June 1, 2021  |  

Enrichment of unamplified DNA and long-read SMRT Sequencing to unlock repeat expansion disorders

Nucleotide repeat expansions are a major cause of neurological and neuromuscular disease in humans, however, the nature of these genomic regions makes characterizing them extremely challenging. Accurate DNA sequencing of repeat expansions using short-read sequencing technologies is difficult, as short-read technologies often cannot read through regions of low sequence complexity. Additionally, these short reads do not span the entire region of interest and therefore sequence assembly is required. Lastly, most target enrichment methods are reliant upon amplification which adds the additional caveat of PCR bias. We have developed a novel, amplification-free enrichment technique that employs the CRISPR/Cas9 system for specific targeting of individual human genes. This method, in conjunction with PacBio’s long reads and uniform coverage, enables sequencing of complex genomic regions that cannot be investigated with other technologies. Using human genomic DNA samples and this strategy, we have successfully targeted the loci of Huntington’s Disease (HTT; CAG repeat), Fragile X (FMR1; CGG repeat), ALS (C9orf72; GGGGCC repeat), and Spinocerebellar ataxia type 10 (SCA10; variable ATTCT repeat) for examination. With this data, we demonstrate the ability to isolate hundreds of individual on-target molecules in a single SMRT Cell and accurately sequence through long repeat stretches, regardless of the extreme GC-content. The method is compatible with multiplexing of multiple targets and multiple samples in a single reaction. This technique also captures native DNA molecules for sequencing, allowing for the possibility of direct detection and characterization of epigenetic signatures.


June 1, 2021  |  

No-amp targeted SMRT sequencing using a CRISPR-Cas9 enrichment method

Targeted sequencing of genomic DNA requires an enrichment method to generate detectable amounts of sequencing products. Genomic regions with extreme composition bias and repetitive sequences can pose a significant enrichment challenge. Many genetic diseases caused by repeat element expansions are representative of these challenging enrichment targets. PCR amplification, used either alone or in combination with a hybridization capture method, is a common approach for target enrichment. While PCR amplification can be used successfully with genomic regions of moderate to high complexity, it is the low-complexity regions and regions containing repetitive elements sometimes of indeterminate lengths due to repeat expansions that can lead to poor or failed PCR enrichment. We have developed an enrichment method for targeted SMRT Sequencing on the PacBio Sequel System using the CRISPR-Cas9 system that requires no PCR amplification. Briefly, a preformed SMRTbell library containing the target region of interest is cleaved with Cas9 through direct interaction with a sequence-specific guide RNA. After ligation with new poly(A) hairpin adapters, the asymmetric SMRTbell templates are enriched by magnetic bead separation. This method, paired with SMRT Sequencing’s long reads, high consensus accuracy, and uniform coverage, allows sequencing of genomic regions regardless of challenging sequence context that cannot be investigated with other technologies. The method is amenable to analyzing multiple samples and/or targets in a single reaction. In addition, this method also preserves epigenetic modifications allowing for the detection and characterization of DNA methylation which has been shown to be a key factor in the disease mechanism for some repeat expansion diseases. Here we present results of our latest No-Amp Targeted Sequencing procedure applied to the characterization of CAG triplet repeat expansions in the HTT gene responsible for Huntington’s Disease.


June 1, 2021  |  

Sequencing the previously unsequenceable using amplification-free targeted enrichment powered by CRISPR/Cas9

Genomic regions with extreme base composition bias and repetitive sequences have long proven challenging for targeted enrichment methods, as they rely upon some form of amplification. Similarly, most DNA sequencing technologies struggle to faithfully sequence regions of low complexity. This has especially been true for repeat expansion disorders such as Fragile X syndrome, Huntington’s disease and various Ataxias, where the repetitive elements range from several hundreds of bases to tens of kilobases. We have developed a robust, amplification-free targeted enrichment technique, called No-Amp Targeted Sequencing, that employs the CRISPR/Cas9 system. In conjunction with Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing, which delivers long reads spanning the entire repeat expansion, high consensus accuracy, and uniform coverage, these previously inaccessible regions are now accessible. This method is completely amplification-free, therefore removing any PCR errors and biases from the experiment. Furthermore, this technique also preserves native DNA molecules, allowing for direct detection and characterization of epigenetic signatures. The No-Amp method is a two-day protocol, compatible with multiplexing of multiple targets and samples in a single reaction, using as little as 1 µg of genomic DNA input per sample. We have successfully targeted a number of repeat expansion disorder loci (HTT, FMR1, ATXN10, C9orf72) with alleles as long as >2700 repeat unites (>13 kb). Using the No-Amp method we have isolated hundreds of individual on-target molecules, allowing for reliable repeat size estimation, mosaicism detection and identification of interruption sequences – all aspects of repeat expansion disorders which are important for better understanding the underlying disease mechanisms.


September 22, 2019  |  

Chemical Synergy between Ionophore PBT2 and Zinc Reverses Antibiotic Resistance.

The World Health Organization reports that antibiotic-resistant pathogens represent an imminent global health disaster for the 21st century. Gram-positive superbugs threaten to breach last-line antibiotic treatment, and the pharmaceutical industry antibiotic development pipeline is waning. Here we report the synergy between ionophore-induced physiological stress in Gram-positive bacteria and antibiotic treatment. PBT2 is a safe-for-human-use zinc ionophore that has progressed to phase 2 clinical trials for Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease treatment. In combination with zinc, PBT2 exhibits antibacterial activity and disrupts cellular homeostasis in erythromycin-resistant group A Streptococcus (GAS), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE). We were unable to select for mutants resistant to PBT2-zinc treatment. While ineffective alone against resistant bacteria, several clinically relevant antibiotics act synergistically with PBT2-zinc to enhance killing of these Gram-positive pathogens. These data represent a new paradigm whereby disruption of bacterial metal homeostasis reverses antibiotic-resistant phenotypes in a number of priority human bacterial pathogens.IMPORTANCE The rise of bacterial antibiotic resistance coupled with a reduction in new antibiotic development has placed significant burdens on global health care. Resistant bacterial pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus are leading causes of community- and hospital-acquired infection and present a significant clinical challenge. These pathogens have acquired resistance to broad classes of antimicrobials. Furthermore, Streptococcus pyogenes, a significant disease agent among Indigenous Australians, has now acquired resistance to several antibiotic classes. With a rise in antibiotic resistance and reduction in new antibiotic discovery, it is imperative to investigate alternative therapeutic regimens that complement the use of current antibiotic treatment strategies. As stated by the WHO Director-General, “On current trends, common diseases may become untreatable. Doctors facing patients will have to say, Sorry, there is nothing I can do for you.” Copyright © 2018 Bohlmann et al.


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