August 19, 2021  |  Microbial sequencing methods

Application Note: Microbial multiplexing workflow on the Sequel System

Obtaining microbial genomes with the highest accuracy and contiguity is extremely important when exploring the functional impact of genetic and epigenetic variants on a genome-wide scale. A comprehensive view of the bacterial genome, including genes, regulatory regions, IS elements, phage integration sites, and base modifications is vital to understanding key traits such as antibiotic resistance, virulence, and metabolism. SMRT Sequencing provides complete genomes, often assembled into a single contig. Our streamlined microbial multiplexing procedure for the Sequel System, from library preparation to genome assembly, can be completed with less than 8 hours bench time. Starting with high-quality genomic DNA (gDNA), samples are sheared to approximately 12 kb distribution, ligated with barcoded overhang adapters, pooled at equimolar representation, and sequenced. Demultiplexing of samples is automated, allowing for immediate genome assembly on our SMRT Link analysis software solution.

June 1, 2021  |  

Comparative genomics of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O145:H28 strains associated with the 2007 Belgium and 2010 US outbreaks.

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is an emerging pathogen. Recently there has been a global in the number of outbreaks caused by non-O157 STECs, typically involving six serogroups O26, O45, 0103, 0111, and 0145. STEC O145:H28 has been associated with severe human disease including hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), and is demonstrated by the 2007 Belgian ice-cream-associated outbreak and 2010 US lettuce-associated outbreak, with over 10% of patients developing HUS in each. The goal of this work was to do comparative genomics of strains, clinical and environmental, to investigate genome diversity and virulence evolution of this important foodborne pathogen.

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  |  

Using whole exome sequencing and bacterial pathogen sequencing to investigate the genetic basis of pulmonary non-tuberculous mycobacterial infections.

Pulmonary non-tuberculous mycobacterial (PNTM) infections occur in patients with chronic lung disease, but also in a distinct group of elderly women without lung defects who share a common body morphology: tall and lean with scoliosis, pectus excavatum, and mitral valve prolapse. In order to characterize the human host susceptibility to PNTM, we performed whole exome sequencing (WES) of 44 individuals in extended families of patients with active PNTM as well as 55 additional unrelated individuals with PNTM. This unique collection of familial cohorts in PNTM represents an important opportunity for a high yield search for genes that regulate mucosal immunity. An average of 58 million 100bp paired-end Illumina reads per exome were generated and mapped to the hg19 reference genome. Following variant detection and classification, we identified 58,422 potentially high-impact SNPs, 97.3% of which were missense mutations. Segregating variants using the family pedigrees as well as comparisons to the unrelated individuals identified multiple potential variants associated with PNTM. Validations of these candidate variants in a larger PNTM cohort are underway. In addition to WES, we sequenced the genomes of 52 mycobacterial isolates, including 9 from these PNTM patients, to integrate host PNTM susceptibility with mycobacterial genotypes and gain insights into the key factors involved in this devastating disease. These genomes were sequenced using a combination of 454, Illumina, and PacBio platforms and assembled using multiple genome assemblers. The resulting genome sequences were used to identify mycobacterial genotypes associated with virulence, invasion, and drug resistance.

June 1, 2021  |  

New discoveries from closing Salmonella genomes using Pacific Biosciences continuous long reads.

The newer hierarchical genome assembly process (HGAP) performs de novo assembly using data from a single PacBio long insert library. To assess the benefits of this method, DNA from several Salmonella enterica serovars was isolated from a pure culture. Genome sequencing was performed using Pacific Biosciences RS sequencing technology. The HGAP process enabled us to close sixteen Salmonella subsp. enterica genomes and their associated mobile elements: The ten serotypes include: Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Enteritidis (S. Enteritidis) S. Bareilly, S. Heidelberg, S. Cubana, S. Javiana and S. Typhimurium, S. Newport, S. Montevideo, S. Agona, and S. Tennessee. In addition, we were able to detect novel methyltransferases (MTases) by using the Pacific Biosciences kinetic score distributions showing that each serovar appears to have a novel methylation pattern. For example while all Salmonella serovars examined so far have methylase specific activity for 5’-GATC-3’/3’-CTAG-5’ and 5’-CAGAG-3’/3’-GTCTC-5’ (underlined base indicates a modification), S. Heidelberg is uniquely specific for 5’-ACCANCC-3’/3’-TGGTNGG-5’, while S. Typhimurium has uniquely methylase specific for 5′-GATCAG-3’/3′- CTAGTC-5′ sites, for the samples examined so far. We believe that this may be due to the unique environments and phages that these serotypes have been exposed to. Furthermore, our analysis identified and closed a variety of plasmids such as mobilization plasmids, antimicrobial resistance plasmids and IncX plasmids carrying a Type IV secretion system (T4SS). The VirB/D4 T4SS apparatus is important in that it assists with rapid dissemination of antibiotic resistance and virulence determinants. Presently, only limited information exists regarding the genotypic characterization of drug resistance in S. Heidelberg isolates derived from various host species. Here, we characterize two S. Heidelberg outbreak isolates from two different outbreaks. Both isolates contain the IncX plasmid of approximately 35 kb, and carried the genes virB1, virB2, virB3/4, virB5, virB6, virB7, virB8, virB9, virB10, virB11, virD2, and virD4, that are associated with the T4SS. In addition, the outbreak isolate associated with ground turkey carries a 4,473 bp mobilization plasmid and an incompatibility group (Inc) I1 antimicrobial resistance plasmid encoding resistance to gentamicin (aacC2), beta-lactam (bl2b_tem), streptomycin (aadAI) and tetracycline (tetA, tetR) while the outbreak isolate associated with chicken breast carries the IncI1 plasmid encoding resistance to gentamicin (aacC2), streptomycin (aadAI) and sulfisoxazole (sul1). Using this new technology we explored the genetic elements present in resistant pathogens which will achieve a better understanding of the evolution of Salmonella.

June 1, 2021  |  

Genome analysis of a bacterium that causes lameness.

Lameness is a significant problem resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue annually. In commercial broilers, the most common cause of lameness is bacterial chondronecrosis with osteomyelitis (BCO). We are using a wire flooring model to induce lameness attributable to BCO. We used 16S ribosomal DNA sequencing to determine that Staphylococcus spp. were the main species associated with BCO. Staphylococcus agnetis, which previously had not been isolated from poultry, was the principal species isolated from the majority of the bone lesion samples. Administering S. agnetis in the drinking water to broilers reared on wire flooring increased the incidence of BCO three-fold when compared with broilers drinking tap water (P = 0.001). We found that the minimum effective dose of Staphylococcus agnetis to induce BCO in broilers grown on wire flooring experiment is 105 cfu/ml. We used PacBio and Illumina sequencing to assemble a 2.4 Mbp contig representing the genome and a 34 kbp contig for the largest plasmid of S. agnetis. Annotation of this genome is underway through comparative genomics with other Staphylococcus genomes, and identification of virulence factors. Our goal is to elucidate genetic diversity, toxins, and pathogenicity determinants, for this poorly characterized species. Isolating pathogenic bacterial species, defining their likely route of transmission to broilers, and genomic analyses will contribute substantially to the development of measures for mitigating BCO losses in poultry.

June 1, 2021  |  

Comparative genome analysis of Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis strains provides insights into genetic diversity and virulence.

Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis (Cmm) is a gram positive actinomycete, causing bacterial canker of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) a disease that can cause significant losses in tomato production. In this study, we determined the complete genome sequence of 13 California Cmm strains and one saprophytic Clavibacter strain using a combination of Ilumina and PacBio sequencing. The California Cmm strains have genome size (3.2 -3.3 mb) similar to the reference strain NCPPB382 (3.3 mb) with =98% sequence identity. Cmm strains from California share =92% genes (8-10% are noble genes) with the reference Cmm strain NCPPB382. Despite this similarity, we detected significant alternatives in California strains with respect to plasmid number, plasmid composition, and genomic island presence indicating acquisition of unique mechanisms controlling virulence. Plasmids pCM1 and pCM2, that were previously demonstrated to be required for NCPPB382 virulence, also differ in their presence and gene content across Cmm strains. pCM2 is absent in some Cmm strains and that still retain virulence in tomato. Saprophytic Clavibacter possess a novel plasmid, pSCM, and lacks the majority of characterized virulence factors. Genome sequence information was also used to design specific and sensitive primer pairs for Cmm detection. A mechanistic understanding of how genomic changes have impacted Cmm virulence and survival across diverse strains will be necessary for developing a robust disease control strategies for bacterial canker of tomato.

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.

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 complete genome sequence and comparative genome analysis of the multi-drug resistant food-borne pathogen Bacillus cereus.

Bacillus cereus is an opportunistic human pathogen causing food-borne gastrointestinal infections and non-gastrointestinal infections worldwide. The strain B. cereus FORC_013 was isolated from fried eel. Its genome was completely sequenced by PacBio technology, analyzed and compared with other complete genome sequences of Bacillus to elucidate the distinct pathogenic features of the strain isolated in South Korea. Genomic analysis revealed pathogenesis and host immune evasion-associated genes encoding tissue-destructive exoenzymes, and pore-forming toxins. In particular, tissue-destructive (hemolysin BL, nonhaemolytic enterotoxins) and cytolytic proteins (cytolysin) were observed in the genome, which damage the plasma membrane of the epithelial cells of the small intestine causing diarrhea in humans. Capsule biosynthesis gene found in both chromosome and plasmid, which might be responsible for protecting the pathogen from the host cell immune defense system after host cell invasion. Additionally, multidrug resistance operon and efflux pumps were identified in the genome, which play a prominent role in multi-antibiotic resistance. Comparative phylogenetic tree analysis of the strain FORC_013 and other B. cereus strains revealed that the closest strains are ATCC 14579 and B4264. This genome data can be used to identify virulence factors that can be applied for the development of novel biomarkers for the rapid detection of this pathogen in foods.Copyright © 2018. Published by Elsevier Inc.

April 21, 2020  |  

Evolution of a 72-kb cointegrant, conjugative multiresistance plasmid from early community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus isolates.

Horizontal transfer of plasmids encoding antimicrobial-resistance and virulence determinants has been instrumental in Staphylococcus aureus evolution, including the emergence of community-associated methicillin-resistant S. aureus (CA-MRSA). In the early 1990s the first CA-MRSA isolated in Western Australia (WA), WA-5, encoded cadmium, tetracycline and penicillin-resistance genes on plasmid pWBG753 (~30 kb). WA-5 and pWBG753 appeared only briefly in WA, however, fusidic-acid-resistance plasmids related to pWBG753 were also present in the first European CA-MRSA at the time. Here we characterized a 72-kb conjugative plasmid pWBG731 present in multiresistant WA-5-like clones from the same period. pWBG731 was a cointegrant formed from pWBG753 and a pWBG749-family conjugative plasmid. pWBG731 carried mupirocin, trimethoprim, cadmium and penicillin-resistance genes. The stepwise evolution of pWBG731 likely occurred through the combined actions of IS257, IS257-dependent miniature inverted-repeat transposable elements (MITEs) and the BinL resolution system of the ß-lactamase transposon Tn552 An evolutionary intermediate ~42-kb non-conjugative plasmid pWBG715, possessed the same resistance genes as pWBG731 but retained an integrated copy of the small tetracycline-resistance plasmid pT181. IS257 likely facilitated replacement of pT181 with conjugation genes on pWBG731, thus enabling autonomous transfer. Like conjugative plasmid pWBG749, pWBG731 also mobilized non-conjugative plasmids carrying oriT mimics. It seems likely that pWBG731 represents the product of multiple recombination events between the WA-5 pWBG753 plasmid and other mobile genetic elements present in indigenous CA-MSSA. The molecular evolution of pWBG731 saliently illustrates how diverse mobile genetic elements can together facilitate rapid accrual and horizontal dissemination of multiresistance in S. aureus CA-MRSA.Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.

April 21, 2020  |  

ASA3P: An automatic and scalable pipeline for the assembly, annotation and higher level analysis of closely related bacterial isolates

Whole genome sequencing of bacteria has become daily routine in many fields. Advances in DNA sequencing technologies and continuously dropping costs have resulted in a tremendous increase in the amounts of available sequence data. However, comprehensive in-depth analysis of the resulting data remains an arduous and time consuming task. In order to keep pace with these promising but challenging developments and to transform raw data into valuable information, standardized analyses and scalable software tools are needed. Here, we introduce ASA3P, a fully automatic, locally executable and scalable assembly, annotation and analysis pipeline for bacterial genomes. The pipeline automatically executes necessary data processing steps, i.e. quality clipping and assembly of raw sequencing reads, scaffolding of contigs and annotation of the resulting genome sequences. Furthermore, ASA3P conducts comprehensive genome characterizations and analyses, e.g. taxonomic classification, detection of antibiotic resistance genes and identification of virulence factors. All results are presented via an HTML5 user interface providing aggregated information, interactive visualizations and access to intermediate results in standard bioinformatics file formats. We distribute ASA3P in two versions: a locally executable Docker container for small-to-medium-scale projects and an OpenStack based cloud computing version able to automatically create and manage self-scaling compute clusters. Thus, automatic and standardized analysis of hundreds of bacterial genomes becomes feasible within hours. The software and further information is available at:

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  |  

Chromosome-level reference genome of X12, a highly virulent race of the soybean cyst nematode Heterodera glycines.

Soybean cyst nematode (SCN, Heterodera glycines) is a major pest of soybean that is spreading across major soybean production regions worldwide. Increased SCN virulence has recently been observed in both the United States and China. However, no study has reported a genome assembly for H. glycines at the chromosome scale. Herein, the first chromosome-level reference genome of X12, an unusual SCN race with high infection ability, is presented. Using whole-genome shotgun (WGS) sequencing, PacBio sequencing, Illumina paired-end sequencing, 10X Genomics linked reads and high-throughput chromatin conformation capture (Hi-C) genome scaffolding techniques, a 141.01-Mb assembled genome was obtained with scaffold and contig N50 sizes of 16.27 Mb and 330.54 kb, respectively. The assembly showed high integrity and quality, with over 90% of Illumina reads mapped to the genome. The assembly quality was evaluated using Core Eukaryotic Genes Mapping Approach (CEGMA) and Benchmarking Universal Single-Copy Orthologs (BUSCO). A total of 11,882 genes were predicted using De novo, Homolog and RNAseq data generated from eggs, second-stage juveniles (J2), third-stage juveniles (J3) and fourth-stage juveniles (J4) of X12, and 79.0% of homologous sequences were annotated in the genome. These high-quality X12 genome data will provide valuable resources for research in a broad range of areas, including fundamental nematode biology, SCN-plant interactions and coevolution, and also contribute to the development of technology for overall SCN management. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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