June 1, 2021  |  

Allele-level sequencing and phasing of full-length HLA class I and II genes using SMRT Sequencing technology

The three classes of genes that comprise the MHC gene family are actively involved in determining donor-recipient compatibility for organ transplant, as well as susceptibility to autoimmune diseases via cross-reacting immunization. Specifically, Class I genes HLA-A, -B, -C, and class II genes HLA-DR, -DQ and -DP are considered medically important for genetic analysis to determine histocompatibility. They are highly polymorphic and have thousands of alleles implicated in disease resistance and susceptibility. The importance of full-length HLA gene sequencing for genotyping, detection of null alleles, and phasing is now widely acknowledged. While DNA-sequencing-based HLA genotyping has become routine, only 7% of the HLA genes have been characterized by allele-level sequencing, while 93% are still defined by partial sequences. The gold-standard Sanger sequencing technology is being quickly replaced by second-generation, high- throughput sequencing methods due to its inability to generate unambiguous phased reads from heterozygous alleles. However, although these short, high-throughput, clonal sequencing methods are better at heterozygous allele detection, they are inadequate at generating full-length haploid gene sequences. Thus, full-length gene sequencing from an enhancer-promoter region to a 3’UTR that includes phasing information without the need for imputation still remains a technological challenge. The best way to overcome these challenges is to sequence these genes with a technology that is clonal in nature and has the longest possible read lengths. We have employed Single Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) sequencing technology from Pacific Biosciences for sequencing full-length HLA class I and II genes.


June 1, 2021  |  

Draft genome of horseweed illuminates expansion of gene families that might endow herbicide resistance.

Conyza canadensis (horseweed), a member of the Compositae (Asteraceae) family, was the first broadleaf weed to evolve resistance to glyphosate. Horseweed, one of the most problematic weeds in the world, is a true diploid (2n=2X=18) with the smallest genome of any known agricultural weed (335 Mb). Thus, it is an appropriate candidate to help us understand the genetic and genomic basis of weediness. We undertook a draft de novo genome assembly of horseweed by combining data from multiple sequencing platforms (454 GS-FLX, Illumina HiSeq 2000 and PacBio RS) using various libraries with different insertion sizes (~350 bp, ~600 bp, ~3 kb and ~10 kb) of a Tennessee-accessed, glyphosate-resistant horseweed biotype. From 116.3 Gb (~350× coverage) of data, the genome was assembled into 13,966 scaffolds with N50 =33,561 bp. The assembly covered 92.3% of the genome, including the complete chloroplast genome (~153 kb) and a nearly-complete mitochondrial genome (~450 kb in 120 scaffolds). The nuclear genome is comprised of 44,592 protein-coding genes. Genome re-sequencing of seven additional horseweed biotypes was performed. These sequence data were assembled and used to analyze genome variation. Simple sequence repeat and single nucleotide polymorphisms were surveyed. Genomic patterns were detected that associated with glyphosate-resistant or –susceptible biotypes. The draft genome will be useful to better understand weediness, the evolution of herbicide resistance, and to devise new management strategies. The genome will also be useful as another reference genome in the Compositae. To our knowledge, this paper represents the first published draft genome of an agricultural weed.


June 1, 2021  |  

Building a platinum human genome assembly from single haplotype human genomes generated from long molecule sequencing

The human reference sequence has provided a foundation for studies of genome structure, human variation, evolutionary biology, and disease. At the time the reference was originally completed there were some loci recalcitrant to closure; however, the degree to which structural variation and diversity affected our ability to produce a representative genome sequence at these loci was still unknown. Many of these regions in the genome are associated with large, repetitive sequences and exhibit complex allelic diversity such producing a single, haploid representation is not possible. To overcome this challenge, we have sequenced DNA from two hydatidiform moles (CHM1 and CHM13), which are essentially haploid. CHM13 was sequenced with the latest PacBio technology (P6-C5) to 52X genome coverage and assembled using Daligner and Falcon v0.2 (GCA_000983455.1, CHM13_1.1). Compared to the first mole (CHM1) PacBio assembly (GCA_001007805.1, 54X) contig N50 of 4.5Mb, the contig N50 of CHM13_1.1 is almost 13Mb, and there is a 13-fold reduction in the number of contigs. This demonstrates the improved contiguity of sequence generated with the new chemistry. We annotated 50,188 RefSeq transcripts of which only 0.63% were split transcripts, and the repetitive and segmental duplication content was within the expected range. These data all indicate an extremely high quality assembly. Additionally, we sequenced CHM13 DNA using Illumina SBS technology to 60X coverage, aligned these reads to the GRCh37, GRCh38, and CHM13_1.1 assemblies and performed variant calling using the SpeedSeq pipeline. The number of single nucleotide variants (SNV) and indels was comparable between GRCh37 and GRCh38. Regions that showed increased SNV density in GRCh38 compared to GRCh37 could be attributed to the addition of centromeric alpha satellite sequence to the reference assembly. Alternatively, regions of decreased SNV density in GRCh38 were concentrated in regions that were improved from BAC based sequencing of CHM1 such as 1p12 and 1q21 containing the SRGAP2 gene family. The alignment of PacBio reads to GRCh37 and GRCh38 assemblies allowed us to resolve complex loci such as the MHC region where the best alignment was to the DBB (A2-B57-DR7) haplotype. Finally, we will discuss how combining the two high quality mole assemblies can be used for benchmarking and novel bioinformatics tool development.


June 1, 2021  |  

Cogent: Reconstructing the coding genome from full-length transcriptome sequences

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 Pacific Biosciences to sequence transcriptomes (the Iso-SeqTM 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 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 a Cuttlefish Iso-Seq dataset, for which there is a highly fragmented, Illumina-based draft genome assembly and little annotation. We show that Cogent successfully discovers gene families and can reconstruct the coding region of gene loci. The reconstructed contigs can then be used to visualize alternative splicing events, identify minor variants, and even be used to improve genome assemblies.


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  |  

Whole gene sequencing of KIR-3DL1 with SMRT Sequencing and the distribution of allelic variants in different ethnic groups

The killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) gene family are involved in immune modulation during viral infection, autoimmune disease and in allogeneic stem cell transplantation. Most KIR gene diversity studies and their impact on the transplant outcome is performed by gene absence/presence assays. However, it is well known that KIR gene allelic variations have biological significance. Allele level typing of KIR genes has been very challenging until recently due to the homologous nature of those genes and very long intronic sequences. SMRT (Single Molecule Real-Time) Sequencing generates average long reads of 10 to 15 kb and allows us to obtain in-phase long sequence reads. We have developed a PCR assay for SMRT Sequencing on the PacBio RS II platform in our lab for 3DL1 whole gene sequencing. This approach allows us to obtain allele level typing for 3DL1 genes and could serve as a model to type other KIR genes at allelic level.


June 1, 2021  |  

The MHC Diversity in Africa Project (MDAP) pilot – 125 African high resolution HLA types from 5 populations

The major histocompatibility complex (MHC), or human leukocyte antigen (HLA) in humans, is a highly diverse gene family with a key role in immune response to disease; and has been implicated in auto-immune disease, cancer, infectious disease susceptibility, and vaccine response. It has clinical importance in the field of solid organ and bone marrow transplantation, where donors and recipient matching of HLA types is key to transplanted organ outcomes. The Sanger based typing (SBT) methods currently used in clinical practice do not capture the full diversity across this region, and require specific reference sequences to deconvolute ambiguity in HLA types. However, reference databases are based largely on European populations, and the full extent of diversity in Africa remains poorly understood. Here, we present the first systematic characterisation of HLA diversity within Africa in the pilot phase of the MHC Diversity in Africa Project, together with an evaluation of methods to carry out scalable cost-effective, as well as reliable, typing of this region in African populations.To sample a geographically representative panel of African populations we obtained 125 samples, 25 each from the Zulu (South Africa), Igbo (Nigeria), Kalenjin (Kenya), Moroccan and Ashanti (Ghana) groups. For methods validation we included two controls from the International Histocompatibility Working Group (IHWG) collection with known typing information. Sanger typing and Illumina HiSeq X sequencing of these samples indicated potentially novel Class I and Class II alleles; however, we found poor correlation between HiSeq X sequencing and SBT for both classes. Long Range PCR and high resolution PacBio RS-II typing of 4 of these samples identified 7 novel Class II alleles, highlighting the high levels of diversity in these populations, and the need for long read sequencing approaches to characterise this comprehensively. We have now expanded this approach to the entire pilot set of 125 samples. We present these confirmed types and discuss a workflow for scaling this to 5000 individuals across Africa.The large number of new alleles identified in our pilot suggests the high level of African HLA diversity and the utility of high resolution methods. The MDAP project will provide a framework for accurate HLA typing, in addition to providing an invaluable resource for imputation in GWAS, boosting power to identify and resolve HLA disease associations.


June 1, 2021  |  

Structural variant in the RNA Binding Motif Protein, X-Linked 2 (RBMX2) gene found to be linked to bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder (BD) is a phenotypically and genetically complex neurological disorder that affects 1% of the worldwide population. There is compelling evidence from family, twin and adoption studies supporting the involvement of a genetic predisposition with estimated heritability up to ~ 80%. The risk in first-degree relatives is ten times higher than in the general population. Linkage and association studies have implicated multiple putative chromosomal loci for BD susceptibility, however no disease genes have yet to be identified. Here, we have fully characterized a ~12 Mb significantly linked (lod score=3.54) genomic region on chromosome Xq24-q27 in an extended family from a genetic isolate that was using long-read single molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing. The family segregates BD in at least 4 generations with 16 individuals out of 61 affected. Thus, this family portrays a highly elevated reoccurrence risk compared to the general population. It is expected that the genetic complexity would be reduced in isolated populations, even in genetically complex disorders such as BD, as in the case of this extended family. We selected 16 key individuals from the X-chromosomally linked family to be sequenced. These selected individuals either carried the disease haplotype, were non-carriers of the disease haplotype, or served as married-in controls. We designed a Nimblegen capture array enriching for 5-9 kb fragments spanning the entire 12 Mb region that were then sequenced using long-read SMRT sequencing to screen for causative structural variants (SVs) explaining the increased risk for BD in this extended family. Altogether, 192 SVs were detected in the critically linked region however most of these represented common variants that could be seen across many of the family members regardless of the disease status. One SV stood out that showed perfect segregation among all affected individuals that were carriers of the disease haplotype. This was a 330bp Alu deletion in intron 4 of the RNA Binding Motif Protein, X-Linked 2 (RBMX2) gene that has previously been shown to play a central role in brain development and function. Moreover, Alu elements in general have also previously been associated with at least 37 neurological and neurodegenerative disorders. In order to validate the finding and the functionality of the identified SV further studies like isoform characterization are warranted.


April 21, 2020  |  

Tandem repeats lead to sequence assembly errors and impose multi-level challenges for genome and protein databases.

The widespread occurrence of repetitive stretches of DNA in genomes of organisms across the tree of life imposes fundamental challenges for sequencing, genome assembly, and automated annotation of genes and proteins. This multi-level problem can lead to errors in genome and protein databases that are often not recognized or acknowledged. As a consequence, end users working with sequences with repetitive regions are faced with ‘ready-to-use’ deposited data whose trustworthiness is difficult to determine, let alone to quantify. Here, we provide a review of the problems associated with tandem repeat sequences that originate from different stages during the sequencing-assembly-annotation-deposition workflow, and that may proliferate in public database repositories affecting all downstream analyses. As a case study, we provide examples of the Atlantic cod genome, whose sequencing and assembly were hindered by a particularly high prevalence of tandem repeats. We complement this case study with examples from other species, where mis-annotations and sequencing errors have propagated into protein databases. With this review, we aim to raise the awareness level within the community of database users, and alert scientists working in the underlying workflow of database creation that the data they omit or improperly assemble may well contain important biological information valuable to others. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


April 21, 2020  |  

The bracteatus pineapple genome and domestication of clonally propagated crops.

Domestication of clonally propagated crops such as pineapple from South America was hypothesized to be a ‘one-step operation’. We sequenced the genome of Ananas comosus var. bracteatus CB5 and assembled 513?Mb into 25 chromosomes with 29,412 genes. Comparison of the genomes of CB5, F153 and MD2 elucidated the genomic basis of fiber production, color formation, sugar accumulation and fruit maturation. We also resequenced 89 Ananas genomes. Cultivars ‘Smooth Cayenne’ and ‘Queen’ exhibited ancient and recent admixture, while ‘Singapore Spanish’ supported a one-step operation of domestication. We identified 25 selective sweeps, including a strong sweep containing a pair of tandemly duplicated bromelain inhibitors. Four candidate genes for self-incompatibility were linked in F153, but were not functional in self-compatible CB5. Our findings support the coexistence of sexual recombination and a one-step operation in the domestication of clonally propagated crops. This work guides the exploration of sexual and asexual domestication trajectories in other clonally propagated crops.


April 21, 2020  |  

Characterization of Reference Materials for Genetic Testing of CYP2D6 Alleles: A GeT-RM Collaborative Project.

Pharmacogenetic testing increasingly is available from clinical and research laboratories. However, only a limited number of quality control and other reference materials currently are available for the complex rearrangements and rare variants that occur in the CYP2D6 gene. To address this need, the Division of Laboratory Systems, CDC-based Genetic Testing Reference Material Coordination Program, in collaboration with members of the pharmacogenetic testing and research communities and the Coriell Cell Repositories (Camden, NJ), has characterized 179 DNA samples derived from Coriell cell lines. Testing included the recharacterization of 137 genomic DNAs that were genotyped in previous Genetic Testing Reference Material Coordination Program studies and 42 additional samples that had not been characterized previously. DNA samples were distributed to volunteer testing laboratories for genotyping using a variety of commercially available and laboratory-developed tests. These publicly available samples will support the quality-assurance and quality-control programs of clinical laboratories performing CYP2D6 testing.Published by Elsevier Inc.


April 21, 2020  |  

Rapid evolution of a-gliadin gene family revealed by analyzing Gli-2 locus regions of wild emmer wheat.

a-Gliadins are a major group of gluten proteins in wheat flour that contribute to the end-use properties for food processing and contain major immunogenic epitopes that can cause serious health-related issues including celiac disease (CD). a-Gliadins are also the youngest group of gluten proteins and are encoded by a large gene family. The majority of the gene family members evolved independently in the A, B, and D genomes of different wheat species after their separation from a common ancestral species. To gain insights into the origin and evolution of these complex genes, the genomic regions of the Gli-2 loci encoding a-gliadins were characterized from the tetraploid wild emmer, a progenitor of hexaploid bread wheat that contributed the AABB genomes. Genomic sequences of Gli-2 locus regions for the wild emmer A and B genomes were first reconstructed using the genome sequence scaffolds along with optical genome maps. A total of 24 and 16 a-gliadin genes were identified for the A and B genome regions, respectively. a-Gliadin pseudogene frequencies of 86% for the A genome and 69% for the B genome were primarily caused by C to T substitutions in the highly abundant glutamine codons, resulting in the generation of premature stop codons. Comparison with the homologous regions from the hexaploid wheat cv. Chinese Spring indicated considerable sequence divergence of the two A genomes at the genomic level. In comparison, conserved regions between the two B genomes were identified that included a-gliadin pseudogenes containing shared nested TE insertions. Analyses of the genomic organization and phylogenetic tree reconstruction indicate that although orthologous gene pairs derived from speciation were present, large portions of a-gliadin genes were likely derived from differential gene duplications or deletions after the separation of the homologous wheat genomes ~?0.5 MYA. The higher number of full-length intact a-gliadin genes in hexaploid wheat than that in wild emmer suggests that human selection through domestication might have an impact on a-gliadin evolution. Our study provides insights into the rapid and dynamic evolution of genomic regions harboring the a-gliadin genes in wheat.


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