Next-generation sequencing technologies have been applied most often to model organisms or species closely related to a model. However, these methods have the potential to be valuable in many wild organisms, including those of conservation concern. We used Roche 454 pyrosequencing to characterize gene expression in polyploid lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) gonads.
Titration runs on a Roche 454 GS-FLX produced more than 47,000 sequencing reads. These reads represented 20,741 unique sequences that passed quality control (mean length = 186 bp). These were assembled into 1,831 contigs (mean contig depth = 4.1 sequences). Over 4,000 sequencing reads (~19%) were assigned gene ontologies, mostly to protein, RNA, and ion binding. A total of 877 candidate SNPs were identified from > 50 different genes. We employed an analytical approach from theoretical ecology (rarefaction) to evaluate depth of sequencing coverage relative to gene discovery. We also considered the relative merits of normalized versus native cDNA libraries when using next-generation sequencing platforms. Not surprisingly, fewer genes from the normalized libraries were rRNA subunits. Rarefaction suggests that normalization has little influence on the efficiency of gene discovery, at least when working with thousands of reads from a single tissue type.
Our data indicate that titration runs on 454 sequencers can characterize thousands of expressed sequence tags which can be used to identify SNPs, gene ontologies, and levels of gene expression in species of conservation concern. We anticipate that rarefaction will be useful in evaluations of gene discovery and that next-generation sequencing technologies hold great potential for the study of other non-model organisms.