June 1, 2021  |  

Evaluating the potential of new sequencing technologies for genotyping and variation discovery in human data.

A first look at Pacific Biosciences RS data Pacific Biosciences technology provides a fundamentally new data type that provides the potential to overcome these limitations by providing significantly longer reads (now averaging >1kb), enabling more unique seeds for reference alignment. In addition, the lack of amplification in the library construction step avoids a common source of base composition bias. With these potential advantages in mind, we here evaluate the utility of the Pacific Biosciences RS platform for human medical resequencing projects by assessing the quality of the raw sequencing data, as well as its use for SNP discovery and genotyping using the Genome Analysis Toolkit (GATK).


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 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  |  

HLA variant identification techniques

The Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) genes located on chromosome 6 are responsible for regulating immune function via antigen presentation and are one of the determining factors for stem cell and organ transplantation compatibility. Additionally various alleles within this region have been implicated in autoimmune disorders, cancer, vaccine response and both non-infectious and infectious disease risk. The HLA region is highly variable; containing repetitive regions; and co-dominantly expressed genes. This complicates short read mapping and means that assessing the effect of variation within a gene requires full phase information to resolve haplotypes.One solution to the problem of HLA identification is the use of statistical inference to suggest the most likely diploid alleles given the genotypes observed. The assumption of this approach is the availability of an extensive reference panel. Whilst there exists good population genetics data for imputing European populations, there remains a paucity of information about variation in African populations. Filling this gap is one of the aims of the Genome Diversity in Africa Project and as a first step we are performing a pilot study to identify the optimal method for determining HLA type information for large numbers of samples from African populations.To that end we have obtained samples from 125 consented African participants selected from 5 populations across Africa (Morrocan, Ashanti, Igbo, Kalenjin, and Zulu). The methods included in our pilot study are Sanger sequencing (ABI), NGS on HiSeqX Ten platform (Illumina); long-range PCR combined with single molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing (PacBio); and for a subset of samples library preparation on GemCode Platform (10x Genomics), which delivers valuable long range contextual information, combined with Illumina NGS sequencing.Results from capillary sequencing suggests the presence of a minimum of two novel alleles. Long Range PCR have been performed initially on a subset of samples using both primers sourced from GenDX and designed as described in Shiina et al (2012). Initial results from both primer sets were promising on Promega DNA test samples but only the GenDX primers proved effective on the African samples, producing consistently PCR products of the expected size in the Igbo, Ashanti, Morrocan and Zulu samples. We will present early results from our evaluation of the different sequencing technologies


June 1, 2021  |  

Genome and transcriptome of the refeneration-competent flatworm, Macrostomum lignano

The free-living flatworm, Macrostomum lignano, much like its better known planarian relative, Schmidtea mediterranea, has an impressive regenerative capacity. Following injury, this species has the ability to regenerate almost an entirely new organism. This is attributable to the presence of an abundant somatic stem cell population, the neoblasts. These cells are also essential for the ongoing maintenance of most tissues, as their loss leads to irreversible degeneration of the animal. This set of unique properties makes a subset of flatworms attractive organisms for studying the evolution of pathways involved in tissue self-renewal, cell fate specification, and regeneration. The use of these organisms as models, however, is hampered by the lack of a well-assembled and annotated genome sequences, fundamental to modern genetic and molecular studies. Here we report the genomic sequence of Macrostomum lignano and an accompanying characterization of its transcriptome. The genome structure of M. lignano is remarkably complex, with ~75% of its sequence being comprised of simple repeats and transposon sequences. This has made high quality assembly from Illumina reads alone impossible (N50=222 bp). We therefore generated 130X coverage by long sequencing reads from the PacBio platform to create a substantially improved assembly with an N50 of 64 Kbp. We complemented the reference genome with an assembled and annotated transcriptome, and used both of these datasets in combination to probe gene expression patterns during regeneration, examining pathways important to stem cell function. As a whole, our data will provide a crucial resource for the community for the study not only of invertebrate evolution and phylogeny but also of regeneration and somatic pluripotency.


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  |  

An improved circular consensus algorithm with an application to detection of HIV-1 Drug-Resistance Associated Mutations (DRAMs)

Scientists who require confident resolution of heterogeneous populations across complex regions have been unable to transition to short-read sequencing methods. They continue to depend on Sanger Sequencing despite its cost and time inefficiencies. Here we present a new redesigned algorithm that allows the generation of circular consensus sequences (CCS) from individual SMRT Sequencing reads. With this new algorithm, dubbed CCS2, it is possible to reach arbitrarily high quality across longer insert lengths at a lower cost and higher throughput than Sanger Sequencing. We apply this new algorithm, dubbed CCS2, to the characterization of the HIV-1 K103N drug-resistance associated mutation, which is both important clinically, and represents a challenge due to regional sequence context. A mutation was introduced into the 3rd position of amino acid position 103 (A>C substitution) of the RT gene on a pNL4-3 backbone by site-directed mutagenesis. Regions spanning ~1,300 bp were PCR amplified from both the non-mutated and mutant (K103N) plasmids, and were sequenced individually and as a 50:50 mixture. Sequencing data were analyzed using the new CCS2 algorithm, which uses a fully-generative probabilistic model of our SMRT Sequencing process to polish consensus sequences to arbitrarily high accuracy. This result, previously demonstrated for multi-molecule consensus sequences with the Quiver algorithm, is made possible by incorporating per-Zero Mode Waveguide (ZMW) characteristics, thus accounting for the intrinsic changes in the sequencing process that are unique to each ZMW. With CCS2, we are able to achieve a per-read empirical quality of QV30 with 19X coverage. This yields ~5000 1.3 kb consensus sequences with a collective empirical quality of ~QV40. Additionally, we demonstrate a 0% miscall rate in both unmixed samples, and estimate a 48:52% frequency for the K103N mutation in the mixed sample, consistent with data produced by orthogonal platforms.


June 1, 2021  |  

Enrichment of unamplified DNA and long-read SMRT Sequencing in unlocking the underlying biological disease mechanisms of repeat expansion disorders

For many of the repeat expansion disorders, the disease gene has been discovered, however the underlying biological mechanisms have not yet been fully understood. This is mainly due to technological limitations that do not allow for the needed base-pair resolution of the long, repetitive genomic regions. We have developed a novel, amplification-free enrichment technique that uses the CRISPR/Cas9 system to target large repeat expansions. This method, in conjunction with PacBio’s long reads and uniform coverage, enables sequencing of these complex genomic regions. By using a PCR-free amplification method, we are able to access not only the repetitive elements and interruption sequences accurately, but also the epigenetic information.


June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing of DNA and RNA samples extracted from formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded tissues

Recent advances in next-generation sequencing have led to the 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 in that it allows 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. DNA samples extracted from FFPE often contain damaged sites, including breaks in the backbone and missing or altered nucleotide bases, which directly impact sequencing and amplification. Additionally, the quality and quantity of the recovered DNA also vary depending on the extraction methods used. We have evaluated the Adaptive Focused Acoustics (AFA™) system by Covaris as a method for obtaining high molecular weight DNA suitable for SMRTbell template preparation and subsequent single molecule sequencing. Using this method, genomic DNA was extracted from normal kidney FFPE scrolls acquired from Cooperative Human Tissue Network (CHTN), University of Pennsylvania. Damaged sites present in the extracted DNA were repaired using a DNA Damage Repair step, and the treated DNA was constructed into SMRTbell libraries suitable for sequencing on the PacBio RS II System. Using the same repaired DNA, we also tested PCR efficiency of target gene regions of up to 5 kb. The resulting amplicons were constructed into SMRTbell templates for full-length sequencing on the PacBio RS II System. We found the Adaptive Focused Acoustics (AFA) system combined with truXTRAC™ by Covaris to be effective and efficient. 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 single molecule sequencing of DNA samples extracted from tissues embedded in FFPE.


June 1, 2021  |  

WGS SMRT Sequencing of patient samples from a fecal microbiota transplant trial

Fecal samples were obtained from human subjects in the first blinded, placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy and safety of fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) for treatment of recurrent C. difficile infection. Samples included pre-and post-FMT transplant, post-placebo transplant, and the donor control; samples were taken at 2 and 8 week post-FMT. Sequencing was done on the PacBio Sequel System, with the goal of obtaining high quality sequences covering whole genes or gene clusters, which will be used to better understand the relationship between the composition and functional capabilities of intestinal microbiomes and patient health. Methods: Samples were randomly sheared to 2-3 kb fragments, a sufficient length to cover most genes, and SMRTbell libraries were prepared using standard protocols. Libraries were run on the Sequel System, which has a throughput of hundreds of thousands of reads per SMRT Cell, adequate yield to sample the complex microbiomes of post-transplant and donor samples.Results: Here we characterize samples, describe library prep methods and detail Sequel System operation, including run conditions. Descriptive statistics of data output (primary analysis) are presented, along with SMRT Analysis reports on circular consensus sequence (CCS) reads generated using an updated algorithm (CCS2). Final sequencing yields are filtered at various levels of predicted accuracy from 90% to 99.9%. Previous studies done using the PacBio RS II System demonstrated the ability to profile at the species level, and in some cases the strain level, and provided functional insight. Conclusions: These results demonstrate that the Sequel System is well-suited for characterization of complex microbial communities, with the ability for high-throughput generation of extremely accurate single-molecule sequences, each several kilobases in length. The entire process from shearing and library prep through sequencing and CCS analysis can be completed in less than 48 hours.


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  |  

Characterizing haplotype diversity at the immunoglobulin heavy chain locus across human populations using novel long-read sequencing and assembly approaches

The human immunoglobulin heavy chain locus (IGH) remains among the most understudied regions of the human genome. Recent efforts have shown that haplotype diversity within IGH is elevated and exhibits population specific patterns; for example, our re-sequencing of the locus from only a single chromosome uncovered >100 Kb of novel sequence, including descriptions of six novel alleles, and four previously unmapped genes. Historically, this complex locus architecture has hindered the characterization of IGH germline single nucleotide, copy number, and structural variants (SNVs; CNVs; SVs), and as a result, there remains little known about the role of IGH polymorphisms in inter-individual antibody repertoire variability and disease. To remedy this, we are taking a multi-faceted approach to improving existing genomic resources in the human IGH region. First, from whole-genome and fosmid-based datasets, we are building the largest and most ethnically diverse set of IGH reference assemblies to date, by employing PacBio long-read sequencing combined with novel algorithms for phased haplotype assembly. In total, our effort will result in the characterization of >15 phased haplotypes from individuals of Asian, African, and European descent, to be used as a representative reference set by the genomics and immunogenetics community. Second, we are utilizing this more comprehensive sequence catalogue to inform the design and analysis of novel targeted IGH genotyping assays. Standard targeted DNA enrichment methods (e.g., exome capture) are currently optimized for the capture of only very short (100’s of bp) DNA segments. Our platform uses a modified bench protocol to pair existing capture-array technologies with the enrichment of longer fragments of DNA, enabling the use of PacBio sequencing of DNA segments up to 7 Kb. This substantial increase in contiguity disambiguates many of the complex repeated structures inherent to the locus, while yielding the base pair fidelity required to call SNVs. Together these resources will establish a stronger framework for further characterizing IGH genetic diversity and facilitate IGH genomic profiling in the clinical and research settings, which will be key to fully understanding the role of IGH germline variation in antibody repertoire development and disease.


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  |  

Using the PacBio IsoSeq method to search for novel colorectal cancer biomarkers

Early detection of colorectal cancer (CRC) and its precursor lesions (adenomas) is crucial to reduce mortality rates. The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is a non-invasive CRC screening test that detects the blood-derived protein hemoglobin. However, FIT sensitivity is suboptimal especially in detection of CRC precursor lesions. As adenoma-to-carcinoma progression is accompanied by alternative splicing, tumor-specific proteins derived from alternatively spliced RNA transcripts might serve as candidate biomarkers for CRC detection.


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