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  |  

Characterization of the Poly-T variants in the TOMM40 gene using PacBio long reads

Genes associated with several neurological disorders have been shown to be highly polymorphic. Targeted sequencing of these genes using NGS technologies is a powerful way to increase the cost-effectiveness of variant discovery and detection. However, for a comprehensive view of these target genes, it is necessary to have complete and uniform coverage across regions of interest. Unfortunately, short-read sequencing technologies are not ideal for these types of studies as they are prone to mis-mapping and often fail to span repetitive regions. Targeted sequencing with PacBio long reads provides the unique advantage of single-molecule observations of complex genomic regions. PacBio long reads not only provide continuous sequence data though polymorphic or repetitive regions, but also have no GC bias. Here we describe the characterization of the poly-T locus in TOMM40, a gene known to be associated with progression to Alzheimer’s, using PacBio long reads. Probes were designed to capture a 20 kb region comprising the TOMM40 and ApoE genes. Target regions were captured in multiple cell lines and sequencing libraries made using standard sample preparation methods. We will present our results on the poly-T structural variants that we observed in TOMM40 in these cell lines. We will also present our results on probe design optimization and barcoding strategies for a cost-effective solution.


June 1, 2021  |  

Phased human genome assemblies with Single Molecule, Real-Time Sequencing

In recent years, human genomic research has focused on comparing short-read data sets to a single human reference genome. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that significant structural variations present in individual human genomes are missed or ignored by this approach. Additionally, remapping short-read data limits the phasing of variation among individual chromosomes. This reduces the newly sequenced genome to a table of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with little to no information as to the co-linearity (phasing) of these variants, resulting in a “mosaic” reference representing neither of the parental chromosomes. The variation between the homologous chromosomes is lost in this representation, including allelic variations, structural variations, or even genes present in only one chromosome, leading to lost information regarding allelic-specific gene expression and function. To address these limitations, we have made significant progress integrating haplotype information directly into genome assembly process with long reads. The FALCON-Unzip algorithm leverages a string graph assembly approach to facilitate identification and separation of heterozygosity during the assembly process to produce a highly contiguous assembly with phased haplotypes representing the genome in its diploid state. The outputs of the assembler are pairs of sequences (haplotigs) containing the allelic differences, including SNPs and structural variations, present in the two sets of chromosomes. The development and testing of our de-novo diploid assembler was facilitated and carefully validated using inbred reference model organisms and F1 progeny, which allowed us to ascertain the accuracy and concordance of haplotigs relative to the two inbred parental assemblies. Examination of the results confirmed that our haplotype-resolved assemblies are “Gold Level” reference genomes having a quality similar to that of Sanger-sequencing, BAC-based assembly approaches. We further sequenced and assembled two well-characterized human samples into their respective phased diploid genomes with gap-free contig N50 sizes greater than 23 Mb and haplotig N50 sizes greater than 380 kb. Results of these assemblies and a comparison between the haplotype sets are presented.


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  |  

Effect of coverage depth and haplotype phasing on structural variant detection with PacBio long reads

Each human genome has thousands of structural variants compared to the reference assembly, up to 85% of which are difficult or impossible to detect with Illumina short reads and are only visible with long, multi-kilobase reads. The PacBio RS II and Sequel single molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing platforms have made it practical to generate long reads at high throughput. These platforms enable the discovery of structural variants just as short-read platforms did for single nucleotide variants. Numerous software algorithms call structural variants effectively from PacBio long reads, but algorithm sensitivity is lower for insertion variants and all heterozygous variants. Furthermore, the impact of coverage depth and read lengths on sensitivity is not fully characterized. To quantify how zygosity, coverage depth, and read lengths impact the sensitivity of structural variant detection, we obtained high coverage PacBio sequences for three human samples: haploid CHM1, diploid NA12878, and diploid SK-BR-3. For each dataset, reads were randomly subsampled to titrate coverage from 0.5- to 50-fold. The structural variants detected at each coverage were compared to the set at “full” 50-fold coverage. For the diploid samples, additional titrations were performed with reads first partitioned by phase using single nucleotide variants for essentially haploid structural variant discovery. Even at low coverages (1- to 5-fold), PacBio long reads reveal hundreds of structural variants that are not seen in deep 50-fold Illumina whole genome sequences. At moderate 10-fold PacBio coverage, a majority of structural variants are detected. Sensitivity begins to level off at around 40-fold coverage, though it does not fully saturate before 50-fold. Phasing improves sensitivity for all variant types, especially at moderate 10- to 20-fold coverage. Long reads are an effective tool to identify and phase structural variants in the human genome. The majority of variants are detected at moderate 10-fold coverage, and even extremely low long-read coverage (1- to 5-fold) reveals variants that are invisible to short-read sequencing. Performance will continue to improve with better software and longer reads, which will empower studies to connect structural variants to healthy and disease traits in the human population.


June 1, 2021  |  

Phased diploid genome assembly with single-molecule real-time sequencing

While genome assembly projects have been successful in many haploid and inbred species, the assembly of non-inbred or rearranged heterozygous genomes remains a major challenge. To address this challenge, we introduce the open-source FALCON and FALCON-Unzip algorithms (https://github.com/PacificBiosciences/FALCON/) to assemble long-read sequencing data into highly accurate, contiguous, and correctly phased diploid genomes. We generate new reference sequences for heterozygous samples including an F1 hybrid of Arabidopsis thaliana, the widely cultivated Vitis vinifera cv. Cabernet Sauvignon, and the coral fungus Clavicorona pyxidata, samples that have challenged short-read assembly approaches. The FALCON-based assemblies are substantially more contiguous and complete than alternate short- or long-read approaches. The phased diploid assembly enabled the study of haplotype structure and heterozygosities between homologous chromosomes, including the identification of widespread heterozygous structural variation within coding sequences.


June 1, 2021  |  

A high-quality genome assembly of SMRT Sequences reveals long-range haplotype structure in the diploid mosquito Aedes aegypti

Aedes aegypti is a tropical and subtropical mosquito vector for Zika, yellow fever, dengue fever, chikungunya, and other diseases. The outbreak of Zika in the Americas, which can cause microcephaly in the fetus of infected women, adds urgency to the need for a high-quality reference genome in order to better understand the organism’s biology and its role in transmitting human disease. We describe the first diploid assembly of an insect genome, using SMRT sequencing and the open-source assembler FALCON-Unzip. This assembly has high contiguity (contig N50 1.3 Mb), is more complete than previous assemblies (Length 1.45 Gb with 87% BUSCO genes complete), and is high quality (mean base >QV30). Long-range haplotype structure, in some cases encompassing more than 4 Mb of extremely divergent homologous sequence, is resolved using a combination of the FALCON-Unzip assembler, genome annotation, coverage depth, and pairwise nucleotide alignments.


June 1, 2021  |  

Screening and characterization of causative structural variants for bipolar disorder in a significantly linked chromosomal region onXq24-q27 in an extended pedigree from a genetic isolate

Bipolar disorder (BD) is a phenotypically and genetically complex and debilitating 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 in BD 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 BP susceptibility, however no disease genes have been identified to date.


June 1, 2021  |  

De novo PacBio long-read assembled avian genomes correct and add to genes important in neuroscience and conservation research

To test the impact of high-quality genome assemblies on biological research, we applied PacBio long-read sequencing in conjunction with the new, diploid-aware FALCON-Unzip assembler to a number of bird species. These included: the zebra finch, for which a consortium-generated, Sanger-based reference exists, to determine how the FALCON-Unzip assembly would compare to the current best references available; Anna’s hummingbird genome, which had been assembled with short-read sequencing methods as part of the Avian Phylogenomics phase I initiative; and two critically endangered bird species (kakapo and ‘alala) of high importance for conservations efforts, whose genomes had not previously been sequenced and assembled.


June 1, 2021  |  

A high-quality genome assembly of SMRT sequences reveals long range haplotype structure in the diploid mosquito Aedes aegypti

Aedes aegypti is a tropical and subtropical mosquito vector for Zika, yellow fever, dengue fever, and chikungunya. We describe the first diploid assembly of an insect genome, using SMRT Sequencing and the open-source assembler FALCON-Unzip. This assembly has high contiguity (contig N50 1.3 Mb), is more complete than previous assemblies (Length 1.45 Gb with 87% BUSCO genes complete), and is high quality (mean base >QV30 after polishing). Long-range haplotype structure, in some cases encompassing more than 4 Mb of extremely divergent homologous sequence with dramatic differences in coding sequence content, is resolved using a combination of the FALCON-Unzip assembler, genome annotation, coverage depth, and pairwise nucleotide alignments.


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.


June 1, 2021  |  

Detecting pathogenic structural variants with long-read PacBio SMRT Sequencing

Most of the base pairs that differ between two human genomes are in intermediate-sized structural variants (50 bp to 5 kb), which are too small to detect with array comparative genomic hybridization or optical mapping but too large to reliably discover with short-read DNA sequencing. Long-read sequencing with PacBio Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing platforms fills this technology gap. PacBio SMRT Sequencing detects tens of thousands of structural variants in a human genome with approximately five times the sensitivity of short-read DNA sequencing. Effective application of PacBio SMRT Sequencing to detect structural variants requires quality bioinformatics tools that account for the characteristics of PacBio reads. To provide such a solution, we developed pbsv, a structural variant caller for PacBio reads that works as a chain of simple stages: 1) map reads to the reference genome, 2) identify reads with signatures of structural variation, 3) cluster nearby reads with similar signatures, 4) summarize each cluster into a consensus variant, and 5) filter for variants with sufficient read support. To evaluate the baseline performance of pbsv, we generated high coverage of a diploid human genome on the PacBio Sequel System, established a target set of structural variants, and then titrated to lower coverage levels. The false discovery rate for pbsv is low at all coverage levels. Sensitivity is high even at modest coverage: above 85% at 10-fold coverage and above 95% at 20-fold coverage. To assess the potential for PacBio SMRT Sequencing to identify pathogenic variants, we evaluated an individual with clinical symptoms suggestive of Carney complex for whom short-read whole genome sequencing was uninformative. The individual was sequenced to 9-fold coverage on the PacBio Sequel System, and structural variants were called with pbsv. Filtering for rare, genic structural variants left six candidates, including a heterozygous 2,184 bp deletion that removes the first coding exon of PRKAR1A. Null mutations in PRKAR1Acause autosomal dominant Carney complex, type 1. The variant was determined to be de novo, and it was classified as likely pathogenic based on ACMG standards and guidelines for variant interpretation. These case studies demonstrate the ability of pbsv to detect structural variants in low-coverage PacBio SMRT Sequencing and suggest the importance of considering structural variants in any study of human genetic variation.


June 1, 2021  |  

De novo assembly and preliminary annotation of the Schizocardium californicum genome

Animals in the phylum Hemichordata have provided key understanding of the origins and development of body patterning and nervous system organization. However, efforts to sequence and assemble the genomes of highly heterozygous non-model organisms have proven to be difficult with traditional short read approaches. Long repetitive DNA structures, extensive structural variation between haplotypes in polyploid species, and large genome sizes are limiting factors to achieving highly contiguous genome assemblies. Here we present the highly contiguous de novo assembly and preliminary annotation of an indirect developing hemichordate genome, Schizocardium californicum, using SMRT Sequening long reads.


June 1, 2021  |  

Targeted sequencing using a long-read sequencing technology

Targeted sequencing employing PCR amplification is a fundamental approach to studying human genetic disease. PacBio’s Sequel System and supporting products provide an end-to-end solution for amplicon sequencing, offering better performance to Sanger technology in accuracy, read length, throughput, and breadth of informative data. Sample multiplexing is supported with three barcoding options providing the flexibility to incorporate unique sample identifiers during target amplification or library preparation. Multiplexing is key to realizing the full capacity of the 1 million individual reactions per Sequel SMRT Cell. Two analysis workflows that can generate high-accuracy results support a wide range of amplicon sizes in two ranges from 250 bp to 3 kb and from 3 kb to >10 kb. The Circular Consensus Sequencing workflow results in high accuracy through intra-molecular consensus generation, while high accuracy for the Long Amplicon Analysis workflow is achieved by clustering of individual long reads from multiple reactions. Here we present workflows and results for single- molecule sequencing of amplicons for human genetic analysis.


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