June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing and assembly of the human microbiome project Mock Community sample – a feasibility project.

While the utility of Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing for de novo assembly and finishing of bacterial isolates is well established, this technology has not yet been widely applied to shotgun sequencing of microbial communities. In order to demonstrate the feasibility of this approach, we sequenced genomic DNA from the Microbial Mock Community B of the Human Microbiome Project


June 1, 2021  |  

Minimization of chimera formation and substitution errors in full-length 16S PCR amplification

The constituents and intra-communal interactions of microbial populations have garnered increasing interest in areas such as water remediation, agriculture and human health. One popular, efficient method of profiling communities is to amplify and sequence the evolutionarily conserved 16S rRNA sequence. Currently, most targeted amplification focuses on short, hypervariable regions of the 16S sequence. Distinguishing information not spanned by the targeted region is lost and species-level classification is often not possible. SMRT Sequencing easily spans the entire 1.5 kb 16S gene, and in combination with highly-accurate single-molecule sequences, can improve the identification of individual species in a metapopulation. However, when amplifying a mixture of sequences with close similarities, the products may contain chimeras, or recombinant molecules, at rates as high as 20-30%. These PCR artifacts make it difficult to identify novel species, and reduce the amount of productive sequences. We investigated multiple factors that have been hypothesized to contribute to chimera formation, such as template damage, denaturing time before and during cycling, polymerase extension time, and reaction volume. Of the factors tested, we found two major related contributors to chimera formation: the amount of input template into the PCR reaction and the number of PCR cycles. Sequence errors generated during amplification and sequencing can also confound the analysis of complex populations. Circular Consensus Sequencing (CCS) can generate single-molecule reads with >99% accuracy, and the SMRT Analysis software provides filtering of these reads to >99.99% accuracies. Remaining substitution errors in these highly-filtered reads are likely dominated by mis-incorporations during amplification. Therefore, we compared the impact of several commercially-available high-fidelity PCR kits with full-length 16S amplification. We show results of our experiments and describe an optimized protocol for full-length 16S amplification for SMRT Sequencing. These optimizations have broader implications for other applications that use PCR amplification to phase variations across targeted regions and to generate highly accurate reference sequences.


June 1, 2021  |  

Minimization of chimera formation and substitution errors in full-length 16S PCR amplification

The constituents and intra-communal interactions of microbial populations have garnered increasing interest in areas such as water remediation, agriculture and human health. Amplification and sequencing of the evolutionarily conserved 16S rRNA gene is an efficient method of profiling communities. Currently, most targeted amplification focuses on short, hypervariable regions of the 16S sequence. Distinguishing information not spanned by the targeted region is lost, and species-level classification is often not possible. PacBio SMRT Sequencing easily spans the entire 1.5 kb 16S gene in a single read, producing highly accurate single-molecule sequences that can improve the identification of individual species in a metapopulation.However, this process still relies upon PCR amplification from a mixture of similar sequences, which may result in chimeras, or recombinant molecules, at rates upwards of 20%. These PCR artifacts make it difficult to identify novel species, and reduce the amount of informative sequences. We investigated multiple factors that may contribute to chimera formation, such as template damage, denaturation time before and during thermocycling, polymerase extension time, and reaction volume. We found two related factors that contribute to chimera formation: the amount of input template into the PCR reaction, and the number of PCR cycles.A second problem that can confound analysis is sequence errors generated during amplification and sequencing. With the updated algorithm for circular consensus sequencing (CCS2), single-molecule reads can be filtered to 99.99% predicted accuracy. Substitution errors in these highly filtered reads may be dominated by mis-incorporations during amplification. Sequence differences in full-length 16S amplicons from several commercial high-fidelity PCR kits were compared.We show results of our experiments and describe our optimized protocol for full-length 16S amplification for SMRT Sequencing. These optimizations have broader implications for other applications that use PCR amplification to phase variations across targeted regions and generate highly accurate reference sequences.


June 1, 2021  |  

Multiplexing strategies for microbial whole genome SMRT Sequencing

As the throughput of the PacBio Systems continues to increase, so has the desire to fully utilize SMRT Cell sequencing capacity to multiplex microbes for whole genome sequencing. Multiplexing is readily achieved by incorporating a unique barcode for each microbe into the SMRTbell adapters and using a streamlined library preparation process. Incorporating barcodes without PCR amplification prevents the loss of epigenetic information and the generation of chimeric sequences, while eliminating the need to generate separate SMRTbell libraries. We multiplexed the genomes of up to 8 unique strains of H. pylori. Each genome was sheared and processed through adapter ligation in a single, addition-only reaction. The barcoded samples were pooled in equimolar quantities and a single SMRTbell library was prepared. We demonstrate successful de novo microbial assembly from all multiplexes tested (2- through 8-plex) using data generated from a single SMRTbell library, run on a single SMRT Cell with the PacBio RS II, and analyzed with standard SMRT Analysis assembly methods. This strategy was successful using both small (1.6 Mb, H. pylori) and medium (5 Mb, E. coli) genomes. This protocol facilitates the sequencing of multiple microbial genomes in a single run, greatly increasing throughput and reducing costs per genome.


June 1, 2021  |  

Unbiased characterization of metagenome composition and function using HiFi sequencing on the PacBio Sequel II System

Recent work comparing metagenomic sequencing methods indicates that a comprehensive picture of the taxonomic and functional diversity of complex communities will be difficult to achieve with short-read technology alone. While the lower cost of short reads has enabled greater sequencing depth, the greater contiguity of long-read assemblies and lack of GC bias in SMRT Sequencing has enabled better gene finding. However, since long-read assembly requires high coverage for error correction, the benefits of unbiased coverage have in the past been lost for low abundance species. SMRT Sequencing performance improvements and the introduction of the Sequel II System has enabled a new, high throughput data type uniquely suited to metagenome characterization: HiFi reads. HiFi reads combine high accuracy with read lengths up to 15 kb, eliminating the need for assembly for most microbiome applications, including functional profiling, gene discovery, and metabolic pathway reconstruction. Here we present the application of the HiFi data type to enable a new method of analyzing metagenomes that does not require assembly.


June 1, 2021  |  

Unbiased characterization of metagenome composition and function using HiFi sequencing on the PacBio Sequel II System

Recent work comparing metagenomic sequencing methods indicates that a comprehensive picture of the taxonomic and functional diversity of complex communities will be difficult to achieve with one sequencing technology alone. While the lower cost of short reads has enabled greater sequencing depth, the greater contiguity of long-read assemblies and lack of GC bias in SMRT Sequencing has enabled better gene finding. However, since long-read assembly typically requires high coverage for error correction, these benefits have in the past been lost for low-abundance species. The introduction of the Sequel II System has enabled a new, higher throughput, assembly-optional data type that addresses these challenges: HiFi reads. HiFi reads combine QV20 accuracy with long read lengths, eliminating the need for assembly for most metagenome applications, including gene discovery and metabolic pathway reconstruction. In fact, the read lengths and accuracy of HiFi data match or outperform the quality metrics of most metagenome assemblies, enabling cost-effective recovery of intact genes and operons while omitting the resource intensive and data-inefficient assembly step. Here we present the application of HiFi sequencing to both mock and human fecal samples using full-length 16S and shotgun methods. This proof-of-concept work demonstrates the unique strengths of the HiFi method. First, the high correspondence between the expected community composition,16S and shotgun profiling data reflects low context bias. In addition, every HiFi read yields ~5-8 predicted genes, without assembly, using standard tools. If assembly is desired, excellent results can be achieved with Canu and contig binning tools. In summary, HiFi sequencing is a new, cost-effective option for high-resolution functional profiling of metagenomes which complements existing short read workflows.


June 1, 2021  |  

Improving long-read assembly of microbial genomes and plasmids

Complete, high-quality microbial genomes are very valuable across a broad array of fields, from environmental studies, to human microbiome health, food pathogen surveillance, etc. Long-read sequencing enables accurate resolution of complex microbial genomes and is becoming the new standard. Here we report our novel Microbial Assembly pipeline to facilitate rapid, large-scale analysis of microbial genomes. We sequenced a 48-plex library with one SMRT Cell 8M on the Sequel II System, demultiplexed, then analyzed the data with Microbial Assembly.


April 21, 2020  |  

A Novel Bacteriophage Exclusion (BREX) System Encoded by the pglX Gene in Lactobacillus casei Zhang.

The bacteriophage exclusion (BREX) system is a novel prokaryotic defense system against bacteriophages. To our knowledge, no study has systematically characterized the function of the BREX system in lactic acid bacteria. Lactobacillus casei Zhang is a probiotic bacterium originating from koumiss. By using single-molecule real-time sequencing, we previously identified N6-methyladenine (m6A) signatures in the genome of L. casei Zhang and a putative methyltransferase (MTase), namely, pglX This work further analyzed the genomic locus near the pglX gene and identified it as a component of the BREX system. To decipher the biological role of pglX, an L. casei Zhang pglX mutant (?pglX) was constructed. Interestingly, m6A methylation of the 5′-ACRCAG-3′ motif was eliminated in the ?pglX mutant. The wild-type and mutant strains exhibited no significant difference in morphology or growth performance in de Man-Rogosa-Sharpe (MRS) medium. A significantly higher plasmid acquisition capacity was observed for the ?pglX mutant than for the wild type if the transformed plasmids contained pglX recognition sites (i.e., 5′-ACRCAG-3′). In contrast, no significant difference was observed in plasmid transformation efficiency between the two strains when plasmids lacking pglX recognition sites were tested. Moreover, the ?pglX mutant had a lower capacity to retain the plasmids than the wild type, suggesting a decrease in genetic stability. Since the Rebase database predicted that the L. casei PglX protein was bifunctional, as both an MTase and a restriction endonuclease, the PglX protein was heterologously expressed and purified but failed to show restriction endonuclease activity. Taken together, the results show that the L. casei Zhang pglX gene is a functional adenine MTase that belongs to the BREX system.IMPORTANCELactobacillus casei Zhang is a probiotic that confers beneficial effects on the host, and it is thus increasingly used in the dairy industry. The possession of an effective bacterial immune system that can defend against invasion of phages and exogenous DNA is a desirable feature for industrial bacterial strains. The bacteriophage exclusion (BREX) system is a recently described phage resistance system in prokaryotes. This work confirmed the function of the BREX system in L. casei and that the methyltransferase (pglX) is an indispensable part of the system. Overall, our study characterizes a BREX system component gene in lactic acid bacteria. Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.


April 21, 2020  |  

Complete genome sequence of Helicobacter pylori B128 7.13 and a single-step method for the generation of unmarked mutations.

Helicobacter pylori represents an interesting model of bacterial pathogenesis given that most infections are asymptomatic, while a minority of infections cause severe gastric disease. H pylori strain B128 7.13 is used extensively to understand H pylori pathophysiology. Due to extensive restriction-modification systems, the fact that only some H pylori strains are naturally transformable, the inability of common plasmid and transposon vectors to replicate in this bacterium, as well as the limited number of antibiotic cassettes that are functional in H pylori, there are relatively few genetic tools for the mutagenesis of this bacterium.Here, we use PacBio and Illumina sequencing to reveal the complete genome sequence of H pylori B128 7.13. Furthermore, we describe a system to generate markerless and scarless mutations on the H pylori chromosome using the counter-selection marker, galactokinase from Escherichia coli.We show that this mutagenesis strategy can be used to generate in-frame insertions, gene deletions, and multiple independent mutations in B128 7.13. Using the closed genome as a reference, we also report the absence of second site chromosomal mutations and/or rearrangements in our mutagenized strains. We compare the genome sequence of H pylori B128 7.13 with a closely related strain, H pylori B8, and reveal one notable region of difference, which is a 1430 bp insertion encoding a H pylori-specific DUF874 family protein of unknown function.This article reports the closed genome of the important H pylori B128 7.13 strain and a mutagenesis method that can be adopted by researchers as an alternative strategy to generate isogenic mutants of H pylori in order to further our understanding of this bacterium. © 2019. The Authors. Helicobacter Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


April 21, 2020  |  

a-Difluoromethylornithine reduces gastric carcinogenesis by causing mutations in Helicobacter pylori cagY.

Infection by Helicobacter pylori is the primary cause of gastric adenocarcinoma. The most potent H. pylori virulence factor is cytotoxin-associated gene A (CagA), which is translocated by a type 4 secretion system (T4SS) into gastric epithelial cells and activates oncogenic signaling pathways. The gene cagY encodes for a key component of the T4SS and can undergo gene rearrangements. We have shown that the cancer chemopreventive agent a-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO), known to inhibit the enzyme ornithine decarboxylase, reduces H. pylori-mediated gastric cancer incidence in Mongolian gerbils. In the present study, we questioned whether DFMO might directly affect H. pylori pathogenicity. We show that H. pylori output strains isolated from gerbils treated with DFMO exhibit reduced ability to translocate CagA in gastric epithelial cells. Further, we frequently detected genomic modifications in the middle repeat region of the cagY gene of output strains from DFMO-treated animals, which were associated with alterations in the CagY protein. Gerbils did not develop carcinoma when infected with a DFMO output strain containing rearranged cagY or the parental strain in which the wild-type cagY was replaced by cagY with DFMO-induced rearrangements. Lastly, we demonstrate that in vitro treatment of H. pylori by DFMO induces oxidative DNA damage, expression of the DNA repair enzyme MutS2, and mutations in cagY, demonstrating that DFMO directly affects genomic stability. Deletion of mutS2 abrogated the ability of DFMO to induce cagY rearrangements directly. In conclusion, DFMO-induced oxidative stress in H. pylori leads to genomic alterations and attenuates virulence.


April 21, 2020  |  

Biomimetic hydroxyapatite nanocrystals are an active carrier for Salmonella bacteriophages.

The use of bacteriophages represents a valid alternative to conventional antimicrobial treatments, overcoming the widespread bacterial antibiotic resistance phenomenon. In this work, we evaluated whether biomimetic hydroxyapatite (HA) nanocrystals are able to enhance some properties of bacteriophages. The final goal of this study was to demonstrate that biomimetic HA nanocrystals can be used for bacteriophage delivery in the context of bacterial infections, and contribute – at the same time – to enhance some of the biological properties of the same bacteriophages such as stability, preservation, antimicrobial activity, and so on.Phage isolation and characterization were carried out by using Mitomycin C and following double-layer agar technique. The biomimetic HA water suspension was synthesized in order to obtain nanocrystals with plate-like morphology and nanometric dimensions. The interaction of phages with the HA was investigated by dynamic light scattering and Zeta potential analyses. The cytotoxicity and intracellular killing activities of the phage-HA complex were evaluated in human hepatocellular carcinoma HepG2 cells. The bacterial inhibition capacity of the complex was assessed on chicken minced meat samples infected with Salmonella Rissen.Our data highlighted that the biomimetic HA nanocrystal-bacteriophage complex was more stable and more effective than phages alone in all tested experimental conditions.Our results evidenced the important contribution of biomimetic HA nanocrystals: they act as an excellent carrier for bacteriophage delivery and enhance its biological characteristics. This study confirmed the significant role of the mineral HA when it is complexed with biological entities like bacteriophages, as it has been shown for molecules such as lactoferrin.


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