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.


April 21, 2020  |  

Tandem repeats lead to sequence assembly errors and impose multi-level challenges for genome and protein databases.

The widespread occurrence of repetitive stretches of DNA in genomes of organisms across the tree of life imposes fundamental challenges for sequencing, genome assembly, and automated annotation of genes and proteins. This multi-level problem can lead to errors in genome and protein databases that are often not recognized or acknowledged. As a consequence, end users working with sequences with repetitive regions are faced with ‘ready-to-use’ deposited data whose trustworthiness is difficult to determine, let alone to quantify. Here, we provide a review of the problems associated with tandem repeat sequences that originate from different stages during the sequencing-assembly-annotation-deposition workflow, and that may proliferate in public database repositories affecting all downstream analyses. As a case study, we provide examples of the Atlantic cod genome, whose sequencing and assembly were hindered by a particularly high prevalence of tandem repeats. We complement this case study with examples from other species, where mis-annotations and sequencing errors have propagated into protein databases. With this review, we aim to raise the awareness level within the community of database users, and alert scientists working in the underlying workflow of database creation that the data they omit or improperly assemble may well contain important biological information valuable to others. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


April 21, 2020  |  

Convergent horizontal gene transfer and cross-talk of mobile nucleic acids in parasitic plants.

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT), the movement and genomic integration of DNA across species boundaries, is commonly associated with bacteria and other microorganisms, but functional HGT (fHGT) is increasingly being recognized in heterotrophic parasitic plants that obtain their nutrients and water from their host plants through direct haustorial feeding. Here, in the holoparasitic stem parasite Cuscuta, we identify 108?transcribed and probably functional HGT events in Cuscuta campestris and related species, plus 42?additional regions with host-derived transposon, pseudogene and non-coding sequences. Surprisingly, 18?Cuscuta fHGTs were acquired from the same gene families by independent HGT events in Orobanchaceae parasites, and the majority are highly expressed in the haustorial feeding structures in both lineages. Convergent retention and expression of HGT sequences suggests an adaptive role for specific additional genes in parasite biology. Between 16 and 20 of the transcribed HGT events are inferred as ancestral in Cuscuta based on transcriptome sequences from species across the phylogenetic range of the genus, implicating fHGT in the successful radiation of Cuscuta parasites. Genome sequencing of C. campestris supports transfer of genomic DNA-rather than retroprocessed RNA-as the mechanism of fHGT. Many of the C. campestris genes horizontally acquired are also frequent sources of 24-nucleotide small RNAs that are typically associated with RNA-directed DNA methylation. One HGT encoding a leucine-rich repeat protein kinase overlaps with a microRNA that has been shown to regulate host gene expression, suggesting that HGT-derived parasite small RNAs may function in the parasite-host interaction. This study enriches our understanding of HGT by describing a parasite-host system with unprecedented gene exchange that points to convergent evolution of HGT events and the functional importance of horizontally transferred coding and non-coding sequences.


April 21, 2020  |  

Microbial diversity in the tick Argas japonicus (Acari: Argasidae) with a focus on Rickettsia pathogens.

The soft tick Argas japonicus mainly infests birds and can cause human dermatitis; however, no pathogen has been identified from this tick species in China. In the present study, the microbiota in A. japonicus collected from an epidemic community was explored, and some putative Rickettsia pathogens were further characterized. The results obtained indicated that bacteria in A. japonicus were mainly ascribed to the phyla Proteobacteria, Firmicutes and Actinobacteria. At the genus level, the male A. japonicus harboured more diverse bacteria than the females and nymphs. The bacteria Alcaligenes, Pseudomonas, Rickettsia and Staphylococcus were common in nymphs and adults. The abundance of bacteria belonging to the Rickettsia genus in females and males was 7.27% and 10.42%, respectively. Furthermore, the 16S rRNA gene of Rickettsia was amplified and sequenced, and phylogenetic analysis revealed that 13 sequences were clustered with the spotted fever group rickettsiae (Rickettsia heilongjiangensis and Rickettsia japonica) and three were clustered with Rickettsia limoniae, which suggested that the characterized Rickettsia in A. japonicus were novel putative pathogens and also that the residents were at considerable risk for infection by tick-borne pathogens. © 2019 The Royal Entomological Society.


April 21, 2020  |  

Divergent selection following speciation in two ectoparasitic honey bee mites

Multispecies host-parasite evolution is common, but how parasites evolve after speciating remains poorly understood. Shared evolutionary history and physiology may propel species along similar evolutionary trajectories whereas pursuing different strategies can reduce competition. We test these scenarios in the economically important association between honey bees and ectoparasitic mites by sequencing the genomes of the sister mite species Varroa destructor and Varroa jacobsoni. These genomes were closely related, with 99.7% sequence identity. Among the 9,628 orthologous genes, 4.8% showed signs of positive selection in at least one species. Divergent selective trajectories were discovered in conserved chemosensory gene families (IGR, SNMP), and Halloween genes (CYP) involved in moulting and reproduction. However, there was little overlap in these gene sets and associated GO terms, indicating different selective regimes operating on each of the parasites. Based on our findings, we suggest that species-specific strategies may be needed to combat evolving parasite communities.


April 21, 2020  |  

Evolutionary superscaffolding and chromosome anchoring to improve Anopheles genome assemblies

Background New sequencing technologies have lowered financial barriers to whole genome sequencing, but resulting assemblies are often fragmented and far from textquoteleftfinishedtextquoteright. Updating multi-scaffold drafts to chromosome-level status can be achieved through experimental mapping or re-sequencing efforts. Avoiding the costs associated with such approaches, comparative genomic analysis of gene order conservation (synteny) to predict scaffold neighbours (adjacencies) offers a potentially useful complementary method for improving draft assemblies.Results We employed three gene synteny-based methods applied to 21 Anopheles mosquito assemblies to produce consensus sets of scaffold adjacencies. For subsets of the assemblies we integrated these with additional supporting data to confirm and complement the synteny-based adjacencies: six with physical mapping data that anchor scaffolds to chromosome locations, 13 with paired-end RNA sequencing (RNAseq) data, and three with new assemblies based on re-scaffolding or Pacific Biosciences long-read data. Our combined analyses produced 20 new superscaffolded assemblies with improved contiguities: seven for which assignments of non-anchored scaffolds to chromosome arms span more than 75% of the assemblies, and a further seven with chromosome anchoring including an 88% anchored Anopheles arabiensis assembly and, respectively, 73% and 84% anchored assemblies with comprehensively updated cytogenetic photomaps for Anopheles funestus and Anopheles stephensi.Conclusions Experimental data from probe mapping, RNAseq, or long-read technologies, where available, all contribute to successful upgrading of draft assemblies. Our comparisons show that gene synteny-based computational methods represent a valuable alternative or complementary approach. Our improved Anopheles reference assemblies highlight the utility of applying comparative genomics approaches to improve community genomic resources.ADADSEQAGOAGOUTI-basedAGOUTIannotated genome optimization using transcriptome information toolALNalignment-basedCAMSAcomparative analysis and merging of scaffold assemblies toolDPdynamic programmingFISHfluorescence in situ hybridizationGAGOS-ASMGOS-ASMGene order scaffold assemblerKbpkilobasepairsMbpmegabasepairsOSORTHOSTITCHPacBioPacific BiosciencesPBPacBio-basedPHYphysical-mapping-basedRNAseqRNA sequencingQTLquantitative trait lociSYNsynteny-based.


April 21, 2020  |  

Morphological and genomic characterisation of the hybrid schistosome infecting humans in Europe reveals a complex admixture between Schistosoma haematobium and Schistosoma bovis parasites

Schistosomes cause schistosomiasis, the worldtextquoterights second most important parasitic disease after malaria. A peculiar feature of schistosomes is their ability to produce viable and fertile hybrids. Originally only present in the tropics, schistosomiasis is now also endemic in Europe. Based on two genetic markers the European species had been identified as a hybrid between the ruminant-infective Schistosoma bovis and the human-infective Schistosoma haematobium.Here we describe for the first time the genomic composition of the European schistosome hybrid (77% of S. haematobium and 23% of S. bovis origins), its morphometric parameters and its compatibility with the European vector snail and intermediate host Compatibility is a key parameter for the parasites life cycle progression. We also show that egg morphology (a classical diagnostic parameter) does not allow for differential diagnosis while genetic tests do so. Additionally, we performed genome assembly improvement and annotation of S. bovis, the parental species for which no satisfactory genome assembly was available.For the first time since the discovery of hybrid schistosomes, these results reveal at the whole genomic level a complex admixture of parental genomes highlighting (i) the high permeability of schistosomes to other speciestextquoteright alleles, and (ii) the importance of hybrid formation for pushing species boundaries not only conceptionally but also geographically.


April 21, 2020  |  

The Modern View of B Chromosomes Under the Impact of High Scale Omics Analyses.

Supernumerary B chromosomes (Bs) are extra karyotype units in addition to A chromosomes, and are found in some fungi and thousands of animals and plant species. Bs are uniquely characterized due to their non-Mendelian inheritance, and represent one of the best examples of genomic conflict. Over the last decades, their genetic composition, function and evolution have remained an unresolved query, although a few successful attempts have been made to address these phenomena. A classical concept based on cytogenetics and genetics is that Bs are selfish and abundant with DNA repeats and transposons, and in most cases, they do not carry any function. However, recently, the modern quantum development of high scale multi-omics techniques has shifted B research towards a new-born field that we call “B-omics”. We review the recent literature and add novel perspectives to the B research, discussing the role of new technologies to understand the mechanistic perspectives of the molecular evolution and function of Bs. The modern view states that B chromosomes are enriched with genes for many significant biological functions, including but not limited to the interesting set of genes related to cell cycle and chromosome structure. Furthermore, the presence of B chromosomes could favor genomic rearrangements and influence the nuclear environment affecting the function of other chromatin regions. We hypothesize that B chromosomes might play a key function in driving their transmission and maintenance inside the cell, as well as offer an extra genomic compartment for evolution.


April 21, 2020  |  

Whole-genome sequence of the oriental lung fluke Paragonimus westermani.

Foodborne infections caused by lung flukes of the genus Paragonimus are a significant and widespread public health problem in tropical areas. Approximately 50 Paragonimus species have been reported to infect animals and humans, but Paragonimus westermani is responsible for the bulk of human disease. Despite their medical and economic importance, no genome sequence for any Paragonimus species is available.We sequenced and assembled the genome of P. westermani, which is among the largest of the known pathogen genomes with an estimated size of 1.1 Gb. A 922.8 Mb genome assembly was generated from Illumina and Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) sequence data, covering 84% of the estimated genome size. The genome has a high proportion (45%) of repeat-derived DNA, particularly of the long interspersed element and long terminal repeat subtypes, and the expansion of these elements may explain some of the large size. We predicted 12,852 protein coding genes, showing a high level of conservation with related trematode species. The majority of proteins (80%) had homologs in the human liver fluke Opisthorchis viverrini, with an average sequence identity of 64.1%. Assembly of the P. westermani mitochondrial genome from long PacBio reads resulted in a single high-quality circularized 20.6 kb contig. The contig harbored a 6.9 kb region of non-coding repetitive DNA comprised of three distinct repeat units. Our results suggest that the region is highly polymorphic in P. westermani, possibly even within single worm isolates.The generated assembly represents the first Paragonimus genome sequence and will facilitate future molecular studies of this important, but neglected, parasite group.


April 21, 2020  |  

Shared and unique microbes between Small hive beetles (Aethina tumida) and their honey bee hosts.

The small hive beetle (SHB) is an opportunistic parasite that feeds on bee larvae, honey, and pollen. While SHBs can also feed on fruit and other plant products, like its plant-feeding relatives, SHBs prefer to feed on hive resources and only reproduce inside bee colonies. As parasites, SHBs are inevitably exposed to bee-associated microbes, either directly from the bees or from the hive environment. These microbes have unknown impacts on beetles, nor is it known how extensively beetles transfer microbes among their bee hosts. To identify sets of beetle microbes and the transmission of microbes from bees to beetles, a metagenomic analysis was performed. We identified sets of herbivore-associated bacteria, as well as typical bee symbiotic bacteria for pollen digestion, in SHB larvae and adults. Deformed wing virus was highly abundant in beetles, which colonize SHBs as suggested by a controlled feeding trial. Our data suggest SHBs are vectors for pathogen transmission among bees and between colonies. The dispersal of host pathogens by social parasites via floral resources and the hive environment increases the threats of these parasites to honey bees. © 2019 The Authors. MicrobiologyOpen published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


April 21, 2020  |  

Rapid antigen diversification through mitotic recombination in the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

Malaria parasites possess the remarkable ability to maintain chronic infections that fail to elicit a protective immune response, characteristics that have stymied vaccine development and cause people living in endemic regions to remain at risk of malaria despite previous exposure to the disease. These traits stem from the tremendous antigenic diversity displayed by parasites circulating in the field. For Plasmodium falciparum, the most virulent of the human malaria parasites, this diversity is exemplified by the variant gene family called var, which encodes the major surface antigen displayed on infected red blood cells (RBCs). This gene family exhibits virtually limitless diversity when var gene repertoires from different parasite isolates are compared. Previous studies indicated that this remarkable genome plasticity results from extensive ectopic recombination between var genes during mitotic replication; however, the molecular mechanisms that direct this process to antigen-encoding loci while the rest of the genome remains relatively stable were not determined. Using targeted DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) and long-read whole-genome sequencing, we show that a single break within an antigen-encoding region of the genome can result in a cascade of recombination events leading to the generation of multiple chimeric var genes, a process that can greatly accelerate the generation of diversity within this family. We also found that recombinations did not occur randomly, but rather high-probability, specific recombination products were observed repeatedly. These results provide a molecular basis for previously described structured rearrangements that drive diversification of this highly polymorphic gene family.


April 21, 2020  |  

Chromulinavorax destructans, a pathogen of microzooplankton that provides a window into the enigmatic candidate phylum Dependentiae.

Members of the major candidate phylum Dependentiae (a.k.a. TM6) are widespread across diverse environments from showerheads to peat bogs; yet, with the exception of two isolates infecting amoebae, they are only known from metagenomic data. The limited knowledge of their biology indicates that they have a long evolutionary history of parasitism. Here, we present Chromulinavorax destructans (Strain SeV1) the first isolate of this phylum to infect a representative from a widespread and ecologically significant group of heterotrophic flagellates, the microzooplankter Spumella elongata (Strain CCAP 955/1). Chromulinavorax destructans has a reduced 1.2 Mb genome that is so specialized for infection that it shows no evidence of complete metabolic pathways, but encodes an extensive transporter system for importing nutrients and energy in the form of ATP from the host. Its replication causes extensive reorganization and expansion of the mitochondrion, effectively surrounding the pathogen, consistent with its dependency on the host for energy. Nearly half (44%) of the inferred proteins contain signal sequences for secretion, including many without recognizable similarity to proteins of known function, as well as 98 copies of proteins with an ankyrin-repeat domain; ankyrin-repeats are known effectors of host modulation, suggesting the presence of an extensive host-manipulation apparatus. These observations help to cement members of this phylum as widespread and diverse parasites infecting a broad range of eukaryotic microbes.


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