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  |  

Getting the most out of your PacBio libraries with size selection.

PacBio RS II sequencing chemistries provide read lengths beyond 20 kb with high consensus accuracy. The long read lengths of P4-C2 chemistry and demonstrated consensus accuracy of 99.999% are ideal for applications such as de novo assembly, targeted sequencing and isoform sequencing. The recently launched P5-C3 chemistry generates even longer reads with N50 often >10,000 bp, making it the best choice for scaffolding and spanning structural rearrangements. With these chemistry advances, PacBio’s read length performance is now primarily determined by the SMRTbell library itself. Size selection of a high-quality, sheared 20 kb library using the BluePippin™ System has been demonstrated to increase the N50 read length by as much as 5 kb with C3 chemistry. BluePippin size selection or a more stringent AMPure® PB selection cutoff can be used to recover long fragments from degraded genomic material. The selection of chemistries, P4-C2 versus P5-C3, is highly dependent on the final size distribution of the SMRTbell library and experimental goals. PacBio’s long read lengths also allow for the sequencing of full-length cDNA libraries at single-molecule resolution. However, longer transcripts are difficult to detect due to lower abundance, amplification bias, and preferential loading of smaller SMRTbell constructs. Without size selection, most sequenced transcripts are 1-1.5 kb. Size selection dramatically increases the number of transcripts >1.5 kb, and is essential for >3 kb transcripts.


June 1, 2021  |  

Integrative biology of a fungus: Using PacBio SMRT Sequencing to interrogate the genome, epigenome, and transcriptome of Neurospora crassa.

PacBio SMRT Sequencing has the unique ability to directly detect base modifications in addition to the nucleotide sequence of DNA. Because eukaryotes use base modifications to regulate gene expression, the absence or presence of epigenetic events relative to the location of genes is critical to elucidate the function of the modification. Therefore an integrated approach that combines multiple omic-scale assays is necessary to study complex organisms. Here, we present an integrated analysis of three sequencing experiments: 1) DNA sequencing, 2) base-modification detection, and 3) Iso-seq analysis, in Neurospora crassa, a filamentous fungus that has been used to make many landmark discoveries in biochemistry and genetics. We show that de novo assembly of a new strain yields complete assemblies of entire chromosomes, and additionally contains entire centromeric sequences. Base-modification analyses reveal candidate sites of increased interpulse duration (IPD) ratio, that may signify regions of 5mC, 5hmC, or 6mA base modifications. Iso-seq method provides full-length transcript evidence for comprehensive gene annotation, as well as context to the base-modifications in the newly assembled genome. Projects that integrate multiple genome-wide assays could become common practice for identifying genomic elements and understanding their function in new strains and organisms.


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  |  

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  |  

SMRT Sequencing of DNA and RNA samples extracted from formalin-fixed and paraffin embedded tissues using adaptive focused acoustics by Covaris.

Recent advances in next-generation sequencing have led to an increased use of formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissues for medical samples in disease and scientific research. Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing offers a unique advantage for direct analysis of FFPE samples without amplification. However, obtaining ample long-read information from FFPE samples has been a challenge due to the quality and quantity of the extracted DNA. FFPE samples often contain damaged sites, including breaks in the backbone and missing or altered nucleotide bases, which directly impact sequencing and target enrichment. Additionally, the quality and quantity of the recovered DNA vary depending on the extraction methods used. We have evaluated the Covaris® Adaptive Focused Acoustics (AFA) system as a method for obtaining high molecular weight DNA suitable for SMRTbell™ template preparation and subsequent PacBio RS II sequencing. To test the Covaris system, we extracted DNA from normal kidney FFPE scrolls acquired from the Cooperative Human Tissue Network (CHTN), University of Pennsylvania. Damaged sites in the extracted DNA were repaired using a DNA Damage Repair step, and the treated DNA was constructed into SMRTbell libraries for sequencing on the PacBio System. Using the same repaired DNA, we also tested the efficiency of PCR in amplifying targets of up to 10 kb. The resulting amplicons were also constructed into SMRTbell templates for full-length sequencing on the PacBio System. We found the Adaptive Focused Acoustics (AFA) system by Covaris to be effective. This system is easy and simple to use, and the resulting DNA is compatible with SMRTbell library preparation for targeted and whole genome SMRT Sequencing. The data presented here demonstrates feasibility of SMRT Sequencing with FFPE samples.


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 isoform sequencing of the human MCF-7 cell line using PacBio long reads.

While advances in RNA sequencing methods have accelerated our understanding of the human transcriptome, isoform discovery remains a challenge because short read lengths require complicated assembly algorithms to infer the contiguity of full-length transcripts. With PacBio’s long reads, one can now sequence full-length transcript isoforms up to 10 kb. The PacBio Iso- Seq protocol produces reads that originate from independent observations of single molecules, meaning no assembly is needed. Here, we sequenced the transcriptome of the human MCF-7 breast cancer cell line using the Clontech SMARTer® cDNA preparation kit and the PacBio RS II. Using PacBio Iso-Seq bioinformatics software, we obtained 55,770 unique, full-length, high-quality transcript sequences that were subsequently mapped back to the human genome with = 99% accuracy. In addition, we identified both known and novel fusion transcripts. To assess our results, we compared the predicted ORFs from the PacBio data against a published mass spectrometry dataset from the same cell line. 84% of the proteins identified with the Uniprot protein database were recovered by the PacBio predictions. Notably, 251 peptides solely matched to the PacBio generated ORFs and were entirely novel, including abundant cases of single amino acid polymorphisms, cassette exon splicing and potential alternative protein coding frames.


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  |  

Reconstruction of the spinach coding genome using full-length transcriptome without a reference genome

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 PacBio to sequence transcriptomes (the Iso-Seq 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 high-quality 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 the Iso-Seq data for spinach, Spinacia oleracea, for which there is also a PacBio-based draft genome to validate the reconstruction. The Iso-Seq dataset consists of 68,263 fulllength, Quiver-polished transcript sequences ranging from 528 bp to 6 kbp long (mean: 2.1 kbp). Using the genome mapping as ground truth, we found that 95% (8045/8446) of the Cogent gene families found corresponded to a single genomic loci. For families that contained multiple loci, they were often homologous genes that would be categorized as belonging to the same gene family. Coding genome reconstruction was then performed individually for each gene family. A total of 86% (7283/8446) of the gene families were resolved to a single contig by Cogent, and was validated to be also a single contig in the genome. In 59 cases, Cogent reconstructed a single contig, however the contig corresponded to 2 or more loci in the genome, suggesting possible scaffolding opportunities. In 24 cases, the transcripts had no hits to the genome, though Pfam and BLAST searches of the transcripts show that they were indeed coding, suggesting that the genome is missing certain coding portions. Given the high quality of the spinach genome, we were not surprised to find that Cogent only minorly improved the genome space. However the ability of Cogent to accurately identify gene families and reconstruct the coding genome in a de novo fashion shows that it will be extremely powerful when applied to datasets for which there is no or low-quality reference genome.


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