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  |  

Sequence properties of certain GC rich avian genes, their origins and absence from genome assemblies: case studies.

More and more eukaryotic genomes are sequenced and assembled, most of them presented as a complete model in which missing chromosomal regions are filled by Ns and where a few chromosomes may be lacking. Avian genomes often contain sequences with high GC content, which has been hypothesized to be at the origin of many missing sequences in these genomes. We investigated features of these missing sequences to discover why some may not have been integrated into genomic libraries and/or sequenced.The sequences of five red jungle fowl cDNA models with high GC content were used as queries to search publicly available datasets of Illumina and Pacbio sequencing reads. These were used to reconstruct the leptin, TNFa, MRPL52, PCP2 and PET100 genes, all of which are absent from the red jungle fowl genome model. These gene sequences displayed elevated GC contents, had intron sizes that were sometimes larger than non-avian orthologues, and had non-coding regions that contained numerous tandem and inverted repeat sequences with motifs able to assemble into stable G-quadruplexes and intrastrand dyadic structures. Our results suggest that Illumina technology was unable to sequence the non-coding regions of these genes. On the other hand, PacBio technology was able to sequence these regions, but with dramatically lower efficiency than would typically be expected.High GC content was not the principal reason why numerous GC-rich regions of avian genomes are missing from genome assembly models. Instead, it is the presence of tandem repeats containing motifs capable of assembling into very stable secondary structures that is likely responsible.

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.

April 21, 2020  |  

Tandem-genotypes: robust detection of tandem repeat expansions from long DNA reads.

Tandemly repeated DNA is highly mutable and causes at least 31 diseases, but it is hard to detect pathogenic repeat expansions genome-wide. Here, we report robust detection of human repeat expansions from careful alignments of long but error-prone (PacBio and nanopore) reads to a reference genome. Our method is robust to systematic sequencing errors, inexact repeats with fuzzy boundaries, and low sequencing coverage. By comparing to healthy controls, we prioritize pathogenic expansions within the top 10 out of 700,000 tandem repeats in whole genome sequencing data. This may help to elucidate the many genetic diseases whose causes remain unknown.

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