June 1, 2021  |  

Isoform sequencing: Unveiling the complex landscape of the eukaryotic transcriptome on the PacBio RS II.

Alternative splicing of RNA is an important mechanism that increases protein diversity and is pervasive in the most complex biological functions. While advances in RNA sequencing methods have accelerated our understanding of the transcriptome, isoform discovery remains computationally challenging due to short read lengths. Here, we describe the Isoform Sequencing (Iso-Seq) method using long reads generated by the PacBio RS II. We sequenced rat heart and lung RNA using the Clontech® SMARTer® cDNA preparation kit followed by size selection using agarose gel. Additionally, we tested the BluePippin™ device from Sage Science for efficiently extracting longer transcripts = 3 kb. Post-sequencing, we developed a novel isoform-level clustering algorithm to generate high-quality transcript consensus sequences. We show that our method recovered alternative splice forms as well as alternative stop sites, antisense transcription, and retained introns. To conclude, the Iso-Seq method provides a new opportunity for researchers to study the complex eukaryotic transcriptome even in the absence of reference genomes or annotated transcripts.


June 1, 2021  |  

A novel analytical pipeline for de novo haplotype phasing and amplicon analysis using SMRT Sequencing technology.

While the identification of individual SNPs has been readily available for some time, the ability to accurately phase SNPs and structural variation across a haplotype has been a challenge. With individual reads of an average length of 9 kb (P5-C3), and individual reads beyond 30 kb in length, SMRT Sequencing technology allows the identification of mutation combinations such as microdeletions, insertions, and substitutions without any predetermined reference sequence. Long- amplicon analysis is a novel protocol that identifies and reports the abundance of differing clusters of sequencing reads within a single library. Graphs generated via hierarchical clustering of individual sequencing reads are used to generate Markov models representing the consensus sequence of individual clusters found to be significantly different. Long-amplicon analysis is capable of differentiating between underlying sequences that are 99.9% similar, which is suitable for haplotyping and differentiating pseudogenes from coding transcripts. This protocol allows for the identification of structural variation in the MUC5AC gene sequence, despite the presence of a gap in the current genome assembly, and can also be used for HLA haplotyping. Clustering can also been applied to identify full length transcripts for the purpose of estimating consensus sequences and enumerating isoform types. Long-amplicon analysis allows for the elucidation of complex regions otherwise missed by other sequencing technologies, which may contribute to the diagnosis and understanding of otherwise complex diseases.


June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing solutions for large genomes and transcriptomes.

Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing holds promise for addressing new frontiers in large genome complexities, such as long, highly repetitive, low-complexity regions and duplication events, and differentiating between transcript isoforms that are difficult to resolve with short-read technologies. We present solutions available for both reference genome improvement (>100 MB) and transcriptome research to best leverage long reads that have exceeded 20 Kb in length. Benefits for these applications are further realized with consistent use of size-selection of input sample using the BluePippin™ device from Sage Science. Highlights from our genome assembly projects using the latest P5-C3 chemistry on model organisms will be shared. Assembly contig N50 have exceeded 6 Mb and we observed longest contig exceeding 12.5 Mb with an average base quality of QV50. Additionally, the value of long, intact reads to provide a no-assembly approach to investigate transcript isoforms using our Iso-Seq Application will be presented.


June 1, 2021  |  

Isoform sequencing: Unveiling the complex landscape in eukaryotic transcriptome on the PacBio RS II.

Advances in RNA sequencing have accelerated our understanding of the transcriptome, however isoform discovery remains challenging due to short read lengths. The Iso-Seq Application provides a new alternative to sequence full-length cDNA libraries using long reads from the PacBio RS II. Identification of long and often rare isoforms is demonstrated with rat heart and lung RNA prepared using the Clontech® SMARTer® cDNA preparation kit, followed by agarose-gel size selection in fractions of 1-2 kb, 2-3 kb and 3-6 kb. For each tissue, 1.8 and 1.2 million reads were obtained from 32 and 26 SMRT Cells, respectively. Filtering for reads with both adapters and polyA tail signals yielded >50% putative full-length transcripts. To improve consensus accuracy, we developed an isoform-level clustering algorithm ICE (Iterative Clustering for Error Correction), and polished full-length consensus sequences from ICE using Quiver. This method generated full-length transcripts up to 4.5 kb with = 99% post-correction accuracy. Compared with known rat genes, the Iso-Seq method not only recovered the majority of currently annotated isoforms, but also several unannotated novel isoforms with identified homologs in the RefSeq database. Additionally, alternative stop sites, extended UTRs, and retained introns were detected.


June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing solutions for investigative studies to understand evolutionary processes.

Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing holds promise for addressing new frontiers to understand molecular mechanisms in evolution and gain insight into adaptive strategies. With read lengths exceeding 10 kb, we are able to sequence high-quality, closed microbial genomes with associated plasmids, and investigate large genome complexities, such as long, highly repetitive, low-complexity regions and multiple tandem-duplication events. Improved genome quality, observed at 99.9999% (QV60) consensus accuracy, and significant reduction of gap regions in reference genomes (up to and beyond 50%) allow researchers to better understand coding sequences with high confidence, investigate potential regulatory mechanisms in noncoding regions, and make inferences about evolutionary strategies that are otherwise missed by the coverage biases associated with short- read sequencing technologies. Additional benefits afforded by SMRT Sequencing include the simultaneous capability to detect epigenomic modifications and obtain full-length cDNA transcripts that obsolete the need for assembly. With direct sequencing of DNA in real-time, this has resulted in the identification of numerous base modifications and motifs, which genome-wide profiles have linked to specific methyltransferase activities. Our new offering, the Iso-Seq Application, allows for the accurate differentiation between transcript isoforms that are difficult to resolve with short-read technologies. PacBio reads easily span transcripts such that both 5’/3’ primers for cDNA library generation and the poly-A tail are observed. As such, exon configuration and intron retention events can be analyzed without ambiguity. This technological advance is useful for characterizing transcript diversity and improving gene structure annotations in reference genomes. We review solutions available with SMRT Sequencing, from targeted sequencing efforts to obtaining reference genomes (>100 Mb). This includes strategies for identifying microsatellites and conducting phylogenetic comparisons with targeted gene families. We highlight how to best leverage our long reads that have exceeded 20 kb in length for research investigations, as well as currently available bioinformatics strategies for analysis. Benefits for these applications are further realized with consistent use of size selection of input sample using the BluePippin™ device from Sage Science as demonstrated in our genome improvement projects. Using the latest P5-C3 chemistry on model organisms, these efforts have yielded an observed contig N50 of ~6 Mb, with the longest contig exceeding 12.5 Mb and an average base quality of QV50.


June 1, 2021  |  

Single Molecule, Real-Time sequencing of full-length cDNA transcripts uncovers novel alternatively spliced isoforms.

In higher eukaryotic organisms, the majority of multi-exon genes are alternatively spliced. Different mRNA isoforms from the same gene can produce proteins that have distinct properties such as structure, function, or subcellular localization. Thus, the importance of understanding the full complement of transcript isoforms with potential phenotypic impact cannot be underscored. While microarrays and other NGS-based methods have become useful for studying transcriptomes, these technologies yield short, fragmented transcripts that remain a challenge for accurate, complete reconstruction of splice variants. The Iso-Seq protocol developed at PacBio offers the only solution for direct sequencing of full-length, single-molecule cDNA sequences to survey transcriptome isoform diversity useful for gene discovery and annotation. Knowledge of the complete isoform repertoire is also key for accurate quantification of isoform abundance. As most transcripts range from 1 – 10 kb, fully intact RNA molecules can be sequenced using SMRT Sequencing (avg. read length: 10-15 kb) without requiring fragmentation or post-sequencing assembly. Our open-source computational pipeline delivers high-quality, non-redundant sequences for unambiguous identification of alternative splicing events, alternative transcriptional start sites, polyA tail, and gene fusion events. The standard Iso-Seq protocol workflow available for all researchers is presented using a deep dataset of full- length cDNA sequences from the MCF-7 cancer cell line, and multiple tissues (brain, heart, and liver). Detected novel transcripts approaching 10 kb and alternative splicing events are highlighted. Even in extensively profiled samples, the method uncovered large numbers of novel alternatively spliced isoforms and previously unannotated genes.


June 1, 2021  |  

Full-length cDNA sequencing of alternatively spliced isoforms provides insight into human diseases.

The majority of human genes are alternatively spliced, making it possible for most genes to generate multiple proteins. The process of alternative splicing is highly regulated in a developmental-stage and tissue-specific manner. Perturbations in the regulation of these events can lead to disease in humans. Alternative splicing has been shown to play a role in human cancer, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s, and many other diseases. Understanding these diseases requires knowing the full complement of mRNA isoforms. Microarrays and high-throughput cDNA sequencing have become highly successful tools for studying transcriptomes, however these technologies only provide small fragments of transcripts and building complete transcript isoforms has been very challenging. We have developed the Iso-Seq technique, which is capable of sequencing full-length, single-molecule cDNA sequences. The method employs SMRT Sequencing to generate individual molecules with average read lengths of more than 10 kb and some as long as 40 kb. As most transcripts are from 1 to 10 kb, we can sequence through entire RNA molecules, requiring no fragmentation or post-sequencing assembly. Jointly with the sequencing method, we developed a computational pipeline that polishes these full-length transcript sequences into high-quality, non-redundant transcript consensus sequences. Iso-Seq sequencing enables unambiguous identification of alternative splicing events, alternative transcriptional start and poly-A sites, and transcripts from gene fusion events. Knowledge of the complete set of isoforms from a sample of interest is key for accurate quantification of isoform abundance when using any technology for transcriptome studies. Here we characterize the full-length transcriptome of normal human tissues, paired tumor/normal samples from breast cancer, and a brain sample from a patient with Alzheimer’s using deep Iso-Seq sequencing. We highlight numerous discoveries of novel alternatively spliced isoforms, gene-fusions events, and previously unannotated genes that will improve our understanding of human diseases.


June 1, 2021  |  

Full-length cDNA sequencing of alternatively spliced isoforms provides insight into human cancer

The majority of human genes are alternatively spliced, making it possible for most genes to generate multiple proteins. The process of alternative splicing is highly regulated in a developmental-stage and tissue-specific manner. Perturbations in the regulation of these events can lead to disease in humans (1). Alternative splicing has been shown to play a role in human cancer, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s, and many other diseases. Understanding these diseases requires knowing the full complement of mRNA isoforms. Microarrays and high-throughput cDNA sequencing have become highly successful tools for studying transcriptomes, however these technologies only provide small fragments of transcripts and building complete transcript isoforms has been very challenging (2). We have developed a technique, called Iso-Seq sequencing, that is capable of sequencing full-length, single-molecule cDNA sequences. The method employs SMRT Sequencing from PacBio, which can sequence individual molecules with read lengths that average more than 10 kb and can reach as long as 40 kb. As most transcripts are from 1 – 10 kb, we can sequence through entire RNA molecules, requiring no fragmentation or post-sequencing assembly. Jointly with the sequencing method, we developed a computational pipeline that polishes these full-length transcript sequences into high-quality, non-redundant transcript consensus sequences. Iso-Seq sequencing enables unambiguous identification of alternative splicing events, alternative transcriptional start and polyA sites, and transcripts from gene fusion events. Knowledge of the complete set of isoforms from a sample of interest is key for accurate quantification of isoform abundance when using any technology for transcriptome studies (3). Here we characterize the full-length transcriptome of paired tumor/normal samples from breast cancer using deep Iso-Seq sequencing. We highlight numerous discoveries of novel alternatively spliced isoforms, gene-fusion events, and previously unannotated genes that will improve our understanding of human cancer. (1) Faustino NA and Cooper TA. Genes and Development. 2003. 17: 419-437(2) Steijger T, et al. Nat Methods. 2013 Dec;10(12):1177-84.(3) Au KF, et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Dec 10;110(50):E4821-30.


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  |  

Full-length cDNA sequencing for genome annotation and analysis of alternative splicing

In higher eukaryotic organisms, the majority of multi-exon genes are alternatively spliced. Different mRNA isoforms from the same gene can produce proteins that have distinct properties and functions. Thus, the importance of understanding the full complement of transcript isoforms with potential phenotypic impact cannot be understated. While microarrays and other NGS-based methods have become useful for studying transcriptomes, these technologies yield short, fragmented transcripts that remain a challenge for accurate, complete reconstruction of splice variants. The Iso-Seq protocol developed at PacBio offers the only solution for direct sequencing of full-length, single-molecule cDNA sequences to survey transcriptome isoform diversity useful for gene discovery and annotation. Knowledge of the complete isoform repertoire is also key for accurate quantification of isoform abundance. As most transcripts range from 1 – 10 kb, fully intact RNA molecules can be sequenced using SMRT Sequencing without requiring fragmentation or post-sequencing assembly. Our open-source computational pipeline delivers high-quality, non-redundant sequences for unambiguous identification of alternative splicing events, alternative transcriptional start sites, polyA tail, and gene fusion events. We applied the Iso-Seq method to the maize (Zea mays) inbred line B73. Full-length cDNAs from six diverse tissues were barcoded and sequenced across multiple size-fractionated SMRTbell libraries. A total of 111,151 unique transcripts were identified. More than half of these transcripts (57%) represented novel, sometimes tissue-specific, isoforms of known genes. In addition to the 2250 novel coding genes and 860 lncRNAs discovered, the Iso-Seq dataset corrected errors in existing gene models, highlighting the value of full-length transcripts for whole gene annotations.


June 1, 2021  |  

Alternative splicing in FMR1 premutations carriers

Over 40% of males and ~16% of female carriers of a FMR1 premutation allele (55-200 CGG repeats) are at risk for developing Fragile X-associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS), an adult onset neurodegenerative disorder while, about 20% of female carriers will develop Fragile X-associated Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (FXPOI), in addition to a number of adult-onset clinical problems (FMR1 associated disorders). Marked elevation in FMR1 mRNA levels have been observed with premutation alleles and the resulting RNA toxicity is believed to be the leading molecular mechanism proposed for these disorders. The FMR1 gene, as many housekeeping genes, undergoes alternative splicing. Using long-read isoform sequencing (SMRT) and qRT-PCR we have recently reported that, although the relative abundance of all FMR1 mRNA isoforms is significantly increased in the premutation group compared to controls, there is a disproportionate increase, relative to the overall increase in mRNA, in the abundance of isoforms spliced at both exons 12 and 14. In total, we confirmed the existence of 16 out of 24 predicted isoforms in our samples. However, it is unknown, which isoforms, when overexpressed, may contribute to the premutation pathology. To address this question we have further defined the transcriptional FMR1 isoforms distribution pattern in different tissues, including heart, muscle, brain and testis derived from FXTAS premutation carriers and age-matched controls. Preliminary data indicates the presence of a transcriptional signature of the FMR1 gene, which clusters more by individual than by tissue type. We identified additional isoforms than the 16 reported in our previous study, including a group with particular splice patterns that were observed only in premutations but not in controls. Our findings suggest that the characterization of expression levels of the different FMR1 isoforms is fundamental for understanding the regulation of the FMR1 gene as well as for elucidating the mechanism(s) by which “toxic gain of function” of the FMR1 mRNA may play a role in FXTAS and/or in the other FMR1-associated conditions. In addition to the elevated levels of FMR1 isoforms, the altered abundance/ratio of the corresponding FMRP isomers may affect the overall function of FMRP in premutations.


June 1, 2021  |  

Full-length cDNA sequencing on the PacBio Sequel platform

The protein coding potential of most plant and animal genomes is dramatically increased via alternative splicing. Identification and annotation of expressed mRNA isoforms is critical to the understanding of these complex organisms. While microarrays and other NGS-based methods have become useful for studying transcriptomes, these technologies yield short, fragmented transcripts that remain a challenge for accurate, complete reconstruction of splice variants. The Iso-Seq protocol developed at PacBio offers the only solution for direct sequencing of full-length, single-molecule cDNA sequences to survey transcriptome isoform diversity useful for gene discovery and annotation. Knowledge of the complete isoform repertoire is also key for accurate quantification of isoform abundance. As most transcripts range from 1 – 10 kb, fully intact RNA molecules can be sequenced using SMRT Sequencing without requiring fragmentation or post-sequencing assembly. The PacBio Sequel platform has improved throughput thereby increasing the number of full-length transcripts per SMRT Cell. Furthermore, loading enhancements on the Sequel instrument have decreased the need for size fractionation steps. We have optimized the Iso-Seq library preparation process for use on the Sequel platform. Here, we demonstrate the capabilities of the Iso-Seq method on the Sequel system using cDNAs from the maize (Zea mays) inbred line B73. Full-length cDNA from six diverse tissues were barcoded, pooled, and sequenced on the PacBio Sequel system using a combination of size-selected and non-size-selected SMRTbell libraries. The results highlight the value of full-length transcripts for genome annotations and analysis of alternative splicing.


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