June 1, 2021  |  

A comprehensive lincRNA analysis: From conifers to trees

We have produced an updated annotation of the Norway spruce genome on the basis of an in siliconormalised set of RNA-Seq data obtained from 1,529 samples and comprising 15.5 billion paired-end Illumina HiSeq reads complemented by 18Mbp of PacBio cDNA data (3.2M sequences). In addition to augmenting and refining the previous protein coding gene annotation, here we focus on the addition of long intergenic non-coding RNA (lincRNA) and micro RNA (miRNA) genes. In addition to non-coding loci, our analyses also identified protein coding genes that had been missed by the initial genome annotation and enabled us to update the annotation of existing gene models. In particular, splice variant information, as supported by PacBio sequencing reads, has been added to the current annotation and previously fragmented gene models have been merged by scaffolding disjoint genomic scaffolds on the basis of transcript evidence. Using this refined annotation, a targeted analysis of the lincRNAs enabled their classification as i) deeply conserved, ii) conserved in seed plants iii) gymnosperm/conifer specific. Concurrently, complementary analyses were performed as part of the aspen genome project and the results of a comparative analysis of the lincRNAs conserved in both Norway spruce and Eurasian aspen enabled us to identify conserved and diverged expression profiles. At present, we are delving further into the expression results with the aim to functionally annotate the lincRNA genes, by developing a co-expression network analyses based GO annotation.

April 21, 2020  |  

RNA sequencing: the teenage years.

Over the past decade, RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) has become an indispensable tool for transcriptome-wide analysis of differential gene expression and differential splicing of mRNAs. However, as next-generation sequencing technologies have developed, so too has RNA-seq. Now, RNA-seq methods are available for studying many different aspects of RNA biology, including single-cell gene expression, translation (the translatome) and RNA structure (the structurome). Exciting new applications are being explored, such as spatial transcriptomics (spatialomics). Together with new long-read and direct RNA-seq technologies and better computational tools for data analysis, innovations in RNA-seq are contributing to a fuller understanding of RNA biology, from questions such as when and where transcription occurs to the folding and intermolecular interactions that govern RNA function.

April 21, 2020  |  

RADAR-seq: A RAre DAmage and Repair sequencing method for detecting DNA damage on a genome-wide scale.

RAre DAmage and Repair sequencing (RADAR-seq) is a highly adaptable sequencing method that enables the identification and detection of rare DNA damage events for a wide variety of DNA lesions at single-molecule resolution on a genome-wide scale. In RADAR-seq, DNA lesions are replaced with a patch of modified bases that can be directly detected by Pacific Biosciences Single Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) sequencing. RADAR-seq enables dynamic detection over a wide range of DNA damage frequencies, including low physiological levels. Furthermore, without the need for DNA amplification and enrichment steps, RADAR-seq provides sequencing coverage of damaged and undamaged DNA across an entire genome. Here, we use RADAR-seq to measure the frequency and map the location of ribonucleotides in wild-type and RNaseH2-deficient E. coli and Thermococcus kodakarensis strains. Additionally, by tracking ribonucleotides incorporated during in vivo lagging strand DNA synthesis, we determined the replication initiation point in E. coli, and its relation to the origin of replication (oriC). RADAR-seq was also used to map cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs) in Escherichia coli (E. coli) genomic DNA exposed to UV-radiation. On a broader scale, RADAR-seq can be applied to understand formation and repair of DNA damage, the correlation between DNA damage and disease initiation and progression, and complex biological pathways, including DNA replication.Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

April 21, 2020  |  

Deciphering bacterial epigenomes using modern sequencing technologies.

Prokaryotic DNA contains three types of methylation: N6-methyladenine, N4-methylcytosine and 5-methylcytosine. The lack of tools to analyse the frequency and distribution of methylated residues in bacterial genomes has prevented a full understanding of their functions. Now, advances in DNA sequencing technology, including single-molecule, real-time sequencing and nanopore-based sequencing, have provided new opportunities for systematic detection of all three forms of methylated DNA at a genome-wide scale and offer unprecedented opportunities for achieving a more complete understanding of bacterial epigenomes. Indeed, as the number of mapped bacterial methylomes approaches 2,000, increasing evidence supports roles for methylation in regulation of gene expression, virulence and pathogen-host interactions.

April 21, 2020  |  

Long-read based de novo assembly of low-complexity metagenome samples results in finished genomes and reveals insights into strain diversity and an active phage system.

Complete and contiguous genome assemblies greatly improve the quality of subsequent systems-wide functional profiling studies and the ability to gain novel biological insights. While a de novo genome assembly of an isolated bacterial strain is in most cases straightforward, more informative data about co-existing bacteria as well as synergistic and antagonistic effects can be obtained from a direct analysis of microbial communities. However, the complexity of metagenomic samples represents a major challenge. While third generation sequencing technologies have been suggested to enable finished metagenome-assembled genomes, to our knowledge, the complete genome assembly of all dominant strains in a microbiome sample has not been demonstrated. Natural whey starter cultures (NWCs) are used in cheese production and represent low-complexity microbiomes. Previous studies of Swiss Gruyère and selected Italian hard cheeses, mostly based on amplicon metagenomics, concurred that three species generally pre-dominate: Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus helveticus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii.Two NWCs from Swiss Gruyère producers were subjected to whole metagenome shotgun sequencing using the Pacific Biosciences Sequel and Illumina MiSeq platforms. In addition, longer Oxford Nanopore Technologies MinION reads had to be generated for one to resolve repeat regions. Thereby, we achieved the complete assembly of all dominant bacterial genomes from these low-complexity NWCs, which was corroborated by a 16S rRNA amplicon survey. Moreover, two distinct L. helveticus strains were successfully co-assembled from the same sample. Besides bacterial chromosomes, we could also assemble several bacterial plasmids and phages and a corresponding prophage. Biologically relevant insights were uncovered by linking the plasmids and phages to their respective host genomes using DNA methylation motifs on the plasmids and by matching prokaryotic CRISPR spacers with the corresponding protospacers on the phages. These results could only be achieved by employing long-read sequencing data able to span intragenomic as well as intergenomic repeats.Here, we demonstrate the feasibility of complete de novo genome assembly of all dominant strains from low-complexity NWCs based on whole metagenomics shotgun sequencing data. This allowed to gain novel biological insights and is a fundamental basis for subsequent systems-wide omics analyses, functional profiling and phenotype to genotype analysis of specific microbial communities.

April 21, 2020  |  

Comparative Phylogenomics, a Stepping Stone for Bird Biodiversity Studies

Birds are a group with immense availability of genomic resources, and hundreds of forthcoming genomes at the doorstep. We review recent developments in whole genome sequencing, phylogenomics, and comparative genomics of birds. Short read based genome assemblies are common, largely due to efforts of the Bird 10K genome project (B10K). Chromosome-level assemblies are expected to increase due to improved long-read sequencing. The available genomic data has enabled the reconstruction of the bird tree of life with increasing confidence and resolution, but challenges remain in the early splits of Neoaves due to their explosive diversification after the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) event. Continued genomic sampling of the bird tree of life will not just better reflect their evolutionary history but also shine new light onto the organization of phylogenetic signal and conflict across the genome. The comparatively simple architecture of avian genomes makes them a powerful system to study the molecular foundation of bird specific traits. Birds are on the verge of becoming an extremely resourceful system to study biodiversity from the nucleotide up.

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