Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Genomics


We report on the sequencing of 10,545 human genomes at 30×-40× coverage with an emphasis on quality metrics and novel variant and sequence discovery. We find that 84% of an individual human genome can be sequenced confidently. This high-confidence region includes 91.5% of exon sequence and 95.2% of known pathogenic variant positions. We present the distribution of over 150 million single-nucleotide variants in the coding and noncoding genome. Each newly sequenced genome contributes an average of 8,579 novel variants. In addition, each genome carries on average 0.7 Mb of sequence that is not found in the main build of the hg38 reference genome. The density of this catalog of variation allowed us to construct high-resolution profiles that define genomic sites that are highly intolerant of genetic variation. These results indicate that the data generated by deep genome sequencing is of the quality necessary for clinical use.

Concepts: Sequence, Genome, Human Genome Project, Human genome, Genetics, Gene, Genomics, DNA


Portraying high-throughput genomics research as a wild frontier, Andrea Bild and colleagues use caricatures to highlight common pitfalls in genomic research and provide recommendations for navigating this terrain.

Concepts: Research and development, Genome, Genomics, Bioinformatics


The recent genealogical history of human populations is a complex mosaic formed by individual migration, large-scale population movements, and other demographic events. Population genomics datasets can provide a window into this recent history, as rare traces of recent shared genetic ancestry are detectable due to long segments of shared genomic material. We make use of genomic data for 2,257 Europeans (in the Population Reference Sample [POPRES] dataset) to conduct one of the first surveys of recent genealogical ancestry over the past 3,000 years at a continental scale. We detected 1.9 million shared long genomic segments, and used the lengths of these to infer the distribution of shared ancestors across time and geography. We find that a pair of modern Europeans living in neighboring populations share around 2-12 genetic common ancestors from the last 1,500 years, and upwards of 100 genetic ancestors from the previous 1,000 years. These numbers drop off exponentially with geographic distance, but since these genetic ancestors are a tiny fraction of common genealogical ancestors, individuals from opposite ends of Europe are still expected to share millions of common genealogical ancestors over the last 1,000 years. There is also substantial regional variation in the number of shared genetic ancestors. For example, there are especially high numbers of common ancestors shared between many eastern populations that date roughly to the migration period (which includes the Slavic and Hunnic expansions into that region). Some of the lowest levels of common ancestry are seen in the Italian and Iberian peninsulas, which may indicate different effects of historical population expansions in these areas and/or more stably structured populations. Population genomic datasets have considerable power to uncover recent demographic history, and will allow a much fuller picture of the close genealogical kinship of individuals across the world.

Concepts: Immigration, Genetics, Europe, Ancestor, World population, Demography, Genomics, Common descent


Recent advances in whole-genome sequencing have brought the vision of personal genomics and genomic medicine closer to reality. However, current methods lack clinical accuracy and the ability to describe the context (haplotypes) in which genome variants co-occur in a cost-effective manner. Here we describe a low-cost DNA sequencing and haplotyping process, long fragment read (LFR) technology, which is similar to sequencing long single DNA molecules without cloning or separation of metaphase chromosomes. In this study, ten LFR libraries were made using only ∼100 picograms of human DNA per sample. Up to 97% of the heterozygous single nucleotide variants were assembled into long haplotype contigs. Removal of false positive single nucleotide variants not phased by multiple LFR haplotypes resulted in a final genome error rate of 1 in 10 megabases. Cost-effective and accurate genome sequencing and haplotyping from 10-20 human cells, as demonstrated here, will enable comprehensive genetic studies and diverse clinical applications.

Concepts: Personal genomics, Molecular biology, Bioinformatics, Genomics, Gene, Chromosome, Genetics, DNA


In the last decade there has been an exponential increase in knowledge about the genetic basis of complex human traits, including neuropsychiatric disorders. It is not clear, however, to what extent this knowledge can be used as a starting point for drug identification, one of the central hopes of the human genome project. The aim of the present study was to identify memory-modulating compounds through the use of human genetic information. We performed a multinational collaborative study, which included assessment of aversive memory-a trait central to posttraumatic stress disorder-and a gene-set analysis in healthy individuals. We identified 20 potential drug target genes in two genomewide-corrected gene sets: the neuroactive ligand-receptor interaction and the long-term depression gene set. In a subsequent double-blind, placebo-controlled study in healthy volunteers, we aimed at providing a proof of concept for the genome-guided identification of memory modulating compounds. Pharmacological intervention at the neuroactive ligand-receptor interaction gene set led to significant reduction of aversive memory. The findings demonstrate that genome information, along with appropriate data mining methodology, can be used as a starting point for the identification of memory-modulating compounds.

Concepts: DNA sequencing, Genomics, Gene, Genome, Human Genome Project, Human genome, DNA, Genetics


Data from the 1000 genomes project (1KGP) and Complete Genomics (CG) have dramatically increased the numbers of known genetic variants and challenge several assumptions about the reference genome and its uses in both clinical and research settings. Specifically, 34% of published array-based GWAS studies for a variety of diseases utilize probes that overlap unanticipated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), indels, or structural variants. Linkage disequilibrium (LD) block length depends on the numbers of markers used, and the mean LD block size decreases from 16 kb to 7 kb,when HapMap-based calculations are compared to blocks computed from1KGP data. Additionally, when 1KGP and CG variants are compared, 19% of the single nucleotide variants (SNVs) reported from common genomes are unique to one dataset; likely a result of differences in data collection methodology, alignment of reads to the reference genome, and variant-calling algorithms. Together these observations indicate that current research resources and informatics methods do not adequately account for the high level of variation that already exists in the human population and significant efforts are needed to create resources that can accurately assess personal genomics for health, disease, and predict treatment outcomes.

Concepts: Single-nucleotide polymorphism, Genome, Human Genome Project, Gene, Genomics, DNA, Bioinformatics, Genetics


Emerging next-generation sequencing technologies have revolutionized the collection of genomic data for applications in bioforensics, biosurveillance, and for use in clinical settings. However, to make the most of these new data, new methodology needs to be developed that can accommodate large volumes of genetic data in a computationally efficient manner. We present a statistical framework to analyze raw next-generation sequence reads from purified or mixed environmental or targeted infected tissue samples for rapid species identification and strain attribution against a robust database of known biological agents. Our method, Pathoscope, capitalizes on a Bayesian statistical framework that accommodates information on sequence quality, mapping quality and provides posterior probabilities of matches to a known database of target genomes. Importantly, our approach also incorporates the possibility that multiple species can be present in the sample and considers cases when the sample species/strain is not in the reference database. Furthermore, our approach can accurately discriminate between very closely related strains of the same species with very little coverage of the genome and without the need for multiple alignment steps, extensive homology searches, or genome assembly- which are time consuming and labor intensive steps. We demonstrate the utility of our approach on genomic data from purified and in silico ‘environmental’ samples from known bacterial agents impacting human health for accuracy assessment and comparison with other approaches.

Concepts: Archaea, Genomics, Organism, Virus, DNA, Genome, Gene, Genetics


The 20th annual Database Issue of Nucleic Acids Research includes 176 articles, half of which describe new online molecular biology databases and the other half provide updates on the databases previously featured in NAR and other journals. This year’s highlights include two databases of DNA repeat elements; several databases of transcriptional factors and transcriptional factor-binding sites; databases on various aspects of protein structure and protein-protein interactions; databases for metagenomic and rRNA sequence analysis; and four databases specifically dedicated to Escherichia coli. The increased emphasis on using the genome data to improve human health is reflected in the development of the databases of genomic structural variation (NCBI’s dbVar and EBI’s DGVa), the NIH Genetic Testing Registry and several other databases centered on the genetic basis of human disease, potential drugs, their targets and the mechanisms of protein-ligand binding. Two new databases present genomic and RNAseq data for monkeys, providing wealth of data on our closest relatives for comparative genomics purposes. The NAR online Molecular Biology Database Collection, available at, has been updated and currently lists 1512 online databases. The full content of the Database Issue is freely available online on the Nucleic Acids Research website (

Concepts: Genomics, Molecular biology, Bioinformatics, RNA, Gene, Protein, DNA, Genetics


Evolutionarily conserved RNA secondary structures are a robust indicator of purifying selection and, consequently, molecular function. Evaluating their genome-wide occurrence through comparative genomics has consistently been plagued by high false-positive rates and divergent predictions. We present a novel benchmarking pipeline aimed at calibrating the precision of genome-wide scans for consensus RNA structure prediction. The benchmarking data obtained from two refined structure prediction algorithms, RNAz and SISSIz, were then analyzed to fine-tune the parameters of an optimized workflow for genomic sliding window screens. When applied to consistency-based multiple genome alignments of 35 mammals, our approach confidently identifies >4 million evolutionarily constrained RNA structures using a conservative sensitivity threshold that entails historically low false discovery rates for such analyses (5-22%). These predictions comprise 13.6% of the human genome, 88% of which fall outside any known sequence-constrained element, suggesting that a large proportion of the mammalian genome is functional. As an example, our findings identify both known and novel conserved RNA structure motifs in the long noncoding RNA MALAT1. This study provides an extensive set of functional transcriptomic annotations that will assist researchers in uncovering the precise mechanisms underlying the developmental ontologies of higher eukaryotes.

Concepts: Human Genome Project, Non-coding RNA, Gene, Genome, Genomics, RNA, Genetics, DNA


Insertion and deletion polymorphisms (indels) are an important source of genomic variation in plant and animal genomes, but accurate genotyping from low-coverage and exome next-generation sequence data remains challenging. We introduce an efficient population clustering algorithm for diploids and polyploids which was tested on a dataset of 2000 exomes. Compared with existing methods, we report a 4-fold reduction in overall indel genotype error rates with a 9-fold reduction in low coverage regions.

Concepts: Biology, Genomics, Statistics, Frameshift mutation, Gene, Mutation, DNA, Genetics