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  |  

Targeted sequencing and chromosomal haplotype assembly using TLA and SMRT Sequencing

With the increasing availability of whole-genome sequencing, haplotype reconstruction of individual genomes, or haplotype assembly, remains unsolved. Like the de novo genome assembly problem, haplotype assembly is greatly simplified by having more long-range information. The Targeted Locus Amplification (TLA) technology from Cergentis has the unique capability of targeting a specific region of the genome using a single primer pair and yielding ~2 kb DNA circles that are comprised of ~500 bp fragments. Fragments from the same circle come from the same haplotype and follow an exponential decay in distance from the target region, with a span that reaches the multi-megabase range. Here, we apply TLA to the BRCA1 gene on NA12878 and then sequence the resulting 2 kb circles on a PacBio RS II. The multiple fragments per circle were iteratively mapped to hg19 and then haplotype assembled using HAPCUT. We show that the 80 kb length of BRCA1 is represented by a single haplotype block, which was validated against GIAB data. We then explored chromosomal-scale haplotype assembly by combining these data with whole genome shotgun PacBio long reads, and demonstrate haplotype blocks approaching the length of chromosome 17 on which BRCA1 lies. Finally, by performing TLA without the amplification step and size selecting for reads >5 kb to maximize the number of fragments per read, we target whole genome haplotype assembly across all chromosomes.


April 21, 2020  |  

The comparative genomics and complex population history of Papio baboons.

Recent studies suggest that closely related species can accumulate substantial genetic and phenotypic differences despite ongoing gene flow, thus challenging traditional ideas regarding the genetics of speciation. Baboons (genus Papio) are Old World monkeys consisting of six readily distinguishable species. Baboon species hybridize in the wild, and prior data imply a complex history of differentiation and introgression. We produced a reference genome assembly for the olive baboon (Papio anubis) and whole-genome sequence data for all six extant species. We document multiple episodes of admixture and introgression during the radiation of Papio baboons, thus demonstrating their value as a model of complex evolutionary divergence, hybridization, and reticulation. These results help inform our understanding of similar cases, including modern humans, Neanderthals, Denisovans, and other ancient hominins.


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  |  

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.


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