June 1, 2021  |  

Single Molecule, Real-Time sequencing of full-length cDNA transcripts uncovers novel alternatively spliced isoforms.

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 such as structure, function, or subcellular localization. Thus, the importance of understanding the full complement of transcript isoforms with potential phenotypic impact cannot be underscored. 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 (avg. read length: 10-15 kb) 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. The standard Iso-Seq protocol workflow available for all researchers is presented using a deep dataset of full- length cDNA sequences from the MCF-7 cancer cell line, and multiple tissues (brain, heart, and liver). Detected novel transcripts approaching 10 kb and alternative splicing events are highlighted. Even in extensively profiled samples, the method uncovered large numbers of novel alternatively spliced isoforms and previously unannotated genes.


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  |  

From RNA to full-length transcripts: The PacBio Iso-Seq method for transcriptome analysis and genome annotation

A single gene may encode a surprising number of proteins, each with a distinct biological function. This is especially true in complex eukaryotes. Short- read RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) works by physically shearing transcript isoforms into smaller pieces and bioinformatically reassembling them, leaving opportunity for misassembly or incomplete capture of the full diversity of isoforms from genes of interest. The PacBio Isoform Sequencing (Iso-Seq™) method employs long reads to sequence transcript isoforms from the 5’ end to their poly-A tails, eliminating the need for transcript reconstruction and inference. These long reads result in complete, unambiguous information about alternatively spliced exons, transcriptional start sites, and poly- adenylation sites. This allows for the characterization of the full complement of isoforms within targeted genes, or across an entire transcriptome. Here we present improved genome annotations for two avian models of vocal learning, Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna) and zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), using the Iso-Seq method. We present graphical user interface and command line analysis workflows for the data sets. From brain total RNA, we characterize more than 15,000 isoforms in each species, 9% and 5% of which were previously unannotated in hummingbird and zebra finch, respectively. We highlight one example where capturing full-length transcripts identifies additional exons and UTRs.


April 21, 2020  |  

RNA sequencing: the teenage years.

Over the past decade, RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) has become an indispensable tool for transcriptome-wide analysis of differential gene expression and differential splicing of mRNAs. However, as next-generation sequencing technologies have developed, so too has RNA-seq. Now, RNA-seq methods are available for studying many different aspects of RNA biology, including single-cell gene expression, translation (the translatome) and RNA structure (the structurome). Exciting new applications are being explored, such as spatial transcriptomics (spatialomics). Together with new long-read and direct RNA-seq technologies and better computational tools for data analysis, innovations in RNA-seq are contributing to a fuller understanding of RNA biology, from questions such as when and where transcription occurs to the folding and intermolecular interactions that govern RNA function.


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  |  

Comparative Transcriptomic Profiling of Yersinia enterocolitica O:3 and O:8 Reveals Major Expression Differences of Fitness- and Virulence-Relevant Genes Indicating Ecological Separation.

Yersinia enterocolitica is a zoonotic pathogen and an important cause of bacterial gastrointestinal infections in humans. Large-scale population genomic analyses revealed genetic and phenotypic diversity of this bacterial species, but little is known about the differences in the transcriptome organization, small RNA (sRNA) repertoire, and transcriptional output. Here, we present the first comparative high-resolution transcriptome analysis of Y. enterocolitica strains representing highly pathogenic phylogroup 2 (serotype O:8) and moderately pathogenic phylogroup 3 (serotype O:3) grown under four infection-relevant conditions. Our transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) approach revealed 1,299 and 1,076 transcriptional start sites and identified strain-specific sRNAs that could contribute to differential regulation among the phylogroups. Comparative transcriptomics further uncovered major gene expression differences, in particular, in the temperature-responsive regulon. Multiple virulence-relevant genes are differentially regulated between the two strains, supporting an ecological separation of phylogroups with certain niche-adapted properties. Strong upregulation of the ystA enterotoxin gene in combination with constitutive high expression of cell invasion factor InvA further showed that the toxicity of recent outbreak O:3 strains has increased. Overall, our report provides new insights into the specific transcriptome organization of phylogroups 2 and 3 and reveals gene expression differences contributing to the substantial phenotypic differences that exist between the lineages. IMPORTANCE Yersinia enterocolitica is a major diarrheal pathogen and is associated with a large range of gut-associated diseases. Members of this species have evolved into different phylogroups with genotypic variations. We performed the first characterization of the Y. enterocolitica transcriptional landscape and tracked the consequences of the genomic variations between two different pathogenic phylogroups by comparing their RNA repertoire, promoter usage, and expression profiles under four different virulence-relevant conditions. Our analysis revealed major differences in the transcriptional outputs of the closely related strains, pointing to an ecological separation in which one is more adapted to an environmental lifestyle and the other to a mostly mammal-associated lifestyle. Moreover, a variety of pathoadaptive alterations, including alterations in acid resistance genes, colonization factors, and toxins, were identified which affect virulence and host specificity. This illustrates that comparative transcriptomics is an excellent approach to discover differences in the functional output from closely related genomes affecting niche adaptation and virulence, which cannot be directly inferred from DNA sequences.


April 21, 2020  |  

SMRT sequencing reveals differential patterns of methylation in two O111:H- STEC isolates from a hemolytic uremic syndrome outbreak in Australia.

In 1995 a severe haemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) outbreak in Adelaide occurred. A recent genomic analysis of Shiga toxigenic Escherichia coli (STEC) O111:H- strains 95JB1 and 95NR1 from this outbreak found that the more virulent isolate, 95NR1, harboured two additional copies of the Shiga toxin 2 (Stx2) genes encoded within prophage regions. The structure of the Stx2-converting prophages could not be fully resolved using short-read sequence data alone and it was not clear if there were other genomic differences between 95JB1 and 95NR1. In this study we have used Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) single molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing to characterise the genome and methylome of 95JB1 and 95NR1. We completely resolved the structure of all prophages including two, tandemly inserted, Stx2-converting prophages in 95NR1 that were absent from 95JB1. Furthermore we defined all insertion sequences and found an additional IS1203 element in the chromosome of 95JB1. Our analysis of the methylome of 95NR1 and 95JB1 identified hemi-methylation of a novel motif (5′-CTGCm6AG-3′) in more than 4000 sites in the 95NR1 genome. These sites were entirely unmethylated in the 95JB1 genome, and included at least 177 potential promoter regions that could contribute to regulatory differences between the strains. IS1203 mediated deactivation of a novel type IIG methyltransferase in 95JB1 is the likely cause of the observed differential patterns of methylation between 95NR1 and 95JB1. This study demonstrates the capability of PacBio SMRT sequencing to resolve complex prophage regions and reveal the genetic and epigenetic heterogeneity within a clonal population of bacteria.


April 21, 2020  |  

An integrated whole genome analysis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis reveals insights into relationship between its genome, transcriptome and methylome.

Human tuberculosis disease (TB), caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), is a complex disease, with a spectrum of outcomes. Genomic, transcriptomic and methylation studies have revealed differences between Mtb lineages, likely to impact on transmission, virulence and drug resistance. However, so far no studies have integrated sequence-based genomic, transcriptomic and methylation characterisation across a common set of samples, which is critical to understand how DNA sequence and methylation affect RNA expression and, ultimately, Mtb pathogenesis. Here we perform such an integrated analysis across 22?M. tuberculosis clinical isolates, representing ancient (lineage 1) and modern (lineages 2 and 4) strains. The results confirm the presence of lineage-specific differential gene expression, linked to specific SNP-based expression quantitative trait loci: with 10 eQTLs involving SNPs in promoter regions or transcriptional start sites; and 12 involving potential functional impairment of transcriptional regulators. Methylation status was also found to have a role in transcription, with evidence of differential expression in 50 genes across lineage 4 samples. Lack of methylation was associated with three novel variants in mamA, likely to cause loss of function of this enzyme. Overall, our work shows the relationship of DNA sequence and methylation to RNA expression, and differences between ancient and modern lineages. Further studies are needed to verify the functional consequences of the identified mechanisms of gene expression regulation.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genome-wide mutational biases fuel transcriptional diversity in the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex.

The Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) members display different host-specificities and virulence phenotypes. Here, we have performed a comprehensive RNAseq and methylome analysis of the main clades of the MTBC and discovered unique transcriptional profiles. The majority of genes differentially expressed between the clades encode proteins involved in host interaction and metabolic functions. A significant fraction of changes in gene expression can be explained by positive selection on single mutations that either create or disrupt transcriptional start sites (TSS). Furthermore, we show that clinical strains have different methyltransferases inactivated and thus different methylation patterns. Under the tested conditions, differential methylation has a minor direct role on transcriptomic differences between strains. However, disruption of a methyltransferase in one clinical strain revealed important expression differences suggesting indirect mechanisms of expression regulation. Our study demonstrates that variation in transcriptional profiles are mainly due to TSS mutations and have likely evolved due to differences in host characteristics.


April 21, 2020  |  

Long-Read Sequencing Emerging in Medical Genetics

The wide implementation of next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies has revolutionized the field of medical genetics. However, the short read lengths of currently used sequencing approaches pose a limitation for identification of structural variants, sequencing repetitive regions, phasing alleles and distinguishing highly homologous genomic regions. These limitations may significantly contribute to the diagnostic gap in patients with genetic disorders who have undergone standard NGS, like whole exome or even genome sequencing. Now, the emerging long-read sequencing (LRS) technologies may offer improvements in the characterization of genetic variation and regions that are difficult to assess with the currently prevailing NGS approaches. LRS has so far mainly been used to investigate genetic disorders with previously known or strongly suspected disease loci. While these targeted approaches already show the potential of LRS, it remains to be seen whether LRS technologies can soon enable true whole genome sequencing routinely. Ultimately, this could allow the de novo assembly of individual whole genomes used as a generic test for genetic disorders. In this article, we summarize the current LRS-based research on human genetic disorders and discuss the potential of these technologies to facilitate the next major advancements in medical genetics.


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