June 1, 2021  |  

Automated, non-hybrid de novo genome assemblies and epigenomes of bacterial pathogens

Understanding the genetic basis of infectious diseases is critical to enacting effective treatments, and several large-scale sequencing initiatives are underway to collect this information. Sequencing bacterial samples is typically performed by mapping sequence reads against genomes of known reference strains. While such resequencing informs on the spectrum of single nucleotide differences relative to the chosen reference, it can miss numerous other forms of variation known to influence pathogenicity: structural variations (duplications, inversions), acquisition of mobile elements (phages, plasmids), homonucleotide length variation causing phase variation, and epigenetic marks (methylation, phosphorothioation) that influence gene expression to switch bacteria from non-pathogenic to pathogenic states. Therefore, sequencing methods which provide complete, de novo genome assemblies and epigenomes are necessary to fully characterize infectious disease agents in an unbiased, hypothesis-free manner. Hybrid assembly methods have been described that combine long sequence reads from SMRT DNA sequencing with short, high-accuracy reads (SMRT (circular consensus sequencing) CCS or second-generation reads) to generate long, highly accurate reads that are then used for assembly. We have developed a new paradigm for microbial de novo assemblies in which long SMRT sequencing reads (average readlengths >5,000 bases) are used exclusively to close the genome through a hierarchical genome assembly process, thereby obviating the need for a second sample preparation, sequencing run and data set. We have applied this method to achieve closed de novo genomes with accuracies exceeding QV50 (>99.999%) to numerous disease outbreak samples, including E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Neisseria, and H. pylori. The kinetic information from the same SMRT sequencing reads is utilized to determine epigenomes. Approximately 70% of all methyltransferase specificities we have determined to date represent previously unknown bacterial epigenetic signatures. The process has been automated and requires less than 1 day from an unknown DNA sample to its complete de novo genome and epigenome.


June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing solutions for investigative studies to understand evolutionary processes.

Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing holds promise for addressing new frontiers to understand molecular mechanisms in evolution and gain insight into adaptive strategies. With read lengths exceeding 10 kb, we are able to sequence high-quality, closed microbial genomes with associated plasmids, and investigate large genome complexities, such as long, highly repetitive, low-complexity regions and multiple tandem-duplication events. Improved genome quality, observed at 99.9999% (QV60) consensus accuracy, and significant reduction of gap regions in reference genomes (up to and beyond 50%) allow researchers to better understand coding sequences with high confidence, investigate potential regulatory mechanisms in noncoding regions, and make inferences about evolutionary strategies that are otherwise missed by the coverage biases associated with short- read sequencing technologies. Additional benefits afforded by SMRT Sequencing include the simultaneous capability to detect epigenomic modifications and obtain full-length cDNA transcripts that obsolete the need for assembly. With direct sequencing of DNA in real-time, this has resulted in the identification of numerous base modifications and motifs, which genome-wide profiles have linked to specific methyltransferase activities. Our new offering, the Iso-Seq Application, allows for the accurate differentiation between transcript isoforms that are difficult to resolve with short-read technologies. PacBio reads easily span transcripts such that both 5’/3’ primers for cDNA library generation and the poly-A tail are observed. As such, exon configuration and intron retention events can be analyzed without ambiguity. This technological advance is useful for characterizing transcript diversity and improving gene structure annotations in reference genomes. We review solutions available with SMRT Sequencing, from targeted sequencing efforts to obtaining reference genomes (>100 Mb). This includes strategies for identifying microsatellites and conducting phylogenetic comparisons with targeted gene families. We highlight how to best leverage our long reads that have exceeded 20 kb in length for research investigations, as well as currently available bioinformatics strategies for analysis. Benefits for these applications are further realized with consistent use of size selection of input sample using the BluePippin™ device from Sage Science as demonstrated in our genome improvement projects. Using the latest P5-C3 chemistry on model organisms, these efforts have yielded an observed contig N50 of ~6 Mb, with the longest contig exceeding 12.5 Mb and an average base quality of QV50.


June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing solutions for plant genomes and transcriptomes

Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing provides efficient, streamlined solutions to address new frontiers in plant genomes and transcriptomes. Inherent challenges presented by highly repetitive, low-complexity regions and duplication events are directly addressed with multi- kilobase read lengths exceeding 8.5 kb on average, with many exceeding 20 kb. Differentiating between transcript isoforms that are difficult to resolve with short-read technologies is also now possible. We present solutions available for both reference genome and transcriptome research that best leverage long reads in several plant projects including algae, Arabidopsis, rice, and spinach using only the PacBio platform. Benefits for these applications are further realized with consistent use of size-selection of input sample using the BluePippin™ device from Sage Science. We will share highlights from our genome projects using the latest P5- C3 chemistry to generate high-quality reference genomes with the highest contiguity, contig N50 exceeding 1 Mb, and average base quality of QV50. Additionally, the value of long, intact reads to provide a no-assembly approach to investigate transcript isoforms using our Iso-Seq protocol will be presented for full transcriptome characterization and targeted surveys of genes with complex structures. PacBio provides the most comprehensive assembly with annotation when combining offerings for both genome and transcriptome research efforts. For more focused investigation, PacBio also offers researchers opportunities to easily investigate and survey genes with complex structures.


June 1, 2021  |  

Diploid genome assembly and comprehensive haplotype sequence reconstruction

Outside of the simplest cases (haploid, bacteria, or inbreds), genomic information is not carried in a single reference per individual, but rather has higher ploidy (n=>2) for almost all organisms. The existence of two or more highly related sequences within an individual makes it extremely difficult to build high quality, highly contiguous genome assemblies from short DNA fragments. Based on the earlier work on a polyploidy aware assembler, FALCON ( https://github.com/PacificBiosciences/FALCON) , we developed new algorithms and software (“FALCON-unzip”) for de novo haplotype reconstructions from SMRT Sequencing data. We generate two datasets for developing the algorithms and the prototype software: (1) whole genome sequencing data from a highly repetitive diploid fungal (Clavicorona pyxidata) and (2) whole genome sequencing data from an F1 hybrid from two inbred Arabidopsis strains: Cvi-0 and Col-0. For the fungal genome, we achieved an N50 of 1.53 Mb (of the 1n assembly contigs) of the ~42 Mb 1n genome and an N50 of the haplotigs (haplotype specific contigs) of 872 kb from a 95X read length N50 ~16 kb dataset. We found that ~ 45% of the genome was highly heterozygous and ~55% of the genome was highly homozygous. We developed methods to assess the base-level accuracy and local haplotype phasing accuracy of the assembly with short-read data from the Illumina® platform. For the ArabidopsisF1 hybrid genome, we found that 80% of the genome could be separated into haplotigs. The long range accuracy of phasing haplotigs was evaluated by comparing them to the assemblies from the two inbred parental lines. We show that a more complete view of all haplotypes could provide useful biological insights through improved annotation, characterization of heterozygous variants of all sizes, and resolution of differential allele expression. The current Falcon-Unzip method will lead to understand how to solve more difficult polyploid genome assembly problems and improve the computational efficiency for large genome assemblies. Based on this work, we can develop a pipeline enabling routinely assemble diploid or polyploid genomes as haplotigs, representing a comprehensive view of the genomes that can be studied with the information at hand.


June 1, 2021  |  

Un-zipping diploid genomes – revealing all kinds of heterozygous variants from comprehensive hapltotig assemblies

Outside of the simplest cases (haploid, bacteria, or inbreds), genomic information is not carried in a single reference per individual, but rather has higher ploidy (n=>2) for almost all organisms. The existence of two or more highly related sequences within an individual makes it extremely difficult to build high quality, highly contiguous genome assemblies from short DNA fragments. Based on the earlier work on a polyploidy aware assembler, FALCON (https://github.com/PacificBiosciences/FALCON), we developed new algorithms and software (FALCON-unzip) for de novo haplotype reconstructions from SMRT Sequencing data. We apply the algorithms and the prototype software for (1) a highly repetitive diploid fungal genome (Clavicorona pyxidata) and (2) an F1 hybrid from two inbred Arabidopsis strains: CVI-0 and COL-0. For the fungal genome, we achieved an N50 of 1.53 Mb (of the 1n assembly contigs) of the ~42 Mb 1n genome and an N50 of the haplotigs of 872 kb from a 95X read length N50 ~16 kb dataset. We found that ~ 45% of the genome was highly heterozygous and ~55% of the genome was highly homozygous. We developed methods to assess the base-level accuracy and local haplotype phasing accuracy of the assembly with short-read data from the Illumina platform. For the Arabidopsis F1 hybrid genome, we found that 80% of the genome could be separated into haplotigs. The long range accuracy of phasing haplotigs was evaluated by comparing them to the assemblies from the two inbred parental lines. We show that a more complete view of all haplotypes could provide useful biological insights through improved annotation, characterization of heterozygous variants of all sizes, and resolution of differential allele expression. Finally, we applied this method to WGS human data sets to demonstrate the potential for resolving complicated, medically-relevant genomic regions.


June 1, 2021  |  

Enrichment of unamplified DNA and long-read SMRT Sequencing in unlocking the underlying biological disease mechanisms of repeat expansion disorders

For many of the repeat expansion disorders, the disease gene has been discovered, however the underlying biological mechanisms have not yet been fully understood. This is mainly due to technological limitations that do not allow for the needed base-pair resolution of the long, repetitive genomic regions. We have developed a novel, amplification-free enrichment technique that uses the CRISPR/Cas9 system to target large repeat expansions. This method, in conjunction with PacBio’s long reads and uniform coverage, enables sequencing of these complex genomic regions. By using a PCR-free amplification method, we are able to access not only the repetitive elements and interruption sequences accurately, but also the epigenetic information.


June 1, 2021  |  

Enrichment of unamplified DNA and long-read SMRT Sequencing to unlock repeat expansion disorders

Nucleotide repeat expansions are a major cause of neurological and neuromuscular disease in humans, however, the nature of these genomic regions makes characterizing them extremely challenging. Accurate DNA sequencing of repeat expansions using short-read sequencing technologies is difficult, as short-read technologies often cannot read through regions of low sequence complexity. Additionally, these short reads do not span the entire region of interest and therefore sequence assembly is required. Lastly, most target enrichment methods are reliant upon amplification which adds the additional caveat of PCR bias. We have developed a novel, amplification-free enrichment technique that employs the CRISPR/Cas9 system for specific targeting of individual human genes. This method, in conjunction with PacBio’s long reads and uniform coverage, enables sequencing of complex genomic regions that cannot be investigated with other technologies. Using human genomic DNA samples and this strategy, we have successfully targeted the loci of Huntington’s Disease (HTT; CAG repeat), Fragile X (FMR1; CGG repeat), ALS (C9orf72; GGGGCC repeat), and Spinocerebellar ataxia type 10 (SCA10; variable ATTCT repeat) for examination. With this data, we demonstrate the ability to isolate hundreds of individual on-target molecules in a single SMRT Cell and accurately sequence through long repeat stretches, regardless of the extreme GC-content. The method is compatible with multiplexing of multiple targets and multiple samples in a single reaction. This technique also captures native DNA molecules for sequencing, allowing for the possibility of direct detection and characterization of epigenetic signatures.


June 1, 2021  |  

Alternative splicing in FMR1 premutations carriers

Over 40% of males and ~16% of female carriers of a FMR1 premutation allele (55-200 CGG repeats) are at risk for developing Fragile X-associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS), an adult onset neurodegenerative disorder while, about 20% of female carriers will develop Fragile X-associated Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (FXPOI), in addition to a number of adult-onset clinical problems (FMR1 associated disorders). Marked elevation in FMR1 mRNA levels have been observed with premutation alleles and the resulting RNA toxicity is believed to be the leading molecular mechanism proposed for these disorders. The FMR1 gene, as many housekeeping genes, undergoes alternative splicing. Using long-read isoform sequencing (SMRT) and qRT-PCR we have recently reported that, although the relative abundance of all FMR1 mRNA isoforms is significantly increased in the premutation group compared to controls, there is a disproportionate increase, relative to the overall increase in mRNA, in the abundance of isoforms spliced at both exons 12 and 14. In total, we confirmed the existence of 16 out of 24 predicted isoforms in our samples. However, it is unknown, which isoforms, when overexpressed, may contribute to the premutation pathology. To address this question we have further defined the transcriptional FMR1 isoforms distribution pattern in different tissues, including heart, muscle, brain and testis derived from FXTAS premutation carriers and age-matched controls. Preliminary data indicates the presence of a transcriptional signature of the FMR1 gene, which clusters more by individual than by tissue type. We identified additional isoforms than the 16 reported in our previous study, including a group with particular splice patterns that were observed only in premutations but not in controls. Our findings suggest that the characterization of expression levels of the different FMR1 isoforms is fundamental for understanding the regulation of the FMR1 gene as well as for elucidating the mechanism(s) by which “toxic gain of function” of the FMR1 mRNA may play a role in FXTAS and/or in the other FMR1-associated conditions. In addition to the elevated levels of FMR1 isoforms, the altered abundance/ratio of the corresponding FMRP isomers may affect the overall function of FMRP in premutations.


June 1, 2021  |  

Characterizing the pan-genome of maize with PacBio SMRT Sequencing

Maize is an amazingly diverse crop. A study in 20051 demonstrated that half of the genome sequence and one-third of the gene content between two inbred lines of maize were not shared. This diversity, which is more than two orders of magnitude larger than the diversity found between humans and chimpanzees, highlights the inability of a single reference genome to represent the full pan-genome of maize and all its variants. Here we present and review several efforts to characterize the complete diversity within maize using the highly accurate long reads of PacBio Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing. These methods provide a framework for a pan-genomic approach that can be applied to studies of a wide variety of important crop species.


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