June 1, 2021  |  

Structural variant in the RNA Binding Motif Protein, X-Linked 2 (RBMX2) gene found to be linked to bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder (BD) is a phenotypically and genetically complex neurological disorder that affects 1% of the worldwide population. There is compelling evidence from family, twin and adoption studies supporting the involvement of a genetic predisposition with estimated heritability up to ~ 80%. The risk in first-degree relatives is ten times higher than in the general population. Linkage and association studies have implicated multiple putative chromosomal loci for BD susceptibility, however no disease genes have yet to be identified. Here, we have fully characterized a ~12 Mb significantly linked (lod score=3.54) genomic region on chromosome Xq24-q27 in an extended family from a genetic isolate that was using long-read single molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing. The family segregates BD in at least 4 generations with 16 individuals out of 61 affected. Thus, this family portrays a highly elevated reoccurrence risk compared to the general population. It is expected that the genetic complexity would be reduced in isolated populations, even in genetically complex disorders such as BD, as in the case of this extended family. We selected 16 key individuals from the X-chromosomally linked family to be sequenced. These selected individuals either carried the disease haplotype, were non-carriers of the disease haplotype, or served as married-in controls. We designed a Nimblegen capture array enriching for 5-9 kb fragments spanning the entire 12 Mb region that were then sequenced using long-read SMRT sequencing to screen for causative structural variants (SVs) explaining the increased risk for BD in this extended family. Altogether, 192 SVs were detected in the critically linked region however most of these represented common variants that could be seen across many of the family members regardless of the disease status. One SV stood out that showed perfect segregation among all affected individuals that were carriers of the disease haplotype. This was a 330bp Alu deletion in intron 4 of the RNA Binding Motif Protein, X-Linked 2 (RBMX2) gene that has previously been shown to play a central role in brain development and function. Moreover, Alu elements in general have also previously been associated with at least 37 neurological and neurodegenerative disorders. In order to validate the finding and the functionality of the identified SV further studies like isoform characterization are warranted.

April 21, 2020  |  

RNA sequencing: the teenage years.

Over the past decade, RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) has become an indispensable tool for transcriptome-wide analysis of differential gene expression and differential splicing of mRNAs. However, as next-generation sequencing technologies have developed, so too has RNA-seq. Now, RNA-seq methods are available for studying many different aspects of RNA biology, including single-cell gene expression, translation (the translatome) and RNA structure (the structurome). Exciting new applications are being explored, such as spatial transcriptomics (spatialomics). Together with new long-read and direct RNA-seq technologies and better computational tools for data analysis, innovations in RNA-seq are contributing to a fuller understanding of RNA biology, from questions such as when and where transcription occurs to the folding and intermolecular interactions that govern RNA function.

April 21, 2020  |  

Featherweight long read alignment using partitioned reference indexes.

The advent of Nanopore sequencing has realised portable genomic research and applications. However, state of the art long read aligners and large reference genomes are not compatible with most mobile computing devices due to their high memory requirements. We show how memory requirements can be reduced through parameter optimisation and reference genome partitioning, but highlight the associated limitations and caveats of these approaches. We then demonstrate how these issues can be overcome through an appropriate merging technique. We incorporated multi-index merging into the Minimap2 aligner and demonstrate that long read alignment to the human genome can be performed on a system with 2?GB RAM with negligible impact on accuracy.

April 21, 2020  |  

Population dynamics of an Escherichia coli ST131 lineage during recurrent urinary tract infection.

Recurrent urinary tract infections (rUTIs) are extremely common, with ~?25% of all women experiencing a recurrence within 1 year of their original infection. Escherichia coli ST131 is a globally dominant multidrug resistant clone associated with high rates of rUTI. Here, we show the dynamics of an ST131 population over a 5-year period from one elderly woman with rUTI since the 1970s. Using whole genome sequencing, we identify an indigenous clonal lineage (P1A) linked to rUTI and persistence in the fecal flora, providing compelling evidence of an intestinal reservoir of rUTI. We also show that the P1A lineage possesses substantial plasmid diversity, resulting in the coexistence of antibiotic resistant and sensitive intestinal isolates despite frequent treatment. Our longitudinal study provides a unique comprehensive genomic analysis of a clonal lineage within a single individual and suggests a population-wide resistance mechanism enabling rapid adaptation to fluctuating antibiotic exposure.

April 21, 2020  |  

The Not-so-Sterile Womb: Evidence That the Human Fetus Is Exposed to Bacteria Prior to Birth.

The human microbiome includes trillions of bacteria, many of which play a vital role in host physiology. Numerous studies have now detected bacterial DNA in first-pass meconium and amniotic fluid samples, suggesting that the human microbiome may commence in utero. However, these data have remained contentious due to underlying contamination issues. Here, we have used a previously described method for reducing contamination in microbiome workflows to determine if there is a fetal bacterial microbiome beyond the level of background contamination. We recruited 50 women undergoing non-emergency cesarean section deliveries with no evidence of intra-uterine infection and collected first-pass meconium and amniotic fluid samples. Full-length 16S rRNA gene sequencing was performed using PacBio SMRT cell technology, to allow high resolution profiling of the fetal gut and amniotic fluid bacterial microbiomes. Levels of inflammatory cytokines were measured in amniotic fluid, and levels of immunomodulatory short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) were quantified in meconium. All meconium samples and most amniotic fluid samples (36/43) contained bacterial DNA. The meconium microbiome was dominated by reads that mapped to Pelomonas puraquae. Aside from this species, the meconium microbiome was remarkably heterogeneous between patients. The amniotic fluid microbiome was more diverse and contained mainly reads that mapped to typical skin commensals, including Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus spp. All meconium samples contained acetate and propionate, at ratios similar to those previously reported in infants. P. puraquae reads were inversely correlated with meconium propionate levels. Amniotic fluid cytokine levels were associated with the amniotic fluid microbiome. Our results demonstrate that bacterial DNA and SCFAs are present in utero, and have the potential to influence the developing fetal immune system.

April 21, 2020  |  

Hybridization is a recurrent evolutionary stimulus in wild yeast speciation.

Hybridization can result in reproductively isolated and phenotypically distinct lineages that evolve as independent hybrid species. How frequently hybridization leads to speciation remains largely unknown. Here we examine the potential recurrence of hybrid speciation in the wild yeast Saccharomyces paradoxus in North America, which comprises two endemic lineages SpB and SpC, and an incipient hybrid species, SpC*. Using whole-genome sequences from more than 300 strains, we uncover the hybrid origin of another group, SpD, that emerged from hybridization between SpC* and one of its parental species, the widespread SpB. We show that SpD has the potential to evolve as a novel hybrid species, because it displays phenotypic novelties that include an intermediate transcriptome profile, and partial reproductive isolation with its most abundant sympatric parental species, SpB. Our findings show that repetitive cycles of divergence and hybridization quickly generate diversity and reproductive isolation, providing the raw material for speciation by hybridization.

April 21, 2020  |  

Long-Read Sequencing Emerging in Medical Genetics

The wide implementation of next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies has revolutionized the field of medical genetics. However, the short read lengths of currently used sequencing approaches pose a limitation for identification of structural variants, sequencing repetitive regions, phasing alleles and distinguishing highly homologous genomic regions. These limitations may significantly contribute to the diagnostic gap in patients with genetic disorders who have undergone standard NGS, like whole exome or even genome sequencing. Now, the emerging long-read sequencing (LRS) technologies may offer improvements in the characterization of genetic variation and regions that are difficult to assess with the currently prevailing NGS approaches. LRS has so far mainly been used to investigate genetic disorders with previously known or strongly suspected disease loci. While these targeted approaches already show the potential of LRS, it remains to be seen whether LRS technologies can soon enable true whole genome sequencing routinely. Ultimately, this could allow the de novo assembly of individual whole genomes used as a generic test for genetic disorders. In this article, we summarize the current LRS-based research on human genetic disorders and discuss the potential of these technologies to facilitate the next major advancements in medical genetics.

April 21, 2020  |  

Systematic analysis of dark and camouflaged genes reveals disease-relevant genes hiding in plain sight.

The human genome contains “dark” gene regions that cannot be adequately assembled or aligned using standard short-read sequencing technologies, preventing researchers from identifying mutations within these gene regions that may be relevant to human disease. Here, we identify regions with few mappable reads that we call dark by depth, and others that have ambiguous alignment, called camouflaged. We assess how well long-read or linked-read technologies resolve these regions.Based on standard whole-genome Illumina sequencing data, we identify 36,794 dark regions in 6054 gene bodies from pathways important to human health, development, and reproduction. Of these gene bodies, 8.7% are completely dark and 35.2% are =?5% dark. We identify dark regions that are present in protein-coding exons across 748 genes. Linked-read or long-read sequencing technologies from 10x Genomics, PacBio, and Oxford Nanopore Technologies reduce dark protein-coding regions to approximately 50.5%, 35.6%, and 9.6%, respectively. We present an algorithm to resolve most camouflaged regions and apply it to the Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project. We rescue a rare ten-nucleotide frameshift deletion in CR1, a top Alzheimer’s disease gene, found in disease cases but not in controls.While we could not formally assess the association of the CR1 frameshift mutation with Alzheimer’s disease due to insufficient sample-size, we believe it merits investigating in a larger cohort. There remain thousands of potentially important genomic regions overlooked by short-read sequencing that are largely resolved by long-read technologies.

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