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  |  

Multi-platform discovery of haplotype-resolved structural variation in human genomes.

The incomplete identification of structural variants (SVs) from whole-genome sequencing data limits studies of human genetic diversity and disease association. Here, we apply a suite of long-read, short-read, strand-specific sequencing technologies, optical mapping, and variant discovery algorithms to comprehensively analyze three trios to define the full spectrum of human genetic variation in a haplotype-resolved manner. We identify 818,054 indel variants (<50?bp) and 27,622 SVs (=50?bp) per genome. We also discover 156 inversions per genome and 58 of the inversions intersect with the critical regions of recurrent microdeletion and microduplication syndromes. Taken together, our SV callsets represent a three to sevenfold increase in SV detection compared to most standard high-throughput sequencing studies, including those from the 1000 Genomes Project. The methods and the dataset presented serve as a gold standard for the scientific community allowing us to make recommendations for maximizing structural variation sensitivity for future genome sequencing studies.

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  |  

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  |  

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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