April 21, 2020  |  

DiscoverY: a classifier for identifying Y chromosome sequences in male assemblies.

Although the Y chromosome plays an important role in male sex determination and fertility, it is currently understudied due to its haploid and repetitive nature. Methods to isolate Y-specific contigs from a whole-genome assembly broadly fall into two categories. The first involves retrieving Y-contigs using proportion sharing with a female, but such a strategy is prone to false positives in the absence of a high-quality, complete female reference. A second strategy uses the ratio of depth of coverage from male and female reads to select Y-contigs, but such a method requires high-depth sequencing of a female and cannot utilize existing female references.We develop a k-mer based method called DiscoverY, which combines proportion sharing with female with depth of coverage from male reads to classify contigs as Y-chromosomal. We evaluate the performance of DiscoverY on human and gorilla genomes, across different sequencing platforms including Illumina, 10X, and PacBio. In the cases where the male and female data are of high quality, DiscoverY has a high precision and recall and outperforms existing methods. For cases when a high quality female reference is not available, we quantify the effect of using draft reference or even just raw sequencing reads from a female.DiscoverY is an effective method to isolate Y-specific contigs from a whole-genome assembly. However, regions homologous to the X chromosome remain difficult to detect.


April 21, 2020  |  

Chromosome-Level Alpaca Reference Genome VicPac3.1 Improves Genomic Insight Into the Biology of New World Camelids.

The development of high-quality chromosomally assigned reference genomes constitutes a key feature for understanding genome architecture of a species and is critical for the discovery of the genetic blueprints of traits of biological significance. South American camelids serve people in extreme environments and are important fiber and companion animals worldwide. Despite this, the alpaca reference genome lags far behind those available for other domestic species. Here we produced a chromosome-level improved reference assembly for the alpaca genome using the DNA of the same female Huacaya alpaca as in previous assemblies. We generated 190X Illumina short-read, 8X Pacific Biosciences long-read and 60X Dovetail Chicago® chromatin interaction scaffolding data for the assembly, used testis and skin RNAseq data for annotation, and cytogenetic map data for chromosomal assignments. The new assembly VicPac3.1 contains 90% of the alpaca genome in just 103 scaffolds and 76% of all scaffolds are mapped to the 36 pairs of the alpaca autosomes and the X chromosome. Preliminary annotation of the assembly predicted 22,462 coding genes and 29,337 isoforms. Comparative analysis of selected regions of the alpaca genome, such as the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), the region involved in the Minute Chromosome Syndrome (MCS) and candidate genes for high-altitude adaptations, reveal unique features of the alpaca genome. The alpaca reference genome VicPac3.1 presents a significant improvement in completeness, contiguity and accuracy over VicPac2 and is an important tool for the advancement of genomics research in all New World camelids.


April 21, 2020  |  

Chromosome-level assembly of the water buffalo genome surpasses human and goat genomes in sequence contiguity.

Rapid innovation in sequencing technologies and improvement in assembly algorithms have enabled the creation of highly contiguous mammalian genomes. Here we report a chromosome-level assembly of the water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) genome using single-molecule sequencing and chromatin conformation capture data. PacBio Sequel reads, with a mean length of 11.5?kb, helped to resolve repetitive elements and generate sequence contiguity. All five B. bubalis sub-metacentric chromosomes were correctly scaffolded with centromeres spanned. Although the index animal was partly inbred, 58% of the genome was haplotype-phased by FALCON-Unzip. This new reference genome improves the contig N50 of the previous short-read based buffalo assembly more than a thousand-fold and contains only 383 gaps. It surpasses the human and goat references in sequence contiguity and facilitates the annotation of hard to assemble gene clusters such as the major histocompatibility complex (MHC).


April 21, 2020  |  

A high-quality de novo genome assembly from a single mosquito using PacBio sequencing

A high-quality reference genome is a fundamental resource for functional genetics, comparative genomics, and population genomics, and is increasingly important for conservation biology. PacBio Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) sequencing generates long reads with uniform coverage and high consensus accuracy, making it a powerful technology for de novo genome assembly. Improvements in throughput and concomitant reductions in cost have made PacBio an attractive core technology for many large genome initiatives, however, relatively high DNA input requirements (~5 µg for standard library protocol) have placed PacBio out of reach for many projects on small organisms that have lower DNA content, or on projects with limited input DNA for other reasons. Here we present a high-quality de novo genome assembly from a single Anopheles coluzzii mosquito. A modified SMRTbell library construction protocol without DNA shearing and size selection was used to generate a SMRTbell library from just 100 ng of starting genomic DNA. The sample was run on the Sequel System with chemistry 3.0 and software v6.0, generating, on average, 25 Gb of sequence per SMRT Cell with 20 h movies, followed by diploid de novo genome assembly with FALCON-Unzip. The resulting curated assembly had high contiguity (contig N50 3.5 Mb) and completeness (more than 98% of conserved genes were present and full-length). In addition, this single-insect assembly now places 667 (>90%) of formerly unplaced genes into their appropriate chromosomal contexts in the AgamP4 PEST reference. We were also able to resolve maternal and paternal haplotypes for over 1/3 of the genome. By sequencing and assembling material from a single diploid individual, only two haplotypes were present, simplifying the assembly process compared to samples from multiple pooled individuals. The method presented here can be applied to samples with starting DNA amounts as low as 100 ng per 1 Gb genome size. This new low-input approach puts PacBio-based assemblies in reach for small highly heterozygous organisms that comprise much of the diversity of life.


April 21, 2020  |  

The Y chromosome sequence of the channel catfish suggests novel sex determination mechanisms in teleost fish.

Sex determination mechanisms in teleost fish broadly differ from mammals and birds, with sex chromosomes that are far less differentiated and recombination often occurring along the length of the X and Y chromosomes, posing major challenges for the identification of specific sex determination genes. Here, we take an innovative approach of comparative genome analysis of the genomic sequences of the X chromosome and newly sequenced Y chromosome in the channel catfish.Using a YY channel catfish as the sequencing template, we generated, assembled, and annotated the Y genome sequence of channel catfish. The genome sequence assembly had a contig N50 size of 2.7 Mb and a scaffold N50 size of 26.7 Mb. Genetic linkage and GWAS analyses placed the sex determination locus within a genetic distance less than 0.5?cM and physical distance of 8.9?Mb. However, comparison of the channel catfish X and Y chromosome sequences showed no sex-specific genes. Instead, comparative RNA-Seq analysis between females and males revealed exclusive sex-specific expression of an isoform of the breast cancer anti-resistance 1 (BCAR1) gene in the male during early sex differentiation. Experimental knockout of BCAR1 gene converted genetic males (XY) to phenotypic females, suggesting BCAR1 as a putative sex determination gene.We present the first Y chromosome sequence among teleost fish, and one of the few whole Y chromosome sequences among vertebrate species. Comparative analyses suggest that sex-specific isoform expression through alternative splicing may underlie sex determination processes in the channel catfish, and we identify BCAR1 as a potential sex determination gene.


October 23, 2019  |  

CRISPR/Cas9-generated p47(phox)-deficient cell line for Chronic Granulomatous Disease gene therapy vector development.

Development of gene therapy vectors requires cellular models reflecting the genetic background of a disease thus allowing for robust preclinical vector testing. For human p47(phox)-deficient chronic granulomatous disease (CGD) vector testing we generated a cellular model using clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/Cas9 to introduce a GT-dinucleotide deletion (?GT) mutation in p47(phox) encoding NCF1 gene in the human acute myeloid leukemia PLB-985 cell line. CGD is a group of hereditary immunodeficiencies characterized by impaired respiratory burst activity in phagocytes due to a defective phagocytic nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase. In Western countries autosomal-recessive p47(phox)-subunit deficiency represents the second largest CGD patient cohort with unique genetics, as the vast majority of p47(phox) CGD patients carries ?GT deletion in exon two of the NCF1 gene. The established PLB-985 NCF1 ?GT cell line reflects the most frequent form of p47(phox)-deficient CGD genetically and functionally. It can be differentiated to granulocytes efficiently, what creates an attractive alternative to currently used iPSC models for rapid testing of novel gene therapy approaches.


October 23, 2019  |  

CRISPR/Cas9-mediated scanning for regulatory elements required for HPRT1 expression via thousands of large, programmed genomic deletions.

The extent to which non-coding mutations contribute to Mendelian disease is a major unknown in human genetics. Relatedly, the vast majority of candidate regulatory elements have yet to be functionally validated. Here, we describe a CRISPR-based system that uses pairs of guide RNAs (gRNAs) to program thousands of kilobase-scale deletions that deeply scan across a targeted region in a tiling fashion (“ScanDel”). We applied ScanDel to HPRT1, the housekeeping gene underlying Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, an X-linked recessive disorder. Altogether, we programmed 4,342 overlapping 1 and 2 kb deletions that tiled 206 kb centered on HPRT1 (including 87 kb upstream and 79 kb downstream) with median 27-fold redundancy per base. We functionally assayed programmed deletions in parallel by selecting for loss of HPRT function with 6-thioguanine. As expected, sequencing gRNA pairs before and after selection confirmed that all HPRT1 exons are needed. However, HPRT1 function was robust to deletion of any intergenic or deeply intronic non-coding region, indicating that proximal regulatory sequences are sufficient for HPRT1 expression. Although our screen did identify the disruption of exon-proximal non-coding sequences (e.g., the promoter) as functionally consequential, long-read sequencing revealed that this signal was driven by rare, imprecise deletions that extended into exons. Our results suggest that no singular distal regulatory element is required for HPRT1 expression and that distal mutations are unlikely to contribute substantially to Lesch-Nyhan syndrome burden. Further application of ScanDel could shed light on the role of regulatory mutations in disease at other loci while also facilitating a deeper understanding of endogenous gene regulation. Copyright © 2017 American Society of Human Genetics. All rights reserved.


October 23, 2019  |  

Function-based identification of mammalian enhancers using site-specific integration.

The accurate and comprehensive identification of functional regulatory sequences in mammalian genomes remains a major challenge. Here we describe site-specific integration fluorescence-activated cell sorting followed by sequencing (SIF-seq), an unbiased, medium-throughput functional assay for the discovery of distant-acting enhancers. Targeted single-copy genomic integration into pluripotent cells, reporter assays and flow cytometry are coupled with high-throughput DNA sequencing to enable parallel screening of large numbers of DNA sequences. By functionally interrogating >500 kilobases (kb) of mouse and human sequence in mouse embryonic stem cells for enhancer activity we identified enhancers at pluripotency loci including NANOG. In in vitro-differentiated cardiomyocytes and neural progenitor cells, we identified cardiac enhancers and neuronal enhancers, respectively. SIF-seq is a powerful and flexible method for de novo functional identification of mammalian enhancers in a potentially wide variety of cell types.


September 22, 2019  |  

The state of long non-coding RNA biology.

Transcriptomic studies have demonstrated that the vast majority of the genomes of mammals and other complex organisms is expressed in highly dynamic and cell-specific patterns to produce large numbers of intergenic, antisense and intronic long non-protein-coding RNAs (lncRNAs). Despite well characterized examples, their scaling with developmental complexity, and many demonstrations of their association with cellular processes, development and diseases, lncRNAs are still to be widely accepted as major players in gene regulation. This may reflect an underappreciation of the extent and precision of the epigenetic control of differentiation and development, where lncRNAs appear to have a central role, likely as organizational and guide molecules: most lncRNAs are nuclear-localized and chromatin-associated, with some involved in the formation of specialized subcellular domains. I suggest that a reassessment of the conceptual framework of genetic information and gene expression in the 4-dimensional ontogeny of spatially organized multicellular organisms is required. Together with this and further studies on their biology, the key challenges now are to determine the structure?function relationships of lncRNAs, which may be aided by emerging evidence of their modular structure, the role of RNA editing and modification in enabling epigenetic plasticity, and the role of RNA signaling in transgenerational inheritance of experience.


September 22, 2019  |  

Characterization of novel transcripts in pseudorabies virus.

In this study we identified two 3′-coterminal RNA molecules in the pseudorabies virus. The highly abundant short transcript (CTO-S) proved to be encoded between the ul21 and ul22 genes in close vicinity of the replication origin (OriL) of the virus. The less abundant long RNA molecule (CTO-L) is a transcriptional readthrough product of the ul21 gene and overlaps OriL. These polyadenylated RNAs were characterized by ascertaining their nucleotide sequences with the Illumina HiScanSQ and Pacific Biosciences Real-Time (PacBio RSII) sequencing platforms and by analyzing their transcription kinetics through use of multi-time-point Real-Time RT-PCR and the PacBio RSII system. It emerged that transcription of the CTOs is fully dependent on the viral transactivator protein IE180 and CTO-S is not a microRNA precursor. We propose an interaction between the transcription and replication machineries at this genomic location, which might play an important role in the regulation of DNA synthesis.


September 22, 2019  |  

Genomic imprinting mediates dosage compensation in a young plant XY system.

Sex chromosomes have repeatedly evolved from a pair of autosomes. Consequently, X and Y chromosomes initially have similar gene content, but ongoing Y degeneration leads to reduced expression and eventual loss of Y genes1. The resulting imbalance in gene expression between Y genes and the rest of the genome is expected to reduce male fitness, especially when protein networks have components from both autosomes and sex chromosomes. A diverse set of dosage compensating mechanisms that alleviates these negative effects has been described in animals2-4. However, the early steps in the evolution of dosage compensation remain unknown, and dosage compensation is poorly understood in plants5. Here, we describe a dosage compensation mechanism in the evolutionarily young XY sex determination system of the plant Silene latifolia. Genomic imprinting results in higher expression from the maternal X chromosome in both males and females. This compensates for reduced Y expression in males, but results in X overexpression in females and may be detrimental. It could represent a transient early stage in the evolution of dosage compensation. Our finding has striking resemblance to the first stage proposed by Ohno6 for the evolution of X inactivation in mammals.


September 22, 2019  |  

G&T-seq: parallel sequencing of single-cell genomes and transcriptomes.

The simultaneous sequencing of a single cell’s genome and transcriptome offers a powerful means to dissect genetic variation and its effect on gene expression. Here we describe G&T-seq, a method for separating and sequencing genomic DNA and full-length mRNA from single cells. By applying G&T-seq to over 220 single cells from mice and humans, we discovered cellular properties that could not be inferred from DNA or RNA sequencing alone.


September 22, 2019  |  

Long-read based assembly and annotation of a Drosophila simulans genome

Long-read sequencing technologies enable high-quality, contiguous genome assemblies. Here we used SMRT sequencing to assemble the genome of a Drosophila simulans strain originating from Madagascar, the ancestral range of the species. We generated 8 Gb of raw data (~50x coverage) with a mean read length of 6,410 bp, a NR50 of 9,125 bp and the longest subread at 49 kb. We benchmarked six different assemblers and merged the best two assemblies from Canu and Falcon. Our final assembly was 127.41 Mb with a N50 of 5.38 Mb and 305 contigs. We anchored more than 4 Mb of novel sequence to the major chromosome arms, and significantly improved the assembly of peri-centromeric and telomeric regions. Finally, we performed full-length transcript sequencing and used this data in conjunction with short-read RNAseq data to annotate 13,422 genes in the genome, improving the annotation in regions with complex, nested gene structures.


September 22, 2019  |  

Meeting report: 31st International Mammalian Genome Conference, Mammalian Genetics and Genomics: From Molecular Mechanisms to Translational Applications.

High on the Heidelberg hills, inside the Advanced Training Centre of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) campus with its unique double-helix staircase, scientists gathered for the EMBL conference “Mammalian Genetics and Genomics: From Molecular Mechanisms to Translational Applications,” organized in cooperation with the International Mammalian Genome Society (IMGS) and the Mouse Molecular Genetics (MMG) group. The conference attracted 205 participants from 30 countries, representing 6 of the 7 continents-all except Antarctica. It was a richly diverse group of geneticists, clinicians, and bioinformaticians, with presentations by established and junior investigators, including many trainees. From the 24th-27th of October 2017, they shared exciting advances in mammalian genetics and genomics research, from the introduction of cutting-edge technologies to descriptions of translational studies involving highly relevant models of human disease.


September 22, 2019  |  

Young genes have distinct gene structure, epigenetic profiles, and transcriptional regulation.

Species-specific, new, or “orphan” genes account for 10%-30% of eukaryotic genomes. Although initially considered to have limited function, an increasing number of orphan genes have been shown to provide important phenotypic innovation. How new genes acquire regulatory sequences for proper temporal and spatial expression is unknown. Orphan gene regulation may rely in part on origination in open chromatin adjacent to preexisting promoters, although this has not yet been assessed by genome-wide analysis of chromatin states. Here, we combine taxon-rich nematode phylogenies with Iso-Seq, RNA-seq, ChIP-seq, and ATAC-seq to identify the gene structure and epigenetic signature of orphan genes in the satellite model nematode Pristionchus pacificus Consistent with previous findings, we find young genes are shorter, contain fewer exons, and are on average less strongly expressed than older genes. However, the subset of orphan genes that are expressed exhibit distinct chromatin states from similarly expressed conserved genes. Orphan gene transcription is determined by a lack of repressive histone modifications, confirming long-held hypotheses that open chromatin is important for new gene formation. Yet orphan gene start sites more closely resemble enhancers defined by H3K4me1, H3K27ac, and ATAC-seq peaks, in contrast to conserved genes that exhibit traditional promoters defined by H3K4me3 and H3K27ac. Although the majority of orphan genes are located on chromosome arms that contain high recombination rates and repressive histone marks, strongly expressed orphan genes are more randomly distributed. Our results support a model of new gene origination by rare integration into open chromatin near enhancers.© 2018 Werner et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.


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