June 1, 2021  |  

Resolving the ‘dark matter’ in genomes.

Second-generation sequencing has brought about tremendous insights into the genetic underpinnings of biology. However, there are many functionally important and medically relevant regions of genomes that are currently difficult or impossible to sequence, resulting in incomplete and fragmented views of genomes. Two main causes are (i) limitations to read DNA of extreme sequence content (GC-rich or AT-rich regions, low complexity sequence contexts) and (ii) insufficient read lengths which leave various forms of structural variation unresolved and result in mapping ambiguities.


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.


April 21, 2020  |  

Long-read sequencing for rare human genetic diseases.

During the past decade, the search for pathogenic mutations in rare human genetic diseases has involved huge efforts to sequence coding regions, or the entire genome, using massively parallel short-read sequencers. However, the approximate current diagnostic rate is <50% using these approaches, and there remain many rare genetic diseases with unknown cause. There may be many reasons for this, but one plausible explanation is that the responsible mutations are in regions of the genome that are difficult to sequence using conventional technologies (e.g., tandem-repeat expansion or complex chromosomal structural aberrations). Despite the drawbacks of high cost and a shortage of standard analytical methods, several studies have analyzed pathogenic changes in the genome using long-read sequencers. The results of these studies provide hope that further application of long-read sequencers to identify the causative mutations in unsolved genetic diseases may expand our understanding of the human genome and diseases. Such approaches may also be applied to molecular diagnosis and therapeutic strategies for patients with genetic diseases in the future.


April 21, 2020  |  

Improved assembly and variant detection of a haploid human genome using single-molecule, high-fidelity long reads.

The sequence and assembly of human genomes using long-read sequencing technologies has revolutionized our understanding of structural variation and genome organization. We compared the accuracy, continuity, and gene annotation of genome assemblies generated from either high-fidelity (HiFi) or continuous long-read (CLR) datasets from the same complete hydatidiform mole human genome. We find that the HiFi sequence data assemble an additional 10% of duplicated regions and more accurately represent the structure of tandem repeats, as validated with orthogonal analyses. As a result, an additional 5 Mbp of pericentromeric sequences are recovered in the HiFi assembly, resulting in a 2.5-fold increase in the NG50 within 1 Mbp of the centromere (HiFi 480.6 kbp, CLR 191.5 kbp). Additionally, the HiFi genome assembly was generated in significantly less time with fewer computational resources than the CLR assembly. Although the HiFi assembly has significantly improved continuity and accuracy in many complex regions of the genome, it still falls short of the assembly of centromeric DNA and the largest regions of segmental duplication using existing assemblers. Despite these shortcomings, our results suggest that HiFi may be the most effective standalone technology for de novo assembly of human genomes. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/University College London.


April 21, 2020  |  

Tandem repeats lead to sequence assembly errors and impose multi-level challenges for genome and protein databases.

The widespread occurrence of repetitive stretches of DNA in genomes of organisms across the tree of life imposes fundamental challenges for sequencing, genome assembly, and automated annotation of genes and proteins. This multi-level problem can lead to errors in genome and protein databases that are often not recognized or acknowledged. As a consequence, end users working with sequences with repetitive regions are faced with ‘ready-to-use’ deposited data whose trustworthiness is difficult to determine, let alone to quantify. Here, we provide a review of the problems associated with tandem repeat sequences that originate from different stages during the sequencing-assembly-annotation-deposition workflow, and that may proliferate in public database repositories affecting all downstream analyses. As a case study, we provide examples of the Atlantic cod genome, whose sequencing and assembly were hindered by a particularly high prevalence of tandem repeats. We complement this case study with examples from other species, where mis-annotations and sequencing errors have propagated into protein databases. With this review, we aim to raise the awareness level within the community of database users, and alert scientists working in the underlying workflow of database creation that the data they omit or improperly assemble may well contain important biological information valuable to others. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


April 21, 2020  |  

The landscape of SNCA transcripts across synucleinopathies: New insights from long reads sequencing analysis

Dysregulation of alpha-synuclein expression has been implicated in the pathogenesis of synucleinopathies, in particular Parkinsontextquoterights Disease (PD) and Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). Previous studies have shown that the alternatively spliced isoforms of the SNCA gene are differentially expressed in different parts of the brain for PD and DLB patients. Similarly, SNCA isoforms with skipped exons can have a functional impact on the protein domains. The large intronic region of the SNCA gene was also shown to harbor structural variants that affect transcriptional levels. Here we apply the first study of using long read sequencing with targeted capture of both the gDNA and cDNA of the SNCA gene in brain tissues of PD, DLB, and control samples using the PacBio Sequel system. The targeted full-length cDNA (Iso-Seq) data confirmed complex usage of known alternative start sites and variable 3textquoteright UTR lengths, as well as novel 5textquoteright starts and 3textquoteright ends not previously described. The targeted gDNA data allowed phasing of up to 81% of the ~114kb SNCA region, with the longest phased block excedding 54 kb. We demonstrate that long gDNA and cDNA reads have the potential to reveal long-range information not previously accessible using traditional sequencing methods. This approach has a potential impact in studying disease risk genes such as SNCA, providing new insights into the genetic etiologies, including perturbations to the landscape the gene transcripts, of human complex diseases such as synucleinopathies.


April 21, 2020  |  

Profiling the genome-wide landscape of tandem repeat expansions.

Tandem repeat (TR) expansions have been implicated in dozens of genetic diseases, including Huntington’s Disease, Fragile X Syndrome, and hereditary ataxias. Furthermore, TRs have recently been implicated in a range of complex traits, including gene expression and cancer risk. While the human genome harbors hundreds of thousands of TRs, analysis of TR expansions has been mainly limited to known pathogenic loci. A major challenge is that expanded repeats are beyond the read length of most next-generation sequencing (NGS) datasets and are not profiled by existing genome-wide tools. We present GangSTR, a novel algorithm for genome-wide genotyping of both short and expanded TRs. GangSTR extracts information from paired-end reads into a unified model to estimate maximum likelihood TR lengths. We validate GangSTR on real and simulated data and show that GangSTR outperforms alternative methods in both accuracy and speed. We apply GangSTR to a deeply sequenced trio to profile the landscape of TR expansions in a healthy family and validate novel expansions using orthogonal technologies. Our analysis reveals that healthy individuals harbor dozens of long TR alleles not captured by current genome-wide methods. GangSTR will likely enable discovery of novel disease-associated variants not currently accessible from NGS. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


April 21, 2020  |  

Characterizing the major structural variant alleles of the human genome.

In order to provide a comprehensive resource for human structural variants (SVs), we generated long-read sequence data and analyzed SVs for fifteen human genomes. We sequence resolved 99,604 insertions, deletions, and inversions including 2,238 (1.6 Mbp) that are shared among all discovery genomes with an additional 13,053 (6.9 Mbp) present in the majority, indicating minor alleles or errors in the reference. Genotyping in 440 additional genomes confirms the most common SVs in unique euchromatin are now sequence resolved. We report a ninefold SV bias toward the last 5 Mbp of human chromosomes with nearly 55% of all VNTRs (variable number of tandem repeats) mapping to this portion of the genome. We identify SVs affecting coding and noncoding regulatory loci improving annotation and interpretation of functional variation. These data provide the framework to construct a canonical human reference and a resource for developing advanced representations capable of capturing allelic diversity. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


April 21, 2020  |  

Patterns of non-ARD variation in more than 300 full-length HLA-DPB1 alleles.

Our understanding of sequence variation in the HLA-DPB1 gene is largely restricted to the hypervariable antigen recognition domain (ARD) encoded by exon 2. Here, we employed a redundant sequencing strategy combining long-read and short-read data to accurately phase and characterise in full length the majority of common and well-documented (CWD) DPB1 alleles as well as alleles with an observed frequency of at least 0.0006% in our predominantly European sample set. We generated 664 DPB1 sequences, comprising 279 distinct allelic variants. This allows us to present the, to date, most comprehensive analysis of the nature and extent of DPB1 sequence variation. The full-length sequence analysis revealed the existence of two highly diverged allele clades. These clades correlate with the rs9277534 A???G variant, a known expression marker located in the 3′-UTR. The two clades are fully differentiated by 174 fixed polymorphisms throughout a 3.6?kb stretch at the 3′-end of DPB1. The region upstream of this differentiation zone is characterised by increasingly shared variation between the clades. The low-expression A clade comprises 59% of the distinct allelic sequences including the three by far most frequent DPB1 alleles, DPB1*04:01, DPB1*02:01 and DPB1*04:02. Alleles in the A clade show reduced nucleotide diversity with an excess of rare variants when compared to the high-expression G clade. This pattern is consistent with a scenario of recent proliferation of A-clade alleles. The full-length characterisation of all but the most rare DPB1 alleles will benefit the application of NGS for DPB1 genotyping and provides a helpful framework for a deeper understanding of high- and low-expression alleles and their implications in the context of unrelated haematopoietic stem-cell transplantation.Copyright © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


April 21, 2020  |  

Long-read sequence capture of the haemoglobin gene clusters across codfish species.

Combining high-throughput sequencing with targeted sequence capture has become an attractive tool to study specific genomic regions of interest. Most studies have so far focused on the exome using short-read technology. These approaches are not designed to capture intergenic regions needed to reconstruct genomic organization, including regulatory regions and gene synteny. Here, we demonstrate the power of combining targeted sequence capture with long-read sequencing technology for comparative genomic analyses of the haemoglobin (Hb) gene clusters across eight species separated by up to 70 million years. Guided by the reference genome assembly of the Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) together with genome information from draft assemblies of selected codfishes, we designed probes covering the two Hb gene clusters. Use of custom-made barcodes combined with PacBio RSII sequencing led to highly continuous assemblies of the LA (~100 kb) and MN (~200 kb) clusters, which include syntenic regions of coding and intergenic sequences. Our results revealed an overall conserved genomic organization of the Hb genes within this lineage, yet with several, lineage-specific gene duplications. Moreover, for some of the species examined, we identified amino acid substitutions at two sites in the Hbb1 gene as well as length polymorphisms in its regulatory region, which has previously been linked to temperature adaptation in Atlantic cod populations. This study highlights the use of targeted long-read capture as a versatile approach for comparative genomic studies by generation of a cross-species genomic resource elucidating the evolutionary history of the Hb gene family across the highly divergent group of codfishes. © 2018 The Authors. Molecular Ecology Resources Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


April 21, 2020  |  

Detecting a long insertion variant in SAMD12 by SMRT sequencing: implications of long-read whole-genome sequencing for repeat expansion diseases.

Long-read sequencing technology is now capable of reading single-molecule DNA with an average read length of more than 10?kb, fully enabling the coverage of large structural variations (SVs). This advantage may pave the way for the detection of unprecedented SVs as well as repeat expansions. Pathogenic SVs of only known genes used to be selectively analyzed based on prior knowledge of target DNA sequence. The unbiased application of long-read whole-genome sequencing (WGS) for the detection of pathogenic SVs has just begun. Here, we apply PacBio SMRT sequencing in a Japanese family with benign adult familial myoclonus epilepsy (BAFME). Our SV selection of low-coverage WGS data (7×) narrowed down the candidates to only six SVs in a 7.16-Mb region of the BAFME1 locus and correctly determined an approximately 4.6-kb SAMD12 intronic repeat insertion, which is causal of BAFME1. These results indicate that long-read WGS is potentially useful for evaluating all of the known SVs in a genome and identifying new disease-causing SVs in combination with other genetic methods to resolve the genetic causes of currently unexplained diseases.


April 21, 2020  |  

Long-read assembly of the Chinese rhesus macaque genome and identification of ape-specific structural variants.

We present a high-quality de novo genome assembly (rheMacS) of the Chinese rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) using long-read sequencing and multiplatform scaffolding approaches. Compared to the current Indian rhesus macaque reference genome (rheMac8), rheMacS increases sequence contiguity 75-fold, closing 21,940 of the remaining assembly gaps (60.8 Mbp). We improve gene annotation by generating more than two million full-length transcripts from ten different tissues by long-read RNA sequencing. We sequence resolve 53,916 structural variants (96% novel) and identify 17,000 ape-specific structural variants (ASSVs) based on comparison to ape genomes. Many ASSVs map within ChIP-seq predicted enhancer regions where apes and macaque show diverged enhancer activity and gene expression. We further characterize a subset that may contribute to ape- or great-ape-specific phenotypic traits, including taillessness, brain volume expansion, improved manual dexterity, and large body size. The rheMacS genome assembly serves as an ideal reference for future biomedical and evolutionary studies.


April 21, 2020  |  

Multi-platform discovery of haplotype-resolved structural variation in human genomes.

The incomplete identification of structural variants (SVs) from whole-genome sequencing data limits studies of human genetic diversity and disease association. Here, we apply a suite of long-read, short-read, strand-specific sequencing technologies, optical mapping, and variant discovery algorithms to comprehensively analyze three trios to define the full spectrum of human genetic variation in a haplotype-resolved manner. We identify 818,054 indel variants (<50?bp) and 27,622 SVs (=50?bp) per genome. We also discover 156 inversions per genome and 58 of the inversions intersect with the critical regions of recurrent microdeletion and microduplication syndromes. Taken together, our SV callsets represent a three to sevenfold increase in SV detection compared to most standard high-throughput sequencing studies, including those from the 1000 Genomes Project. The methods and the dataset presented serve as a gold standard for the scientific community allowing us to make recommendations for maximizing structural variation sensitivity for future genome sequencing studies.


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