Since the advent of Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS), the cost of de novo genome sequencing and assembly have dropped precipitately, which has spurred interest in genome sequencing overall. Unfortunately the contiguity of the NGS assembled sequences, as well as the accuracy of these assemblies have suffered. Additionally, most NGS de novo assemblies leave large portions of genomes unresolved, and repetitive regions are often collapsed. When compared to the reference quality genome sequences produced before the NGS era, the new sequences are highly fragmented and often prove to be difficult to properly annotate. In some cases the contiguous portions are smaller than the average gene size making the sequence not nearly as useful for biologists as the earlier reference quality genomes including of Human, Mouse, C. elegans, or Drosophila. Recently, new 3rd generation sequencing technologies, long-range molecular techniques, and new informatics tools have facilitated a return to high quality assembly. We will discuss the capabilities of the technologies and assess their impact on assembly projects across the tree of life from small microbial and fungal genomes through large plant and animal genomes. Beyond improvements to contiguity, we will focus on the additional biological insights that can be made with better assemblies, including more complete analysis genes in their flanking regulatory context, in-depth studies of transposable elements and other complex gene families, and long-range synteny analysis of entire chromosomes. We will also discuss the need for new algorithms for representing and analyzing collections of many complete genomes at once.
Several new 3rd generation long-range DNA sequencing and mapping technologies have recently become available that are starting to create a resurgence in genome sequence quality. Unlike their 2nd generation, shortread counterparts that can resolve a few hundred or a few thousand basepairs, the new technologies can routinely sequence 10,000 bp reads or map across 100,000 bp molecules. The substantially greater lengths are being used to enhance a number of important problems in genomics and medicine, including de novo genome assembly, structural variation detection, and haplotype phasing. Here we discuss the capabilities of the latest technologies, and show how they will improve the “3Cs of Genome Assembly”: the contiguity, completeness, and correctness. We derive this analysis from (1) a metaanalysis of the currently available 3rd generation genome assemblies, (2) a retrospective analysis of the evolution of the reference human genome, and (3) extensive simulations with dozens of species across the tree of life. We also propose a model using support vector regression (SVR) that predicts genome assembly performance using four features: read lengths(L) and coverage values(C) that can be used for evaluating potential technologies along with genome size(G) and repeats(R) that present species specific characteristics. The proposed model significantly improves genome assembly performance prediction by adopting data-driven approach and addressing limitations of the previous hypothesis-driven methodology. Overall, we anticipate these technologies unlock the genomic “dark matter”, and provide many new insights into evolution, agriculture, and human diseases.