April 21, 2020  |  

Metagenomic assembly through the lens of validation: recent advances in assessing and improving the quality of genomes assembled from metagenomes.

Metagenomic samples are snapshots of complex ecosystems at work. They comprise hundreds of known and unknown species, contain multiple strain variants and vary greatly within and across environments. Many microbes found in microbial communities are not easily grown in culture making their DNA sequence our only clue into their evolutionary history and biological function. Metagenomic assembly is a computational process aimed at reconstructing genes and genomes from metagenomic mixtures. Current methods have made significant strides in reconstructing DNA segments comprising operons, tandem gene arrays and syntenic blocks. Shorter, higher-throughput sequencing technologies have become the de facto standard in the field. Sequencers are now able to generate billions of short reads in only a few days. Multiple metagenomic assembly strategies, pipelines and assemblers have appeared in recent years. Owing to the inherent complexity of metagenome assembly, regardless of the assembly algorithm and sequencing method, metagenome assemblies contain errors. Recent developments in assembly validation tools have played a pivotal role in improving metagenomics assemblers. Here, we survey recent progress in the field of metagenomic assembly, provide an overview of key approaches for genomic and metagenomic assembly validation and demonstrate the insights that can be derived from assemblies through the use of assembly validation strategies. We also discuss the potential for impact of long-read technologies in metagenomics. We conclude with a discussion of future challenges and opportunities in the field of metagenomic assembly and validation. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press.


April 21, 2020  |  

Wild relatives of maize

Crop domestication changed the course of human evolution, and domestication of maize (Zea mays L. subspecies mays), today the world’s most important crop, enabled civilizations to flourish and has played a major role in shaping the world we know today. Archaeological and ethnobotanical research help us understand the development of the cultures and the movements of the peoples who carried maize to new areas where it continued to adapt. Ancient remains of maize cobs and kernels have been found in the place of domestication, the Balsas River Valley (~9,000 years before present era), and the cultivation center, the Tehuacan Valley (~5,000 years before present era), and have been used to study the process of domestication. Paleogenomic data showed that some of the genes controlling the stem and inflorescence architecture were comparable to modern maize, while other genes controlling ear shattering and starch biosynthesis retain high levels of variability, similar to those found in the wild relative teosinte. These results indicate that the domestication process was both gradual and complex, where different genetic loci were selected at different points in time, and that the transformation of teosinte to maize was completed in the last 5,000 years. Mesoamerican native cultures domesticated teosinte and developed maize from a 6 cm long, popping-kernel ear to what we now recognize as modern maize with its wide variety in ear size, kernel texture, color, size, and adequacy for diverse uses and also invented nixtamalization, a process key to maximizing its nutrition. Used directly for human and animal consumption, processed food products, bioenergy, and many cultural applications, it is now grown on six of the world’s seven continents. The study of its evolution and domestication from the wild grass teosinte helps us understand the nature of genetic diversity of maize and its wild relatives and gene expression. Genetic barriers to direct use of teosinte or Tripsacum in maize breeding have challenged our ability to identify valuable genes and traits, let alone incorporate them into elite, modern varieties. Genomic information and newer genetic technologies will facilitate the use of wild relatives in crop improvement; hence it is more important than ever to ensure their conservation and availability, fundamental to future food security. In situ conservation efforts dedicated to preserving remnant populations of wild relatives in Mexico are key to safeguarding the genetic diversity of maize and its genepool, as well as enabling these species to continue to adapt to dynamic climate and environmental changes. Genebank ex situ efforts are crucial to securely maintain collected wild relative resources and to provide them for gene discovery and other research efforts.


April 21, 2020  |  

The transcriptome of Darwin’s bark spider silk glands predicts proteins contributing to dragline silk toughness.

Darwin’s bark spider (Caerostris darwini) produces giant orb webs from dragline silk that can be twice as tough as other silks, making it the toughest biological material. This extreme toughness comes from increased extensibility relative to other draglines. We show C. darwini dragline-producing major ampullate (MA) glands highly express a novel silk gene transcript (MaSp4) encoding a protein that diverges markedly from closely related proteins and contains abundant proline, known to confer silk extensibility, in a unique GPGPQ amino acid motif. This suggests C. darwini evolved distinct proteins that may have increased its dragline’s toughness, enabling giant webs. Caerostris darwini’s MA spinning ducts also appear unusually long, potentially facilitating alignment of silk proteins into extremely tough fibers. Thus, a suite of novel traits from the level of genes to spinning physiology to silk biomechanics are associated with the unique ecology of Darwin’s bark spider, presenting innovative designs for engineering biomaterials.


April 21, 2020  |  

A hybrid de novo genome assembly of the honeybee, Apis mellifera, with chromosome-length scaffolds.

The ability to generate long sequencing reads and access long-range linkage information is revolutionizing the quality and completeness of genome assemblies. Here we use a hybrid approach that combines data from four genome sequencing and mapping technologies to generate a new genome assembly of the honeybee Apis mellifera. We first generated contigs based on PacBio sequencing libraries, which were then merged with linked-read 10x Chromium data followed by scaffolding using a BioNano optical genome map and a Hi-C chromatin interaction map, complemented by a genetic linkage map.Each of the assembly steps reduced the number of gaps and incorporated a substantial amount of additional sequence into scaffolds. The new assembly (Amel_HAv3) is significantly more contiguous and complete than the previous one (Amel_4.5), based mainly on Sanger sequencing reads. N50 of contigs is 120-fold higher (5.381 Mbp compared to 0.053 Mbp) and we anchor >?98% of the sequence to chromosomes. All of the 16 chromosomes are represented as single scaffolds with an average of three sequence gaps per chromosome. The improvements are largely due to the inclusion of repetitive sequence that was unplaced in previous assemblies. In particular, our assembly is highly contiguous across centromeres and telomeres and includes hundreds of AvaI and AluI repeats associated with these features.The improved assembly will be of utility for refining gene models, studying genome function, mapping functional genetic variation, identification of structural variants, and comparative genomics.


April 21, 2020  |  

Assignment of virus and antimicrobial resistance genes to microbial hosts in a complex microbial community by combined long-read assembly and proximity ligation.

We describe a method that adds long-read sequencing to a mix of technologies used to assemble a highly complex cattle rumen microbial community, and provide a comparison to short read-based methods. Long-read alignments and Hi-C linkage between contigs support the identification of 188 novel virus-host associations and the determination of phage life cycle states in the rumen microbial community. The long-read assembly also identifies 94 antimicrobial resistance genes, compared to only seven alleles in the short-read assembly. We demonstrate novel techniques that work synergistically to improve characterization of biological features in a highly complex rumen microbial community.


October 23, 2019  |  

A high quality assembly of the Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) genome reveals the structure of two sex determination regions.

Tilapias are the second most farmed fishes in the world and a sustainable source of food. Like many other fish, tilapias are sexually dimorphic and sex is a commercially important trait in these fish. In this study, we developed a significantly improved assembly of the tilapia genome using the latest genome sequencing methods and show how it improves the characterization of two sex determination regions in two tilapia species.A homozygous clonal XX female Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) was sequenced to 44X coverage using Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) SMRT sequencing. Dozens of candidate de novo assemblies were generated and an optimal assembly (contig NG50 of 3.3Mbp) was selected using principal component analysis of likelihood scores calculated from several paired-end sequencing libraries. Comparison of the new assembly to the previous O. niloticus genome assembly reveals that recently duplicated portions of the genome are now well represented. The overall number of genes in the new assembly increased by 27.3%, including a 67% increase in pseudogenes. The new tilapia genome assembly correctly represents two recent vasa gene duplication events that have been verified with BAC sequencing. At total of 146Mbp of additional transposable element sequence are now assembled, a large proportion of which are recent insertions. Large centromeric satellite repeats are assembled and annotated in cichlid fish for the first time. Finally, the new assembly identifies the long-range structure of both a ~9Mbp XY sex determination region on LG1 in O. niloticus, and a ~50Mbp WZ sex determination region on LG3 in the related species O. aureus.This study highlights the use of long read sequencing to correctly assemble recent duplications and to characterize repeat-filled regions of the genome. The study serves as an example of the need for high quality genome assemblies and provides a framework for identifying sex determining genes in tilapia and related fish species.


September 22, 2019  |  

The genome of an underwater architect, the caddisfly Stenopsyche tienmushanensis Hwang (Insecta: Trichoptera).

Caddisflies (Insecta: Trichoptera) are a highly adapted freshwater group of insects split from a common ancestor with Lepidoptera. They are the most diverse (>16,000 species) of the strictly aquatic insect orders and are widely employed as bio-indicators in water quality assessment and monitoring. Among the numerous adaptations to aquatic habitats, caddisfly larvae use silk and materials from the environment (e.g., stones, sticks, leaf matter) to build composite structures such as fixed retreats and portable cases. Understanding how caddisflies have adapted to aquatic habitats will help explain the evolution and subsequent diversification of the group.We sequenced a retreat-builder caddisfly Stenopsyche tienmushanensis Hwang and assembled a high-quality genome from both Illumina and Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) sequencing. In total, 601.2 M Illumina reads (90.2 Gb) and 16.9 M PacBio subreads (89.0 Gb) were generated. The 451.5 Mb assembled genome has a contig N50 of 1.29 M, has a longest contig of 4.76 Mb, and covers 97.65% of the 1,658 insect single-copy genes as assessed by Benchmarking Universal Single-Copy Orthologs. The genome comprises 36.76% repetitive elements. A total of 14,672 predicted protein-coding genes were identified. The genome revealed gene expansions in specific groups of the cytochrome P450 family and olfactory binding proteins, suggesting potential genomic features associated with pollutant tolerance and mate finding. In addition, the complete gene complex of the highly repetitive H-fibroin, the major protein component of caddisfly larval silk, was assembled.We report the draft genome of Stenopsyche tienmushanensis, the highest-quality caddisfly genome so far. The genome information will be an important resource for the study of caddisflies and may shed light on the evolution of aquatic insects.


September 22, 2019  |  

A near complete snapshot of the Zea mays seedling transcriptome revealed from ultra-deep sequencing.

RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) enables in-depth exploration of transcriptomes, but typical sequencing depth often limits its comprehensiveness. In this study, we generated nearly 3 billion RNA-Seq reads, totaling 341 Gb of sequence, from a Zea mays seedling sample. At this depth, a near complete snapshot of the transcriptome was observed consisting of over 90% of the annotated transcripts, including lowly expressed transcription factors. A novel hybrid strategy combining de novo and reference-based assemblies yielded a transcriptome consisting of 126,708 transcripts with 88% of expressed known genes assembled to full-length. We improved current annotations by adding 4,842 previously unannotated transcript variants and many new features, including 212 maize transcripts, 201 genes, 10 genes with undocumented potential roles in seedlings as well as maize lineage specific gene fusion events. We demonstrated the power of deep sequencing for large transcriptome studies by generating a high quality transcriptome, which provides a rich resource for the research community.


September 22, 2019  |  

Uncovering full-length transcript isoforms of sugarcane cultivar Khon Kaen 3 using single-molecule long-read sequencing.

Sugarcane is an important global food crop and energy resource. To facilitate the sugarcane improvement program, genome and gene information are important for studying traits at the molecular level. Most currently available transcriptome data for sugarcane were generated using second-generation sequencing platforms, which provide short reads. The de novo assembled transcripts from these data are limited in length, and hence may be incomplete and inaccurate, especially for long RNAs.We generated a transcriptome dataset of leaf tissue from a commercial Thai sugarcane cultivar Khon Kaen 3 (KK3) using PacBio RS II single-molecule long-read sequencing by the Iso-Seq method. Short-read RNA-Seq data were generated from the same RNA sample using the Ion Proton platform for reducing base calling errors.A total of 119,339 error-corrected transcripts were generated with the N50 length of 3,611 bp, which is on average longer than any previously reported sugarcane transcriptome dataset. 110,253 sequences (92.4%) contain an open reading frame (ORF) of at least 300 bp long with ORF N50 of 1,416 bp. The mean lengths of 5′ and 3′ untranslated regions in 73,795 sequences with complete ORFs are 1,249 and 1,187 bp, respectively. 4,774 transcripts are putatively novel full-length transcripts which do not match with a previous Iso-Seq study of sugarcane. We annotated the functions of 68,962 putative full-length transcripts with at least 90% coverage when compared with homologous protein coding sequences in other plants.The new catalog of transcripts will be useful for genome annotation, identification of splicing variants, SNP identification, and other research pertaining to the sugarcane improvement program. The putatively novel transcripts suggest unique features of KK3, although more data from different tissues and stages of development are needed to establish a reference transcriptome of this cultivar.


September 22, 2019  |  

PacBio sequencing of gene families – a case study with wheat gluten genes.

Amino acids in wheat (Triticum aestivum) seeds mainly accumulate in storage proteins called gliadins and glutenins. Gliadins contain a/ß-, ?- and ?-types whereas glutenins contain HMW- and LMW-types. Known gliadin and glutenin sequences were largely determined through cloning and sequencing by capillary electrophoresis. This time-consuming process prevents us to intensively study the variation of each orthologous gene copy among cultivars. The throughput and sequencing length of Pacific Bioscience RS (PacBio) single molecule sequencing platform make it feasible to construct contiguous and non-chimeric RNA sequences. We assembled 424 wheat storage protein transcripts from ten wheat cultivars by using just one single-molecule-real-time cell. The protein genes from wheat cultivar Chinese Spring are comparable to known sequences from NCBI. We demonstrated real-time sequencing of gene families with high-throughput and low-cost. This method can be applied to studies of gene amplification and copy number variation among species and cultivars. © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

A workflow for studying specialized metabolism in nonmodel eukaryotic organisms

Eukaryotes contain a diverse tapestry of specialized metabolites, many of which are of significant pharmaceutical and industrial importance to humans. Nevertheless, exploration of specialized metabolic pathways underlying specific chemical traits in nonmodel eukaryotic organisms has been technically challenging and historically lagged behind that of the bacterial systems. Recent advances in genomics, metabolomics, phylogenomics, and synthetic biology now enable a new workflow for interrogating unknown specialized metabolic systems in nonmodel eukaryotic hosts with greater efficiency and mechanistic depth. This chapter delineates such workflow by providing a collection of state-of-the-art approaches and tools, ranging from multiomics-guided candidate gene identification to in vitro and in vivo functional and structural characterization of specialized metabolic enzymes. As already demonstrated by several recent studies, this new workflow opens up a gateway into the largely untapped world of natural product biochemistry in eukaryotes. © 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

The industrial melanism mutation in British peppered moths is a transposable element.

Discovering the mutational events that fuel adaptation to environmental change remains an important challenge for evolutionary biology. The classroom example of a visible evolutionary response is industrial melanism in the peppered moth (Biston betularia): the replacement, during the Industrial Revolution, of the common pale typica form by a previously unknown black (carbonaria) form, driven by the interaction between bird predation and coal pollution. The carbonaria locus has been coarsely localized to a 200-kilobase region, but the specific identity and nature of the sequence difference controlling the carbonaria-typica polymorphism, and the gene it influences, are unknown. Here we show that the mutation event giving rise to industrial melanism in Britain was the insertion of a large, tandemly repeated, transposable element into the first intron of the gene cortex. Statistical inference based on the distribution of recombined carbonaria haplotypes indicates that this transposition event occurred around 1819, consistent with the historical record. We have begun to dissect the mode of action of the carbonaria transposable element by showing that it increases the abundance of a cortex transcript, the protein product of which plays an important role in cell-cycle regulation, during early wing disc development. Our findings fill a substantial knowledge gap in the iconic example of microevolutionary change, adding a further layer of insight into the mechanism of adaptation in response to natural selection. The discovery that the mutation itself is a transposable element will stimulate further debate about the importance of ‘jumping genes’ as a source of major phenotypic novelty.


September 22, 2019  |  

Next-generation sequencing for pathogen detection and identification

Over the past decade, the field of genomics has seen such drastic improvements in sequencing chemistries that high-throughput sequencing, or next-generation sequencing (NGS), is being applied to generate data across many disciplines. NGS instruments are becoming less expensive, faster, and smaller, and therefore are being adopted in an increasing number of laboratories, including clinical laboratories. Thus far, clinical use of NGS has been mostly focused on the human genome, for purposes such as characterizing the molecular basis of cancer or for diagnosing and understanding the basis of rare genetic disorders. There are, however, an increasing number of examples whereby NGS is employed to discover novel pathogens, and these cases provide precedent for the use of NGS in microbial diagnostics. NGS has many advantages over traditional microbial diagnostic methods, such as unbiased rather than pathogen-specific protocols, ability to detect fastidious or non-culturable organisms, and ability to detect co-infections. One of the most impressive advantages of NGS is that it requires little or no prior knowledge of the pathogen, unlike many other diagnostic assays; therefore for pathogen discovery, NGS is very valuable. However, despite these advantages, there are challenges involved in implementing NGS for routine clinical microbiological diagnosis. We discuss these advantages and challenges in the context of recently described research studies.


September 22, 2019  |  

Next generation sequencing technology: Advances and applications.

Impressive progress has been made in the field of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS). Through advancements in the fields of molecular biology and technical engineering, parallelization of the sequencing reaction has profoundly increased the total number of produced sequence reads per run. Current sequencing platforms allow for a previously unprecedented view into complex mixtures of RNA and DNA samples. NGS is currently evolving into a molecular microscope finding its way into virtually every fields of biomedical research. In this chapter we review the technical background of the different commercially available NGS platforms with respect to template generation and the sequencing reaction and take a small step towards what the upcoming NGS technologies will bring. We close with an overview of different implementations of NGS into biomedical research. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: From Genome to Function. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

Human and rhesus macaque KIR haplotypes defined by their transcriptomes.

The killer-cell Ig-like receptors (KIRs) play a central role in the immune recognition in infection, pregnancy, and transplantation through their interactions with MHC class I molecules. KIR genes display abundant copy number variation as well as high levels of polymorphism. As a result, it is challenging to characterize this structurally dynamic region. KIR haplotypes have been analyzed in different species using conventional characterization methods, such as Sanger sequencing and Roche/454 pyrosequencing. However, these methods are time-consuming and often failed to define complete haplotypes, or do not reach allele-level resolution. In addition, most analyses were performed on genomic DNA, and thus were lacking substantial information about transcription and its corresponding modifications. In this paper, we present a single-molecule real-time sequencing approach, using Pacific Biosciences Sequel platform to characterize the KIR transcriptomes in human and rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) families. This high-resolution approach allowed the identification of novel Mamu-KIR alleles, the extension of reported allele sequences, and the determination of human and macaque KIR haplotypes. In addition, multiple recombinant KIR genes were discovered, all located on contracted haplotypes, which were likely the result of chromosomal rearrangements. The relatively high number of contracted haplotypes discovered might be indicative of selection on small KIR repertoires and/or novel fusion gene products. This next-generation method provides an improved high-resolution characterization of the KIR cluster in humans and macaques, which eventually may aid in a better understanding and interpretation of KIR allele-associated diseases, as well as the immune response in transplantation and reproduction. Copyright © 2018 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.


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