June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing and assembly of the human microbiome project Mock Community sample – a feasibility project.

While the utility of Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing for de novo assembly and finishing of bacterial isolates is well established, this technology has not yet been widely applied to shotgun sequencing of microbial communities. In order to demonstrate the feasibility of this approach, we sequenced genomic DNA from the Microbial Mock Community B of the Human Microbiome Project


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. One popular, efficient method of profiling communities is to amplify and sequence the evolutionarily conserved 16S rRNA sequence. 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. SMRT Sequencing easily spans the entire 1.5 kb 16S gene, and in combination with highly-accurate single-molecule sequences, can improve the identification of individual species in a metapopulation. However, when amplifying a mixture of sequences with close similarities, the products may contain chimeras, or recombinant molecules, at rates as high as 20-30%. These PCR artifacts make it difficult to identify novel species, and reduce the amount of productive sequences. We investigated multiple factors that have been hypothesized to contribute to chimera formation, such as template damage, denaturing time before and during cycling, polymerase extension time, and reaction volume. Of the factors tested, we found two major related contributors to chimera formation: the amount of input template into the PCR reaction and the number of PCR cycles. Sequence errors generated during amplification and sequencing can also confound the analysis of complex populations. Circular Consensus Sequencing (CCS) can generate single-molecule reads with >99% accuracy, and the SMRT Analysis software provides filtering of these reads to >99.99% accuracies. Remaining substitution errors in these highly-filtered reads are likely dominated by mis-incorporations during amplification. Therefore, we compared the impact of several commercially-available high-fidelity PCR kits with full-length 16S amplification. We show results of our experiments and describe an 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 to generate highly accurate reference sequences.


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  |  

Streamlines SMRTbell library generation using addition-only, single tube strategy for all library types reduces time to results

We have streamlined the SMRTbell library generation protocols with improved workflows to deliver seamless end-to-end solutions from sample to analysis. A key improvement is the development of a single-tube reaction strategy that shortened hands-on time needed to generate each SMRTbell library, reduced time-consuming AM Pure purification steps, and minimized sample-handling induced gDNA damage to improve the integrity of long-insert SMRTbell templates for sequencing. The improved protocols support all large-insert genomic libraries, multiplexed microbial genomes, and amplicon sequencing. These advances enable completion of library preparation in less than a day (approximately 4 hours) and opens opportunities for automated library preparation for large-scale projects. Here we share data summarizing performance of the new SMRTbell Express Template Kit 2.0 representing our solutions for 10 kb and >50 kb large-insert genomic libraries, complete microbial genome assemblies, and high-throughput amplicon sequencing. The improved throughput of the Sequel System with read lengths up to 30 kb and high consensus accuracy (> 99.999% accuracy) makes sequencing with high-quality results increasingly assessible to the community.


June 1, 2021  |  

Unbiased characterization of metagenome composition and function using HiFi sequencing on the PacBio Sequel II System

Recent work comparing metagenomic sequencing methods indicates that a comprehensive picture of the taxonomic and functional diversity of complex communities will be difficult to achieve with short-read technology alone. While the lower cost of short reads has enabled greater sequencing depth, the greater contiguity of long-read assemblies and lack of GC bias in SMRT Sequencing has enabled better gene finding. However, since long-read assembly requires high coverage for error correction, the benefits of unbiased coverage have in the past been lost for low abundance species. SMRT Sequencing performance improvements and the introduction of the Sequel II System has enabled a new, high throughput data type uniquely suited to metagenome characterization: HiFi reads. HiFi reads combine high accuracy with read lengths up to 15 kb, eliminating the need for assembly for most microbiome applications, including functional profiling, gene discovery, and metabolic pathway reconstruction. Here we present the application of the HiFi data type to enable a new method of analyzing metagenomes that does not require assembly.


June 1, 2021  |  

Unbiased characterization of metagenome composition and function using HiFi sequencing on the PacBio Sequel II System

Recent work comparing metagenomic sequencing methods indicates that a comprehensive picture of the taxonomic and functional diversity of complex communities will be difficult to achieve with one sequencing technology alone. While the lower cost of short reads has enabled greater sequencing depth, the greater contiguity of long-read assemblies and lack of GC bias in SMRT Sequencing has enabled better gene finding. However, since long-read assembly typically requires high coverage for error correction, these benefits have in the past been lost for low-abundance species. The introduction of the Sequel II System has enabled a new, higher throughput, assembly-optional data type that addresses these challenges: HiFi reads. HiFi reads combine QV20 accuracy with long read lengths, eliminating the need for assembly for most metagenome applications, including gene discovery and metabolic pathway reconstruction. In fact, the read lengths and accuracy of HiFi data match or outperform the quality metrics of most metagenome assemblies, enabling cost-effective recovery of intact genes and operons while omitting the resource intensive and data-inefficient assembly step. Here we present the application of HiFi sequencing to both mock and human fecal samples using full-length 16S and shotgun methods. This proof-of-concept work demonstrates the unique strengths of the HiFi method. First, the high correspondence between the expected community composition,16S and shotgun profiling data reflects low context bias. In addition, every HiFi read yields ~5-8 predicted genes, without assembly, using standard tools. If assembly is desired, excellent results can be achieved with Canu and contig binning tools. In summary, HiFi sequencing is a new, cost-effective option for high-resolution functional profiling of metagenomes which complements existing short read workflows.


June 1, 2021  |  

Improving long-read assembly of microbial genomes and plasmids

Complete, high-quality microbial genomes are very valuable across a broad array of fields, from environmental studies, to human microbiome health, food pathogen surveillance, etc. Long-read sequencing enables accurate resolution of complex microbial genomes and is becoming the new standard. Here we report our novel Microbial Assembly pipeline to facilitate rapid, large-scale analysis of microbial genomes. We sequenced a 48-plex library with one SMRT Cell 8M on the Sequel II System, demultiplexed, then analyzed the data with Microbial Assembly.


April 21, 2020  |  

Transcriptional initiation of a small RNA, not R-loop stability, dictates the frequency of pilin antigenic variation in Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the sole causative agent of gonorrhea, constitutively undergoes diversification of the Type IV pilus. Gene conversion occurs between one of the several donor silent copies located in distinct loci and the recipient pilE gene, encoding the major pilin subunit of the pilus. A guanine quadruplex (G4) DNA structure and a cis-acting sRNA (G4-sRNA) are located upstream of the pilE gene and both are required for pilin antigenic variation (Av). We show that the reduced sRNA transcription lowers pilin Av frequencies. Extended transcriptional elongation is not required for Av, since limiting the transcript to 32 nt allows for normal Av frequencies. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays, we show that cellular G4s are less abundant when sRNA transcription is lower. In addition, using ChIP, we demonstrate that the G4-sRNA forms a stable RNA:DNA hybrid (R-loop) with its template strand. However, modulating R-loop levels by controlling RNase HI expression does not alter G4 abundance quantified through ChIP. Since pilin Av frequencies were not altered when modulating R-loop levels by controlling RNase HI expression, we conclude that transcription of the sRNA is necessary, but stable R-loops are not required to promote pilin Av. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genomic characterization of Kerstersia gyiorum SWMUKG01, an isolate from a patient with respiratory infection in China.

The Gram-negative bacterium Kerstersia gyiorum, a potential etiological agent of clinical infections, was isolated from several human patients presenting clinical symptoms. Its significance as a possible pathogen has been previously overlooked as no disease has thus far been definitively associated with this bacterium. To better understand how the organism contributes to the infectious disease, we determined the complete genomic sequence of K. gyiorum SWMUKG01, the first clinical isolate from southwest China.The genomic data obtained displayed a single circular chromosome of 3, 945, 801 base pairs in length, which contains 3, 441 protein-coding genes, 55 tRNA genes and 9 rRNA genes. Analysis on the full spectrum of protein coding genes for cellular structures, two-component regulatory systems and iron uptake pathways that may be important for the success of the bacterial survival, colonization and establishment in the host conferred new insights into the virulence characteristics of K. gyiorum. Phylogenomic comparisons with Alcaligenaceae species indicated that K. gyiorum SWMUKG01 had a close evolutionary relationships with Alcaligenes aquatilis and Alcaligenes faecalis.The comprehensive analysis presented in this work determinates for the first time a complete genome sequence of K. gyiorum, which is expected to provide useful information for subsequent studies on pathogenesis of this species.


April 21, 2020  |  

Phylogenetic relationships and regional spread of meningococcal strains in the meningitis belt, 2011-2016.

Historically, the major cause of meningococcal epidemics in the meningitis belt of sub-Saharan Africa has been Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A (NmA), but the incidence has been substantially reduced since the introduction of a serogroup A conjugate vaccine starting in 2010. We performed whole-genome sequencing on isolates collected post-2010 to assess their phylogenetic relationships and inter-country transmission.A total of 716 invasive meningococcal isolates collected between 2011 and 2016 from 11 meningitis belt countries were whole-genome sequenced for molecular characterization by the three WHO Collaborating Centers for Meningitis.We identified three previously-reported clonal complexes (CC): CC11 (n?=?434), CC181 (n?=?62) and CC5 (n?=?90) primarily associated with NmW, NmX, and NmA, respectively, and an emerging CC10217 (n?=?126) associated with NmC. CC11 expanded throughout the meningitis belt independent of the 2000 Hajj outbreak strain, with isolates from Central African countries forming a distinct sub-lineage within this expansion. Two major sub-lineages were identified for CC181 isolates, one mainly expanding in West African countries and the other found in Chad. CC10217 isolates from the large outbreaks in Nigeria and Niger were more closely related than those from the few cases in Mali and Burkina Faso.Whole-genome based phylogenies revealed geographically distinct strain circulation as well as inter-country transmission events. Our results stress the importance of continued meningococcal molecular surveillance in the region, as well as the development of an affordable vaccine targeting these strains. FUND: Meningitis Research Foundation; CDC’s Office of Advanced Molecular Detection; GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. Copyright © 2019. Published by Elsevier B.V.


April 21, 2020  |  

Heteroresistance to the model antimicrobial peptide polymyxin B in the emerging Neisseria meningitidis lineage 11.2 urethritis clade: mutations in the pilMNOPQ operon.

Clusters of Neisseria meningitidis (Nm) urethritis among primarily heterosexual males in multiple US cities have been attributed to a unique non-encapsulated meningococcal clade (the US Nm urethritis clade, US_NmUC) within the hypervirulent clonal complex 11. Resistance to antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) is a key feature of urogenital pathogenesis of the closely related species, Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The US_NmUC isolates were found to be highly resistant to the model AMP, polymyxin B (PmB, MICs 64-256 µg ml-1 ). The isolates also demonstrated stable subpopulations of heteroresistant colonies that showed near total resistant to PmB (MICs 384-1024 µg ml-1 ) and colistin (MIC 256 µg ml-1 ) as well as enhanced LL-37 resistance. This is the first observation of heteroresistance in N. meningitidis. Consistent with previous findings, overall PmB resistance in US_NmUC isolates was due to active Mtr efflux and LptA-mediated lipid A modification. However, whole genome sequencing, variant analyses and directed mutagenesis revealed that the heteroresistance phenotypes and very high-level AMP resistance were the result of point mutations and IS1655 element movement in the pilMNOPQ operon, encoding the type IV pilin biogenesis apparatus. Cross-resistance to other classes of antibiotics was also observed in the heteroresistant colonies. High-level resistance to AMPs may contribute to the pathogenesis of US_NmUC. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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