June 1, 2021  |  

Allele-level sequencing and phasing of full-length HLA class I and II genes using SMRT Sequencing technology

The three classes of genes that comprise the MHC gene family are actively involved in determining donor-recipient compatibility for organ transplant, as well as susceptibility to autoimmune diseases via cross-reacting immunization. Specifically, Class I genes HLA-A, -B, -C, and class II genes HLA-DR, -DQ and -DP are considered medically important for genetic analysis to determine histocompatibility. They are highly polymorphic and have thousands of alleles implicated in disease resistance and susceptibility. The importance of full-length HLA gene sequencing for genotyping, detection of null alleles, and phasing is now widely acknowledged. While DNA-sequencing-based HLA genotyping has become routine, only 7% of the HLA genes have been characterized by allele-level sequencing, while 93% are still defined by partial sequences. The gold-standard Sanger sequencing technology is being quickly replaced by second-generation, high- throughput sequencing methods due to its inability to generate unambiguous phased reads from heterozygous alleles. However, although these short, high-throughput, clonal sequencing methods are better at heterozygous allele detection, they are inadequate at generating full-length haploid gene sequences. Thus, full-length gene sequencing from an enhancer-promoter region to a 3’UTR that includes phasing information without the need for imputation still remains a technological challenge. The best way to overcome these challenges is to sequence these genes with a technology that is clonal in nature and has the longest possible read lengths. We have employed Single Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) sequencing technology from Pacific Biosciences for sequencing full-length HLA class I and II genes.


June 1, 2021  |  

Multiplexing human HLA class I & II genotyping with DNA barcode adapters for high throughput research.

Human MHC class I genes HLA-A, -B, -C, and class II genes HLA-DR, -DP and -DQ, play a critical role in the immune system as major factors responsible for organ transplant rejection. The have a direct or linkage-based association with several diseases, including cancer and autoimmune diseases, and are important targets for clinical and drug sensitivity research. HLA genes are also highly polymorphic and their diversity originates from exonic combinations as well as recombination events. A large number of new alleles are expected to be encountered if these genes are sequenced through the UTRs. Thus allele-level resolution is strongly preferred when sequencing HLA genes. Pacific Biosciences has developed a method to sequence the HLA genes in their entirety within the span of a single read taking advantage of long read lengths (average >10 kb) facilitated by SMRT technology. A highly accurate consensus sequence (=99.999 or QV50 demonstrated) is generated for each allele in a de novo fashion by our SMRT Analysis software. In the present work, we have combined this imputation-free, fully phased, allele-specific consensus sequence generation workflow and a newly developed DNA-barcode-tagged SMRTbell sample preparation approach to multiplex 96 individual samples for sequencing all of the HLA class I and II genes. Commercially available NGS-go reagents for full-length HLA class I and relevant exons of class II genes were amplified for hi-resolution HLA sequencing. The 96 samples included 72 that are part of UCLA reference panel and had pre-typing information available for 2 fields, based on gold standard SBT methods. SMRTbell adapters with 16 bp barcode tags were ligated to long amplicons in symmetric pairing. PacBio sequencing was highly effective in generating accurate, phased sequences of full-length alleles of HLA genes. In this work we demonstrate scalability of HLA sequencing using off the shelf assays for research applications to find biological significance in full-length sequencing.


June 1, 2021  |  

High-accuracy, single-base resolution of near-full-length HIV genomes.

Background: The HIV-1 proviral reservoir is incredibly stable, even while undergoing antiretroviral therapy, and is seen as the major barrier to HIV-1 eradication. Identifying and comprehensively characterizing this reservoir will be critical to achieving an HIV cure. Historically, this has been a tedious and labor intensive process, requiring high-replicate single-genome amplification reactions, or overlapping amplicons that are then reconstructed into full-length genomes by algorithmic imputation. Here, we present a deep sequencing and analysis method able to determine the exact identity and relative abundances of near-full-length HIV genomes from samples containing mixtures of genomes without shearing or complex bioinformatic reconstruction. Methods: We generated clonal near-full-length (~9 kb) amplicons derived from single genome amplification (SGA) of primary proviral isolates or PCR of well-documented control strains. These clonal products were mixed at various abundances and sequenced as near-full-length (~9 kb) amplicons without shearing. Each mixture yielded many near-full-length HIV-1 reads. Mathematical analysis techniques resolved the complex mixture of reads into estimates of distinct near-full-length viral genomes with their relative abundances. Results: Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing data contained near-full-length (~9 kb) continuous reads for each sample including some runs with greater than 10,000 near-full-length-genome reads in a three-hour sequencing run. Our methods correctly recapitulated exactly the originating genomes at a single-base resolution and their relative abundances in both mixtures of clonal controls and SGAs, and these results were validated using independent sequencing methods. Correct resolution was achieved even when genomes differed only by a single base. Minor abundances of 5% were reliably detected. Conclusions: SMRT Sequencing yields long-read sequencing results from individual DNA molecules, a rapid time-to-result. The single-molecule, full-length nature of this sequencing method allows us to estimate variant subspecies and relative abundances with single-nucleotide resolution. This method allows for reference-agnostic and cost-effective full-genome sequencing of HIV-1, which could both further our understanding of latent infection and develop novel and improved tools for quantifying HIV provirus, which will be critical to cure HIV.


June 1, 2021  |  

Access full spectrum of polymorphisms in HLA class I & II genes, without imputation for disease association and evolutionary research.

MHC class I and II genes are critically monitored by high-resolution sequencing for organ transplant decisions due to their role in GVHD. Their direct or linkage-based causal association, have increased their prominence as targets for drug sensitivity, autoimmune, cancer and infectious disease research. Monitoring HLA genes can however be tricky due to their highly polymorphic nature. Allele-level resolution is thus strongly preferred. However, most studies were historically focused on peptide binding domains of the HLA genes, due to technological challenges. As a result knowledge about the functional role of polymorphisms outside of exons 2 and 3 of HLA genes was rather limited. There are also relatively few full-length gene references currently available in the IMGT HLA database. This made it difficult to quickly adopt high-throughput reference-reliant methods for allele-level HLA sequencing. Increasing awareness regarding role of regulatory region polymorphisms of HLA genes in disease association1, nonetheless have brought about a revolution in full-length HLA gene sequencing. Researchers are now exploring ways to obtain complete information for HLA genes and integrate it with the current HLA database so it can be interpreted used by clinical researchers. We have explored advantages of SMRT Sequencing to obtain fully phased, allele-specific sequences of HLA class I and II genes for 96 samples using completely De novo consensus generation approach for imputation-free 4-field typing. With long read lengths (average >10 kb) and consensus accuracy exceeding 99.999% (Q50), a comprehensive snapshot of variants in exons, introns and UTRs could be obtained for spectrum of polymorphisms in phase across SNP-poor regions. Such information can provide invaluable insights in future causality association and population diversity research.


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  |  

Resolving KIR genotypes and haplotypes simultaneously using Single Molecule, Real-Time Sequencing

The killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR) genes belong to the immunoglobulin superfamily and are widely studied due to the critical role they play in coordinating the innate immune response to infection and disease. Highly accurate, contiguous, long reads, like those generated by SMRT Sequencing, when combined with target-enrichment protocols, provide a straightforward strategy for generating complete de novo assembled KIR haplotypes. We have explored two different methods to capture the KIR region; one applying the use of fosmid clones and one using Nimblegen capture.


June 1, 2021  |  

The MHC Diversity in Africa Project (MDAP) pilot – 125 African high resolution HLA types from 5 populations

The major histocompatibility complex (MHC), or human leukocyte antigen (HLA) in humans, is a highly diverse gene family with a key role in immune response to disease; and has been implicated in auto-immune disease, cancer, infectious disease susceptibility, and vaccine response. It has clinical importance in the field of solid organ and bone marrow transplantation, where donors and recipient matching of HLA types is key to transplanted organ outcomes. The Sanger based typing (SBT) methods currently used in clinical practice do not capture the full diversity across this region, and require specific reference sequences to deconvolute ambiguity in HLA types. However, reference databases are based largely on European populations, and the full extent of diversity in Africa remains poorly understood. Here, we present the first systematic characterisation of HLA diversity within Africa in the pilot phase of the MHC Diversity in Africa Project, together with an evaluation of methods to carry out scalable cost-effective, as well as reliable, typing of this region in African populations.To sample a geographically representative panel of African populations we obtained 125 samples, 25 each from the Zulu (South Africa), Igbo (Nigeria), Kalenjin (Kenya), Moroccan and Ashanti (Ghana) groups. For methods validation we included two controls from the International Histocompatibility Working Group (IHWG) collection with known typing information. Sanger typing and Illumina HiSeq X sequencing of these samples indicated potentially novel Class I and Class II alleles; however, we found poor correlation between HiSeq X sequencing and SBT for both classes. Long Range PCR and high resolution PacBio RS-II typing of 4 of these samples identified 7 novel Class II alleles, highlighting the high levels of diversity in these populations, and the need for long read sequencing approaches to characterise this comprehensively. We have now expanded this approach to the entire pilot set of 125 samples. We present these confirmed types and discuss a workflow for scaling this to 5000 individuals across Africa.The large number of new alleles identified in our pilot suggests the high level of African HLA diversity and the utility of high resolution methods. The MDAP project will provide a framework for accurate HLA typing, in addition to providing an invaluable resource for imputation in GWAS, boosting power to identify and resolve HLA disease associations.


June 1, 2021  |  

Full-length transcript profiling with the Iso-Seq method for improved genome annotations

Incomplete annotation of genomes represents a major impediment to understanding biological processes, functional differences between species, and evolutionary mechanisms. Often, genes that are large, embedded within duplicated genomic regions, or associated with repeats are difficult to study by short-read expression profiling and assembly. In addition, most genes in eukaryotic organisms produce alternatively spliced isoforms, broadening the diversity of proteins encoded by the genome, which are difficult to resolve with short-read methods. Short-read RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) works by physically shearing transcript isoforms into smaller pieces and bioinformatically reassembling them, leaving opportunity for misassembly or incomplete capture of the full diversity of isoforms from genes of interest. In contrast, Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing directly sequences full-length transcripts without the need for assembly and imputation. Here we apply the Iso-Seq method (long-read RNA sequencing) to detect full-length isoforms and the new IsoPhase algorithm to retrieve allele-specific isoform information for two avian models of vocal learning, Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna) and zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata).


June 1, 2021  |  

High-throughput SMRT Sequencing of clinically relevant targets

Targeted sequencing with Sanger as well as short read based high throughput sequencing methods is standard practice in clinical genetic testing. However, many applications beyond SNP detection have remained somewhat obstructed due to technological challenges. With the advent of long reads and high consensus accuracy, SMRT Sequencing overcomes many of the technical hurdles faced by Sanger and NGS approaches, opening a broad range of untapped clinical sequencing opportunities. Flexible multiplexing options, highly adaptable sample preparation method and newly improved two well-developed analysis methods that generate highly-accurate sequencing results, make SMRT Sequencing an adept method for clinical grade targeted sequencing. The Circular Consensus Sequencing (CCS) analysis pipeline produces QV 30 data from each single intra-molecular multi-pass polymerase read, making it a reliable solution for detecting minor variant alleles with frequencies as low as 1 %. Long Amplicon Analysis (LAA) makes use of insert spanning full-length subreads originating from multiple individual copies of the target to generate highly accurate and phased consensus sequences (>QV50), offering a unique advantage for imputation free allele segregation and haplotype phasing. Here we present workflows and results for a range of SMRT Sequencing clinical applications. Specifically, we illustrate how the flexible multiplexing options, simple sample preparation methods and new developments in data analysis tools offered by PacBio in support of Sequel System 5.1 can come together in a variety of experimental designs to enable applications as diverse as high throughput HLA typing, mitochondrial DNA sequencing and viral vector integrity profiling of recombinant adeno-associated viral genomes (rAAV).


June 1, 2021  |  

FALCON-Phase integrates PacBio and HiC data for de novo assembly, scaffolding and phasing of a diploid Puerto Rican genome (HG00733)

Haplotype-resolved genomes are important for understanding how combinations of variants impact phenotypes. The study of disease, quantitative traits, forensics, and organ donor matching are aided by phased genomes. Phase is commonly resolved using familial data, population-based imputation, or by isolating and sequencing single haplotypes using fosmids, BACs, or haploid tissues. Because these methods can be prohibitively expensive, or samples may not be available, alternative approaches are required. de novo genome assembly with PacBio Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) data produces highly contiguous, accurate assemblies. For non-inbred samples, including humans, the separate resolution of haplotypes results in higher base accuracy and more contiguous assembled sequences. Two primary methods exist for phased diploid genome assembly. The first, TrioCanu requires Illumina data from parents and PacBio data from the offspring. The long reads from the child are partitioned into maternal and paternal bins using parent-specific sequences; the separate PacBio read bins are then assembled, generating two fully phased genomes. An alternative approach (FALCON-Unzip) does not require parental information and separates PacBio reads, during genome assembly, using heterozygous SNPs. The length of haplotype phase blocks in FALCON-Unzip is limited by the magnitude and distribution of heterozygosity, the length of sequence reads, and read coverage. Because of this, FALCON-Unzip contigs typically contain haplotype-switch errors between phase blocks, resulting in primary contig of mixed parental origin. We developed FALCON-Phase, which integrates Hi-C data downstream of FALCON-Unzip to resolve phase switches along contigs. We applied the method to a human (Puerto Rican, HG00733) and non-human genome assemblies and evaluated accuracy using samples with trio data. In a cattle genome, we observe >96% accuracy in phasing when compared to TrioCanu assemblies as well as parental SNPs. For a high-quality PacBio assembly (>90-fold Sequel coverage) of a Puerto Rican individual we scaffolded the FALCON-Phase contigs, and re-phased the contigs creating a de novo scaffolded, phased diploid assembly with chromosome-scale contiguity.


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