September 22, 2019  |  

Meeting report: 31st International Mammalian Genome Conference, Mammalian Genetics and Genomics: From Molecular Mechanisms to Translational Applications.

High on the Heidelberg hills, inside the Advanced Training Centre of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) campus with its unique double-helix staircase, scientists gathered for the EMBL conference “Mammalian Genetics and Genomics: From Molecular Mechanisms to Translational Applications,” organized in cooperation with the International Mammalian Genome Society (IMGS) and the Mouse Molecular Genetics (MMG) group. The conference attracted 205 participants from 30 countries, representing 6 of the 7 continents-all except Antarctica. It was a richly diverse group of geneticists, clinicians, and bioinformaticians, with presentations by established and junior investigators, including many trainees. From the 24th-27th of October 2017, they shared exciting advances in mammalian genetics and genomics research, from the introduction of cutting-edge technologies to descriptions of translational studies involving highly relevant models of human disease.

September 22, 2019  |  

Transcriptional fates of human-specific segmental duplications in brain.

Despite the importance of duplicate genes for evolutionary adaptation, accurate gene annotation is often incomplete, incorrect, or lacking in regions of segmental duplication. We developed an approach combining long-read sequencing and hybridization capture to yield full-length transcript information and confidently distinguish between nearly identical genes/paralogs. We used biotinylated probes to enrich for full-length cDNA from duplicated regions, which were then amplified, size-fractionated, and sequenced using single-molecule, long-read sequencing technology, permitting us to distinguish between highly identical genes by virtue of multiple paralogous sequence variants. We examined 19 gene families as expressed in developing and adult human brain, selected for their high sequence identity (average >99%) and overlap with human-specific segmental duplications (SDs). We characterized the transcriptional differences between related paralogs to better understand the birth-death process of duplicate genes and particularly how the process leads to gene innovation. In 48% of the cases, we find that the expressed duplicates have changed substantially from their ancestral models due to novel sites of transcription initiation, splicing, and polyadenylation, as well as fusion transcripts that connect duplication-derived exons with neighboring genes. We detect unannotated open reading frames in genes currently annotated as pseudogenes, while relegating other duplicates to nonfunctional status. Our method significantly improves gene annotation, specifically defining full-length transcripts, isoforms, and open reading frames for new genes in highly identical SDs. The approach will be more broadly applicable to genes in structurally complex regions of other genomes where the duplication process creates novel genes important for adaptive traits.© 2018 Dougherty et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

September 22, 2019  |  

Single-cell mRNA isoform diversity in the mouse brain.

Alternative mRNA isoform usage is an important source of protein diversity in mammalian cells. This phenomenon has been extensively studied in bulk tissues, however, it remains unclear how this diversity is reflected in single cells.Here we use long-read sequencing technology combined with unique molecular identifiers (UMIs) to reveal patterns of alternative full-length isoform expression in single cells from the mouse brain. We found a surprising amount of isoform diversity, even after applying a conservative definition of what constitutes an isoform. Genes tend to have one or a few isoforms highly expressed and a larger number of isoforms expressed at a low level. However, for many genes, nearly every sequenced mRNA molecule was unique, and many events affected coding regions suggesting previously unknown protein diversity in single cells. Exon junctions in coding regions were less prone to splicing errors than those in non-coding regions, indicating purifying selection on splice donor and acceptor efficiency.Our findings indicate that mRNA isoform diversity is an important source of biological variability also in single cells.

September 22, 2019  |  

Alternative isoform analysis of Ttc8 expression in the rat pineal gland using a multi-platform sequencing approach reveals neural regulation.

Alternative isoform regulation (AIR) vastly increases transcriptome diversity and plays an important role in numerous biological processes and pathologies. However, the detection and analysis of isoform-level differential regulation is difficult, particularly in the face of complex and incompletely-annotated transcriptomes. Here we have used Illumina short-read/high-throughput RNA-Seq to identify 55 genes that exhibit neurally-regulated AIR in the pineal gland, and then used two other complementary experimental platforms to further study and characterize the Ttc8 gene, which is involved in Bardet-Biedl syndrome and non-syndromic retinitis pigmentosa. Use of the JunctionSeq analysis tool led to the detection of several novel exons and splice junctions in this gene, including two novel alternative transcription start sites which were found to display disproportionately strong neurally-regulated differential expression in several independent experiments. These high-throughput sequencing results were validated and augmented via targeted qPCR and long-read Pacific Biosciences SMRT sequencing. We confirmed the existence of numerous novel splice junctions and the selective upregulation of the two novel start sites. In addition, we identified more than 20 novel isoforms of the Ttc8 gene that are co-expressed in this tissue. By using information from multiple independent platforms we not only greatly reduce the risk of errors, biases, and artifacts influencing our results, we also are able to characterize the regulation and splicing of the Ttc8 gene more deeply and more precisely than would be possible via any single platform. The hybrid method outlined here represents a powerful strategy in the study of the transcriptome.

September 22, 2019  |  

Single-cell isoform RNA sequencing characterizes isoforms in thousands of cerebellar cells.

Full-length RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) has been applied to bulk tissue, cell lines and sorted cells to characterize transcriptomes, but applying this technology to single cells has proven to be difficult, with less than ten single-cell transcriptomes having been analyzed thus far. Although single splicing events have been described for =200 single cells with statistical confidence, full-length mRNA analyses for hundreds of cells have not been reported. Single-cell short-read 3′ sequencing enables the identification of cellular subtypes, but full-length mRNA isoforms for these cell types cannot be profiled. We developed a method that starts with bulk tissue and identifies single-cell types and their full-length RNA isoforms without fluorescence-activated cell sorting. Using single-cell isoform RNA-Seq (ScISOr-Seq), we identified RNA isoforms in neurons, astrocytes, microglia, and cell subtypes such as Purkinje and Granule cells, and cell-type-specific combination patterns of distant splice sites. We used ScISOr-Seq to improve genome annotation in mouse Gencode version 10 by determining the cell-type-specific expression of 18,173 known and 16,872 novel isoforms.

September 22, 2019  |  

Shannon: an information-optimal de novo RNA-Seq assembler

De novo assembly of short RNA-Seq reads into transcripts is challenging due to sequence similarities in transcriptomes arising from gene duplications and alternative splicing of transcripts. We present Shannon, an RNA-Seq assembler with an optimality guarantee derived from principles of information theory: Shannon reconstructs nearly all information-theoretically reconstructable transcripts. Shannon is based on a theory we develop for de novo RNA-Seq assembly that reveals differing abundances among transcripts to be the key, rather than the barrier, to effective assembly. The assembly problem is formulated as a sparsest-flow problem on a transcript graph, and the heart of Shannon is a novel iterative flow-decomposition algorithm. This algorithm provably solves the information-theoretically reconstructable instances in linear-time even though the general sparsest-flow problem is NP-hard. Shannon also incorporates several additional new algorithmic advances: a new error-correction algorithm based on successive cancelation, a multi-bridging algorithm that carefully utilizes read information in the k-mer de Bruijn graph, and an approximate graph partitioning algorithm to split the transcriptome de Bruijn graph into smaller components. In tests on large RNA-Seq datasets, Shannon obtains significant increases in sensitivity along with improvements in specificity in comparison to state-of-the-art assemblers.

September 22, 2019  |  

Single-cell multiomics: multiple measurements from single cells.

Single-cell sequencing provides information that is not confounded by genotypic or phenotypic heterogeneity of bulk samples. Sequencing of one molecular type (RNA, methylated DNA or open chromatin) in a single cell, furthermore, provides insights into the cell’s phenotype and links to its genotype. Nevertheless, only by taking measurements of these phenotypes and genotypes from the same single cells can such inferences be made unambiguously. In this review, we survey the first experimental approaches that assay, in parallel, multiple molecular types from the same single cell, before considering the challenges and opportunities afforded by these and future technologies. Copyright © 2016. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

September 22, 2019  |  

Single-cell RNAseq for the study of isoforms-how is that possible?

Single-cell RNAseq and alternative splicing studies have recently become two of the most prominent applications of RNAseq. However, the combination of both is still challenging, and few research efforts have been dedicated to the intersection between them. Cell-level insight on isoform expression is required to fully understand the biology of alternative splicing, but it is still an open question to what extent isoform expression analysis at the single-cell level is actually feasible. Here, we establish a set of four conditions that are required for a successful single-cell-level isoform study and evaluate how these conditions are met by these technologies in published research.

September 22, 2019  |  

Genomic and transcriptomic comparisons of closely related malaria parasites differing in virulence and sequestration pattern.

Background: Malaria parasite species differ greatly in the harm they do to humans. While P. falciparum kills hundreds of thousands per year, P. vivax kills much less often and P. malariae is relatively benign. Strains of the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium chabaudi show phenotypic variation in virulence during infections of laboratory mice. This make it an excellent species to study genes which may be responsible for this trait. By understanding the mechanisms which underlie differences in virulence we can learn how parasites adapt to their hosts and how we might prevent disease. Methods: Here we present a complete reference genome sequence for a more virulent P. chabaudi strain, PcCB, and perform a detailed comparison with the genome of the less virulent PcAS strain. Results: We found the greatest variation in the subtelomeric regions, in particular amongst the sequences of the pir gene family, which has been associated with virulence and establishment of chronic infection. Despite substantial variation at the sequence level, the repertoire of these genes has been largely maintained, highlighting the requirement for functional conservation as well as diversification in host-parasite interactions. However, a subset of pir genes, previously associated with increased virulence, were more highly expressed in PcCB, suggesting a role for this gene family in virulence differences between strains. We found that core genes involved in red blood cell invasion have been under positive selection and that the more virulent strain has a greater preference for reticulocytes, which has elsewhere been associated with increased virulence. Conclusions: These results provide the basis for a mechanistic understanding of the phenotypic differences between Plasmodium chabaudi strains, which might ultimately be translated into a better understanding of malaria parasites affecting humans.

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