June 1, 2021  |  

Automated, non-hybrid de novo genome assemblies and epigenomes of bacterial pathogens.

Understanding the genetic basis of infectious diseases is critical to enacting effective treatments, and several large-scale sequencing initiatives are underway to collect this information. Sequencing bacterial samples is typically performed by mapping sequence reads against genomes of known reference strains. While such resequencing informs on the spectrum of single-nucleotide differences relative to the chosen reference, it can miss numerous other forms of variation known to influence pathogenicity: structural variations (duplications, inversions), acquisition of mobile elements (phages, plasmids), homonucleotide length variation causing phase variation, and epigenetic marks (methylation, phosphorothioation) that influence gene expression to switch bacteria from non- pathogenic to pathogenic states. Therefore, sequencing methods which provide complete, de novo genome assemblies and epigenomes are necessary to fully characterize infectious disease agents in an unbiased, hypothesis-free manner. Hybrid assembly methods have been described that combine long sequence reads from SMRT DNA Sequencing with short reads (SMRT CCS (circular consensus) or second-generation reads), wherein the short reads are used to error-correct the long reads which are then used for assembly. We have developed a new paradigm for microbial de novo assemblies in which SMRT sequencing reads from a single long insert library are used exclusively to close the genome through a hierarchical genome assembly process, thereby obviating the need for a second sample preparation, sequencing run, and data set. We have applied this method to achieve closed de novo genomes with accuracies exceeding QV50 (>99.999%) for numerous disease outbreak samples, including E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Neisseria, and H. pylori. The kinetic information from the same SMRT Sequencing reads is utilized to determine epigenomes. Approximately 70% of all methyltransferase specificities we have determined to date represent previously unknown bacterial epigenetic signatures. With relatively short sequencing run times and automated analysis pipelines, it is possible to go from an unknown DNA sample to its complete de novo genome and epigenome in about a day.


June 1, 2021  |  

Automated, non-hybrid de novo genome assemblies and epigenomes of bacterial pathogens

Understanding the genetic basis of infectious diseases is critical to enacting effective treatments, and several large-scale sequencing initiatives are underway to collect this information. Sequencing bacterial samples is typically performed by mapping sequence reads against genomes of known reference strains. While such resequencing informs on the spectrum of single nucleotide differences relative to the chosen reference, it can miss numerous other forms of variation known to influence pathogenicity: structural variations (duplications, inversions), acquisition of mobile elements (phages, plasmids), homonucleotide length variation causing phase variation, and epigenetic marks (methylation, phosphorothioation) that influence gene expression to switch bacteria from non-pathogenic to pathogenic states. Therefore, sequencing methods which provide complete, de novo genome assemblies and epigenomes are necessary to fully characterize infectious disease agents in an unbiased, hypothesis-free manner. Hybrid assembly methods have been described that combine long sequence reads from SMRT DNA sequencing with short, high-accuracy reads (SMRT (circular consensus sequencing) CCS or second-generation reads) to generate long, highly accurate reads that are then used for assembly. We have developed a new paradigm for microbial de novo assemblies in which long SMRT sequencing reads (average readlengths >5,000 bases) are used exclusively to close the genome through a hierarchical genome assembly process, thereby obviating the need for a second sample preparation, sequencing run and data set. We have applied this method to achieve closed de novo genomes with accuracies exceeding QV50 (>99.999%) to numerous disease outbreak samples, including E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Neisseria, and H. pylori. The kinetic information from the same SMRT sequencing reads is utilized to determine epigenomes. Approximately 70% of all methyltransferase specificities we have determined to date represent previously unknown bacterial epigenetic signatures. The process has been automated and requires less than 1 day from an unknown DNA sample to its complete de novo genome and epigenome.


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  |  

Comparative metagenome-assembled genome analysis of “Candidatus Lachnocurva vaginae”, formerly known as Bacterial Vaginosis Associated bacterium – 1 (BVAB1)

Bacterial Vaginosis Associated bacterium 1 (BVAB1) is an as-yet uncultured bacterial species found in the human vagina that belongs to the family Lachnospiraceae within the order Clostridiales. As its name suggests, this bacterium is often associated with bacterial vaginosis (BV), a common vaginal disorder that has been shown to increase a woman’s risk for HIV, Chlamydia trachomatis, and Neisseria gonorrhoeae infections as well as preterm birth. Further, BVAB1 is associated with the persistence of BV following metronidazole treatment, increased vaginal inflammation, and adverse obstetrics outcomes. There is no available complete genome sequence of BVAB1, which has made it di?cult to mechanistically understand its role in disease. We present here a circularized metagenome-assembled genome (cMAG) of B VAB1 as well as a comparative analysis including an additional six metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) of this species. These sequences were derived from cervicovaginal samples of seven separate women. The cMAG is 1.649 Mb in size and encodes 1,578 genes. We propose to rename BVAB1 to “Candidatus Lachnocurva vaginae” based on phylogenetic analyses, and provide genomic evidence that this candidate species may metabolize D-lactate, produce trimethylamine (one of the chemicals responsible for BV-associated odor), and be motile. The cMAG and the six MAGs are valuable resources that will further contribute to our understanding of the heterogeneous etiology of bacterial vaginosis.


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.


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