August 19, 2021  |  Infectious disease research

Infographic: A brief history of microbiology

Our understanding of microbiology has evolved enormously over the last 150 years. Few institutions have witnessed our collective progress more closely than the National Collection of Type Cultures (NCTC). In fact, the collection itself is a record of the many milestones microbiologists have crossed, building on the discoveries of those who came before. To date, 60% of NCTC’s historic collection now has a closed, finished reference genome, thanks to PacBio Single Molecule, Real- Time (SMRT) Sequencing. We are excited to be their partner in crossing this latest milestone on their quest to improve human and animal health by understanding the microscopic world.


August 19, 2021  |  

Case Study: Sequencing an historic bacterial collection for the future

The UK’s National Collection of Type Cultures (NCTC) is a unique collection of more than 5,000 expertly preserved and authenticated bacterial cultures, many of historical significance. Founded in 1920, NCTC is the longest established collection of its type anywhere in the world, with a history of its own that has reflected — and contributed to — the evolution of microbiology for more than 100 years.


June 1, 2021  |  

Comparative genomics of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O145:H28 strains associated with the 2007 Belgium and 2010 US outbreaks.

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is an emerging pathogen. Recently there has been a global in the number of outbreaks caused by non-O157 STECs, typically involving six serogroups O26, O45, 0103, 0111, and 0145. STEC O145:H28 has been associated with severe human disease including hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), and is demonstrated by the 2007 Belgian ice-cream-associated outbreak and 2010 US lettuce-associated outbreak, with over 10% of patients developing HUS in each. The goal of this work was to do comparative genomics of strains, clinical and environmental, to investigate genome diversity and virulence evolution of this important foodborne pathogen.


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  |  

Using whole exome sequencing and bacterial pathogen sequencing to investigate the genetic basis of pulmonary non-tuberculous mycobacterial infections.

Pulmonary non-tuberculous mycobacterial (PNTM) infections occur in patients with chronic lung disease, but also in a distinct group of elderly women without lung defects who share a common body morphology: tall and lean with scoliosis, pectus excavatum, and mitral valve prolapse. In order to characterize the human host susceptibility to PNTM, we performed whole exome sequencing (WES) of 44 individuals in extended families of patients with active PNTM as well as 55 additional unrelated individuals with PNTM. This unique collection of familial cohorts in PNTM represents an important opportunity for a high yield search for genes that regulate mucosal immunity. An average of 58 million 100bp paired-end Illumina reads per exome were generated and mapped to the hg19 reference genome. Following variant detection and classification, we identified 58,422 potentially high-impact SNPs, 97.3% of which were missense mutations. Segregating variants using the family pedigrees as well as comparisons to the unrelated individuals identified multiple potential variants associated with PNTM. Validations of these candidate variants in a larger PNTM cohort are underway. In addition to WES, we sequenced the genomes of 52 mycobacterial isolates, including 9 from these PNTM patients, to integrate host PNTM susceptibility with mycobacterial genotypes and gain insights into the key factors involved in this devastating disease. These genomes were sequenced using a combination of 454, Illumina, and PacBio platforms and assembled using multiple genome assemblers. The resulting genome sequences were used to identify mycobacterial genotypes associated with virulence, invasion, and drug resistance.


June 1, 2021  |  

New discoveries from closing Salmonella genomes using Pacific Biosciences continuous long reads.

The newer hierarchical genome assembly process (HGAP) performs de novo assembly using data from a single PacBio long insert library. To assess the benefits of this method, DNA from several Salmonella enterica serovars was isolated from a pure culture. Genome sequencing was performed using Pacific Biosciences RS sequencing technology. The HGAP process enabled us to close sixteen Salmonella subsp. enterica genomes and their associated mobile elements: The ten serotypes include: Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Enteritidis (S. Enteritidis) S. Bareilly, S. Heidelberg, S. Cubana, S. Javiana and S. Typhimurium, S. Newport, S. Montevideo, S. Agona, and S. Tennessee. In addition, we were able to detect novel methyltransferases (MTases) by using the Pacific Biosciences kinetic score distributions showing that each serovar appears to have a novel methylation pattern. For example while all Salmonella serovars examined so far have methylase specific activity for 5’-GATC-3’/3’-CTAG-5’ and 5’-CAGAG-3’/3’-GTCTC-5’ (underlined base indicates a modification), S. Heidelberg is uniquely specific for 5’-ACCANCC-3’/3’-TGGTNGG-5’, while S. Typhimurium has uniquely methylase specific for 5′-GATCAG-3’/3′- CTAGTC-5′ sites, for the samples examined so far. We believe that this may be due to the unique environments and phages that these serotypes have been exposed to. Furthermore, our analysis identified and closed a variety of plasmids such as mobilization plasmids, antimicrobial resistance plasmids and IncX plasmids carrying a Type IV secretion system (T4SS). The VirB/D4 T4SS apparatus is important in that it assists with rapid dissemination of antibiotic resistance and virulence determinants. Presently, only limited information exists regarding the genotypic characterization of drug resistance in S. Heidelberg isolates derived from various host species. Here, we characterize two S. Heidelberg outbreak isolates from two different outbreaks. Both isolates contain the IncX plasmid of approximately 35 kb, and carried the genes virB1, virB2, virB3/4, virB5, virB6, virB7, virB8, virB9, virB10, virB11, virD2, and virD4, that are associated with the T4SS. In addition, the outbreak isolate associated with ground turkey carries a 4,473 bp mobilization plasmid and an incompatibility group (Inc) I1 antimicrobial resistance plasmid encoding resistance to gentamicin (aacC2), beta-lactam (bl2b_tem), streptomycin (aadAI) and tetracycline (tetA, tetR) while the outbreak isolate associated with chicken breast carries the IncI1 plasmid encoding resistance to gentamicin (aacC2), streptomycin (aadAI) and sulfisoxazole (sul1). Using this new technology we explored the genetic elements present in resistant pathogens which will achieve a better understanding of the evolution of Salmonella.


June 1, 2021  |  

Genome analysis of a bacterium that causes lameness.

Lameness is a significant problem resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue annually. In commercial broilers, the most common cause of lameness is bacterial chondronecrosis with osteomyelitis (BCO). We are using a wire flooring model to induce lameness attributable to BCO. We used 16S ribosomal DNA sequencing to determine that Staphylococcus spp. were the main species associated with BCO. Staphylococcus agnetis, which previously had not been isolated from poultry, was the principal species isolated from the majority of the bone lesion samples. Administering S. agnetis in the drinking water to broilers reared on wire flooring increased the incidence of BCO three-fold when compared with broilers drinking tap water (P = 0.001). We found that the minimum effective dose of Staphylococcus agnetis to induce BCO in broilers grown on wire flooring experiment is 105 cfu/ml. We used PacBio and Illumina sequencing to assemble a 2.4 Mbp contig representing the genome and a 34 kbp contig for the largest plasmid of S. agnetis. Annotation of this genome is underway through comparative genomics with other Staphylococcus genomes, and identification of virulence factors. Our goal is to elucidate genetic diversity, toxins, and pathogenicity determinants, for this poorly characterized species. Isolating pathogenic bacterial species, defining their likely route of transmission to broilers, and genomic analyses will contribute substantially to the development of measures for mitigating BCO losses in poultry.


June 1, 2021  |  

Comparative genome analysis of Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis strains provides insights into genetic diversity and virulence.

Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis (Cmm) is a gram positive actinomycete, causing bacterial canker of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) a disease that can cause significant losses in tomato production. In this study, we determined the complete genome sequence of 13 California Cmm strains and one saprophytic Clavibacter strain using a combination of Ilumina and PacBio sequencing. The California Cmm strains have genome size (3.2 -3.3 mb) similar to the reference strain NCPPB382 (3.3 mb) with =98% sequence identity. Cmm strains from California share =92% genes (8-10% are noble genes) with the reference Cmm strain NCPPB382. Despite this similarity, we detected significant alternatives in California strains with respect to plasmid number, plasmid composition, and genomic island presence indicating acquisition of unique mechanisms controlling virulence. Plasmids pCM1 and pCM2, that were previously demonstrated to be required for NCPPB382 virulence, also differ in their presence and gene content across Cmm strains. pCM2 is absent in some Cmm strains and that still retain virulence in tomato. Saprophytic Clavibacter possess a novel plasmid, pSCM, and lacks the majority of characterized virulence factors. Genome sequence information was also used to design specific and sensitive primer pairs for Cmm detection. A mechanistic understanding of how genomic changes have impacted Cmm virulence and survival across diverse strains will be necessary for developing a robust disease control strategies for bacterial canker of tomato.


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  |  

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  |  

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.


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.


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