June 1, 2021  |  

Genomic DNA sequences of HLA class I alleles generated using multiplexed barcodes and SMRT DNA Sequencing technology.

Allelic-level resolution HLA typing is known to improve survival prognoses post Unrelated Donor (UD) Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT). Currently, many commonly used HLA typing methodologies are limited either due to the fact that ambiguity cannot be resolved or that they are not amenable to high-throughput laboratories. Pacific Biosciences’ Single Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) DNA sequencing technology enables sequencing of single molecules in isolation and has read-length capabilities to enable whole gene sequencing for HLA. DNA barcode technology labels samples with unique identifiers that can be traced throughout the sequencing process. The use of DNA barcodes means that multiple samples can be sequenced in a single experiment but data can still be attributed to the correct sample. Here we describe the results of experiments that use DNA barcodes to facilitate sequencing of multiple samples for full-length HLA class I genes (known as multiplexing).


June 1, 2021  |  

Full-length sequencing of HLA class I genes of more than 1000 samples provides deep insights into sequence variability

Aim: The vast majority of donor typing relies on sequencing exons 2 and 3 of HLA class I genes (HLA-A, -B, -C). With such an approach certain allele combinations do not result in the anticipated “high resolution” (G-code) typing, due to the lack of exon-phasing information. To resolve ambiguous typing results for a haplotype frequency project, we established a whole gene sequencing approach for HLA class I, facilitating also an estimation of the degree of sequence variability outside the commonly sequenced exons. Methods: Primers were developed flanking the UTR regions resulting in similar amplicon lengths of 4.2-4.4 kb. Using a 4-primer approach, secondary primers containing barcodes were combined with the gene specific primers to obtain barcoded full-gene amplicons in a single amplification step. Amplicons were pooled, purified, and ligated to SMRT bells (i.e. annealing points for sequencing primers) following standard protocols from Pacific Biosciences. Taking advantage of the SMRT chemistry, pools of 48-72 amplicons were sequenced full length and phased in single runs on a Pacific Biosciences RSII instrument. Demultiplexing was achieved using the SMRT portal. Sequence analysis was performed using NGSengine software (GenDx). Results: We successfully performed full-length gene sequencing of 1003 samples, harboring ambiguous typings of either HLA-A (n=46), HLA-B (n=304) or HLA-C (n=653). Despite the high per-read raw error rates typical for SMRT sequencing (~15%) the consensus sequence proved highly reliable. All consensus sequences for exons 2 and 3 were in full accordance with their MiSeq-derived sequences. Unambiguous allelic resolution was achieved for all samples. We observed novel intronic, exonic as well as UTR sequence variations for many of the alleles covered by our data set. This included sequences of 600 individuals with HLA-C*07:01/C*07:02 genotype revealing the extent of sequence variation outside the exons 2 and 3. Conclusion: Here we present a whole gene amplification and sequencing approach for HLA class I genes. The maturity of this approach was demonstrated by sequencing more than 1000 samples, achieving fully phased allelic sequences. Extensive sequencing of one common allele combination hints at the yet to discover diversity of the HLA system outside the commonly analyzed exons.


June 1, 2021  |  

Phased full-length SMRT Sequencing of HLA DPB1

Aim: In contrast to exon-based HLA-typing approaches, whole gene genotyping crucially depends on full-length sequences submitted to the IMGT/HLA Database. Currently, full-length sequences are provided for only 7 out of 520 HLA-DPB1 alleles. Therefore, we developed a fully phased whole-gene sequencing approach for DPB1, to facilitate further exploration of the allelic structure at this locus. Methods: Primers were developed flanking the UTR-regions of DPB1 resulting in a 12 kb amplicon. Using a 4-primer approach, secondary primers containing barcodes were combined with the gene-specific primers to obtain barcoded full-gene amplicons in a single amplification step. Amplicons were pooled, purified, and ligated to SMRT bells (i.e. annealing points for sequencing primers) following standard protocols from Pacific Biosciences. Taking advantage of the SMRT chemistry, pools of 48 amplicons were sequenced full length in single runs on a Pacific Biosciences RSII instrument. Demultiplexing was performed using the SMRT portal. Sequence analysis was performed using the NGSengine software (GenDx). Results: We analyzed a set of 48 randomly picked samples. With 3 exceptions due to PCR failure, all genotype assignments conformed to standard genotyping results based on exons 2 and 3. Allelic proportions for heterozygous positions were evenly distributed (range 0.4 – 0.6) for all samples, suggesting unbiased amplifications. Despite the high per-read raw error rates typical for SMRT sequencing (~15%) the consensus sequence proved highly reliable. All consensus sequences for exons 2 and 3 were in full accordance with their MiSeq-derived sequences. We describe novel intronic sequence variation of the 7 so far genomically defined alleles, as well as 7 whole-length DPB1 alleles with hitherto unknown intronic regions. One of these alleles (HLA-DPB1*131:01) is classified as rare. Conclusion: Here we present a whole gene amplification and sequencing workflow for DPB1 alleles utilizing single molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing from Pacific Biosciences. Validation of consensus sequences against known exonic sequences highlights the reliability of this technology. This workflow will facilitate amending the IMGT/HLA Database for DPB1.


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