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Journal: BMC genomics


BACKGROUND: The only known albino gorilla, named Snowflake, was a male wild born individual from Equatorial Guinea who lived at the Barcelona Zoo for almost 40 years. He was diagnosed with non-syndromic oculocutaneous albinism, i.e. white hair, light eyes, pink skin, photophobia and reduced visual acuity. Despite previous efforts to explain the genetic cause, this is still unknown. Here, we study the genetic cause of his albinism and making use of whole genome sequencing data we find a higher inbreeding coefficient compared to other gorillas. RESULTS: We successfully identified the causal genetic variant for Snowflake’s albinism, a non-synonymous single nucleotide variant located in a transmembrane region of SLC45A2. This transporter is known to be involved in oculocutaneous albinism type 4 (OCA4) in humans. We provide experimental evidence that shows that this amino acid replacement alters the membrane spanning capability of this transmembrane region. Finally, we provide a comprehensive study of genome-wide patterns of autozygogosity revealing that Snowflake’s parents were related, being this the first report of inbreeding in a wild born Western lowland gorilla. CONCLUSIONS: In this study we demonstrate how the use of whole genome sequencing can be extended to link genotype and phenotype in non-model organisms and it can be a powerful tool in conservation genetics (e.g., inbreeding and genetic diversity) with the expected decrease in sequencing cost.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Genotype, Evolution, Population genetics, Oculocutaneous albinism, Western Lowland Gorilla


Influenza A H5N1 has killed millions of birds and raises serious public health concern because of its potential to spread to humans and cause a global pandemic. While the early focus was in Asia, recent evidence suggests that Egypt is a new epicenter for the disease. This includes characterization of a variant clade, which has been found almost exclusively in Egypt.We analyzed 226 HA and 92 NA sequences with an emphasis on the H5N1 strains in Egypt using a Bayesian discrete phylogeography approach. This allowed modeling of virus dispersion between Egyptian governorates including the most likely origin.

Concepts: Public health, Epidemiology, Influenza, Avian influenza, Influenza pandemic, Pandemic, 2009 flu pandemic, Egypt


Comparative genomic and/or transcriptomic analyses involving elasmobranchs remain limited, with genome level comparisons of the elasmobranch immune system to that of higher vertebrates, non-existent. This paper reports a comparative RNA-seq analysis of heart tissue from seven species, including four elasmobranchs and three teleosts, focusing on immunity, but concomitantly seeking to identify genetic similarities shared by the two lamnid sharks and the single billfish in our study, which could be linked to convergent evolution of regional endothermy.

Concepts: Immune system, Gene, Genetics, Organism, Innate immune system, Humoral immunity, Immunity, Shark


Cysteine peptidases in the two-spotted spider mite Tetranychus urticae are involved in essential physiological processes, including proteolytic digestion. Cystatins and thyropins are inhibitors of cysteine peptidases that modulate their activity, although their function in this species has yet to be investigated. Comparative genomic analyses are powerful tools to obtain advanced knowledge into the presence and evolution of both, peptidases and their inhibitors, and could aid to elucidate issues concerning the function of these proteins.

Concepts: Gene, Metabolism, Biology, Physiology, Tetranychus urticae, Spider mite, Tetranychus, Acariformes


BACKGROUND: The Azadirachta indica (neem) tree is a source of a wide number of natural products, including the potent biopesticide azadirachtin. In spite of its widespread applications in agriculture and medicine, the molecular aspects of the biosynthesis of neem terpenoids remain largely unexplored. The current report describes the draft genome and four transcriptomes of A. indica and attempts to contextualise the sequence information in terms of its molecular phylogeny, transcript expression and terpenoid biosynthesis pathways. A. indica is the first member of the family Meliaceae to be sequenced using next generation sequencing approach. RESULTS: The genome and transcriptomes of A. indica were sequenced using multiple sequencing platforms and libraries. The A. indica genome is AT-rich, bears few repetitive DNA elements and comprises about 20,000 genes. The molecular phylogenetic analyses grouped A. indica together with Citrus sinensis from the Rutaceae family validating its conventional taxonomic classification. Comparative transcript expression analysis showed either exclusive or enhanced expression of known genes involved in neem terpenoid biosynthesis pathways compared to other sequenced angiosperms. Genome and transcriptome analyses in A. indica led to the identification of repeat elements, nucleotide composition and expression profiles of genes in various organs. CONCLUSIONS: This study on A. indica genome and transcriptomes will provide a model for characterization of metabolic pathways involved in synthesis of bioactive compounds, comparative evolutionary studies among various Meliaceae family members and help annotate their genomes. A better understanding of molecular pathways involved in the azadirachtin synthesis in A. indica will pave ways for bulk production of environment friendly biopesticides.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Molecular biology, Organism, RNA, Phylogenetics, Neem, Meliaceae


BACKGROUND: When using Illumina high throughput short read data, sometimes the genotype inferred from the positive strand and negative strand are significantly different, with one homozygous and the other heterozygous. This phenomenon is known as strand bias. In this study, we used Illumina short-read sequencing data to evaluate the effect of strand bias on genotyping quality, and to explore the possible causes of strand bias.ResultWe collected 22 breast cancer samples from 22 patients and sequenced their exome using the Illumina GAIIx machine. By comparing the consistency between the genotypes inferred from this sequencing data with the genotypes inferred from SNP chip data, we found that, when using sequencing data, SNPs with extreme strand bias did not have significantly lower consistency rates compared to SNPs with low or no strand bias. However, this result may be limited by the small subset of SNPs present in both the exome sequencing and the SNP chip data. We further compared the transition and transversion ratio and the number of novel non-synonymous SNPs between the SNPs with low or no strand bias and those with extreme strand bias, and found that SNPs with low or no strand bias have better overall quality. We also discovered that the strand bias occurs randomly at genomic positions across these samples, and observed no consistent pattern of strand bias location across samples. By comparing results from two different aligners, BWA and Bowtie, we found very consistent strand bias patterns. Thus strand bias is unlikely to be caused by alignment artifacts. We successfully replicated our results using two additional independent datasets with different capturing methods and Illumina sequencers. CONCLUSION: Extreme strand bias indicates a potential high false-positive rate for SNPs.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Genotype, Evolution, Molecular biology, Zygosity, Consistency


BACKGROUND: Cultivated peanut (Arachis hypogaea) is an allotetraploid species whose ancestral genomes are most likely derived from the A-genome species, A. duranensis, and the B-genome species, A. ipaensis. The very recent (several millennia) evolutionary origin of A. hypogaea has imposed a bottleneck for allelic and phenotypic diversity within the cultigen. However, wild, diploid relatives are a rich source of alleles that could be used for crop improvement and their simpler genomes can be more easily analyzed while providing insight into the structure of the allotetraploid peanut genome. The objective of this research was to establish a high-density genetic map of the diploid species A. duranensis based on de novo generated EST databases. Arachis duranensis was chosen for mapping because it is the A-genome progenitor of cultivated peanut and also in order to circumvent the confounding effects of gene duplication associated with allopolyploidy in A. hypogaea. RESULTS: More than one million expressed sequence tag (EST) sequences generated from normalized cDNA libraries of A. duranensis were assembled into 81,116 unique transcripts. Mining this dataset, 1236 EST-SNP markers were developed between two A. duranensis accessions, PI 475887 and Grif 15036. An additional 300 SNP markers also were developed from genomic sequences representing conserved legume orthologs. Of the 1536 SNP markers, 1054 were placed on a genetic map. In addition, 598 EST-SSR markers identified in A. hypogaea assemblies were included in the map along with 37 disease resistance gene candidate (RGC) and 35 other previously published markers. In total, 1724 markers spanning 1081.3 cM over 10 linkage groups were mapped. Gene sequences that provided mapped markers were annotated using similarity searches in three different databases, and gene ontology descriptions were determined using the Medicago Gene Atlas and TAIR databases. Synteny analysis between A. duranensis, Medicago and Glycine revealed significant stretches of conserved gene clusters spread across the peanut genome. A higher level of colinearity was detected between A. duranensis and Glycine than with Medicago. CONCLUSIONS: The first high-density, gene-based linkage map for A. duranensis was generated that can serve as a reference map for both wild and cultivated Arachis species. The markers developed here are valuable resources for the peanut, and more broadly, to the legume research community. The A-genome map will have utility for fine mapping in other peanut species and has already had application to mapping a nematode resistance gene that was introgressed into A. hypogaea from A. cardenasii.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Evolution, Genome, Genetic linkage, Fabaceae, Peanut, Arachis


BACKGROUND: Meiotic maps are a key tool for comparative genomics and association mapping studies. Next-generation sequencing and genotyping by sequencing are speeding the processes of SNP discovery and the development of new genetic tools, including meiotic maps for numerous species. Currently there are limited genetic resources for sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka. We develop the first dense meiotic map for sockeye salmon using a combination of novel SNPs found in restriction site associated DNA (RAD tags) and SNPs available from existing expressed sequence tag (EST) based assays. RESULTS: We discovered and genotyped putative SNPs in 3,430 RAD tags. We removed paralogous sequence variants leaving 1,672 SNPs; these were combined with 53 EST-based SNP genotypes for linkage mapping. The map contained 29 male and female linkage groups, consistent with the haploid chromosome number expected for sockeye salmon. The female map contains 1,057 loci spanning 4,896 cM, and the male map contains 1,118 loci spanning 4,220 cM. Regions of conservation with rainbow trout and synteny between the RAD based rainbow trout map and the sockeye salmon map were established. CONCLUSIONS: Using RAD sequencing and EST-based SNP assays we successfully generated the first high density linkage map for sockeye salmon.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Molecular biology, Chromosome, Salmon, Oncorhynchus, Chum salmon, Sockeye salmon


Transcriptome sequencing and assembly represent a great resource for the study of non-model species,and many metrics have been used to evaluate and compare these assemblies. Unfortunately, it is stillunclear which of these metrics accurately reflect assembly quality.

Concepts: Assembly language, RNA-Seq


BACKGROUND: It has recently emerged that common epithelial cancers such as breast cancers have fusion genes like those in leukaemias. In a representative breast cancer cell line, ZR-75-30, we searched for fusion genes, by analysing genome rearrangements. RESULTS: We first analysed rearrangements of the ZR-75-30 genome, to around 10kb resolution, by molecular cytogenetic approaches, combining array painting and array CGH. We then compared this map with genomic junctions determined by paired-end sequencing. Most of the breakpoints found by array painting and array CGH were identified in the paired end sequencing—55% of the unamplified breakpoints and 97% of the amplified breakpoints (as these are represented by more sequence reads). From this analysis we identified 9 expressed fusion genes: APPBP2-PHF20L1, BCAS3-HOXB9, COL14A1-SKAP1, TAOK1-PCGF2, TIAM1-NRIP1, TIMM23-ARHGAP32, TRPS1-LASP1, USP32-CCDC49 and ZMYM4-OPRD1. We also determined the genomic junctions of a further three expressed fusion genes that had been described by others, BCAS3-ERBB2, DDX5-DEPDC6/DEPTOR and PLEC1-ENPP2. Of this total of 12 expressed fusion genes, 9 were in the coamplification. Due to the sensitivity of the technologies used, we estimate these 12 fusion genes to be around two-thirds of the true total. Many of the fusions seem likely to be driver mutations. For example, PHF20L1, BCAS3, TAOK1, PCGF2, and TRPS1 are fused in other breast cancers. HOXB9 and PHF20L1 are members of gene families that are fused in other neoplasms. Several of the other genes are relevant to cancer—in addition to ERBB2, SKAP1 is an adaptor for Src, DEPTOR regulates the mTOR pathway and NRIP1 is an estrogen-receptor coregulator. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first structural analysis of a breast cancer genome that combines classical molecular cytogenetic approaches with sequencing. Paired end sequencing was able to detect almost all breakpoints, where there was adequate read depth. It supports the view that gene breakage and gene fusion are important classes of mutation in breast cancer, with a typical breast cancer expressing many fusion genes.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Cancer, Breast cancer, Mutation, Molecular biology, Chromosomal translocation