts, has proven difficult. To better understand the specific molecular mechanism(s) at the schizophrenia locus in 11q25, we undertook cis expression quantitative trait loci (cis-eQTL) mapping for this 2 megabase genomic region using postmortem human brain samples. To comprehensively assess the effects of genetic risk upon local expression, we evaluated multiple transcript features: genes, exons, and exon-exon junctions in multiple brain regions-dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), hippocampus, and caudate. Genetic risk variants strongly associated with expression of SNX19 transcript features that tag multiple rare classes of SNX19 transcripts, whereas they only weakly affected expression of an exon-exon junction that tags the majority of abundant transcripts. The most prominent class of SNX19 risk-associated transcripts is predicted to be overexpressed, defined by an exon-exon splice junction between exons 8 and 10 (junc8.10) and that is predicted to encode proteins that lack the characteristic nexin C terminal domain. Risk alleles were also associated with either increased or decreased expression of multiple additional classes of transcripts. With RACE, molecular cloning, and long read sequencing, we found a number of novel SNX19 transcripts that further define the set of potential etiological transcripts. We explored epigenetic regulation of SNX19 expression and found that DNA methylation at CpG sites near the primary transcription start site and within exon 2 partially mediate the effects of risk variants on risk-associated expression. ATAC sequencing revealed that some of the most strongly risk-associated SNPs are located within a region of open chromatin, suggesting a nearby regulatory element is involved. These findings indicate a potentially complex molecular etiology, in which risk alleles for schizophrenia generate epigenetic alterations and dysregulation of multiple classes of SNX19 transcripts.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genetic variation in the conjugative plasmidome of a hospital effluent multidrug resistant Escherichia coli strain.

Bacteria harboring conjugative plasmids have the potential for spreading antibiotic resistance through horizontal gene transfer. It is described that the selection and dissemination of antibiotic resistance is enhanced by stressors, like metals or antibiotics, which can occur as environmental contaminants. This study aimed at unveiling the composition of the conjugative plasmidome of a hospital effluent multidrug resistant Escherichia coli strain (H1FC54) under different mating conditions. To meet this objective, plasmid pulsed field gel electrophoresis, optical mapping analyses and DNA sequencing were used in combination with phenotype analysis. Strain H1FC54 was observed to harbor five plasmids, three of which were conjugative and two of these, pH1FC54_330 and pH1FC54_140, contained metal and antibiotic resistance genes. Transconjugants obtained in the absence or presence of tellurite (0.5?µM or 5?µM), arsenite (0.5?µM, 5?µM or 15?µM) or ceftazidime (10?mg/L) and selected in the presence of sodium azide (100?mg/L) and tetracycline (16?mg/L) presented distinct phenotypes, associated with the acquisition of different plasmid combinations, including two co-integrate plasmids, of 310 kbp and 517 kbp. The variable composition of the conjugative plasmidome, the formation of co-integrates during conjugation, as well as the transfer of non-transferable plasmids via co-integration, and the possible association between antibiotic, arsenite and tellurite tolerance was demonstrated. These evidences bring interesting insights into the comprehension of the molecular and physiological mechanisms that underlie antibiotic resistance propagation in the environment. Copyright © 2019 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  |  

A physical and genetic map of Cannabis sativa identifies extensive rearrangements at the THC/CBD acid synthase loci.

Cannabis sativa is widely cultivated for medicinal, food, industrial, and recreational use, but much remains unknown regarding its genetics, including the molecular determinants of cannabinoid content. Here, we describe a combined physical and genetic map derived from a cross between the drug-type strain Purple Kush and the hemp variety “Finola.” The map reveals that cannabinoid biosynthesis genes are generally unlinked but that aromatic prenyltransferase (AP), which produces the substrate for THCA and CBDA synthases (THCAS and CBDAS), is tightly linked to a known marker for total cannabinoid content. We further identify the gene encoding CBCA synthase (CBCAS) and characterize its catalytic activity, providing insight into how cannabinoid diversity arises in cannabis. THCAS and CBDAS (which determine the drug vs. hemp chemotype) are contained within large (>250 kb) retrotransposon-rich regions that are highly nonhomologous between drug- and hemp-type alleles and are furthermore embedded within ~40 Mb of minimally recombining repetitive DNA. The chromosome structures are similar to those in grains such as wheat, with recombination focused in gene-rich, repeat-depleted regions near chromosome ends. The physical and genetic map should facilitate further dissection of genetic and molecular mechanisms in this commercially and medically important plant. © 2019 Laverty et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.


April 21, 2020  |  

A survey and evaluations of histogram-based statistics in alignment-free sequence comparison.

Since the dawn of the bioinformatics field, sequence alignment scores have been the main method for comparing sequences. However, alignment algorithms are quadratic, requiring long execution time. As alternatives, scientists have developed tens of alignment-free statistics for measuring the similarity between two sequences.We surveyed tens of alignment-free k-mer statistics. Additionally, we evaluated 33 statistics and multiplicative combinations between the statistics and/or their squares. These statistics are calculated on two k-mer histograms representing two sequences. Our evaluations using global alignment scores revealed that the majority of the statistics are sensitive and capable of finding similar sequences to a query sequence. Therefore, any of these statistics can filter out dissimilar sequences quickly. Further, we observed that multiplicative combinations of the statistics are highly correlated with the identity score. Furthermore, combinations involving sequence length difference or Earth Mover’s distance, which takes the length difference into account, are always among the highest correlated paired statistics with identity scores. Similarly, paired statistics including length difference or Earth Mover’s distance are among the best performers in finding the K-closest sequences. Interestingly, similar performance can be obtained using histograms of shorter words, resulting in reducing the memory requirement and increasing the speed remarkably. Moreover, we found that simple single statistics are sufficient for processing next-generation sequencing reads and for applications relying on local alignment. Finally, we measured the time requirement of each statistic. The survey and the evaluations will help scientists with identifying efficient alternatives to the costly alignment algorithm, saving thousands of computational hours.The source code of the benchmarking tool is available as Supplementary Materials. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press.


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  |  

Long-read assembly of the Chinese rhesus macaque genome and identification of ape-specific structural variants.

We present a high-quality de novo genome assembly (rheMacS) of the Chinese rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) using long-read sequencing and multiplatform scaffolding approaches. Compared to the current Indian rhesus macaque reference genome (rheMac8), rheMacS increases sequence contiguity 75-fold, closing 21,940 of the remaining assembly gaps (60.8 Mbp). We improve gene annotation by generating more than two million full-length transcripts from ten different tissues by long-read RNA sequencing. We sequence resolve 53,916 structural variants (96% novel) and identify 17,000 ape-specific structural variants (ASSVs) based on comparison to ape genomes. Many ASSVs map within ChIP-seq predicted enhancer regions where apes and macaque show diverged enhancer activity and gene expression. We further characterize a subset that may contribute to ape- or great-ape-specific phenotypic traits, including taillessness, brain volume expansion, improved manual dexterity, and large body size. The rheMacS genome assembly serves as an ideal reference for future biomedical and evolutionary studies.


April 21, 2020  |  

Programmable mutually exclusive alternative splicing for generating RNA and protein diversity.

Alternative splicing performs a central role in expanding genomic coding capacity and proteomic diversity. However, programming of splicing patterns in engineered biological systems remains underused. Synthetic approaches thus far have predominantly focused on controlling expression of a single protein through alternative splicing. Here, we describe a modular and extensible platform for regulating four programmable exons that undergo a mutually exclusive alternative splicing event to generate multiple functionally-distinct proteins. We present an intron framework that enforces the mutual exclusivity of two internal exons and demonstrate a graded series of consensus sequence elements of varying strengths that set the ratio of two mutually exclusive isoforms. We apply this framework to program the DNA-binding domains of modular transcription factors to differentially control downstream gene activation. This splicing platform advances an approach for generating diverse isoforms and can ultimately be applied to program modular proteins and increase coding capacity of synthetic biological systems.


April 21, 2020  |  

Systematic analysis of dark and camouflaged genes reveals disease-relevant genes hiding in plain sight.

The human genome contains “dark” gene regions that cannot be adequately assembled or aligned using standard short-read sequencing technologies, preventing researchers from identifying mutations within these gene regions that may be relevant to human disease. Here, we identify regions with few mappable reads that we call dark by depth, and others that have ambiguous alignment, called camouflaged. We assess how well long-read or linked-read technologies resolve these regions.Based on standard whole-genome Illumina sequencing data, we identify 36,794 dark regions in 6054 gene bodies from pathways important to human health, development, and reproduction. Of these gene bodies, 8.7% are completely dark and 35.2% are =?5% dark. We identify dark regions that are present in protein-coding exons across 748 genes. Linked-read or long-read sequencing technologies from 10x Genomics, PacBio, and Oxford Nanopore Technologies reduce dark protein-coding regions to approximately 50.5%, 35.6%, and 9.6%, respectively. We present an algorithm to resolve most camouflaged regions and apply it to the Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project. We rescue a rare ten-nucleotide frameshift deletion in CR1, a top Alzheimer’s disease gene, found in disease cases but not in controls.While we could not formally assess the association of the CR1 frameshift mutation with Alzheimer’s disease due to insufficient sample-size, we believe it merits investigating in a larger cohort. There remain thousands of potentially important genomic regions overlooked by short-read sequencing that are largely resolved by long-read technologies.


April 21, 2020  |  

A high-quality de novo genome assembly from a single mosquito using PacBio sequencing

A high-quality reference genome is a fundamental resource for functional genetics, comparative genomics, and population genomics, and is increasingly important for conservation biology. PacBio Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) sequencing generates long reads with uniform coverage and high consensus accuracy, making it a powerful technology for de novo genome assembly. Improvements in throughput and concomitant reductions in cost have made PacBio an attractive core technology for many large genome initiatives, however, relatively high DNA input requirements (~5 µg for standard library protocol) have placed PacBio out of reach for many projects on small organisms that have lower DNA content, or on projects with limited input DNA for other reasons. Here we present a high-quality de novo genome assembly from a single Anopheles coluzzii mosquito. A modified SMRTbell library construction protocol without DNA shearing and size selection was used to generate a SMRTbell library from just 100 ng of starting genomic DNA. The sample was run on the Sequel System with chemistry 3.0 and software v6.0, generating, on average, 25 Gb of sequence per SMRT Cell with 20 h movies, followed by diploid de novo genome assembly with FALCON-Unzip. The resulting curated assembly had high contiguity (contig N50 3.5 Mb) and completeness (more than 98% of conserved genes were present and full-length). In addition, this single-insect assembly now places 667 (>90%) of formerly unplaced genes into their appropriate chromosomal contexts in the AgamP4 PEST reference. We were also able to resolve maternal and paternal haplotypes for over 1/3 of the genome. By sequencing and assembling material from a single diploid individual, only two haplotypes were present, simplifying the assembly process compared to samples from multiple pooled individuals. The method presented here can be applied to samples with starting DNA amounts as low as 100 ng per 1 Gb genome size. This new low-input approach puts PacBio-based assemblies in reach for small highly heterozygous organisms that comprise much of the diversity of life.


April 21, 2020  |  

Origin and recent expansion of an endogenous gammaretroviral lineage in domestic and wild canids.

Vertebrate genomes contain a record of retroviruses that invaded the germlines of ancestral hosts and are passed to offspring as endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). ERVs can impact host function since they contain the necessary sequences for expression within the host. Dogs are an important system for the study of disease and evolution, yet no substantiated reports of infectious retroviruses in dogs exist. Here, we utilized Illumina whole genome sequence data to assess the origin and evolution of a recently active gammaretroviral lineage in domestic and wild canids.We identified numerous recently integrated loci of a canid-specific ERV-Fc sublineage within Canis, including 58 insertions that were absent from the reference assembly. Insertions were found throughout the dog genome including within and near gene models. By comparison of orthologous occupied sites, we characterized element prevalence across 332 genomes including all nine extant canid species, revealing evolutionary patterns of ERV-Fc segregation among species as well as subpopulations.Sequence analysis revealed common disruptive mutations, suggesting a predominant form of ERV-Fc spread by trans complementation of defective proviruses. ERV-Fc activity included multiple circulating variants that infected canid ancestors from the last 20 million to within 1.6 million years, with recent bursts of germline invasion in the sublineage leading to wolves and dogs.


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