August 19, 2021  |  Microbial sequencing methods

Application Note: Microbial multiplexing workflow on the Sequel System

Obtaining microbial genomes with the highest accuracy and contiguity is extremely important when exploring the functional impact of genetic and epigenetic variants on a genome-wide scale. A comprehensive view of the bacterial genome, including genes, regulatory regions, IS elements, phage integration sites, and base modifications is vital to understanding key traits such as antibiotic resistance, virulence, and metabolism. SMRT Sequencing provides complete genomes, often assembled into a single contig. Our streamlined microbial multiplexing procedure for the Sequel System, from library preparation to genome assembly, can be completed with less than 8 hours bench time. Starting with high-quality genomic DNA (gDNA), samples are sheared to approximately 12 kb distribution, ligated with barcoded overhang adapters, pooled at equimolar representation, and sequenced. Demultiplexing of samples is automated, allowing for immediate genome assembly on our SMRT Link analysis software solution.


August 19, 2021  |  Infectious disease research

Infographic: A brief history of microbiology

Our understanding of microbiology has evolved enormously over the last 150 years. Few institutions have witnessed our collective progress more closely than the National Collection of Type Cultures (NCTC). In fact, the collection itself is a record of the many milestones microbiologists have crossed, building on the discoveries of those who came before. To date, 60% of NCTC’s historic collection now has a closed, finished reference genome, thanks to PacBio Single Molecule, Real- Time (SMRT) Sequencing. We are excited to be their partner in crossing this latest milestone on their quest to improve human and animal health by understanding the microscopic world.


August 19, 2021  |  

Case Study: Sequencing an historic bacterial collection for the future

The UK’s National Collection of Type Cultures (NCTC) is a unique collection of more than 5,000 expertly preserved and authenticated bacterial cultures, many of historical significance. Founded in 1920, NCTC is the longest established collection of its type anywhere in the world, with a history of its own that has reflected — and contributed to — the evolution of microbiology for more than 100 years.


June 1, 2021  |  

Comparative genomics of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O145:H28 strains associated with the 2007 Belgium and 2010 US outbreaks.

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is an emerging pathogen. Recently there has been a global in the number of outbreaks caused by non-O157 STECs, typically involving six serogroups O26, O45, 0103, 0111, and 0145. STEC O145:H28 has been associated with severe human disease including hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), and is demonstrated by the 2007 Belgian ice-cream-associated outbreak and 2010 US lettuce-associated outbreak, with over 10% of patients developing HUS in each. The goal of this work was to do comparative genomics of strains, clinical and environmental, to investigate genome diversity and virulence evolution of this important foodborne pathogen.


June 1, 2021  |  

Advances in sequence consensus and clustering algorithms for effective de novo assembly and haplotyping applications.

One of the major applications of DNA sequencing technology is to bring together information that is distant in sequence space so that understanding genome structure and function becomes easier on a large scale. The Single Molecule Real Time (SMRT) Sequencing platform provides direct sequencing data that can span several thousand bases to tens of thousands of bases in a high-throughput fashion. In contrast to solving genomic puzzles by patching together smaller piece of information, long sequence reads can decrease potential computation complexity by reducing combinatorial factors significantly. We demonstrate algorithmic approaches to construct accurate consensus when the differences between reads are dominated by insertions and deletions. High-performance implementations of such algorithms allow more efficient de novo assembly with a pre-assembly step that generates highly accurate, consensus-based reads which can be used as input for existing genome assemblers. In contrast to recent hybrid assembly approach, only a single ~10 kb or longer SMRTbell library is necessary for the hierarchical genome assembly process (HGAP). Meanwhile, with a sensitive read-clustering algorithm with the consensus algorithms, one is able to discern haplotypes that differ by less than 1% different from each other over a large region. One of the related applications is to generate accurate haplotype sequences for HLA loci. Long sequence reads that can cover the whole 3 kb to 4 kb diploid genomic regions will simplify the haplotyping process. These algorithms can also be applied to resolve individual populations within mixed pools of DNA molecules that are similar to each, e.g., by sequencing viral quasi-species samples.


June 1, 2021  |  

Automated, non-hybrid de novo genome assemblies and epigenomes of bacterial pathogens.

Understanding the genetic basis of infectious diseases is critical to enacting effective treatments, and several large-scale sequencing initiatives are underway to collect this information. Sequencing bacterial samples is typically performed by mapping sequence reads against genomes of known reference strains. While such resequencing informs on the spectrum of single-nucleotide differences relative to the chosen reference, it can miss numerous other forms of variation known to influence pathogenicity: structural variations (duplications, inversions), acquisition of mobile elements (phages, plasmids), homonucleotide length variation causing phase variation, and epigenetic marks (methylation, phosphorothioation) that influence gene expression to switch bacteria from non- pathogenic to pathogenic states. Therefore, sequencing methods which provide complete, de novo genome assemblies and epigenomes are necessary to fully characterize infectious disease agents in an unbiased, hypothesis-free manner. Hybrid assembly methods have been described that combine long sequence reads from SMRT DNA Sequencing with short reads (SMRT CCS (circular consensus) or second-generation reads), wherein the short reads are used to error-correct the long reads which are then used for assembly. We have developed a new paradigm for microbial de novo assemblies in which SMRT sequencing reads from a single long insert library are used exclusively to close the genome through a hierarchical genome assembly process, thereby obviating the need for a second sample preparation, sequencing run, and data set. We have applied this method to achieve closed de novo genomes with accuracies exceeding QV50 (>99.999%) for numerous disease outbreak samples, including E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Neisseria, and H. pylori. The kinetic information from the same SMRT Sequencing reads is utilized to determine epigenomes. Approximately 70% of all methyltransferase specificities we have determined to date represent previously unknown bacterial epigenetic signatures. With relatively short sequencing run times and automated analysis pipelines, it is possible to go from an unknown DNA sample to its complete de novo genome and epigenome in about a day.


June 1, 2021  |  

New discoveries from closing Salmonella genomes using Pacific Biosciences continuous long reads.

The newer hierarchical genome assembly process (HGAP) performs de novo assembly using data from a single PacBio long insert library. To assess the benefits of this method, DNA from several Salmonella enterica serovars was isolated from a pure culture. Genome sequencing was performed using Pacific Biosciences RS sequencing technology. The HGAP process enabled us to close sixteen Salmonella subsp. enterica genomes and their associated mobile elements: The ten serotypes include: Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Enteritidis (S. Enteritidis) S. Bareilly, S. Heidelberg, S. Cubana, S. Javiana and S. Typhimurium, S. Newport, S. Montevideo, S. Agona, and S. Tennessee. In addition, we were able to detect novel methyltransferases (MTases) by using the Pacific Biosciences kinetic score distributions showing that each serovar appears to have a novel methylation pattern. For example while all Salmonella serovars examined so far have methylase specific activity for 5’-GATC-3’/3’-CTAG-5’ and 5’-CAGAG-3’/3’-GTCTC-5’ (underlined base indicates a modification), S. Heidelberg is uniquely specific for 5’-ACCANCC-3’/3’-TGGTNGG-5’, while S. Typhimurium has uniquely methylase specific for 5′-GATCAG-3’/3′- CTAGTC-5′ sites, for the samples examined so far. We believe that this may be due to the unique environments and phages that these serotypes have been exposed to. Furthermore, our analysis identified and closed a variety of plasmids such as mobilization plasmids, antimicrobial resistance plasmids and IncX plasmids carrying a Type IV secretion system (T4SS). The VirB/D4 T4SS apparatus is important in that it assists with rapid dissemination of antibiotic resistance and virulence determinants. Presently, only limited information exists regarding the genotypic characterization of drug resistance in S. Heidelberg isolates derived from various host species. Here, we characterize two S. Heidelberg outbreak isolates from two different outbreaks. Both isolates contain the IncX plasmid of approximately 35 kb, and carried the genes virB1, virB2, virB3/4, virB5, virB6, virB7, virB8, virB9, virB10, virB11, virD2, and virD4, that are associated with the T4SS. In addition, the outbreak isolate associated with ground turkey carries a 4,473 bp mobilization plasmid and an incompatibility group (Inc) I1 antimicrobial resistance plasmid encoding resistance to gentamicin (aacC2), beta-lactam (bl2b_tem), streptomycin (aadAI) and tetracycline (tetA, tetR) while the outbreak isolate associated with chicken breast carries the IncI1 plasmid encoding resistance to gentamicin (aacC2), streptomycin (aadAI) and sulfisoxazole (sul1). Using this new technology we explored the genetic elements present in resistant pathogens which will achieve a better understanding of the evolution of Salmonella.


June 1, 2021  |  

Accurately surveying uncultured microbial species with SMRT Sequencing

Background: Microbial ecology is reshaping our understanding of the natural world by revealing the large phylogenetic and functional diversity of microbial life. However the vast majority of these microorganisms remain poorly understood, as most cultivated representatives belong to just four phylogenetic groups and more than half of all identified phyla remain uncultivated. Characterization of this microbial ‘dark matter’ will thus greatly benefit from new metagenomic methods for in situ analysis. For example, sensitive high throughput methods for the characterization of community composition and structure from the sequencing of conserved marker genes. Methods: Here we utilize Single Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) sequencing of full-length 16S rRNA amplicons to phylogenetically profile microbial communities to below the genus-level. We test this method on a mock community of known composition, as well as a previously studied microbial community from a lake known to predominantly contain poorly characterized phyla. These results are compared to traditional 16S tag sequencing from short-read technologies and subsets of the full-length data corresponding to the same regions of the 16S gene. Results: We explore the benefits of using full-length amplicons for estimating community structure and diversity. In addition, we investigate the possible effects of context-specific and GC-content biases known to affect short-read sequencing technologies on the predicted community structure. We characterize the potential benefits of profiling metagenomic communities with full-length 16S rRNA genes from SMRT sequencing relative to standard methods.


June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing and assembly of the human microbiome project Mock Community sample – a feasibility project.

While the utility of Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing for de novo assembly and finishing of bacterial isolates is well established, this technology has not yet been widely applied to shotgun sequencing of microbial communities. In order to demonstrate the feasibility of this approach, we sequenced genomic DNA from the Microbial Mock Community B of the Human Microbiome Project


June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing solutions for investigative studies to understand evolutionary processes.

Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing holds promise for addressing new frontiers to understand molecular mechanisms in evolution and gain insight into adaptive strategies. With read lengths exceeding 10 kb, we are able to sequence high-quality, closed microbial genomes with associated plasmids, and investigate large genome complexities, such as long, highly repetitive, low-complexity regions and multiple tandem-duplication events. Improved genome quality, observed at 99.9999% (QV60) consensus accuracy, and significant reduction of gap regions in reference genomes (up to and beyond 50%) allow researchers to better understand coding sequences with high confidence, investigate potential regulatory mechanisms in noncoding regions, and make inferences about evolutionary strategies that are otherwise missed by the coverage biases associated with short- read sequencing technologies. Additional benefits afforded by SMRT Sequencing include the simultaneous capability to detect epigenomic modifications and obtain full-length cDNA transcripts that obsolete the need for assembly. With direct sequencing of DNA in real-time, this has resulted in the identification of numerous base modifications and motifs, which genome-wide profiles have linked to specific methyltransferase activities. Our new offering, the Iso-Seq Application, allows for the accurate differentiation between transcript isoforms that are difficult to resolve with short-read technologies. PacBio reads easily span transcripts such that both 5’/3’ primers for cDNA library generation and the poly-A tail are observed. As such, exon configuration and intron retention events can be analyzed without ambiguity. This technological advance is useful for characterizing transcript diversity and improving gene structure annotations in reference genomes. We review solutions available with SMRT Sequencing, from targeted sequencing efforts to obtaining reference genomes (>100 Mb). This includes strategies for identifying microsatellites and conducting phylogenetic comparisons with targeted gene families. We highlight how to best leverage our long reads that have exceeded 20 kb in length for research investigations, as well as currently available bioinformatics strategies for analysis. Benefits for these applications are further realized with consistent use of size selection of input sample using the BluePippin™ device from Sage Science as demonstrated in our genome improvement projects. Using the latest P5-C3 chemistry on model organisms, these efforts have yielded an observed contig N50 of ~6 Mb, with the longest contig exceeding 12.5 Mb and an average base quality of QV50.


June 1, 2021  |  

Minimization of chimera formation and substitution errors in full-length 16S PCR amplification

The constituents and intra-communal interactions of microbial populations have garnered increasing interest in areas such as water remediation, agriculture and human health. One popular, efficient method of profiling communities is to amplify and sequence the evolutionarily conserved 16S rRNA sequence. Currently, most targeted amplification focuses on short, hypervariable regions of the 16S sequence. Distinguishing information not spanned by the targeted region is lost and species-level classification is often not possible. SMRT Sequencing easily spans the entire 1.5 kb 16S gene, and in combination with highly-accurate single-molecule sequences, can improve the identification of individual species in a metapopulation. However, when amplifying a mixture of sequences with close similarities, the products may contain chimeras, or recombinant molecules, at rates as high as 20-30%. These PCR artifacts make it difficult to identify novel species, and reduce the amount of productive sequences. We investigated multiple factors that have been hypothesized to contribute to chimera formation, such as template damage, denaturing time before and during cycling, polymerase extension time, and reaction volume. Of the factors tested, we found two major related contributors to chimera formation: the amount of input template into the PCR reaction and the number of PCR cycles. Sequence errors generated during amplification and sequencing can also confound the analysis of complex populations. Circular Consensus Sequencing (CCS) can generate single-molecule reads with >99% accuracy, and the SMRT Analysis software provides filtering of these reads to >99.99% accuracies. Remaining substitution errors in these highly-filtered reads are likely dominated by mis-incorporations during amplification. Therefore, we compared the impact of several commercially-available high-fidelity PCR kits with full-length 16S amplification. We show results of our experiments and describe an optimized protocol for full-length 16S amplification for SMRT Sequencing. These optimizations have broader implications for other applications that use PCR amplification to phase variations across targeted regions and to generate highly accurate reference sequences.


June 1, 2021  |  

Minimization of chimera formation and substitution errors in full-length 16S PCR amplification

The constituents and intra-communal interactions of microbial populations have garnered increasing interest in areas such as water remediation, agriculture and human health. Amplification and sequencing of the evolutionarily conserved 16S rRNA gene is an efficient method of profiling communities. Currently, most targeted amplification focuses on short, hypervariable regions of the 16S sequence. Distinguishing information not spanned by the targeted region is lost, and species-level classification is often not possible. PacBio SMRT Sequencing easily spans the entire 1.5 kb 16S gene in a single read, producing highly accurate single-molecule sequences that can improve the identification of individual species in a metapopulation.However, this process still relies upon PCR amplification from a mixture of similar sequences, which may result in chimeras, or recombinant molecules, at rates upwards of 20%. These PCR artifacts make it difficult to identify novel species, and reduce the amount of informative sequences. We investigated multiple factors that may contribute to chimera formation, such as template damage, denaturation time before and during thermocycling, polymerase extension time, and reaction volume. We found two related factors that contribute to chimera formation: the amount of input template into the PCR reaction, and the number of PCR cycles.A second problem that can confound analysis is sequence errors generated during amplification and sequencing. With the updated algorithm for circular consensus sequencing (CCS2), single-molecule reads can be filtered to 99.99% predicted accuracy. Substitution errors in these highly filtered reads may be dominated by mis-incorporations during amplification. Sequence differences in full-length 16S amplicons from several commercial high-fidelity PCR kits were compared.We show results of our experiments and describe our optimized protocol for full-length 16S amplification for SMRT Sequencing. These optimizations have broader implications for other applications that use PCR amplification to phase variations across targeted regions and generate highly accurate reference sequences.


June 1, 2021  |  

Multiplexing strategies for microbial whole genome SMRT Sequencing

As the throughput of the PacBio Systems continues to increase, so has the desire to fully utilize SMRT Cell sequencing capacity to multiplex microbes for whole genome sequencing. Multiplexing is readily achieved by incorporating a unique barcode for each microbe into the SMRTbell adapters and using a streamlined library preparation process. Incorporating barcodes without PCR amplification prevents the loss of epigenetic information and the generation of chimeric sequences, while eliminating the need to generate separate SMRTbell libraries. We multiplexed the genomes of up to 8 unique strains of H. pylori. Each genome was sheared and processed through adapter ligation in a single, addition-only reaction. The barcoded samples were pooled in equimolar quantities and a single SMRTbell library was prepared. We demonstrate successful de novo microbial assembly from all multiplexes tested (2- through 8-plex) using data generated from a single SMRTbell library, run on a single SMRT Cell with the PacBio RS II, and analyzed with standard SMRT Analysis assembly methods. This strategy was successful using both small (1.6 Mb, H. pylori) and medium (5 Mb, E. coli) genomes. This protocol facilitates the sequencing of multiple microbial genomes in a single run, greatly increasing throughput and reducing costs per genome.


June 1, 2021  |  

Single chromosomal genome assemblies on the Sequel System with Circulomics high molecular weight DNA extraction for microbes

Background: The Nanobind technology from Circulomics provides an elegant HMW DNA extraction solution for genome sequencing of Gram-positive and -negative microbes. Nanobind is a nanostructured magnetic disk that can be used for rapid extraction of high molecular weight (HMW) DNA from diverse sample types including cultured cells, blood, plant nuclei, and bacteria. Processing can be completed in <1 hour for most sample types and can be performed manually or automated with common instruments. Methods:We have validated several critical steps for generating high-quality microbial genome assemblies in a streamlined microbial multiplexing workflow. This new workflow enables high-volume, cost-effective sequencing of up to 16 microbes totaling 30 Mb in genome size on a single SMRT Cell 1M using a target shear size of 10 kb. We also evaluated this method on a pool of four “class 3” microbes that contain >7 kb repeats. Fragment size was increased to ~14 kb, with some fragments >30 kb. Results: Here we present a demonstration of these capabilities using isolates relevant to high-throughput sequencing applications, including common foodborne pathogens (Shigella, Listeria, Salmonella), and species often seen in hospital settings (Klebsiella, Staphylococcus). For nearly all microbes, including difficult-to-assemble class III microbes, we achieved complete de novo microbial assemblies of =5 chromosomal contigs with minimum quality scores of 40 (99.99% accuracy) using data from multiplexed SMRTbell libraries. Each library was sequenced on a single SMRT Cell 1M with the PacBio Sequel System and analyzed with streamlined SMRT Analysis assembly methods. Conclusions: We achieved high-quality, closed microbial genomes using a combination of Circulomics Nanobind extraction and PacBio SMRT Sequencing, along with a newly streamlined workflow that includes automated demultiplexing and push-button assembly.


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