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  |  

New advances in SMRT Sequencing facilitate multiplexing for de novo and structural variant studies

The latest advancements in Sequel II SMRT Sequencing have increased average read lengths up to 50% compared to Sequel II chemistry 1.0 which allows multiplexing of 2-3 small organisms (<500 Mb) such as insects and worms for producing reference quality assemblies, calling structural variants for up to 2 samples with ~3 Gb genomes, analysis of 48 microbial genomes, and up to 8 communities for metagenomic profiling in a single SMRT Cell 8M. With the improved processivity of the new Sequel II sequencing polymerase, more SMRTbell molecules reach rolling circle mode resulting in longer overall read lengths, thus allowing efficient detection of barcodes (up to 80%) in the SMRTbell templates. Multiplexing of genomes larger than microbial organisms is now achievable. In collaboration with the Wellcome Sanger Institute, we have developed a workflow for multiplexing two individual Anopheles coluzzii using as low as 150 ng genomic DNA per individual. The resulting assemblies had high contiguity (contig N50s over 3 Mb) and completeness (>98% of conserved genes) for both individuals. For microbial multiplexing, we multiplexed 48 microbes with varying complexities and sizes ranging 1.6-8.0 Mb in single SMRT Cell 8M. Using a new end-to-end analysis (Microbial Assembly Analysis, SMRT Link 8.0), assemblies resulted in complete circularized genomes (>200-fold coverage) and efficient detection of >3-200 kb plasmids. Finally, the long read lengths (>90 kb) allows detection of barcodes in large insert SMRTbell templates (>15 kb) thus facilitating multiplex of two human samples in 1 SMRT Cell 8M for detecting SVs, Indels and CNVs. Here, we present results and describe workflows for multiplexing samples for specific applications for SMRT Sequencing.


April 21, 2020  |  

Morphological and genomic characterisation of the hybrid schistosome infecting humans in Europe reveals a complex admixture between Schistosoma haematobium and Schistosoma bovis parasites

Schistosomes cause schistosomiasis, the worldtextquoterights second most important parasitic disease after malaria. A peculiar feature of schistosomes is their ability to produce viable and fertile hybrids. Originally only present in the tropics, schistosomiasis is now also endemic in Europe. Based on two genetic markers the European species had been identified as a hybrid between the ruminant-infective Schistosoma bovis and the human-infective Schistosoma haematobium.Here we describe for the first time the genomic composition of the European schistosome hybrid (77% of S. haematobium and 23% of S. bovis origins), its morphometric parameters and its compatibility with the European vector snail and intermediate host Compatibility is a key parameter for the parasites life cycle progression. We also show that egg morphology (a classical diagnostic parameter) does not allow for differential diagnosis while genetic tests do so. Additionally, we performed genome assembly improvement and annotation of S. bovis, the parental species for which no satisfactory genome assembly was available.For the first time since the discovery of hybrid schistosomes, these results reveal at the whole genomic level a complex admixture of parental genomes highlighting (i) the high permeability of schistosomes to other speciestextquoteright alleles, and (ii) the importance of hybrid formation for pushing species boundaries not only conceptionally but also geographically.


April 21, 2020  |  

Rapid transcriptional responses to serum exposure are associated with sensitivity and resistance to antibody-mediated complement killing in invasive Salmonella Typhimurium ST313

Background: Salmonella Typhimurium ST313 exhibits signatures of adaptation to invasive human infection, including higher resistance to humoral immune responses than gastrointestinal isolates. Full resistance to antibody-mediated complement killing (serum resistance) among nontyphoidal Salmonellae is uncommon, but selection of highly resistant strains could compromise vaccine-induced antibody immunity. Here, we address the hypothesis that serum resistance is due to a distinct genotype or transcriptome response in S. Typhimurium ST313.


April 21, 2020  |  

The comparative genomics and complex population history of Papio baboons.

Recent studies suggest that closely related species can accumulate substantial genetic and phenotypic differences despite ongoing gene flow, thus challenging traditional ideas regarding the genetics of speciation. Baboons (genus Papio) are Old World monkeys consisting of six readily distinguishable species. Baboon species hybridize in the wild, and prior data imply a complex history of differentiation and introgression. We produced a reference genome assembly for the olive baboon (Papio anubis) and whole-genome sequence data for all six extant species. We document multiple episodes of admixture and introgression during the radiation of Papio baboons, thus demonstrating their value as a model of complex evolutionary divergence, hybridization, and reticulation. These results help inform our understanding of similar cases, including modern humans, Neanderthals, Denisovans, and other ancient hominins.


April 21, 2020  |  

Comparative genomic analysis of eight novel haloalkaliphilic bacteriophages from Lake Elmenteita, Kenya.

We report complete genome sequences of eight bacteriophages isolated from Haloalkaline Lake Elmenteita found on the floor of Kenyan Rift Valley. The bacteriophages were sequenced, annotated and a comparative genomic analysis using various Bioinformatics tools carried out to determine relatedness of the bacteriophages to each other, and to those in public databases. Basic genome properties like genome size, percentage coding density, number of open reading frames, percentage GC content and gene organizations revealed the bacteriophages had no relationship to each other. Comparison to other nucleotide sequences in GenBank database showed no significant similarities hence novel. At the amino acid level, phages of our study revealed mosaicism to genes with conserved domains to already described phages. Phylogenetic analyses of large terminase gene responsible for DNA packaging and DNA polymerase gene for replication further showed diversity among the bacteriophages. Our results give insight into diversity of bacteriophages in Lake Elmenteita and provide information on their evolution. By providing primary sequence information, this study not only provides novel sequences for biotechnological exploitation, but also sets stage for future studies aimed at better understanding of virus diversity and genomes from haloalkaline lakes in the Rift Valley.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genome sequence of Jatropha curcas L., a non-edible biodiesel plant, provides a resource to improve seed-related traits.

Jatropha curcas (physic nut), a non-edible oilseed crop, represents one of the most promising alternative energy sources due to its high seed oil content, rapid growth and adaptability to various environments. We report ~339 Mbp draft whole genome sequence of J. curcas var. Chai Nat using both the PacBio and Illumina sequencing platforms. We identified and categorized differentially expressed genes related to biosynthesis of lipid and toxic compound among four stages of seed development. Triacylglycerol (TAG), the major component of seed storage oil, is mainly synthesized by phospholipid:diacylglycerol acyltransferase in Jatropha, and continuous high expression of homologs of oleosin over seed development contributes to accumulation of high level of oil in kernels by preventing the breakdown of TAG. A physical cluster of genes for diterpenoid biosynthetic enzymes, including casbene synthases highly responsible for a toxic compound, phorbol ester, in seed cake, was syntenically highly conserved between Jatropha and castor bean. Transcriptomic analysis of female and male flowers revealed the up-regulation of a dozen family of TFs in female flower. Additionally, we constructed a robust species tree enabling estimation of divergence times among nine Jatropha species and five commercial crops in Malpighiales order. Our results will help researchers and breeders increase energy efficiency of this important oil seed crop by improving yield and oil content, and eliminating toxic compound in seed cake for animal feed. © 2018 The Authors. Plant Biotechnology Journal published by Society for Experimental Biology and The Association of Applied Biologists and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


April 21, 2020  |  

Gut pathobionts underlie intestinal barrier dysfunction and liver T helper 17 cell immune response in primary sclerosing cholangitis.

Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a chronic inflammatory liver disease and its frequent complication with ulcerative colitis highlights the pathogenic role of epithelial barrier dysfunction. Intestinal barrier dysfunction has been implicated in the pathogenesis of PSC, yet its underlying mechanism remains unknown. Here, we identify Klebsiella pneumonia in the microbiota of patients with PSC and demonstrate that K.?pneumoniae disrupts the epithelial barrier to initiate bacterial translocation and liver inflammatory responses. Gnotobiotic mice inoculated with PSC-derived microbiota exhibited T helper 17 (TH17) cell responses in the liver and increased susceptibility to hepatobiliary injuries. Bacterial culture of mesenteric lymph nodes in these mice isolated K.?pneumoniae, Proteus mirabilis and Enterococcus gallinarum, which were prevalently detected in patients with PSC. A bacterial-organoid co-culture system visualized the epithelial-damaging effect of PSC-derived K.?pneumoniae that was associated with bacterial translocation and susceptibility to TH17-mediated hepatobiliary injuries. We also show that antibiotic treatment ameliorated the TH17 immune response induced by PSC-derived microbiota. These results highlight the role of pathobionts in intestinal barrier dysfunction and liver inflammation, providing insights into therapeutic strategies for PSC.


April 21, 2020  |  

Bioinformatic analysis of the complete genome sequence of Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. brasiliense BZA12 and candidate effector screening

AbstractPectobacterium carotovorum subsp. brasiliense (Pcb) is a gram-negative, plant pathogenic bacterium of the soft rot Enterobacteriaceae (SRE) family. We present the complete genome sequence of Pcb strain BZA12, which reveals that Pcb strain BZA12 carries a single 4,924,809 bp chromosome with 51.97% GC content and comprises 4508 predicted protein-coding genes.Geneannotationofthese genes utilizedGO, KEGG,and COG databases.Incomparison withthree closely related soft-rot pathogens, strain BZA12 has 3797 gene families, among which 3107 gene families are identified as orthologous with those of both P. carotovorum subsp. carotovorum PCC21 and P. carotovorum subsp. odoriferum BCS7, as well as 36 putative Unique Gene Families. We selected five putative effectors from the BZA12 genome and transiently expressed them in Nicotiana benthamiana. Candidate effector A12GL002483 was localized in the cell nucleus and induced cell death. This study provides a foundation for a better understanding of the genomic structure and function of Pcb, particularly in the discovery of potential pathogenic factors and for the development of more effective strategies against this pathogen.


April 21, 2020  |  

Human Migration and the Spread of the Nematode Parasite Wuchereria bancrofti.

The human disease lymphatic filariasis causes the debilitating effects of elephantiasis and hydrocele. Lymphatic filariasis currently affects the lives of 90 million people in 52 countries. There are three nematodes that cause lymphatic filariasis, Brugia malayi, Brugia timori, and Wuchereria bancrofti, but 90% of all cases of lymphatic filariasis are caused solely by W. bancrofti (Wb). Here we use population genomics to reconstruct the probable route and timing of migration of Wb strains that currently infect Africa, Haiti, and Papua New Guinea (PNG). We used selective whole genome amplification to sequence 42 whole genomes of single Wb worms from populations in Haiti, Mali, Kenya, and PNG. Our results are consistent with a hypothesis of an Island Southeast Asia or East Asian origin of Wb. Our demographic models support divergence times that correlate with the migration of human populations. We hypothesize that PNG was infected at two separate times, first by the Melanesians and later by the migrating Austronesians. The migrating Austronesians also likely introduced Wb to Madagascar where later migrations spread it to continental Africa. From Africa, Wb spread to the New World during the transatlantic slave trade. Genome scans identified 17 genes that were highly differentiated among Wb populations. Among these are genes associated with human immune suppression, insecticide sensitivity, and proposed drug targets. Identifying the distribution of genetic diversity in Wb populations and selection forces acting on the genome will build a foundation to test future hypotheses and help predict response to current eradication efforts. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.


April 21, 2020  |  

Rapid and Focused Maturation of a VRC01-Class HIV Broadly Neutralizing Antibody Lineage Involves Both Binding and Accommodation of the N276-Glycan.

The VH1-2 restricted VRC01-class of antibodies targeting the HIV envelope CD4 binding site are a major focus of HIV vaccine strategies. However, a detailed analysis of VRC01-class antibody development has been limited by the rare nature of these responses during natural infection and the lack of longitudinal sampling of such responses. To inform vaccine strategies, we mapped the development of a VRC01-class antibody lineage (PCIN63) in the subtype C infected IAVI Protocol C neutralizer PC063. PCIN63 monoclonal antibodies had the hallmark VRC01-class features and demonstrated neutralization breadth similar to the prototype VRC01 antibody, but were 2- to 3-fold less mutated. Maturation occurred rapidly within ~24 months of emergence of the lineage and somatic hypermutations accumulated at key contact residues. This longitudinal study of broadly neutralizing VRC01-class antibody lineage reveals early binding to the N276-glycan during affinity maturation, which may have implications for vaccine design.Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


April 21, 2020  |  

Wild relatives of maize

Crop domestication changed the course of human evolution, and domestication of maize (Zea mays L. subspecies mays), today the world’s most important crop, enabled civilizations to flourish and has played a major role in shaping the world we know today. Archaeological and ethnobotanical research help us understand the development of the cultures and the movements of the peoples who carried maize to new areas where it continued to adapt. Ancient remains of maize cobs and kernels have been found in the place of domestication, the Balsas River Valley (~9,000 years before present era), and the cultivation center, the Tehuacan Valley (~5,000 years before present era), and have been used to study the process of domestication. Paleogenomic data showed that some of the genes controlling the stem and inflorescence architecture were comparable to modern maize, while other genes controlling ear shattering and starch biosynthesis retain high levels of variability, similar to those found in the wild relative teosinte. These results indicate that the domestication process was both gradual and complex, where different genetic loci were selected at different points in time, and that the transformation of teosinte to maize was completed in the last 5,000 years. Mesoamerican native cultures domesticated teosinte and developed maize from a 6 cm long, popping-kernel ear to what we now recognize as modern maize with its wide variety in ear size, kernel texture, color, size, and adequacy for diverse uses and also invented nixtamalization, a process key to maximizing its nutrition. Used directly for human and animal consumption, processed food products, bioenergy, and many cultural applications, it is now grown on six of the world’s seven continents. The study of its evolution and domestication from the wild grass teosinte helps us understand the nature of genetic diversity of maize and its wild relatives and gene expression. Genetic barriers to direct use of teosinte or Tripsacum in maize breeding have challenged our ability to identify valuable genes and traits, let alone incorporate them into elite, modern varieties. Genomic information and newer genetic technologies will facilitate the use of wild relatives in crop improvement; hence it is more important than ever to ensure their conservation and availability, fundamental to future food security. In situ conservation efforts dedicated to preserving remnant populations of wild relatives in Mexico are key to safeguarding the genetic diversity of maize and its genepool, as well as enabling these species to continue to adapt to dynamic climate and environmental changes. Genebank ex situ efforts are crucial to securely maintain collected wild relative resources and to provide them for gene discovery and other research efforts.


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