June 1, 2021  |  

Harnessing kinetic information in Single-Molecule, Real-Time Sequencing.

Single-Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) DNA sequencing is unique in that nucleotide incorporation events are monitored in real time, leading to a wealth of kinetic information in addition to the extraction of the primary DNA sequence. The dynamics of the DNA polymerase that is observed adds an additional dimension of sequence-dependent information, and can be used to learn more about the molecule under study. First, the primary sequence itself can be determined more accurately. The kinetic data can be used to corroborate or overturn consensus calls and even enable calling bases in problematic sequence contexts. Second, using the kinetic information, we can detect and discriminate numerous chemical base modifications as a by-product of ordinary sequencing. Examples of applying these capabilities include (i) the characterization of the epigenome of microorganisms by directly sequencing the three common prokaryotic epigenetic base modifications of 4-methylcytosine, 5- methylcytosine and 6-methyladenine; (ii) the characterization of known and novel methyltransferase activities; (iii) the direct sequencing and differentiation of the four eukaryotic epigenetic forms of cytosine (5-methyl, 5-hydroxymethyl, 5-formyl, and 5-carboxylcytosine) with first applications to map them with single base-pair and DNA strand resolution across mammalian genomes; (iv) the direct sequencing and identification of numerous modified DNA bases arising from DNA damage; and (v) an exploration of the mitochondrial genome for known and novel base modifications. We will show our progress towards a generic, open-source algorithm for exploiting kinetic information for any of these purposes.


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.


September 22, 2019  |  

Meeting report: 31st International Mammalian Genome Conference, Mammalian Genetics and Genomics: From Molecular Mechanisms to Translational Applications.

High on the Heidelberg hills, inside the Advanced Training Centre of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) campus with its unique double-helix staircase, scientists gathered for the EMBL conference “Mammalian Genetics and Genomics: From Molecular Mechanisms to Translational Applications,” organized in cooperation with the International Mammalian Genome Society (IMGS) and the Mouse Molecular Genetics (MMG) group. The conference attracted 205 participants from 30 countries, representing 6 of the 7 continents-all except Antarctica. It was a richly diverse group of geneticists, clinicians, and bioinformaticians, with presentations by established and junior investigators, including many trainees. From the 24th-27th of October 2017, they shared exciting advances in mammalian genetics and genomics research, from the introduction of cutting-edge technologies to descriptions of translational studies involving highly relevant models of human disease.


September 22, 2019  |  

Single-cell multiomics: multiple measurements from single cells.

Single-cell sequencing provides information that is not confounded by genotypic or phenotypic heterogeneity of bulk samples. Sequencing of one molecular type (RNA, methylated DNA or open chromatin) in a single cell, furthermore, provides insights into the cell’s phenotype and links to its genotype. Nevertheless, only by taking measurements of these phenotypes and genotypes from the same single cells can such inferences be made unambiguously. In this review, we survey the first experimental approaches that assay, in parallel, multiple molecular types from the same single cell, before considering the challenges and opportunities afforded by these and future technologies. Copyright © 2016. Published by Elsevier Ltd.


September 22, 2019  |  

Comparative genome and methylome analysis reveals restriction/modification system diversity in the gut commensal Bifidobacterium breve.

Bifidobacterium breve represents one of the most abundant bifidobacterial species in the gastro-intestinal tract of breast-fed infants, where their presence is believed to exert beneficial effects. In the present study whole genome sequencing, employing the PacBio Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) sequencing platform, combined with comparative genome analysis allowed the most extensive genetic investigation of this taxon. Our findings demonstrate that genes encoding Restriction/Modification (R/M) systems constitute a substantial part of the B. breve variable gene content (or variome). Using the methylome data generated by SMRT sequencing, combined with targeted Illumina bisulfite sequencing (BS-seq) and comparative genome analysis, we were able to detect methylation recognition motifs and assign these to identified B. breve R/M systems, where in several cases such assignments were confirmed by restriction analysis. Furthermore, we show that R/M systems typically impose a very significant barrier to genetic accessibility of B. breve strains, and that cloning of a methyltransferase-encoding gene may overcome such a barrier, thus allowing future functional investigations of members of this species.


September 22, 2019  |  

The DNA methylome of the hyperthermoacidophilic crenarchaeon Sulfolobus acidocaldarius.

DNA methylation is the most common epigenetic modification observed in the genomic DNA (gDNA) of prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Methylated nucleobases, N6-methyl-adenine (m6A), N4-methyl-cytosine (m4C), and 5-methyl-cytosine (m5C), detected on gDNA represent the discrimination mark between self and non-self DNA when they are part of restriction-modification systems in prokaryotes (Bacteria and Archaea). In addition, m5C in Eukaryotes and m6A in Bacteria play an important role in the regulation of key cellular processes. Although archaeal genomes present modified bases as in the two other domains of life, the significance of DNA methylations as regulatory mechanisms remains largely uncharacterized in Archaea. Here, we began by investigating the DNA methylome of Sulfolobus acidocaldarius. The strategy behind this initial study entailed the use of combined digestion assays, dot blots, and genome resequencing, which utilizes specific restriction enzymes, antibodies specifically raised against m6A and m5C and single-molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing, respectively, to identify DNA methylations occurring in exponentially growing cells. The previously identified restriction-modification system, specific of S. acidocaldarius, was confirmed by digestion assay and SMRT sequencing while, the presence of m6A was revealed by dot blot and identified on the characteristic Dam motif by SMRT sequencing. No m5C was detected by dot blot under the conditions tested. Furthermore, by comparing the distribution of both detected methylations along the genome and, by analyzing DNA methylation profiles in synchronized cells, we investigated in which cellular pathways, in particular the cell cycle, this m6A methylation could be a key player. The analysis of sequencing data rejected a role for m6A methylation in another defense system and also raised new questions about a potential involvement of this modification in the regulation of other biological functions in S. acidocaldarius.


September 22, 2019  |  

Intraspecific comparative genomics of isolates of the Norway spruce pathogen (Heterobasidion parviporum) and identification of its potential virulence factors.

Heterobasidion parviporum is an economically most important fungal forest pathogen in northern Europe, causing root and butt rot disease of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.). The mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis and virulence of this species remain elusive. No reference genome to facilitate functional analysis is available for this species.To better understand the virulence factor at both phenotypic and genomic level, we characterized 15 H. parviporum isolates originating from different locations across Finland for virulence, vegetative growth, sporulation and saprotrophic wood decay. Wood decay capability and latitude of fungal origins exerted interactive effects on their virulence and appeared important for H. parviporum virulence. We sequenced the most virulent isolate, the first full genome sequences of H. parviporum as a reference genome, and re-sequenced the remaining 14 H. parviporum isolates. Genome-wide alignments and intrinsic polymorphism analysis showed that these isolates exhibited overall high genomic similarity with an average of at least 96% nucleotide identity when compared to the reference, yet had remarkable intra-specific level of polymorphism with a bias for CpG to TpG mutations. Reads mapping coverage analysis enabled the classification of all predicted genes into five groups and uncovered two genomic regions exclusively present in the reference with putative contribution to its higher virulence. Genes enriched for copy number variations (deletions and duplications) and nucleotide polymorphism were involved in oxidation-reduction processes and encoding domains relevant to transcription factors. Some secreted protein coding genes based on the genome-wide selection pressure, or the presence of variants were proposed as potential virulence candidates.Our study reported on the first reference genome sequence for this Norway spruce pathogen (H. parviporum). Comparative genomics analysis gave insight into the overall genomic variation among this fungal species and also facilitated the identification of several secreted protein coding genes as putative virulence factors for the further functional analysis. We also analyzed and identified phenotypic traits potentially linked to its virulence.


September 22, 2019  |  

Flow cytometry analysis of Clostridium beijerinckii NRRL B-598 populations exhibiting different phenotypes induced by changes in cultivation conditions.

Biobutanol production by clostridia via the acetone-butanol-ethanol (ABE) pathway is a promising future technology in bioenergetics , but identifying key regulatory mechanisms for this pathway is essential in order to construct industrially relevant strains with high tolerance and productivity. We have applied flow cytometric analysis to C. beijerinckii NRRL B-598 and carried out comparative screening of physiological changes in terms of viability under different cultivation conditions to determine its dependence on particular stages of the life cycle and the concentration of butanol.Dual staining by propidium iodide (PI) and carboxyfluorescein diacetate (CFDA) provided separation of cells into four subpopulations with different abilities to take up PI and cleave CFDA, reflecting different physiological states. The development of a staining pattern during ABE fermentation showed an apparent decline in viability, starting at the pH shift and onset of solventogenesis, although an appreciable proportion of cells continued to proliferate. This was observed for sporulating as well as non-sporulating phenotypes at low solvent concentrations, suggesting that the increase in percentage of inactive cells was not a result of solvent toxicity or a transition from vegetative to sporulating stages. Additionally, the sporulating phenotype was challenged with butanol and cultivation with a lower starting pH was performed; in both these experiments similar trends were obtained-viability declined after the pH breakpoint, independent of the actual butanol concentration in the medium. Production characteristics of both sporulating and non-sporulating phenotypes were comparable, showing that in C. beijerinckii NRRL B-598, solventogenesis was not conditional on sporulation.We have shown that the decline in C. beijerinckii NRRL B-598 culture viability during ABE fermentation was not only the result of accumulated toxic metabolites, but might also be associated with a special survival strategy triggered by pH change.


September 22, 2019  |  

DNA N6-adenine methylation in Arabidopsis thaliana.

DNA methylation on N6-adenine (6mA) has recently been found to be a potentially epigenetic mark in several unicellular and multicellular eukaryotes. However, its distribution patterns and potential functions in land plants, which are primary producers for most ecosystems, remain largely unknown. Here we report global profiling of 6mA sites at single-nucleotide resolution in the genome of Arabidopsis thaliana at different developmental stages using single-molecule real-time sequencing. 6mA sites are widely distributed across the Arabidopsis genome and enriched over the pericentromeric heterochromatin regions. 6mA occurs more frequently in gene bodies than intergenic regions. Analysis of 6mA methylomes and RNA sequencing data demonstrates that 6mA frequency positively correlates with the gene expression level and the transition from vegetative to reproductive growth in Arabidopsis. Our results uncover 6mA as a DNA mark associated with actively expressed genes in Arabidopsis, suggesting that 6mA serves as a hitherto unknown epigenetic mark in land plants. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

Mapping and characterizing N6-methyladenine in eukaryotic genomes using single-molecule real-time sequencing.

N6-Methyladenine (m6dA) has been discovered as a novel form of DNA methylation prevalent in eukaryotes; however, methods for high-resolution mapping of m6dA events are still lacking. Single-molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing has enabled the detection of m6dA events at single-nucleotide resolution in prokaryotic genomes, but its application to detecting m6dA in eukaryotic genomes has not been rigorously examined. Herein, we identified unique characteristics of eukaryotic m6dA methylomes that fundamentally differ from those of prokaryotes. Based on these differences, we describe the first approach for mapping m6dA events using SMRT sequencing specifically designed for the study of eukaryotic genomes and provide appropriate strategies for designing experiments and carrying out sequencing in future studies. We apply the novel approach to study two eukaryotic genomes. For green algae, we construct the first complete genome-wide map of m6dA at single-nucleotide and single-molecule resolution. For human lymphoblastoid cells (hLCLs), it was necessary to integrate SMRT sequencing data with independent sequencing data. The joint analyses suggest putative m6dA events are enriched in the promoters of young full-length LINE-1 elements (L1s), but call for validation by additional methods. These analyses demonstrate a general method for rigorous mapping and characterization of m6dA events in eukaryotic genomes.© 2018 Zhu et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.


September 22, 2019  |  

Large scale changes in host methylation patterns induced by IncA/C plasmid transformation in Vibrio cholerae

DNA methylation is a central epigenetic modification and has diverse biological functions in eukaryotic and prokaryotic organisms alike. The IncA/C plasmid genomes are approximately 150kb in length and harbour three methylase genes, two of which demonstrate cytosine specificity. Transformation of the Vibrio cholerae strain C6706 with the IncA/C plasmid pVC211 resulted in a significant relabelling of the methylation patterns on the host chromosomes. The new methylation patterns induced by transformation with IncA/C plasmid were accepted by the restriction enzymes of the hosttextquoterights restriction modification (RM) system. These data uncover a novel mechanism by which plasmids can be compatible with a hosttextquoterights RM system and suggest a possible reason that plasmids of the IncA/C family are broad-host-range.


September 22, 2019  |  

Nondestructive, base-resolution sequencing of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine using a DNA deaminase.

Here we present APOBEC-coupled epigenetic sequencing (ACE-seq), a bisulfite-free method for localizing 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) at single-base resolution with low DNA input. The method builds on the observation that AID/APOBEC family DNA deaminase enzymes can potently discriminate between cytosine modification states and exploits the non-destructive nature of enzymatic, rather than chemical, deamination. ACE-seq yielded high-confidence 5hmC profiles with at least 1,000-fold less DNA input than conventional methods. Applying ACE-seq to generate a base-resolution map of 5hmC in tissue-derived cortical excitatory neurons, we found that 5hmC was almost entirely confined to CG dinucleotides. The whole-genome map permitted cytosine, 5-methylcytosine (5mC) and 5hmC to be parsed and revealed genomic features that diverged from global patterns, including enhancers and imprinting control regions with high and low 5hmC/5mC ratios, respectively. Enzymatic deamination overcomes many challenges posed by bisulfite-based methods, thus expanding the scope of epigenome profiling to include scarce samples and opening new lines of inquiry regarding the role of cytosine modifications in genome biology.


September 22, 2019  |  

Identification of DNA base modifications by means of Pacific Biosciences RS Sequencing technology.

Whole phage genomes can be sequenced readily using one or a combination of next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies. One of the most recently developed NGS platforms, the so-called Single-Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) sequencing approach provided by the PacBio RS platform, is particularly useful in providing complete (i.e., un-gapped) genome sequences, but differs from other technologies in that the platform also allows for downstream analysis to identify nucleotides that have been modified by DNA methylation. Here, we describe the methodological approach for the detection of genomic methylation motifs by means of SMRT sequencing.


September 22, 2019  |  

Trophoblast organoids as a model for maternal-fetal interactions during human placentation.

The placenta is the extraembryonic organ that supports the fetus during intrauterine life. Although placental dysfunction results in major disorders of pregnancy with immediate and lifelong consequences for the mother and child, our knowledge of the human placenta is limited owing to a lack of functional experimental models1. After implantation, the trophectoderm of the blastocyst rapidly proliferates and generates the trophoblast, the unique cell type of the placenta. In vivo, proliferative villous cytotrophoblast cells differentiate into two main sub-populations: syncytiotrophoblast, the multinucleated epithelium of the villi responsible for nutrient exchange and hormone production, and extravillous trophoblast cells, which anchor the placenta to the maternal decidua and transform the maternal spiral arteries2. Here we describe the generation of long-term, genetically stable organoid cultures of trophoblast that can differentiate into both syncytiotrophoblast and extravillous trophoblast. We used human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing to confirm that the organoids were derived from the fetus, and verified their identities against four trophoblast-specific criteria3. The cultures organize into villous-like structures, and we detected the secretion of placental-specific peptides and hormones, including human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15) and pregnancy-specific glycoprotein (PSG) by mass spectrometry. The organoids also differentiate into HLA-G+ extravillous trophoblast cells, which vigorously invade in three-dimensional cultures. Analysis of the methylome reveals that the organoids closely resemble normal first trimester placentas. This organoid model will be transformative for studying human placental development and for investigating trophoblast interactions with the local and systemic maternal environment.


September 21, 2019  |  

Direct detection of DNA methylation during single-molecule, real-time sequencing.

We describe the direct detection of DNA methylation, without bisulfite conversion, through single-molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing. In SMRT sequencing, DNA polymerases catalyze the incorporation of fluorescently labeled nucleotides into complementary nucleic acid strands. The arrival times and durations of the resulting fluorescence pulses yield information about polymerase kinetics and allow direct detection of modified nucleotides in the DNA template, including N6-methyladenine, 5-methylcytosine and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine. Measurement of polymerase kinetics is an intrinsic part of SMRT sequencing and does not adversely affect determination of primary DNA sequence. The various modifications affect polymerase kinetics differently, allowing discrimination between them. We used these kinetic signatures to identify adenine methylation in genomic samples and found that, in combination with circular consensus sequencing, they can enable single-molecule identification of epigenetic modifications with base-pair resolution. This method is amenable to long read lengths and will likely enable mapping of methylation patterns in even highly repetitive genomic regions.


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