June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing of the alala genome

Single Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing was used to generate long reads for whole genome shotgun sequencing of the genome of the`alala (Hawaiian crow). The ‘alala is endemic to Hawaii, and the only surviving lineage of the crow family, Corvidae, in the Hawaiian Islands. The population declined to less than 20 individuals in the 1990s, and today this charismatic species is extinct in the wild. Currently existing in only two captive breeding facilities, reintroduction of the ‘alala is scheduled to begin in the Fall of 2016. Reintroduction efforts will be assisted by information from the ‘alala genome generated and assembled by SMRT Technology, which will allow detailed analysis of genes associated with immunity, behavior, and learning. Using SMRT Sequencing, we present here best practices for achieving long reads for whole genome shotgun sequencing for complex plant and animal genomes such as the ‘alala genome. With recent advances in SMRTbell library preparation, P6-C4 chemistry and 6-hour movies, the number of useable bases now exceeds 1 Gb per SMRT Cell. Read lengths averaging 10 – 15 kb can be routinely achieved, with the longest reads approaching 70 kb. Furthermore, > 25% of useable bases are in reads greater than 30 kb, advantageous for generating contiguous draft assemblies of contig N50 up to 5 Mb. De novo assemblies of large genomes are now more tractable using SMRT Sequencing as the standalone technology. We also present guidelines for planning out projects for the de novo assembly of large genomes.


June 1, 2021  |  

Full-length cDNA sequencing for genome annotation and analysis of alternative splicing

In higher eukaryotic organisms, the majority of multi-exon genes are alternatively spliced. Different mRNA isoforms from the same gene can produce proteins that have distinct properties and functions. Thus, the importance of understanding the full complement of transcript isoforms with potential phenotypic impact cannot be understated. While microarrays and other NGS-based methods have become useful for studying transcriptomes, these technologies yield short, fragmented transcripts that remain a challenge for accurate, complete reconstruction of splice variants. The Iso-Seq protocol developed at PacBio offers the only solution for direct sequencing of full-length, single-molecule cDNA sequences to survey transcriptome isoform diversity useful for gene discovery and annotation. Knowledge of the complete isoform repertoire is also key for accurate quantification of isoform abundance. As most transcripts range from 1 – 10 kb, fully intact RNA molecules can be sequenced using SMRT Sequencing without requiring fragmentation or post-sequencing assembly. Our open-source computational pipeline delivers high-quality, non-redundant sequences for unambiguous identification of alternative splicing events, alternative transcriptional start sites, polyA tail, and gene fusion events. We applied the Iso-Seq method to the maize (Zea mays) inbred line B73. Full-length cDNAs from six diverse tissues were barcoded and sequenced across multiple size-fractionated SMRTbell libraries. A total of 111,151 unique transcripts were identified. More than half of these transcripts (57%) represented novel, sometimes tissue-specific, isoforms of known genes. In addition to the 2250 novel coding genes and 860 lncRNAs discovered, the Iso-Seq dataset corrected errors in existing gene models, highlighting the value of full-length transcripts for whole gene annotations.


June 1, 2021  |  

Low-input long-read sequencing for complete microbial genomes and metagenomic community analysis

Microbial genome sequencing can be done quickly, easily, and efficiently with the PacBio sequencing instruments, resulting in complete de novo assemblies. Alternative protocols have been developed to reduce the amount of purified DNA required for SMRT Sequencing, to broaden applicability to lower-abundance samples. If 50-100 ng of microbial DNA is available, a 10-20 kb SMRTbell library can be made. The resulting library can be loaded onto multiple SMRT Cells, yielding more than enough data for complete assembly of microbial genomes using the SMRT Portal assembly program HGAP, plus base modification analysis. The entire process can be done in less than 3 days by standard laboratory personnel. This approach is particularly important for analysis of metagenomic communities, in which genomic DNA is often limited. From these samples, full-length 16S amplicons can be generated, prepped with the standard SMRTbell library prep protocol, and sequenced. Alternatively, a 2 kb sheared library, made from a few ng of input DNA, can also be used to elucidate the microbial composition of a community, and may provide information about biochemical pathways present in the sample. In both these cases, 1-2 kb reads with >99.9% accuracy can be obtained from Circular Consensus Sequencing.


June 1, 2021  |  

Minimization of chimera formation and substitution errors in full-length 16S PCR amplification

The constituents and intra-communal interactions of microbial populations have garnered increasing interest in areas such as water remediation, agriculture and human health. One popular, efficient method of profiling communities is to amplify and sequence the evolutionarily conserved 16S rRNA sequence. Currently, most targeted amplification focuses on short, hypervariable regions of the 16S sequence. Distinguishing information not spanned by the targeted region is lost and species-level classification is often not possible. SMRT Sequencing easily spans the entire 1.5 kb 16S gene, and in combination with highly-accurate single-molecule sequences, can improve the identification of individual species in a metapopulation. However, when amplifying a mixture of sequences with close similarities, the products may contain chimeras, or recombinant molecules, at rates as high as 20-30%. These PCR artifacts make it difficult to identify novel species, and reduce the amount of productive sequences. We investigated multiple factors that have been hypothesized to contribute to chimera formation, such as template damage, denaturing time before and during cycling, polymerase extension time, and reaction volume. Of the factors tested, we found two major related contributors to chimera formation: the amount of input template into the PCR reaction and the number of PCR cycles. Sequence errors generated during amplification and sequencing can also confound the analysis of complex populations. Circular Consensus Sequencing (CCS) can generate single-molecule reads with >99% accuracy, and the SMRT Analysis software provides filtering of these reads to >99.99% accuracies. Remaining substitution errors in these highly-filtered reads are likely dominated by mis-incorporations during amplification. Therefore, we compared the impact of several commercially-available high-fidelity PCR kits with full-length 16S amplification. We show results of our experiments and describe an optimized protocol for full-length 16S amplification for SMRT Sequencing. These optimizations have broader implications for other applications that use PCR amplification to phase variations across targeted regions and to generate highly accurate reference sequences.


June 1, 2021  |  

Multiplexing strategies for microbial whole genome SMRT Sequencing

The increased throughput of the RS II and Sequel Systems enables multiple microbes to be sequenced on a single SMRT Cell. This multiplexing can be readily achieved by simply incorporating a unique barcode for each microbe into the SMRTbell adapters after shearing genomic DNA using a streamlined library construction process. Incorporating a barcode without the requirement for PCR amplification prevents the loss of epigenetic information (e.g., methylation signatures), and the generation of chimeric sequences, while the modified protocol eliminates the need to build several individual SMRTbell libraries. We multiplexed up to 8 unique strains of H. pylori. Each strain was sheared, and processed through adapter ligation in a single, addition only reaction. The barcoded strains were then pooled in equimolar quantities, and processed through the remainder of the library preparation and purification steps. We demonstrate successful de novo microbial assembly and epigenetic analysis from all multiplexes (2 through 8-plex) using standard tools within SMRT Link Analysis using data generated from a single SMRTbell library, run on a single SMRT Cell. This process facilitates the sequencing of multiple microbial genomes in a single day, greatly increasing throughput and reducing costs per genome assembly.


June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing of DNA and RNA samples extracted from formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded tissues

Recent advances in next-generation sequencing have led to the increased use of formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissues for medical samples in disease and scientific research. Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing offers a unique advantage in that it allows direct analysis of FFPE samples without amplification. However, obtaining ample long-read information from FFPE samples has been a challenge due to the quality and quantity of the extracted DNA. DNA samples extracted from FFPE often contain damaged sites, including breaks in the backbone and missing or altered nucleotide bases, which directly impact sequencing and amplification. Additionally, the quality and quantity of the recovered DNA also vary depending on the extraction methods used. We have evaluated the Adaptive Focused Acoustics (AFA™) system by Covaris as a method for obtaining high molecular weight DNA suitable for SMRTbell template preparation and subsequent single molecule sequencing. Using this method, genomic DNA was extracted from normal kidney FFPE scrolls acquired from Cooperative Human Tissue Network (CHTN), University of Pennsylvania. Damaged sites present in the extracted DNA were repaired using a DNA Damage Repair step, and the treated DNA was constructed into SMRTbell libraries suitable for sequencing on the PacBio RS II System. Using the same repaired DNA, we also tested PCR efficiency of target gene regions of up to 5 kb. The resulting amplicons were constructed into SMRTbell templates for full-length sequencing on the PacBio RS II System. We found the Adaptive Focused Acoustics (AFA) system combined with truXTRAC™ by Covaris to be effective and efficient. This system is easy and simple to use, and the resulting DNA is compatible with SMRTbell library preparation for targeted and whole genome SMRT Sequencing. The data presented here demonstrates single molecule sequencing of DNA samples extracted from tissues embedded in FFPE.


June 1, 2021  |  

Application-specific barcoding strategies for SMRT Sequencing

The increased sequencing throughput creates a need for multiplexing for several applications. We are here detailing different barcoding strategies for microbial sequencing, targeted sequencing, Iso-Seq full-length isoform sequencing, and Roche NimbleGen’s target enrichment method.


June 1, 2021  |  

Minimization of chimera formation and substitution errors in full-length 16S PCR amplification

The constituents and intra-communal interactions of microbial populations have garnered increasing interest in areas such as water remediation, agriculture and human health. Amplification and sequencing of the evolutionarily conserved 16S rRNA gene is an efficient method of profiling communities. Currently, most targeted amplification focuses on short, hypervariable regions of the 16S sequence. Distinguishing information not spanned by the targeted region is lost, and species-level classification is often not possible. PacBio SMRT Sequencing easily spans the entire 1.5 kb 16S gene in a single read, producing highly accurate single-molecule sequences that can improve the identification of individual species in a metapopulation.However, this process still relies upon PCR amplification from a mixture of similar sequences, which may result in chimeras, or recombinant molecules, at rates upwards of 20%. These PCR artifacts make it difficult to identify novel species, and reduce the amount of informative sequences. We investigated multiple factors that may contribute to chimera formation, such as template damage, denaturation time before and during thermocycling, polymerase extension time, and reaction volume. We found two related factors that contribute to chimera formation: the amount of input template into the PCR reaction, and the number of PCR cycles.A second problem that can confound analysis is sequence errors generated during amplification and sequencing. With the updated algorithm for circular consensus sequencing (CCS2), single-molecule reads can be filtered to 99.99% predicted accuracy. Substitution errors in these highly filtered reads may be dominated by mis-incorporations during amplification. Sequence differences in full-length 16S amplicons from several commercial high-fidelity PCR kits were compared.We show results of our experiments and describe our optimized protocol for full-length 16S amplification for SMRT Sequencing. These optimizations have broader implications for other applications that use PCR amplification to phase variations across targeted regions and generate highly accurate reference sequences.


June 1, 2021  |  

Workflow for processing high-throughput, Single Molecule, Real-Time Sequencing data for analyzing the microbiome of patients undergoing fecal microbiota transplantation

There are many sequencing-based approaches to understanding complex metagenomic communities spanning targeted amplification to whole-sample shotgun sequencing. While targeted approaches provide valuable data at low sequencing depth, they are limited by primer design and PCR. Whole-sample shotgun experiments generally use short-read sequencing, which results in data processing difficulties. For example, reads less than 500 bp in length will rarely cover a complete gene or region of interest, and will require assembly. This not only introduces the possibility of incorrectly combining sequence from different community members, it requires a high depth of coverage. As such, rare community members may not be represented in the resulting assembly. Circular-consensus, Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing reads in the 1-3 kb range, with >99% accuracy can be generated using the previous generation PacBio RS II or, in much higher throughput, using the new Sequel System. While throughput is lower compared to short-read sequencing methods, the reads are a true random sampling of the underlying community since SMRT Sequencing has been shown to have very low sequence-context bias. With single-molecule reads >1 kb at >99% consensus accuracy, it is reasonable to expect a high percentage of reads to include genes or gene fragments useful for analysis without the need for de novo assembly. Here we present the results of circular consensus sequencing for an individual’s microbiome, before and after undergoing fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) in order to treat a chronic Clostridium difficile infection. We show that even with relatively low sequencing depth, the long-read, assembly-free, random sampling allows us to profile low abundance community members at the species level. We also show that using shotgun sampling with long reads allows a level of functional insight not possible with classic targeted 16S, or short read sequencing, due to entire genes being covered in single reads.


June 1, 2021  |  

Multiplexing strategies for microbial whole genome SMRT Sequencing

As the throughput of the PacBio Systems continues to increase, so has the desire to fully utilize SMRT Cell sequencing capacity to multiplex microbes for whole genome sequencing. Multiplexing is readily achieved by incorporating a unique barcode for each microbe into the SMRTbell adapters and using a streamlined library preparation process. Incorporating barcodes without PCR amplification prevents the loss of epigenetic information and the generation of chimeric sequences, while eliminating the need to generate separate SMRTbell libraries. We multiplexed the genomes of up to 8 unique strains of H. pylori. Each genome was sheared and processed through adapter ligation in a single, addition-only reaction. The barcoded samples were pooled in equimolar quantities and a single SMRTbell library was prepared. We demonstrate successful de novo microbial assembly from all multiplexes tested (2- through 8-plex) using data generated from a single SMRTbell library, run on a single SMRT Cell with the PacBio RS II, and analyzed with standard SMRT Analysis assembly methods. This strategy was successful using both small (1.6 Mb, H. pylori) and medium (5 Mb, E. coli) genomes. This protocol facilitates the sequencing of multiple microbial genomes in a single run, greatly increasing throughput and reducing costs per genome.


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  |  

Effect of coverage depth and haplotype phasing on structural variant detection with PacBio long reads

Each human genome has thousands of structural variants compared to the reference assembly, up to 85% of which are difficult or impossible to detect with Illumina short reads and are only visible with long, multi-kilobase reads. The PacBio RS II and Sequel single molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing platforms have made it practical to generate long reads at high throughput. These platforms enable the discovery of structural variants just as short-read platforms did for single nucleotide variants. Numerous software algorithms call structural variants effectively from PacBio long reads, but algorithm sensitivity is lower for insertion variants and all heterozygous variants. Furthermore, the impact of coverage depth and read lengths on sensitivity is not fully characterized. To quantify how zygosity, coverage depth, and read lengths impact the sensitivity of structural variant detection, we obtained high coverage PacBio sequences for three human samples: haploid CHM1, diploid NA12878, and diploid SK-BR-3. For each dataset, reads were randomly subsampled to titrate coverage from 0.5- to 50-fold. The structural variants detected at each coverage were compared to the set at “full” 50-fold coverage. For the diploid samples, additional titrations were performed with reads first partitioned by phase using single nucleotide variants for essentially haploid structural variant discovery. Even at low coverages (1- to 5-fold), PacBio long reads reveal hundreds of structural variants that are not seen in deep 50-fold Illumina whole genome sequences. At moderate 10-fold PacBio coverage, a majority of structural variants are detected. Sensitivity begins to level off at around 40-fold coverage, though it does not fully saturate before 50-fold. Phasing improves sensitivity for all variant types, especially at moderate 10- to 20-fold coverage. Long reads are an effective tool to identify and phase structural variants in the human genome. The majority of variants are detected at moderate 10-fold coverage, and even extremely low long-read coverage (1- to 5-fold) reveals variants that are invisible to short-read sequencing. Performance will continue to improve with better software and longer reads, which will empower studies to connect structural variants to healthy and disease traits in the human population.


June 1, 2021  |  

Full-length cDNA sequencing on the PacBio Sequel platform

The protein coding potential of most plant and animal genomes is dramatically increased via alternative splicing. Identification and annotation of expressed mRNA isoforms is critical to the understanding of these complex organisms. While microarrays and other NGS-based methods have become useful for studying transcriptomes, these technologies yield short, fragmented transcripts that remain a challenge for accurate, complete reconstruction of splice variants. The Iso-Seq protocol developed at PacBio offers the only solution for direct sequencing of full-length, single-molecule cDNA sequences to survey transcriptome isoform diversity useful for gene discovery and annotation. Knowledge of the complete isoform repertoire is also key for accurate quantification of isoform abundance. As most transcripts range from 1 – 10 kb, fully intact RNA molecules can be sequenced using SMRT Sequencing without requiring fragmentation or post-sequencing assembly. The PacBio Sequel platform has improved throughput thereby increasing the number of full-length transcripts per SMRT Cell. Furthermore, loading enhancements on the Sequel instrument have decreased the need for size fractionation steps. We have optimized the Iso-Seq library preparation process for use on the Sequel platform. Here, we demonstrate the capabilities of the Iso-Seq method on the Sequel system using cDNAs from the maize (Zea mays) inbred line B73. Full-length cDNA from six diverse tissues were barcoded, pooled, and sequenced on the PacBio Sequel system using a combination of size-selected and non-size-selected SMRTbell libraries. The results highlight the value of full-length transcripts for genome annotations and analysis of alternative splicing.


June 1, 2021  |  

Profiling complex population genomes with highly accurate single molecule reads: cow rumen microbiomes

Determining compositions and functional capabilities of complex populations is often challenging, especially for sequencing technologies with short reads that do not uniquely identify organisms or genes. Long-read sequencing improves the resolution of these mixed communities, but adoption for this application has been limited due to concerns about throughput, cost and accuracy. The recently introduced PacBio Sequel System generates hundreds of thousands of long and highly accurate single-molecule reads per SMRT Cell. We investigated how the Sequel System might increase understanding of metagenomic communities. In the past, focus was largely on taxonomic classification with 16S rRNA sequencing. Recent expansion to WGS sequencing enables functional profiling as well, with the ultimate goal of complete genome assemblies. Here we compare the complex microbiomes in 5 cow rumen samples, for which Illumina WGS sequence data was also available. To maximize the PacBio single-molecule sequence accuracy, libraries of 2 to 3 kb were generated, allowing many polymerase passes per molecule. The resulting reads were filtered at predicted single-molecule accuracy levels up to 99.99%. Community compositions of the 5 samples were compared with Illumina WGS assemblies from the same set of samples, indicating rare organisms were often missed with Illumina. Assembly from PacBio CCS reads yielded a contig >100 kb in length with 6-fold coverage. Mapping of Illumina reads to the 101 kb contig verified the PacBio assembly and contig sequence. These results illustrate ways in which long accurate reads benefit analysis of complex communities.


June 1, 2021  |  

Using the PacBio IsoSeq method to search for novel colorectal cancer biomarkers

Early detection of colorectal cancer (CRC) and its precursor lesions (adenomas) is crucial to reduce mortality rates. The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is a non-invasive CRC screening test that detects the blood-derived protein hemoglobin. However, FIT sensitivity is suboptimal especially in detection of CRC precursor lesions. As adenoma-to-carcinoma progression is accompanied by alternative splicing, tumor-specific proteins derived from alternatively spliced RNA transcripts might serve as candidate biomarkers for CRC detection.


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