Copy number variation (CNV) in the range from 2 to 12 per diploid genome is an outstanding feature of the beta-defensin gene (DEFB) cluster on human chromosome 8p23.1 numerously demonstrated by different methods. So far, CNV was proven for a 115 kb region between DEFB4 and 21 kb proximal of DEFB107 but the borders for the entire CNV repeat unit are still unknown. Our study aimed to narrow down the distal border of the DEFB cluster.
We established tests for length polymorphisms based on amplification and capillary electrophoresis with laser-induced fluorescence (CE-LIF) analysis of seven insertion/deletion (indel) containing regions spread over the entire cluster. The tests were carried out with 25 genomic DNAs with different previously determined cluster copy numbers. CNV was demonstrated for six indels between ~1 kb distal of DEFB108P and 10 kb proximal of DEFB107. In contrast, the most distal indel is not affected by CNV.
Our analysis fixes the minimal length of proven CNV to 157 kb including DEFB108P but excluding DEFB109P. The distal border between CNV and non-CNV part of the DEF cluster is located in the 59 kb interval chr8:7,171,082-7,230,128.
Defensin; CNV borders; Length polymorphism; Paralog ratio test; Indel; DEFB108P; DEFB109P
The copy number variation (CNV) in beta-defensin genes (DEFB) on human chromosome 8p23 has been proposed to contribute to the phenotypic differences in inflammatory diseases. However, determination of exact DEFB CN is a major challenge in association studies. Quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR), paralog ratio tests (PRT) and multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) have been extensively used to determine DEFB CN in different laboratories, but inter-method inconsistencies were observed frequently. In this study we asked which one is superior among the three methods for DEFB CN determination.
We developed a clustering approach for MLPA and PRT to statistically correlate data from a single experiment. Then we compared qPCR, a newly designed PRT and MLPA for DEFB CN determination in 285 DNA samples. We found MLPA had the best convergence and clustering results of the raw data and the highest call rate. In addition, the concordance rates between MLPA or PRT and qPCR (32.12% and 37.99%, respectively) were unacceptably low with underestimated CN by qPCR. Concordance rate between MLPA and PRT (90.52%) was high but PRT systematically underestimated CN by one in a subset of samples. In these samples a sequence variant which caused complete PCR dropout of the respective DEFB cluster copies was found in one primer binding site of one of the targeted paralogous pseudogenes.
MLPA is superior to PRT and even more to qPCR for DEFB CN determination. Although the applied PRT provides in most cases reliable results, such a test is particularly sensitive to low-frequency sequence variations preferably accumulating in loci like pseudogenes which are most likely not under selective pressure. In the light of the superior performance of multiplex assays, the drawbacks of such single PRTs could be overcome by combining more test markers.
Beta-defensin; Copy number variation; Quantitative real-time PCR; Paralog ratio tests; Multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification; Clustering; Pseudogene; Low frequency sequence variations
Sunflower belongs to the largest plant family on earth, the genomically poorly explored Compositae. Downy mildew Plasmopara halstedii (Farlow) Berlese & de Toni is one of the major diseases of cultivated sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.). In the search for new sources of downy mildew resistance, the locus PlARG on linkage group 1 (LG1) originating from H. argophyllus is promising since it confers resistance against all known races of the pathogen. However, the mapping resolution in the PlARG region is hampered by significantly suppressed recombination and by limited availability of polymorphic markers. Here we examined a strategy developed for the enrichment of molecular markers linked to this specific genomic region. We combined bulked segregant analysis (BSA) with next-generation sequencing (NGS) and de novo assembly of the sunflower transcriptome for single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) discovery in a sequence resource combining reads originating from two sunflower species, H. annuus and H. argophyllus.
A computational pipeline developed for SNP calling and pattern detection identified 219 candidate genes. For a proof of concept, 42 resistance gene-like sequences were subjected to experimental SNP validation. Using a high-resolution mapping population, 12 SNP markers were mapped to LG1. We successfully verified candidate sequences either co-segregating with or closely flanking PlARG.
This study is the first successful example to improve bulked segregant analysis with de novo transcriptome assembly using next generation sequencing. The BSTA pipeline we developed provides a useful guide for similar studies in other non-model organisms. Our results demonstrate this method is an efficient way to enrich molecular markers and to identify candidate genes in a specific mapping interval.
Bulked segregant transcriptome analysis; 454 next-generation sequencing; Marker enrichment pipeline; De novo transcriptome assembly; Resistance gene candidates; Helianthus argophyllus; Helianthus annuus; Sunflower; Plasmopara halstedii; PlARG
There is growing evidence for the prevalence of copy number variation (CNV) and its role in phenotypic variation in many eukaryotic species. Here we use array comparative genomic hybridization to explore the extent of this type of structural variation in domesticated barley cultivars and wild barleys.
A collection of 14 barley genotypes including eight cultivars and six wild barleys were used for comparative genomic hybridization. CNV affects 14.9% of all the sequences that were assessed. Higher levels of CNV diversity are present in the wild accessions relative to cultivated barley. CNVs are enriched near the ends of all chromosomes except 4H, which exhibits the lowest frequency of CNVs. CNV affects 9.5% of the coding sequences represented on the array and the genes affected by CNV are enriched for sequences annotated as disease-resistance proteins and protein kinases. Sequence-based comparisons of CNV between cultivars Barke and Morex provided evidence that DNA repair mechanisms of double-strand breaks via single-stranded annealing and synthesis-dependent strand annealing play an important role in the origin of CNV in barley.
We present the first catalog of CNVs in a diploid Triticeae species, which opens the door for future genome diversity research in a tribe that comprises the economically important cereal species wheat, barley, and rye. Our findings constitute a valuable resource for the identification of CNV affecting genes of agronomic importance. We also identify potential mechanisms that can generate variation in copy number in plant genomes.
Barley, Copy number variation; Comparative genomic hybridization; Disease-resistance genes; Double-strand break repair mechanisms
The structure of the human gut microbial community is determined by host genetics and environmental factors, where alterations in its structure have been associated with the onset of different diseases. Establishing a defined human gut microbial community within inbred rodent models provides a means to study microbial-related pathologies, however, an in-depth comparison of the established human gut microbiota in the different models is lacking. We compared the efficiency of establishing the bacterial component of a defined human microbial community within germ-free (GF) rats, GF mice and antibiotic-treated specific pathogen-free mice. Remarkable differences were observed between the different rodent models. While the majority of abundant human-donor bacterial phylotypes were established in the GF rats, only a subset was present in the GF mice. Despite the fact that members of the phylum Bacteriodetes were well established in all rodent models, mice enriched for phylotypes related to species of Bacteroides. In contrary to the efficiency of Clostridiales to populate the GF rat in relative proportions to that of the human-donor, members of Clostridia cluster IV only poorly colonize the mouse gut. Thus, the genetic background of the different recipient rodent systems (that is, rats and mice) strongly influences the nature of the populating human gut microbiota, determining each model’s biological suitability.
Keywords: human intestinal microbiota; bacterial community; germ-free; gnotobiotic; rats and mice; T-RFLP; 454-pyrosequencing; F/B ratio; multivariate statistical analysis
The African annual fish Nothobranchius furzeri has over recent years been established as a model species for ageing-related studies. This is mainly based on its exceptionally short lifespan and the presence of typical characteristics of vertebrate ageing. To substantiate its role as an alternative vertebrate ageing model, a transcript catalogue is needed, which can serve e.g. as basis for identifying ageing-related genes.
To build the N. furzeri transcript catalogue, thirteen cDNA libraries were sequenced using Sanger, 454/Roche and Solexa/Illumina technologies yielding about 39 Gb. In total, 19,875 protein-coding genes were identified and annotated. Of these, 71% are represented by at least one transcript contig with a complete coding sequence. Further, transcript levels of young and old fish of the strains GRZ and MZM-0403, which differ in lifespan by twofold, were studied by RNA-seq. In skin and brain, 85 differentially expressed genes were detected; these have a role in cell cycle control and proliferation, inflammation and tissue maintenance. An RNA-seq experiment for zebrafish skin confirmed the ageing-related relevance of the findings in N. furzeri. Notably, analyses of transcript levels between zebrafish and N. furzeri but also between N. furzeri strains differed largely, suggesting that ageing is accelerated in the short-lived N. furzeri strain GRZ compared to the longer-lived strain MZM-0403.
We provide a comprehensive, annotated N. furzeri transcript catalogue and a first transcriptome-wide insight into N. furzeri ageing. This data will serve as a basis for future functional studies of ageing-related genes.
Nothobranchius furzeri; Model fish species; Ageing; Transcriptome assembly; Transcript catalogue; Gene expression; RNA-seq
Human ß-defensins are a family of antimicrobial peptides located at the mucosal surface. Both sequence multi-site variations (MSV) and copy-number variants (CNV) of the defensin-encoding genes are associated with increased risk for various diseases, including cancer and inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis and acute pancreatitis. In a case–control study, we investigated the association between MSV in DEFB104 as well as defensin gene (DEF) cluster copy number (CN), and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and chronic pancreatitis (CP).
Two groups of PDAC (N=70) and CP (N=60) patients were compared to matched healthy control groups CARLA1 (N=232) and CARLA2 (N=160), respectively. Four DEFB104 MSV were haplotyped by PCR, cloning and sequencing. DEF cluster CN was determined by multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification.
Neither the PDAC nor the CP cohorts show significant differences in the DEFB104 haplotype distribution compared to the respective control groups CARLA1 and CARLA2, respectively.
The diploid DEF cluster CN exhibit a significantly different distribution between PDAC and CARLA1 (Fisher’s exact test P=0.027), but not between CP and CARLA2 (P=0.867).
Different DEF cluster b CN distribution between PDAC patients and healthy controls indicate a potential protective effect of higher CNs against the disease.
Defensins; Single nucleotide variants; Copy number variation; Chronic pancreatitis; Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma
Numerous CCT domain genes are known to control flowering in plants. They belong to the CONSTANS-like (COL) and PREUDORESPONSE REGULATOR (PRR) gene families, which in addition to a CCT domain possess B-box or response-regulator domains, respectively. Ghd7 is the most recently identified COL gene to have a proven role in the control of flowering time in the Poaceae. However, as it lacks B-box domains, its inclusion within the COL gene family, technically, is incorrect. Here, we show Ghd7 belongs to a larger family of previously uncharacterized Poaceae genes which possess just a single CCT domain, termed here CCT MOTIF FAMILY (CMF) genes. We molecularly describe the CMF (and related COL and PRR) gene families in four sequenced Poaceae species, as well as in the draft genome assembly of barley (Hordeum vulgare). Genetic mapping of the ten barley CMF genes identified, as well as twelve previously unmapped HvCOL and HvPRR genes, finds the majority map to colinear positions relative to their Poaceae orthologues. Combined inter-/intra-species comparative and phylogenetic analysis of CMF, COL and PRR gene families indicates they evolved prior to the monocot/dicot divergence ∼200 mya, with Poaceae CMF evolution described as the interplay between whole genome duplication in the ancestral cereal, and subsequent clade-specific mutation, deletion and duplication events. Given the proven role of CMF genes in the modulation of cereals flowering, the molecular, phylogenetic and comparative analysis of the Poaceae CMF, COL and PRR gene families presented here provides the foundation from which functional investigation can be undertaken.
Genotyping of 21 varicella-zoster virus (VZV) strains using a scattered single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) method revealed ambiguous SNPs and two nontypeable isolates. For a further genetic characterization, the genomes of all strains were sequenced using the 454 technology. Almost-complete genome sequences were assembled, and most remaining gaps were closed with Sanger sequencing. Phylogenetic analysis of 42 genomes revealed five established and two novel VZV genotypes, provisionally termed VIII and IX. Genotypes VIII and IX are distinct from the previously reported provisional genotypes VI and VII as judged from the SNP pattern. The alignments showed evidence of ancient recombination events in the phylogeny of clade 4 and recent recombinations within single strains: 3/2005 (clade 1), 11 and 405/2007 (clade 3), 8 and DR (clade 4), CA123 and 413/2000 (clade 5), and strains of the novel genotypes VIII and IX. Bayesian tree inference of the thymidine kinase and the polymerase genes of the VZV clades and other varicelloviruses revealed that VZV radiation began some 110,000 years ago, which correlates with the out-of-Africa dispersal of modern humans. The split of ancestral clades 2/4 and 1/3/5/VIII/IX shows the greatest node height.
The purpose of the study is to elucidate the sequence composition of the short arm of rye chromosome 1 (Secale cereale) with special focus on its gene content, because this portion of the rye genome is an integrated part of several hundreds of bread wheat varieties worldwide.
Multiple Displacement Amplification of 1RS DNA, obtained from flow sorted 1RS chromosomes, using 1RS ditelosomic wheat-rye addition line, and subsequent Roche 454FLX sequencing of this DNA yielded 195,313,589 bp sequence information. This quantity of sequence information resulted in 0.43× sequence coverage of the 1RS chromosome arm, permitting the identification of genes with estimated probability of 95%. A detailed analysis revealed that more than 5% of the 1RS sequence consisted of gene space, identifying at least 3,121 gene loci representing 1,882 different gene functions. Repetitive elements comprised about 72% of the 1RS sequence, Gypsy/Sabrina (13.3%) being the most abundant. More than four thousand simple sequence repeat (SSR) sites mostly located in gene related sequence reads were identified for possible marker development. The existence of chloroplast insertions in 1RS has been verified by identifying chimeric chloroplast-genomic sequence reads. Synteny analysis of 1RS to the full genomes of Oryza sativa and Brachypodium distachyon revealed that about half of the genes of 1RS correspond to the distal end of the short arm of rice chromosome 5 and the proximal region of the long arm of Brachypodium distachyon chromosome 2. Comparison of the gene content of 1RS to 1HS barley chromosome arm revealed high conservation of genes related to chromosome 5 of rice.
The present study revealed the gene content and potential gene functions on this chromosome arm and demonstrated numerous sequence elements like SSRs and gene-related sequences, which can be utilised for future research as well as in breeding of wheat and rye.
Next generation sequencing of BACs is a viable option for deciphering the sequence of even large and highly repetitive genomes. In order to optimize this strategy, we examined the influence of read length on the quality of Roche/454 sequence assemblies, to what extent Illumina/Solexa mate pairs (MPs) improve the assemblies by scaffolding and whether barcoding of BACs is dispensable.
Sequencing four BACs with both FLX and Titanium technologies revealed similar sequencing accuracy, but showed that the longer Titanium reads produce considerably less misassemblies and gaps. The 454 assemblies of 96 barcoded BACs were improved by scaffolding 79% of the total contig length with MPs from a non-barcoded library.
Assembly of the unmasked 454 sequences without separation by barcodes revealed chimeric contig formation to be a major problem, encompassing 47% of the total contig length. Masking the sequences reduced this fraction to 24%.
Optimal BAC pool sequencing should be based on the longest available reads, with barcoding essential for a comprehensive assessment of both repetitive and non-repetitive sequence information. When interest is restricted to non-repetitive regions and repeats are masked prior to assembly, barcoding is non-essential. In any case, the assemblies can be improved considerably by scaffolding with non-barcoded BAC pool MPs.
BAC pools; next generation sequencing; 454; Illumina; barcoding; mate pairs; scaffolding; barley
The improvement of agricultural crops with regard to yield, resistance and environmental adaptation is a perpetual challenge for both breeding and research. Exploration of the genetic potential and implementation of genome-based breeding strategies for efficient rye (Secale cereale L.) cultivar improvement have been hampered by the lack of genome sequence information. To overcome this limitation we sequenced the transcriptomes of five winter rye inbred lines using Roche/454 GS FLX technology.
More than 2.5 million reads were assembled into 115,400 contigs representing a comprehensive rye expressed sequence tag (EST) resource. From sequence comparisons 5,234 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were identified to develop the Rye5K high-throughput SNP genotyping array. Performance of the Rye5K SNP array was investigated by genotyping 59 rye inbred lines including the five lines used for sequencing, and five barley, three wheat, and two triticale accessions. A balanced distribution of allele frequencies ranging from 0.1 to 0.9 was observed. Residual heterozygosity of the rye inbred lines varied from 4.0 to 20.4% with higher average heterozygosity in the pollen compared to the seed parent pool.
The established sequence and molecular marker resources will improve and promote genetic and genomic research as well as genome-based breeding in rye.
EST resource; next generation sequencing; Secale cereale L.; Rye5K SNP array; single nucleotide polymorphisms
In highly copy number variable (CNV) regions such as the human defensin gene locus, comprehensive assessment of sequence variations is challenging. PCR approaches are practically restricted to tiny fractions, and next-generation sequencing (NGS) approaches of whole individual genomes e.g. by the 1000 Genomes Project is confined by an affordable sequence depth. Combining target enrichment with NGS may represent a feasible approach.
As a proof of principle, we enriched a ~850 kb section comprising the CNV defensin gene cluster DEFB, the invariable DEFA part and 11 control regions from two genomes by sequence capture and sequenced it by 454 technology. 6,651 differences to the human reference genome were found. Comparison to HapMap genotypes revealed sensitivities and specificities in the range of 94% to 99% for the identification of variations.
Using error probabilities for rigorous filtering revealed 2,886 unique single nucleotide variations (SNVs) including 358 putative novel ones. DEFB CN determinations by haplotype ratios were in agreement with alternative methods.
Although currently labor extensive and having high costs, target enriched NGS provides a powerful tool for the comprehensive assessment of SNVs in highly polymorphic CNV regions of individual genomes. Furthermore, it reveals considerable amounts of putative novel variations and simultaneously allows CN estimation.
Genes coding for 45S ribosomal RNA are organized in tandem arrays of up to several thousand copies and contain 18S, 5.8S and 26S rRNA units separated by internal transcribed spacers ITS1 and ITS2. While the rRNA units are evolutionary conserved, ITS show high level of interspecific divergence and have been used frequently in genetic diversity and phylogenetic studies. In this work we report on the structure and diversity of the ITS region in 87 representatives of the family Musaceae. We provide the first detailed information on ITS sequence diversity in the genus Musa and describe the presence of more than one type of ITS sequence within individual species. Both Sanger sequencing of amplified ITS regions and whole genome 454 sequencing lead to similar phylogenetic inferences. We show that it is necessary to identify putative pseudogenic ITS sequences, which may have negative effect on phylogenetic reconstruction at lower taxonomic levels. Phylogenetic reconstruction based on ITS sequence showed that the genus Musa is divided into two distinct clades – Callimusa and Australimusa and Eumusa and Rhodochlamys. Most of the intraspecific banana hybrids analyzed contain conserved parental ITS sequences, indicating incomplete concerted evolution of rDNA loci. Independent evolution of parental rDNA in hybrids enables determination of genomic constitution of hybrids using ITS. The observation of only one type of ITS sequence in some of the presumed interspecific hybrid clones warrants further study to confirm their hybrid origin and to unravel processes leading to evolution of their genomes.
The beta-defensin gene cluster (DEFB) at chromosome 8p23.1 is one of the most copy number (CN) variable regions of the human genome. Whereas individual DEFB CNs have been suggested as independent genetic risk factors for several diseases (e.g. psoriasis and Crohn's disease), the role of multisite sequence variations (MSV) is less well understood and to date has only been reported for prostate cancer. Simultaneous assessment of MSVs and CNs can be achieved by PCR, cloning and Sanger sequencing, however, these methods are labour and cost intensive as well as prone to methodological bias introduced by bacterial cloning. Here, we demonstrate that amplicon sequencing of pooled individual PCR products by the 454 technology allows in-depth determination of MSV haplotypes and estimation of DEFB CNs in parallel.
Six PCR products spread over ~87 kb of DEFB and harbouring 24 known MSVs were amplified from 11 DNA samples, pooled and sequenced on a Roche 454 GS FLX sequencer. From ~142,000 reads, ~120,000 haplotype calls (HC) were inferred that identified 22 haplotypes ranging from 2 to 7 per amplicon. In addition to the 24 known MSVs, two additional sequence variations were detected. Minimal CNs were estimated from the ratio of HCs and compared to absolute CNs determined by alternative methods. Concordance in CNs was found for 7 samples, the CNs differed by one in 2 samples and the estimated minimal CN was half of the absolute in one sample. For 7 samples and 2 amplicons, the 454 haplotyping results were compared to those by cloning/Sanger sequencing. Intrinsic problems related to chimera formation during PCR and differences between haplotyping by 454 and cloning/Sanger sequencing are discussed.
Deep amplicon sequencing using the 454 technology yield thousands of HCs per amplicon for an affordable price and may represent an effective method for parallel haplotyping and CN estimation in small to medium-sized cohorts. The obtained haplotypes represent a valuable resource to facilitate further studies of the biomedical impact of highly CN variable loci such as the beta-defensin locus.
De novo sequencing the entire genome of a large complex plant genome like the one of barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) is a major challenge both in terms of experimental feasibility and costs. The emergence and breathtaking progress of next generation sequencing technologies has put this goal into focus and a clone based strategy combined with the 454/Roche technology is conceivable.
To test the feasibility, we sequenced 91 barcoded, pooled, gene containing barley BACs using the GS FLX platform and assembled the sequences under iterative change of parameters. The BAC assemblies were characterized by N50 of ~50 kb (N80 ~31 kb, N90 ~21 kb) and a Q40 of 94%. For ~80% of the clones, the best assemblies consisted of less than 10 contigs at 24-fold mean sequence coverage. Moreover we show that gene containing regions seem to assemble completely and uninterrupted thus making the approach suitable for detecting complete and positionally anchored genes.
By comparing the assemblies of four clones to their complete reference sequences generated by the Sanger method, we evaluated the distribution, quality and representativeness of the 454 sequences as well as the consistency and reliability of the assemblies.
The described multiplex 454 sequencing of barcoded BACs leads to sequence consensi highly representative for the clones. Assemblies are correct for the majority of contigs. Though the resolution of complex repetitive structures requires additional experimental efforts, our approach paves the way for a clone based strategy of sequencing the barley genome.
The human X chromosome has a unique biology that was shaped by its evolution as the sex chromosome shared by males and females. We have determined 99.3% of the euchromatic sequence of the X chromosome. Our analysis illustrates the autosomal origin of the mammalian sex chromosomes, the stepwise process that led to the progressive loss of recombination between X and Y, and the extent of subsequent degradation of the Y chromosome. LINE1 repeat elements cover one-third of the X chromosome, with a distribution that is consistent with their proposed role as way stations in the process of X-chromosome inactivation. We found 1,098 genes in the sequence, of which 99 encode proteins expressed in testis and in various tumour types. A disproportionately high number of mendelian diseases are documented for the X chromosome. Of this number, 168 have been explained by mutations in 113 X-linked genes, which in many cases were characterized with the aid of the DNA sequence.
A genomic analysis of the annual fish Nothobranchius furzeri, a vertebrate with the shortest known life span in captivity and which may provide a new model organism for aging research.
The annual fish Nothobranchius furzeri is the vertebrate with the shortest known life span in captivity. Fish of the GRZ strain live only three to four months under optimal laboratory conditions, show explosive growth, early sexual maturation and age-dependent physiological and behavioral decline, and express aging related biomarkers. Treatment with resveratrol and low temperature significantly extends the maximum life span. These features make N. furzeri a promising new vertebrate model for age research.
To contribute to establishing N. furzeri as a new model organism, we provide a first insight into its genome and a comparison to medaka, stickleback, tetraodon and zebrafish. The N. furzeri genome contains 19 chromosomes (2n = 38). Its genome of between 1.6 and 1.9 Gb is the largest among the analyzed fish species and has, at 45%, the highest repeat content. Remarkably, tandem repeats comprise 21%, which is 4-12 times more than in the other four fish species. In addition, G+C-rich tandem repeats preferentially localize to centromeric regions. Phylogenetic analysis based on coding sequences identifies medaka as the closest relative. Genotyping of an initial set of 27 markers and multi-locus fingerprinting of one microsatellite provides the first molecular evidence that the GRZ strain is highly inbred.
Our work presents a first basis for systematic genomic and genetic analyses aimed at understanding the mechanisms of life span determination in N. furzeri.
TG dinucleotides functioning as alternative 3' splice sites were identified and experimentally verified in 36 human genes.
Despite some degeneracy of sequence signals that govern splicing of eukaryotic pre-mRNAs, it is an accepted rule that U2-dependent introns exhibit the 3' terminal dinucleotide AG. Intrigued by anecdotal evidence for functional non-AG 3' splice sites, we carried out a human genome-wide screen.
We identified TG dinucleotides functioning as alternative 3' splice sites in 36 human genes. The TG-derived splice variants were experimentally validated with a success rate of 92%. Interestingly, ratios of alternative splice variants are tissue-specific for several introns. TG splice sites and their flanking intron sequences are substantially conserved between orthologous vertebrate genes, even between human and frog, indicating functional relevance. Remarkably, TG splice sites are exclusively found as alternative 3' splice sites, never as the sole 3' splice site for an intron, and we observed a distance constraint for TG-AG splice site tandems.
Since TGs splice sites are exclusively found as alternative 3' splice sites, the U2 spliceosome apparently accomplishes perfect specificity for 3' AGs at an early splicing step, but may choose 3' TGs during later steps. Given the tiny fraction of TG 3' splice sites compared to the vast amount of non-viable TGs, cis-acting sequence signals must significantly contribute to splice site definition. Thus, we consider TG-AG 3' splice site tandems as promising subjects for studies on the mechanisms of 3' splice site selection.
Defensins are important components of innate immunity to combat bacterial and viral infections, and can even elicit antitumor responses. Clusters of defensin (DEF) genes are located in a 2 Mb range of the human chromosome 8p23.1. This DEF locus, however, represents one of the regions in the euchromatic part of the final human genome sequence which contains segmental duplications, and recalcitrant gaps indicating high structural dynamics.
We find that inter- and intraindividual genetic variations within this locus prevent a correct automatic assembly of the human reference genome (NCBI Build 34) which currently even contains misassemblies. Manual clone-by-clone alignment and gene annotation as well as repeat and SNP/haplotype analyses result in an alternative alignment significantly improving the DEF locus representation. Our assembly better reflects the experimentally verified variability of DEF gene and DEF cluster copy numbers. It contains an additional DEF cluster which we propose to reside between two already known clusters. Furthermore, manual annotation revealed a novel DEF gene and several pseudogenes expanding the hitherto known DEF repertoire. Analyses of BAC and working draft sequences of the chimpanzee indicates that its DEF region is also complex as in humans and DEF genes and a cluster are multiplied. Comparative analysis of human and chimpanzee DEF genes identified differences affecting the protein structure. Whether this might contribute to differences in disease susceptibility between man and ape remains to be solved. For the determination of individual DEF gene repertoires we provide a molecular approach based on DEF haplotypes.
Complexity and variability seem to be essential genomic features of the human DEF locus at 8p23.1 and provides an ongoing challenge for the best possible representation in the human reference sequence. Dissection of paralogous sequence variations, duplicon SNPs ans multisite variations as well as haplotypes by sequencing based methods is the way for future studies of interindividual DEF locus variability and its disease association.