June 1, 2021  |  

An update on goat genomics

Goats are specialized in dairy, meat and fiber production, being adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions and having a large economic impact in developing countries. In the last years, there have been dramatic advances in the knowledge of the structure and diversity of the goat genome/transcriptome and in the development of genomic tools, rapidly narrowing the gap between goat and related species such as cattle and sheep. Major advances are: 1) publication of a de novo goat genome reference sequence; 2) Development of whole genome high density RH maps, and; 3) Design of a commercial 50K SNP array. Moreover, there are currently several projects aiming at improving current genomic tools and resources. An improved assembly of the goat genome using PacBio reads is being produced, and the design of new SNP arrays is being studied to accommodate the specific needs of this species in the context of very large scale genotyping projects (i.e. breed characterization at an international scale and genomic selection) and parentage analysis. As in other species, the focus has now turned to the identification of causative mutations underlying the phenotypic variation of traits. In addition, since 2014, the ADAPTmap project (www.goatadaptmap.org) has gathered data to explore the diversity of caprine populations at a worldwide scale by using a wide variety of approaches and data.


June 1, 2021  |  

Immune regions are no longer incomprehensible with SMRT Sequencing

The complex immune regions of the genome, including MHC and KIR, contain large copy number variants (CNVs), a high density of genes, hyper-polymorphic gene alleles, and conserved extended haplotypes (CEH) with enormous linkage disequilibrium (LDs). This level of complexity and inherent biases of short-read sequencing make it challenging for extracting immune region haplotype information from reference-reliant, shotgun sequencing and GWAS methods. As NGS based genome and exome sequencing and SNP arrays have become a routine for population studies, numerous efforts are being made for developing software to extract and or impute the immune gene information from these datasets. Despite these efforts, the fine mapping of causal variants of immune genes for their well-documented association with cancer, drug-induced hypersensitivity and immune-related diseases, has been slower than expected. This has in many ways limited our understanding of the mechanisms leading to immune disease. In the present work, we demonstrate the advantages of long reads delivered by SMRT Sequencing for assembling complete haplotypes of MHC and KIR gene clusters, as well as calling correct genotypes of genes comprised within them. All the genotype information is detected at allele- level with full phasing information across SNP-poor regions. Genotypes were called correctly from targeted gene amplicons, haplotypes, as well as from a completely assembled 5 Mb contig of the MHC region from a de novo assembly of whole genome shotgun data. De novo analysis pipeline used in all these approaches allowed for reference-free analysis without imputation, a key for interrogation without prior knowledge about ethnic backgrounds. These methods are thus easily adoptable for previously uncharacterized human or non-human species.


June 1, 2021  |  

A method for the identification of variants in Alzheimer’s disease candidate genes and transcripts using hybridization capture combined with long-read sequencing

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a devastating neurodegenerative disease that is genetically complex. Although great progress has been made in identifying fully penetrant mutations in genes such as APP, PSEN1 and PSEN2 that cause early-onset AD, these still represent a very small percentage of AD cases. Large-scale, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified at least 20 additional genetic risk loci for the more common form of late-onset AD. However, the identified SNPs are typically not the actual risk variants, but are in linkage disequilibrium with the presumed causative variant (Van Cauwenberghe C, et al., The genetic landscape of Alzheimer disease: clinical implications and perspectives. Genet Med 2015;18:421-430). Long-read sequencing together with hybrid-capture targeting technologies provides a powerful combination to target candidate genes/transcripts of interest. Shearing the genomic DNA to ~5 kb fragments and then capturing with probes that span the whole gene(s) of interest can provide uniform coverage across the entire region, identifying variants and allowing for phasing into two haplotypes. Furthermore, capturing full-length cDNA from the same sample using the same capture probes can also provide an understanding of isoforms that are generated and allow them to be assigned to their corresponding haplotype. Here we present a method for capturing genomic DNA and cDNA from an AD sample using a panel of probes targeting approximately 20 late-onset AD candidate genes which includes CLU, ABCA7, CD33, TREM2, TOMM40, PSEN2, APH1 and BIN1. By combining xGen® Lockdown® probes with SMRT Sequencing, we provide completely sequenced candidate genes as well as their corresponding transcripts. In addition, we are also able to evaluate structural variants that due to their size, repetitive nature, or low sequence complexity have been un-sequenceable using short-read technologies.


June 1, 2021  |  

Characterizing haplotype diversity at the immunoglobulin heavy chain locus across human populations using novel long-read sequencing and assembly approaches

The human immunoglobulin heavy chain locus (IGH) remains among the most understudied regions of the human genome. Recent efforts have shown that haplotype diversity within IGH is elevated and exhibits population specific patterns; for example, our re-sequencing of the locus from only a single chromosome uncovered >100 Kb of novel sequence, including descriptions of six novel alleles, and four previously unmapped genes. Historically, this complex locus architecture has hindered the characterization of IGH germline single nucleotide, copy number, and structural variants (SNVs; CNVs; SVs), and as a result, there remains little known about the role of IGH polymorphisms in inter-individual antibody repertoire variability and disease. To remedy this, we are taking a multi-faceted approach to improving existing genomic resources in the human IGH region. First, from whole-genome and fosmid-based datasets, we are building the largest and most ethnically diverse set of IGH reference assemblies to date, by employing PacBio long-read sequencing combined with novel algorithms for phased haplotype assembly. In total, our effort will result in the characterization of >15 phased haplotypes from individuals of Asian, African, and European descent, to be used as a representative reference set by the genomics and immunogenetics community. Second, we are utilizing this more comprehensive sequence catalogue to inform the design and analysis of novel targeted IGH genotyping assays. Standard targeted DNA enrichment methods (e.g., exome capture) are currently optimized for the capture of only very short (100’s of bp) DNA segments. Our platform uses a modified bench protocol to pair existing capture-array technologies with the enrichment of longer fragments of DNA, enabling the use of PacBio sequencing of DNA segments up to 7 Kb. This substantial increase in contiguity disambiguates many of the complex repeated structures inherent to the locus, while yielding the base pair fidelity required to call SNVs. Together these resources will establish a stronger framework for further characterizing IGH genetic diversity and facilitate IGH genomic profiling in the clinical and research settings, which will be key to fully understanding the role of IGH germline variation in antibody repertoire development and disease.


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  |  

A method for the identification of variants in Alzheimer’s disease candidate genes and transcripts using hybridization capture combined with long-read sequencing

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a devastating neurodegenerative disease that is genetically complex. Although great progress has been made in identifying fully penetrant mutations in genes such as APP, PSEN1 and PSEN2 that cause early-onset AD, these still represent a very small percentage of AD cases. Large-scale, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified at least 20 additional genetic risk loci for the more common form of late-onset AD. However, the identified SNPs are typically not the actual causal variants, but are in linkage disequilibrium with the presumed causative variant (Van Cauwenberghe C, et al., The genetic landscape of Alzheimer disease: clinical implications and perspectives. Genet Med 2015;18:421-430).


June 1, 2021  |  

Screening for causative structural variants in neurological disorders using long-read sequencing

Over the past decades neurological disorders have been extensively studied producing a large number of candidate genomic regions and candidate genes. The SNPs identified in these studies rarely represent the true disease-related functional variants. However, more recently a shift in focus from SNPs to larger structural variants has yielded breakthroughs in our understanding of neurological disorders.Here we have developed candidate gene screening methods that combine enrichment of long DNA fragments with long-read sequencing that is optimized for structural variation discovery. We have also developed a novel, amplification-free enrichment technique using the CRISPR/Cas9 system to target genomic regions.We sequenced gDNA and full-length cDNA extracted from the temporal lobe for two Alzheimer’s patients for 35 GWAS candidate genes. The multi-kilobase long reads allowed for phasing across the genes and detection of a broad range of genomic variants including SNPs to multi-kilobase insertions, deletions and inversions. In the full-length cDNA data we detected differential allelic isoform complexity, novel exons as well as transcript isoforms. By combining the gDNA data with full-length isoform characterization allows to build a more comprehensive view of the underlying biological disease mechanisms in Alzheimer’s disease. Using the novel PCR-free CRISPR-Cas9 enrichment method we screened several genes including the hexanucleotide repeat expansion C9ORF72 that is associated with 40% of familiar ALS cases. This method excludes any PCR bias or errors from an otherwise hard to amplify region as well as preserves the basemodication in a single molecule fashion which allows you to capture mosaicism present in the sample.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genome-Wide Association Study of Growth and Body-Shape-Related Traits in Large Yellow Croaker (Larimichthys crocea) Using ddRAD Sequencing.

Large yellow croaker (Larimichthys crocea) is an economically important marine fish species of China. Due to overfishing and marine pollution, the wild stocks of this croaker have collapsed in the past decades. Meanwhile, the cultured croaker is facing the difficulties of reduced genetic diversity and low growth rate. To explore the molecular markers related to the growth traits of croaker and providing the related SNPs for the marker-assisted selection, we used double-digest restriction-site associated DNA (ddRAD) sequencing to dissect the genetic bases of growth traits in a cultured population and identify the SNPs that associated with important growth traits by GWAS. A total of 220 individuals were genotyped by ddRAD sequencing. After quality control, 27,227 SNPs were identified in 220 samples and used for GWAS analysis. We identified 13 genome-wide significant associated SNPs of growth traits on 8 chromosomes, and the beta P of these SNPs ranged from 0.01 to 0.86. Through the definition of candidate regions and gene annotation, candidate genes related to growth were identified, including important regulators such as fgf18, fgf1, nr3c1, cyp8b1, fabp2, cyp2r1, ppara, and ccm2l. We also identified SNPs and candidate genes that significantly associated with body shape, including bmp7, col1a1, col11a2, and col18a1, which are also economically important traits for large yellow croaker aquaculture. The results provided insights into the genetic basis of growth and body shape in large yellow croaker population and would provide reliable genetic markers for molecular marker-assisted selection in the future. Meanwhile, the result established a basis for our subsequent fine mapping and related gene study.


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