June 1, 2021  |  

Single Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing of genes implicated in autosomal recessive diseases.

In today’s clinical diagnostic laboratories, the detection of the disease causing mutations is either done through genotyping or Sanger sequencing. Whether done singly or in a multiplex assay, genotyping works only if the exact molecular change is known. Sanger sequencing is the gold standard method that captures both known and novel molecular changes in the disease gene of interest. Most clinical Sanger sequencing assays involve PCR-amplifying the coding sequences of the disease target gene followed by bi-directional sequencing of the amplified products. Therefore for every patient sample, one generates multiple amplicons singly and each amplicon leads to two separate sequencing reactions. Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) sequencing offers several advantages to Sanger sequencing including long read lengths, first-in-first-out processing, fast time to result, high-levels of multiplexing and substantially reduced costs. For our first proof-of-concept experiment, we queried 3 known disease-associated mutations in de-identified clinical samples. We started off with 3 autosomal recessive diseases found at an increased frequency in the Ashkenazi Jewish population: Tay Sachs disease, Niemann-Pick disease and Canavan disease. The mutated gene in Tays Sachs is HEXA, Niemann-Pick is SMPD1 and Canavan is ASPA. Coding exons were amplified in multiple (6-13) amplicons for each gene from both non-carrier and carriers. Amplicons were purified, concentrations normalized, and combined prior to SMRTbell™ Library prep. A single SMRTbell library was sequenced for each gene from each patient using standard Pacific Biosciences C2 chemistry and protocols. Average read lengths of 4,000 bp across samples allowed for high-quality Circular Consensus Sequences (CCS) across all amplicons (all less than 1 kb). This high quality CCS data permitted the clean partitioning of reads from a patient in the presence of heterozygous events. Using non-carrier sequencing as a control, we were able to correctly identify the known events in carrier genes. This suggests the potential utility of SMRT sequencing in a clinical setting, enabling a cost-effective method of replacing targeted mutation detection with sequencing of the entire gene.

June 1, 2021  |  

Complex alternative splicing patterns in hematopoietic cell subpopulations revealed by third-generation long reads.

Background: Alternative splicing expands the repertoire of gene functions and is a signature for different cell populations. Here we characterize the transcriptome of human bone marrow subpopulations including progenitor cells to understand their contribution to homeostasis and pathological conditions such as atherosclerosis and tumor metastasis. To obtain full-length transcript structures, we utilized long reads in addition to RNA-seq for estimating isoform diversity and abundance. Method: Freshly harvested, viable human bone marrow tissues were extracted from discarded harvesting equipment and separated into total bone marrow (total), lineage-negative (lin-) progenitor cells and differentiated cells (lin+) by magnetic bead sorting with antibodies to surface markers of hematopoietic cell lineages. Sequencing was done with SOLiD, Illumina HiSeq (100bp paired-end reads), and PacBio RS II (full-length cDNA library protocol for 1 – 6 kb libraries). Short reads were assembled using both Trinity for de novo assembly and Cufflinks for genome-guided assembly. Full-length transcript consensus sequences were obtained for the PacBio data using the RS_IsoSeq protocol from PacBios SMRTAnalysis software. Quantitation for each sample was done independently for each sequencing platform using Sailfish to obtain the TPM (transcripts per million) using k-mer matching. Results: PacBios long read sequencing technology is capable of sequencing full-length transcripts up to 10 kb and reveals heretofore-unseen isoform diversity and complexity within the hematopoietic cell populations. A comparison of sequencing depth and de novo transcript assembly with short read, second-generation sequencing reveals that, while short reads provide precision in determining portions of isoform structure and supporting larger 5 and 3 UTR regions, it fails in providing a complete structure especially when multiple isoforms are present at the same locus. Increased breadth of isoform complexity is revealed by long reads that permits further elaboration of full isoform diversity and specific isoform abundance within each separate cell population. Sorting the distribution of major and minor isoforms reveals a cell population-specific balance focused on distinct genome loci and shows how tissue specificity and diversity are modulated by alternative splicing.

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  |  

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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