June 1, 2021  |  

Access full spectrum of polymorphisms in HLA class I & II genes, without imputation for disease association and evolutionary research.

MHC class I and II genes are critically monitored by high-resolution sequencing for organ transplant decisions due to their role in GVHD. Their direct or linkage-based causal association, have increased their prominence as targets for drug sensitivity, autoimmune, cancer and infectious disease research. Monitoring HLA genes can however be tricky due to their highly polymorphic nature. Allele-level resolution is thus strongly preferred. However, most studies were historically focused on peptide binding domains of the HLA genes, due to technological challenges. As a result knowledge about the functional role of polymorphisms outside of exons 2 and 3 of HLA genes was rather limited. There are also relatively few full-length gene references currently available in the IMGT HLA database. This made it difficult to quickly adopt high-throughput reference-reliant methods for allele-level HLA sequencing. Increasing awareness regarding role of regulatory region polymorphisms of HLA genes in disease association1, nonetheless have brought about a revolution in full-length HLA gene sequencing. Researchers are now exploring ways to obtain complete information for HLA genes and integrate it with the current HLA database so it can be interpreted used by clinical researchers. We have explored advantages of SMRT Sequencing to obtain fully phased, allele-specific sequences of HLA class I and II genes for 96 samples using completely De novo consensus generation approach for imputation-free 4-field typing. With long read lengths (average >10 kb) and consensus accuracy exceeding 99.999% (Q50), a comprehensive snapshot of variants in exons, introns and UTRs could be obtained for spectrum of polymorphisms in phase across SNP-poor regions. Such information can provide invaluable insights in future causality association and population diversity research.


April 21, 2020  |  

Long-read sequence and assembly of segmental duplications.

We have developed a computational method based on polyploid phasing of long sequence reads to resolve collapsed regions of segmental duplications within genome assemblies. Segmental Duplication Assembler (SDA; https://github.com/mvollger/SDA ) constructs graphs in which paralogous sequence variants define the nodes and long-read sequences provide attraction and repulsion edges, enabling the partition and assembly of long reads corresponding to distinct paralogs. We apply it to single-molecule, real-time sequence data from three human genomes and recover 33-79 megabase pairs (Mb) of duplications in which approximately half of the loci are diverged (<99.8%) compared to the reference genome. We show that the corresponding sequence is highly accurate (>99.9%) and that the diverged sequence corresponds to copy-number-variable paralogs that are absent from the human reference genome. Our method can be applied to other complex genomes to resolve the last gene-rich gaps, improve duplicate gene annotation, and better understand copy-number-variant genetic diversity at the base-pair level.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genomic Survey of Bordetella pertussis Diversity, United States, 2000-2013.

We characterized 170 complete genome assemblies from clinical Bordetella pertussis isolates representing geographic and temporal diversity in the United States. These data capture genotypic shifts, including increased pertactin deficiency, occurring amid the current pertussis disease resurgence and provide a foundation for needed research to direct future public health control strategies.


April 21, 2020  |  

Liriodendron genome sheds light on angiosperm phylogeny and species-pair differentiation.

The genus Liriodendron belongs to the family Magnoliaceae, which resides within the magnoliids, an early diverging lineage of the Mesangiospermae. However, the phylogenetic relationship of magnoliids with eudicots and monocots has not been conclusively resolved and thus remains to be determined1-6. Liriodendron is a relict lineage from the Tertiary with two distinct species-one East Asian (L. chinense (Hemsley) Sargent) and one eastern North American (L. tulipifera Linn)-identified as a vicariad species pair. However, the genetic divergence and evolutionary trajectories of these species remain to be elucidated at the whole-genome level7. Here, we report the first de novo genome assembly of a plant in the Magnoliaceae, L. chinense. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that magnoliids are sister to the clade consisting of eudicots and monocots, with rapid diversification occurring in the common ancestor of these three lineages. Analyses of population genetic structure indicate that L. chinense has diverged into two lineages-the eastern and western groups-in China. While L. tulipifera in North America is genetically positioned between the two L. chinense groups, it is closer to the eastern group. This result is consistent with phenotypic observations that suggest that the eastern and western groups of China may have diverged long ago, possibly before the intercontinental differentiation between L. chinense and L. tulipifera. Genetic diversity analyses show that L. chinense has tenfold higher genetic diversity than L. tulipifera, suggesting that the complicated regions comprising east-west-orientated mountains and the Yangtze river basin (especially near 30°?N latitude) in East Asia offered more successful refugia than the south-north-orientated mountain valleys in eastern North America during the Quaternary glacial period.


April 21, 2020  |  

Meiotic sex in Chagas disease parasite Trypanosoma cruzi.

Genetic exchange enables parasites to rapidly transform disease phenotypes and exploit new host populations. Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasitic agent of Chagas disease and a public health concern throughout Latin America, has for decades been presumed to exchange genetic material rarely and without classic meiotic sex. We present compelling evidence from 45 genomes sequenced from southern Ecuador that T. cruzi in fact maintains truly sexual, panmictic groups that can occur alongside others that remain highly clonal after past hybridization events. These groups with divergent reproductive strategies appear genetically isolated despite possible co-occurrence in vectors and hosts. We propose biological explanations for the fine-scale disconnectivity we observe and discuss the epidemiological consequences of flexible reproductive modes. Our study reinvigorates the hunt for the site of genetic exchange in the T. cruzi life cycle, provides tools to define the genetic determinants of parasite virulence, and reforms longstanding theory on clonality in trypanosomatid parasites.


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