June 1, 2021  |  

Complete microbial genomes, epigenomes, and transcriptomes using long-read PacBio Sequencing.

For comprehensive metabolic reconstructions and a resulting understanding of the pathways leading to natural products, it is desirable to obtain complete information about the genetic blueprint of the organisms used. Traditional Sanger and next-generation, short-read sequencing technologies have shortcomings with respect to read lengths and DNA-sequence context bias, leading to fragmented and incomplete genome information. The development of long-read, single molecule, real-time (SMRT) DNA sequencing from Pacific Biosciences, with >10,000 bp average read lengths and a lack of sequence context bias, now allows for the generation of complete genomes in a fully automated workflow. In addition to the genome sequence, DNA methylation is characterized in the process of sequencing. PacBio® sequencing has also been applied to microbial transcriptomes. Long reads enable sequencing of full-length cDNAs allowing for identification of complete gene and operon sequences without the need for transcript assembly. We will highlight several examples where these capabilities have been leveraged in the areas of industrial microbiology, including biocommodities, biofuels, bioremediation, new bacteria with potential commercial applications, antibiotic discovery, and livestock/plant microbiome interactions.


June 1, 2021  |  

Low-input long-read sequencing for complete microbial genomes and metagenomic community analysis.

Microbial genome sequencing can be done quickly, easily, and efficiently with the PacBio sequencing instruments, resulting in complete de novo assemblies. Alternative protocols have been developed to reduce the amount of purified DNA required for SMRT Sequencing, to broaden applicability to lower-abundance samples. If 50-100 ng of microbial DNA is available, a 10-20 kb SMRTbell library can be made. A 2 kb SMRTbell library only requires a few ng of gDNA when carrier DNA is added to the library. The resulting libraries can be loaded onto multiple SMRT Cells, yielding more than enough data for complete assembly of microbial genomes using the SMRT Portal assembly program HGAP, plus base-modification analysis. The entire process can be done in less than 3 days by standard laboratory personnel. This approach is particularly important for the analysis of metagenomic communities, in which genomic DNA is often limited. From these samples, full-length 16S amplicons can be generated, prepped with the standard SMRTbell library prep protocol, and sequenced. Alternatively, a 2 kb sheared library, made from a few ng of input DNA, can also be used to elucidate the microbial composition of a community, and may provide information about biochemical pathways present in the sample. In both these cases, 1-2 kb reads with >99% accuracy can be obtained from Circular Consensus Sequencing.


June 1, 2021  |  

Multiplexing strategies for microbial whole genome SMRT Sequencing

The increased throughput of the RS II and Sequel Systems enables multiple microbes to be sequenced on a single SMRT Cell. This multiplexing can be readily achieved by simply incorporating a unique barcode for each microbe into the SMRTbell adapters after shearing genomic DNA using a streamlined library construction process. Incorporating a barcode without the requirement for PCR amplification prevents the loss of epigenetic information (e.g., methylation signatures), and the generation of chimeric sequences, while the modified protocol eliminates the need to build several individual SMRTbell libraries. We multiplexed up to 8 unique strains of H. pylori. Each strain was sheared, and processed through adapter ligation in a single, addition only reaction. The barcoded strains were then pooled in equimolar quantities, and processed through the remainder of the library preparation and purification steps. We demonstrate successful de novo microbial assembly and epigenetic analysis from all multiplexes (2 through 8-plex) using standard tools within SMRT Link Analysis using data generated from a single SMRTbell library, run on a single SMRT Cell. This process facilitates the sequencing of multiple microbial genomes in a single day, greatly increasing throughput and reducing costs per genome assembly.


June 1, 2021  |  

Minimization of chimera formation and substitution errors in full-length 16S PCR amplification

The constituents and intra-communal interactions of microbial populations have garnered increasing interest in areas such as water remediation, agriculture and human health. Amplification and sequencing of the evolutionarily conserved 16S rRNA gene is an efficient method of profiling communities. Currently, most targeted amplification focuses on short, hypervariable regions of the 16S sequence. Distinguishing information not spanned by the targeted region is lost, and species-level classification is often not possible. PacBio SMRT Sequencing easily spans the entire 1.5 kb 16S gene in a single read, producing highly accurate single-molecule sequences that can improve the identification of individual species in a metapopulation.However, this process still relies upon PCR amplification from a mixture of similar sequences, which may result in chimeras, or recombinant molecules, at rates upwards of 20%. These PCR artifacts make it difficult to identify novel species, and reduce the amount of informative sequences. We investigated multiple factors that may contribute to chimera formation, such as template damage, denaturation time before and during thermocycling, polymerase extension time, and reaction volume. We found two related factors that contribute to chimera formation: the amount of input template into the PCR reaction, and the number of PCR cycles.A second problem that can confound analysis is sequence errors generated during amplification and sequencing. With the updated algorithm for circular consensus sequencing (CCS2), single-molecule reads can be filtered to 99.99% predicted accuracy. Substitution errors in these highly filtered reads may be dominated by mis-incorporations during amplification. Sequence differences in full-length 16S amplicons from several commercial high-fidelity PCR kits were compared.We show results of our experiments and describe our optimized protocol for full-length 16S amplification for SMRT Sequencing. These optimizations have broader implications for other applications that use PCR amplification to phase variations across targeted regions and generate highly accurate reference sequences.


June 1, 2021  |  

An improved circular consensus algorithm with an application to detect 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 high quality across longer insert lengths at a lower cost and higher throughput than Sanger sequencing. We applied CCS2 to the characterization of the HIV-1 K103N drug-resistance associated mutation in both clonal and patient samples. This particular DRAM has previously proved to be clinically relevant, but challenging to characterize due to regional sequence context. First, 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 ~1.3 kb were PCR amplified from both the non-mutated and mutant (K103N) plasmids, and were sequenced individually and as a 50:50 mixture. Additionally, the proviral reservoir of a subject with known dates of virologic failure of an Efavirenz-based regimen and with documented emergence of drug resistant (K103N) viremia was sequenced at several time points as a proof-of-concept study to determine the kinetics of retention and decay of K103N.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 high accuracy. With CCS2, we are able to achieve a per-read empirical quality of QV30 (99.9% accuracy) at 19X coverage. A total of ~5000 1.3 kb consensus sequences with a collective empirical quality of ~QV40 (99.99%) were obtained for each sample. We demonstrate a 0% miscall rate in both unmixed control samples, and estimate a 48:52 frequency for the K103N mutation in the mixed (50:50) plasmid sample, consistent with data produced by orthogonal platforms. Additionally, the K103N escape variant was only detected in proviral samples from time points subsequent (19%) to the emergence of drug resistant viremia. This tool might be used to monitor the HIV reservoir for stable evolutionary changes throughout infection.


June 1, 2021  |  

Workflow for processing high-throughput, Single Molecule, Real-Time Sequencing data for analyzing the microbiome of patients undergoing fecal microbiota transplantation

There are many sequencing-based approaches to understanding complex metagenomic communities spanning targeted amplification to whole-sample shotgun sequencing. While targeted approaches provide valuable data at low sequencing depth, they are limited by primer design and PCR. Whole-sample shotgun experiments generally use short-read sequencing, which results in data processing difficulties. For example, reads less than 500 bp in length will rarely cover a complete gene or region of interest, and will require assembly. This not only introduces the possibility of incorrectly combining sequence from different community members, it requires a high depth of coverage. As such, rare community members may not be represented in the resulting assembly. Circular-consensus, Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing reads in the 1-3 kb range, with >99% accuracy can be generated using the previous generation PacBio RS II or, in much higher throughput, using the new Sequel System. While throughput is lower compared to short-read sequencing methods, the reads are a true random sampling of the underlying community since SMRT Sequencing has been shown to have very low sequence-context bias. With single-molecule reads >1 kb at >99% consensus accuracy, it is reasonable to expect a high percentage of reads to include genes or gene fragments useful for analysis without the need for de novo assembly. Here we present the results of circular consensus sequencing for an individual’s microbiome, before and after undergoing fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) in order to treat a chronic Clostridium difficile infection. We show that even with relatively low sequencing depth, the long-read, assembly-free, random sampling allows us to profile low abundance community members at the species level. We also show that using shotgun sampling with long reads allows a level of functional insight not possible with classic targeted 16S, or short read sequencing, due to entire genes being covered in single reads.


June 1, 2021  |  

Multiplexing strategies for microbial whole genome SMRT Sequencing

As the throughput of the PacBio Systems continues to increase, so has the desire to fully utilize SMRT Cell sequencing capacity to multiplex microbes for whole genome sequencing. Multiplexing is readily achieved by incorporating a unique barcode for each microbe into the SMRTbell adapters and using a streamlined library preparation process. Incorporating barcodes without PCR amplification prevents the loss of epigenetic information and the generation of chimeric sequences, while eliminating the need to generate separate SMRTbell libraries. We multiplexed the genomes of up to 8 unique strains of H. pylori. Each genome was sheared and processed through adapter ligation in a single, addition-only reaction. The barcoded samples were pooled in equimolar quantities and a single SMRTbell library was prepared. We demonstrate successful de novo microbial assembly from all multiplexes tested (2- through 8-plex) using data generated from a single SMRTbell library, run on a single SMRT Cell with the PacBio RS II, and analyzed with standard SMRT Analysis assembly methods. This strategy was successful using both small (1.6 Mb, H. pylori) and medium (5 Mb, E. coli) genomes. This protocol facilitates the sequencing of multiple microbial genomes in a single run, greatly increasing throughput and reducing costs per genome.


June 1, 2021  |  

Complete telomere-to-telomere de novo assembly of the Plasmodium falciparum genome using long-read sequencing

Sequence-based estimation of genetic diversity of Plasmodium falciparum, the most lethal malarial parasite, has proved challenging due to a lack of a complete genomic assembly. The skewed AT-richness (~80.6% (A+T)) of its genome and the lack of technology to assemble highly polymorphic sub-telomeric regions that contain clonally variant, multigene virulence families (i.e. var and rifin) have confounded attempts using short-read NGS technologies. Using single molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing, we successfully compiled all 14 nuclear chromosomes of the P. falciparum genome from telomere-to-telomere in single contigs. Specifically, amplification-free sequencing generated reads of average length 12 kb, with =50% of the reads between 15.5 and 50 kb in length. A hierarchical genome assembly process (HGAP), was used to assemble the P. falciparum genome de novo. This assembly accurately resolved centromeres (~90-99% (A+T)) and sub-telomeric regions, and identified large insertions and duplications in the genome that added extra genes to the var and rifin virulence families, along with smaller structural variants such as homopolymer tract expansions. These regions can be used as markers for genetic diversity during comparative genome analyses. Moreover, identifying the polymorphic and repetitive sub-telomeric sequences of parasite populations from endemic areas might inform the link between structural variation and phenotypes such as virulence, drug resistance and disease transmission.


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  |  

Multiplexing strategies for microbial whole genome sequencing using the Sequel System

For microbial sequencing on the PacBio Sequel System, the current yield per SMRT Cell is in excess relative to project requirements. Multiplexing offers a viable solution; greatly increasing throughput, efficiency, and reducing costs per genome. This approach is achieved by incorporating a unique barcode for each microbial sample into the SMRTbell adapters and using a streamlined library preparation process. To demonstrate performance,12 unique barcodes assigned to B. subtilis and sequenced on a single SMRT Cell. To further demonstrate the applicability of this method, we multiplexed the genomes of 16 strains of H. pylori. Each DNA was sheared to 10 kb, end-repaired and ligated with a barcoded adapter in a single-tube reaction. The barcoded samples were pooled in equimolar quantities and a single SMRTbell library was prepared. Successful de novo microbial assemblies were achieved from all multiplexes tested (12-, and 16-plex) using data generated from a single SMRTbell library, run on a single SMRT Cell 1M with the PacBio Sequel System, and analyzed with standard SMRT Analysis assembly methods. Here, we describe a protocol that facilitated the multiplexing up to 12-plex of microbial genomes in one SMRT Cell 1M on the Sequel System that produced near-complete microbial de novo assemblies of <10 contigs for genomes <5 Mb in size.


June 1, 2021  |  

Multiplexed complete microbial genomes on the Sequel System

Microbes play an important role in nearly every part of our world, as they affect human health, our environment, agriculture, and aid in waste management. Complete closed genome sequences, which have become the gold standard with PacBio long-read sequencing, can be key to understanding microbial functional characteristics. However, input requirements, consumables costs, and the labor required to prepare and sequence a microbial genome have in the past put PacBio sequencing out of reach for some larger projects. We have developed a multiplexed library prep approach that is simple, fast, and cost-effective, and can produce 4 to 16 closed bacterial genomes from one Sequel SMRT Cell. Additionally, we are introducing a streamlined analysis pipeline for processing multiplexed genome sequence data through de novo HGAP assembly, making the entire process easy for lab personnel to perform. Here we present the entire workflow from shearing through assembly, with times for each step. We show HGAP assembly results with single or very few contigs from bacteria from different size genomes, sequenced without or with size selection. These data illustrate the benefits and potential of the PacBio multiplexed library prep and the Sequel System for sequencing large numbers of microbial genomes.


June 1, 2021  |  

Single chromosomal genome assemblies on the Sequel System with Circulomics high molecular weight DNA extraction for microbes

Background: The Nanobind technology from Circulomics provides an elegant HMW DNA extraction solution for genome sequencing of Gram-positive and -negative microbes. Nanobind is a nanostructured magnetic disk that can be used for rapid extraction of high molecular weight (HMW) DNA from diverse sample types including cultured cells, blood, plant nuclei, and bacteria. Processing can be completed in <1 hour for most sample types and can be performed manually or automated with common instruments. Methods:We have validated several critical steps for generating high-quality microbial genome assemblies in a streamlined microbial multiplexing workflow. This new workflow enables high-volume, cost-effective sequencing of up to 16 microbes totaling 30 Mb in genome size on a single SMRT Cell 1M using a target shear size of 10 kb. We also evaluated this method on a pool of four “class 3” microbes that contain >7 kb repeats. Fragment size was increased to ~14 kb, with some fragments >30 kb. Results: Here we present a demonstration of these capabilities using isolates relevant to high-throughput sequencing applications, including common foodborne pathogens (Shigella, Listeria, Salmonella), and species often seen in hospital settings (Klebsiella, Staphylococcus). For nearly all microbes, including difficult-to-assemble class III microbes, we achieved complete de novo microbial assemblies of =5 chromosomal contigs with minimum quality scores of 40 (99.99% accuracy) using data from multiplexed SMRTbell libraries. Each library was sequenced on a single SMRT Cell 1M with the PacBio Sequel System and analyzed with streamlined SMRT Analysis assembly methods. Conclusions: We achieved high-quality, closed microbial genomes using a combination of Circulomics Nanobind extraction and PacBio SMRT Sequencing, along with a newly streamlined workflow that includes automated demultiplexing and push-button assembly.


June 1, 2021  |  

High-resolution evaluation of gut microbiota associated with intestinal maturation in early preterm neonates

Leaky gut, or intestinal barrier immaturity with elevated intestinal permeability, is the proximate cause of susceptibility to necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm neonates. We recently revealed intestinal barrier maturation was associated with exclusive breastfeeding, less antibiotic exposure, most importantly, altered composition of the gut microbiota. However, sequencing short regions of 16S rRNA gene amplicon failed to identify the specific bacterial groups associated with improved or aberrant intestinal permeability. In this study, we performed high-throughput amplicon sequencing of the full length 16S rRNA gene with single-nucleotide resolution for a cohort of 66 preterm neonates born at 24-33 weeks of gestation who had stool collected daily for 21 postnatal days. We assessed their intestinal permeability by measuring urine non-metabolized sugar probes lactulose and rhamnose during the first 7-10 days of life. We observed that intestinal barrier maturation was positively correlated with changes in specific amplicon sequence variants of species of Clostridiales and Bifidobacterium, while leaky gut was associated with specific strains of Escherichia coli. These results are promising in that they support the use of stool microbial biomarkers for the rapid, non-invasive, and cost-effective assessment of intestinal maturation in neonates.


June 1, 2021  |  

Comparison of sequencing approaches applied to complex soil metagenomes to resolve proteins of interest

Background: Long-read sequencing presents several potential advantages for providing more complete gene profiling of metagenomic samples. Long reads can capture multiple genes in a single read, and longer reads typically result in assemblies with better contiguity, especially for higher abundance organisms. However, a major challenge with using long reads has been the higher cost per base, which may lead to insufficient coverage of low-abundance species. Additionally, lower single-pass accuracy can make gene discovery for low-abundance organisms difficult. Methods: To evaluate the pros and cons of long reads for metagenomics, we directly compared PacBio and Illumina sequencing on a soil-derived sample, which included spike-in controls of known concentrations of pure referenced samples. For PacBio sequencing, a 10 kb library was sequenced on the Sequel System with 3.0 chemistry. Highly accurate long reads (HiFi reads) with Q20 and higher were generated for downstream analyses using PacBio Circular Consensus Sequencing (CCS) mode. Results were assessed according to the following criteria: DNA extraction capacity, bioinformatics pipeline status, % of proteins with ambiguous AA’s, total unique error-free genes/$1000, total proteins observed in spike-ins/$1000, proteins of interest/$1000, median length of contigs with proteins, and assembly requirements. Results: Both methods had areas of superior performance. DNA extraction capacity was higher for Illumina, the bioinformatics pipeline is well-tested, and there was a lower proportion of proteins with ambiguous AA’s. On the other hand, with PacBio, twice as many unique error-free genes, twice as many total proteins from spike-ins, and ~6 times more proteins of interest were found per $1000 cost. PacBio data produced on average 5 times longer contigs capturing proteins of interest. Additionally, assembly was not required for gene or protein finding, as was the case with Illumina data. Conclusions: In this comparison of PacBio Sequel System with Illumina NextSeq on a complex microbiome, we conclude that the sequencing system of choice may vary, depending on the goals and resources for the project. PacBio sequencing requires a longer DNA extraction method, and the bioinformatics pipeline may require development. On the other hand, the Sequel System generates hundreds of thousands of long HiFi reads per SMRT Cell, producing more genes, more proteins, and longer contigs, thereby offering more information about the metagenomic samples for a lower cost.


June 1, 2021  |  

Microbiome profiling at the strain level using rRNA amplicons

Strain level microbiome profiling is needed for a full understanding of how microbial communities influence human health. Microbiome profiling of rRNA gene amplicons is a well-understood method that is rapid and inexpensive, but standard 16S rRNA gene methods generally cannot differentiate closely related strains. Whole genome/shotgun microbiome profiling is considered a higher-resolution alternative, but with decreased throughput and significantly increased sequencing costs and analysis burden. With both methods there are also challenges with microbial lysis, DNA preparation, and taxonomic analysis. Specialized microbiome-focused protocols were developed to achieve strain-level taxonomic differentiation using a rapid, high throughput rRNA gene assay. The protocol integrates lysis and DNA preparation improvements with a unique high information content amplicon and associated novel database to enable taxonomic differentiation of closely related microbial strains.


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