June 1, 2021  |  

Complete telomere-to-telomere de novo assembly of the Plasmodium falciparum genome using long-read sequencing

Sequence-based estimation of genetic diversity of Plasmodium falciparum, the most lethal malarial parasite, has proved challenging due to a lack of a complete genomic assembly. The skewed AT-richness (~80.6% (A+T)) of its genome and the lack of technology to assemble highly polymorphic sub-telomeric regions that contain clonally variant, multigene virulence families (i.e. var and rifin) have confounded attempts using short-read NGS technologies. Using single molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing, we successfully compiled all 14 nuclear chromosomes of the P. falciparum genome from telomere-to-telomere in single contigs. Specifically, amplification-free sequencing generated reads of average length 12 kb, with =50% of the reads between 15.5 and 50 kb in length. A hierarchical genome assembly process (HGAP), was used to assemble the P. falciparum genome de novo. This assembly accurately resolved centromeres (~90-99% (A+T)) and sub-telomeric regions, and identified large insertions and duplications in the genome that added extra genes to the var and rifin virulence families, along with smaller structural variants such as homopolymer tract expansions. These regions can be used as markers for genetic diversity during comparative genome analyses. Moreover, identifying the polymorphic and repetitive sub-telomeric sequences of parasite populations from endemic areas might inform the link between structural variation and phenotypes such as virulence, drug resistance and disease transmission.


June 1, 2021  |  

Every species can be a model: Reference-quality PacBio genomes from single insects

A high-quality reference genome is an essential resource for primary and applied research across the tree of life. Genome projects for small-bodied, non-model organisms such as insects face several unique challenges including limited DNA input quantities, high heterozygosity, and difficulty of culturing or inbreeding in the lab. Recent progress in PacBio library preparation protocols, sequencing throughput, and read accuracy address these challenges. We present several case studies including the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus), and Anopheles malaria mosquitoes that highlight the benefits of sequencing single individuals for de novo genome assembly projects, and the ease at which these projects can be conducted by individual research labs. Sampled individuals may originate from lab colonies of interest to the research community or be sourced from the wild to better capture natural variation in a focal population. Where genomic DNA quantities are limited, the PacBio Low DNA Input Protocol requires ~100 ng of input DNA. Low DNA input samples with 500 Mb genome size or less can be multiplexed on a single SMRT Cell 8M on the Sequel II System. For samples with more abundant DNA quantity, size-selected libraries may be constructed to maximize sequencing yield. Both low DNA input and size-selected libraries can be used to generate HiFi reads, whose quality is Q20 or above (1% error or less) and lengths range from 10 – 25 kb. With HiFi reads, de novo assembly computation is greatly simplified relative to long read methods due to smaller sequence file sizes and more rapid analysis, resulting in highly accurate, contiguous, complete, and haplotype-resolved assemblies.


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  |  

Transcriptional initiation of a small RNA, not R-loop stability, dictates the frequency of pilin antigenic variation in Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the sole causative agent of gonorrhea, constitutively undergoes diversification of the Type IV pilus. Gene conversion occurs between one of the several donor silent copies located in distinct loci and the recipient pilE gene, encoding the major pilin subunit of the pilus. A guanine quadruplex (G4) DNA structure and a cis-acting sRNA (G4-sRNA) are located upstream of the pilE gene and both are required for pilin antigenic variation (Av). We show that the reduced sRNA transcription lowers pilin Av frequencies. Extended transcriptional elongation is not required for Av, since limiting the transcript to 32 nt allows for normal Av frequencies. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays, we show that cellular G4s are less abundant when sRNA transcription is lower. In addition, using ChIP, we demonstrate that the G4-sRNA forms a stable RNA:DNA hybrid (R-loop) with its template strand. However, modulating R-loop levels by controlling RNase HI expression does not alter G4 abundance quantified through ChIP. Since pilin Av frequencies were not altered when modulating R-loop levels by controlling RNase HI expression, we conclude that transcription of the sRNA is necessary, but stable R-loops are not required to promote pilin Av. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


April 21, 2020  |  

Telomere-to-telomere assembly of a complete human X chromosome

After nearly two decades of improvements, the current human reference genome (GRCh38) is the most accurate and complete vertebrate genome ever produced. However, no one chromosome has been finished end to end, and hundreds of unresolved gaps persist. The remaining gaps include ribosomal rDNA arrays, large near-identical segmental duplications, and satellite DNA arrays. These regions harbor largely unexplored variation of unknown consequence, and their absence from the current reference genome can lead to experimental artifacts and hide true variants when re-sequencing additional human genomes. Here we present a de novo human genome assembly that surpasses the continuity of GRCh38, along with the first gapless, telomere-to-telomere assembly of a human chromosome. This was enabled by high-coverage, ultra-long-read nanopore sequencing of the complete hydatidiform mole CHM13 genome, combined with complementary technologies for quality improvement and validation. Focusing our efforts on the human X chromosome 3, we reconstructed the ~2.8 megabase centromeric satellite DNA array and closed all 29 remaining gaps in the current reference, including new sequence from the human pseudoautosomal regions and cancer-testis ampliconic gene families (CT-X and GAGE). This complete chromosome X, combined with the ultra-long nanopore data, also allowed us to map methylation patterns across complex tandem repeats and satellite arrays for the first time. These results demonstrate that finishing the human genome is now within reach and will enable ongoing efforts to complete the remaining human chromosomes.


April 21, 2020  |  

The Chinese chestnut genome: a reference for species restoration

Forest tree species are increasingly subject to severe mortalities from exotic pests, diseases, and invasive organisms, accelerated by climate change. Forest health issues are threatening multiple species and ecosystem sustainability globally. While sources of resistance may be available in related species, or among surviving trees, introgression of resistance genes into threatened tree species in reasonable time frames requires genome-wide breeding tools. Asian species of chestnut (Castanea spp.) are being employed as donors of disease resistance genes to restore native chestnut species in North America and Europe. To aid in the restoration of threatened chestnut species, we present the assembly of a reference genome with chromosome-scale sequences for Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima), the disease-resistance donor for American chestnut restoration. We also demonstrate the value of the genome as a platform for research and species restoration, including new insights into the evolution of blight resistance in Asian chestnut species, the locations in the genome of ecologically important signatures of selection differentiating American chestnut from Chinese chestnut, the identification of candidate genes for disease resistance, and preliminary comparisons of genome organization with related species.


April 21, 2020  |  

Extended haplotype phasing of de novo genome assemblies with FALCON-Phase

Haplotype-resolved genome assemblies are important for understanding how combinations of variants impact phenotypes. These assemblies can be created in various ways, such as use of tissues that contain single-haplotype (haploid) genomes, or by co-sequencing of parental genomes, but these approaches can be impractical in many situations. We present FALCON-Phase, which integrates long-read sequencing data and ultra-long-range Hi-C chromatin interaction data of a diploid individual to create high-quality, phased diploid genome assemblies. The method was evaluated by application to three datasets, including human, cattle, and zebra finch, for which high-quality, fully haplotype resolved assemblies were available for benchmarking. Phasing algorithm accuracy was affected by heterozygosity of the individual sequenced, with higher accuracy for cattle and zebra finch (>97%) compared to human (82%). In addition, scaffolding with the same Hi-C chromatin contact data resulted in phased chromosome-scale scaffolds.


April 21, 2020  |  

High satellite repeat turnover in great apes studied with short- and long-read technologies.

Satellite repeats are a structural component of centromeres and telomeres, and in some instances their divergence is known to drive speciation. Due to their highly repetitive nature, satellite sequences have been understudied and underrepresented in genome assemblies. To investigate their turnover in great apes, we studied satellite repeats of unit sizes up to 50?bp in human, chimpanzee, bonobo, gorilla, and Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, using unassembled short and long sequencing reads. The density of satellite repeats, as identified from accurate short reads (Illumina), varied greatly among great ape genomes. These were dominated by a handful of abundant repeated motifs, frequently shared among species, which formed two groups: (1) the (AATGG)n repeat (critical for heat shock response) and its derivatives; and (2) subtelomeric 32-mers involved in telomeric metabolism. Using the densities of abundant repeats, individuals could be classified into species. However clustering did not reproduce the accepted species phylogeny, suggesting rapid repeat evolution. Several abundant repeats were enriched in males vs. females; using Y chromosome assemblies or FIuorescent In Situ Hybridization, we validated their location on the Y. Finally, applying a novel computational tool, we identified many satellite repeats completely embedded within long Oxford Nanopore and Pacific Biosciences reads. Such repeats were up to 59?kb in length and consisted of perfect repeats interspersed with other similar sequences. Our results based on sequencing reads generated with three different technologies provide the first detailed characterization of great ape satellite repeats, and open new avenues for exploring their functions. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.


April 21, 2020  |  

TIN2 Functions with TPP1/POT1 To Stimulate Telomerase Processivity.

TIN2 is an important regulator of telomere length, and mutations in TINF2, the gene encoding TIN2, cause short-telomere syndromes. While the genetics underscore the importance of TIN2, the mechanism through which TIN2 regulates telomere length remains unclear. Here, we tested the effects of human TIN2 on telomerase activity. We identified a new isoform in human cells, TIN2M, that is expressed at levels similar to those of previously studied TIN2 isoforms. All three TIN2 isoforms localized to and maintained telomere integrity in vivo, and localization was not disrupted by telomere syndrome mutations. Using direct telomerase activity assays, we discovered that TIN2 stimulated telomerase processivity in vitro All of the TIN2 isoforms stimulated telomerase to similar extents. Mutations in the TPP1 TEL patch abrogated this stimulation, suggesting that TIN2 functions with TPP1/POT1 to stimulate telomerase processivity. We conclude from our data and previously published work that TIN2/TPP1/POT1 is a functional shelterin subcomplex. Copyright © 2019 Pike et al.


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