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1.  Genome-wide variations in a natural isolate of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:255.
Increasing genetic and phenotypic differences found among natural isolates of C. elegans have encouraged researchers to explore the natural variation of this nematode species.
Here we report on the identification of genomic differences between the reference strain N2 and the Hawaiian strain CB4856, one of the most genetically distant strains from N2. To identify both small- and large-scale genomic variations (GVs), we have sequenced the CB4856 genome using both Roche 454 (~400 bps single reads) and Illumina GA DNA sequencing methods (101 bps paired-end reads). Compared to previously described variants (available in WormBase), our effort uncovered twice as many single nucleotide variants (SNVs) and increased the number of small InDels almost 20-fold. Moreover, we identified and validated large insertions, most of which range from 150 bps to 1.2 kb in length in the CB4856 strain. Identified GVs had a widespread impact on protein-coding sequences, including 585 single-copy genes that have associated severe phenotypes of reduced viability in RNAi and genetics studies. Sixty of these genes are homologs of human genes associated with diseases. Furthermore, our work confirms previously identified GVs associated with differences in behavioural and biological traits between the N2 and CB4856 strains.
The identified GVs provide a rich resource for future studies that aim to explain the genetic basis for other trait differences between the N2 and CB4856 strains.
PMCID: PMC4023591  PMID: 24694239
C. elegans; Natural isolate strain; Next-generation DNA sequencing; Genomic variation; Loss-of-function; Large insertion; Compound variation
2.  Comparative methylomics between domesticated and wild silkworms implies possible epigenetic influences on silkworm domestication 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:646.
In contrast to wild species, which have typically evolved phenotypes over long periods of natural selection, domesticates rapidly gained human-preferred agronomic traits in a relatively short-time frame via artificial selection. Under domesticated conditions, many traits can be observed that cannot only be due to environmental alteration. In the case of silkworms, aside from genetic divergence, whether epigenetic divergence played a role in domestication is an unanswered question. The silkworm is still an enigma in that it has two DNA methyltransferases (DNMT1 and DNMT2) but their functionality is unknown. Even in particular the functionality of the widely distributed DNMT1 remains unknown in insects in general.
By embryonic RNA interference, we reveal that knockdown of silkworm Dnmt1 caused decreased hatchability, providing the first direct experimental evidence of functional significance of insect Dnmt1. In the light of this fact and those that DNA methylation is correlated with gene expression in silkworms and some agronomic traits in domesticated organisms are not stable, we comprehensively compare silk gland methylomes of 3 domesticated (Bombyx mori) and 4 wild (Bombyx mandarina) silkworms to identify differentially methylated genes between the two. We observed 2-fold more differentiated methylated cytosinces (mCs) in domesticated silkworms as compared to their wild counterparts, suggesting a trend of increasing DNA methylation during domestication. Further study of more domesticated and wild silkworms narrowed down the domesticates’ epimutations, and we were able to identify a number of differential genes. One such gene showing demethyaltion in domesticates correspondently displays lower gene expression, and more interestingly, has experienced selective sweep. A methylation-increased gene seems to result in higher expression in domesticates and the function of its Drosophila homolog was previously found to be essential for cell volume regulation, indicating a possible correlation with the enlargement of silk glands in domesticated silkworms.
Our results imply epigenetic influences at work during domestication, which gives insight into long time historical controversies regarding acquired inheritance.
PMCID: PMC3852238  PMID: 24059350
dnmt1; Comparative methylomics; Silkworm; Domestication
3.  Molecular footprints of domestication and improvement in soybean revealed by whole genome re-sequencing 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:579.
Artificial selection played an important role in the origin of modern Glycine max cultivars from the wild soybean Glycine soja. To elucidate the consequences of artificial selection accompanying the domestication and modern improvement of soybean, 25 new and 30 published whole-genome re-sequencing accessions, which represent wild, domesticated landrace, and Chinese elite soybean populations were analyzed.
A total of 5,102,244 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and 707,969 insertion/deletions were identified. Among the SNPs detected, 25.5% were not described previously. We found that artificial selection during domestication led to more pronounced reduction in the genetic diversity of soybean than the switch from landraces to elite cultivars. Only a small proportion (2.99%) of the whole genomic regions appear to be affected by artificial selection for preferred agricultural traits. The selection regions were not distributed randomly or uniformly throughout the genome. Instead, clusters of selection hotspots in certain genomic regions were observed. Moreover, a set of candidate genes (4.38% of the total annotated genes) significantly affected by selection underlying soybean domestication and genetic improvement were identified.
Given the uniqueness of the soybean germplasm sequenced, this study drew a clear picture of human-mediated evolution of the soybean genomes. The genomic resources and information provided by this study would also facilitate the discovery of genes/loci underlying agronomically important traits.
PMCID: PMC3844514  PMID: 23984715
Artificial selection; Evolution; Genetic diversity; Population genomics; Soybean
4.  Comparative genomics of parasitic silkworm microsporidia reveal an association between genome expansion and host adaptation 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:186.
Microsporidian Nosema bombycis has received much attention because the pébrine disease of domesticated silkworms results in great economic losses in the silkworm industry. So far, no effective treatment could be found for pébrine. Compared to other known Nosema parasites, N. bombycis can unusually parasitize a broad range of hosts. To gain some insights into the underlying genetic mechanism of pathological ability and host range expansion in this parasite, a comparative genomic approach is conducted. The genome of two Nosema parasites, N. bombycis and N. antheraeae (an obligatory parasite to undomesticated silkworms Antheraea pernyi), were sequenced and compared with their distantly related species, N. ceranae (an obligatory parasite to honey bees).
Our comparative genomics analysis show that the N. bombycis genome has greatly expanded due to the following three molecular mechanisms: 1) the proliferation of host-derived transposable elements, 2) the acquisition of many horizontally transferred genes from bacteria, and 3) the production of abundnant gene duplications. To our knowledge, duplicated genes derived not only from small-scale events (e.g., tandem duplications) but also from large-scale events (e.g., segmental duplications) have never been seen so abundant in any reported microsporidia genomes. Our relative dating analysis further indicated that these duplication events have arisen recently over very short evolutionary time. Furthermore, several duplicated genes involving in the cytotoxic metabolic pathway were found to undergo positive selection, suggestive of the role of duplicated genes on the adaptive evolution of pathogenic ability.
Genome expansion is rarely considered as the evolutionary outcome acting on those highly reduced and compact parasitic microsporidian genomes. This study, for the first time, demonstrates that the parasitic genomes can expand, instead of shrink, through several common molecular mechanisms such as gene duplication, horizontal gene transfer, and transposable element expansion. We also showed that the duplicated genes can serve as raw materials for evolutionary innovations possibly contributing to the increase of pathologenic ability. Based on our research, we propose that duplicated genes of N. bombycis should be treated as primary targets for treatment designs against pébrine.
PMCID: PMC3614468  PMID: 23496955
Gene duplication; Horizontal gene transfer; Host-derived transposable element; Host adaptation; Microsporidian; Silkworms
5.  A comparative analysis of the intestinal metagenomes present in guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) and humans (Homo sapiens) 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:514.
Guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) is an important model for human intestinal research. We have characterized the faecal microbiota of 60 guinea pigs using Illumina shotgun metagenomics, and used this data to compile a gene catalogue of its prevalent microbiota. Subsequently, we compared the guinea pig microbiome to existing human gut metagenome data from the MetaHIT project.
We found that the bacterial richness obtained for human samples was lower than for guinea pig samples. The intestinal microbiotas of both species were dominated by the two phyla Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, but at genus level, the majority of identified genera (320 of 376) were differently abundant in the two hosts. For example, the guinea pig contained considerably more of the mucin-degrading Akkermansia, as well as of the methanogenic archaea Methanobrevibacter than found in humans. Most microbiome functional categories were less abundant in guinea pigs than in humans. Exceptions included functional categories possibly reflecting dehydration/rehydration stress in the guinea pig intestine. Finally, we showed that microbiological databases have serious anthropocentric biases, which impacts model organism research.
The results lay the foundation for future gastrointestinal research applying guinea pigs as models for humans.
PMCID: PMC3472315  PMID: 23020652
6.  Single-base resolution maps of cultivated and wild rice methylomes and regulatory roles of DNA methylation in plant gene expression 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:300.
DNA methylation plays important biological roles in plants and animals. To examine the rice genomic methylation landscape and assess its functional significance, we generated single-base resolution DNA methylome maps for Asian cultivated rice Oryza sativa ssp. japonica, indica and their wild relatives, Oryza rufipogon and Oryza nivara.
The overall methylation level of rice genomes is four times higher than that of Arabidopsis. Consistent with the results reported for Arabidopsis, methylation in promoters represses gene expression while gene-body methylation generally appears to be positively associated with gene expression. Interestingly, we discovered that methylation in gene transcriptional termination regions (TTRs) can significantly repress gene expression, and the effect is even stronger than that of promoter methylation. Through integrated analysis of genomic, DNA methylomic and transcriptomic differences between cultivated and wild rice, we found that primary DNA sequence divergence is the major determinant of methylational differences at the whole genome level, but DNA methylational difference alone can only account for limited gene expression variation between the cultivated and wild rice. Furthermore, we identified a number of genes with significant difference in methylation level between the wild and cultivated rice.
The single-base resolution methylomes of rice obtained in this study have not only broadened our understanding of the mechanism and function of DNA methylation in plant genomes, but also provided valuable data for future studies of rice epigenetics and the epigenetic differentiation between wild and cultivated rice.
PMCID: PMC3447678  PMID: 22747568
Cultivated and wild rice; Methylomes; Transcriptional termination regions (TTRs); Gene expression
7.  Deciphering neo-sex and B chromosome evolution by the draft genome of Drosophila albomicans 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:109.
Drosophila albomicans is a unique model organism for studying both sex chromosome and B chromosome evolution. A pair of its autosomes comprising roughly 40% of the whole genome has fused to the ancient X and Y chromosomes only about 0.12 million years ago, thereby creating the youngest and most gene-rich neo-sex system reported to date. This species also possesses recently derived B chromosomes that show non-Mendelian inheritance and significantly influence fertility.
We sequenced male flies with B chromosomes at 124.5-fold genome coverage using next-generation sequencing. To characterize neo-Y specific changes and B chromosome sequences, we also sequenced inbred female flies derived from the same strain but without B's at 28.5-fold.
We assembled a female genome and placed 53% of the sequence and 85% of the annotated proteins into specific chromosomes, by comparison with the 12 Drosophila genomes. Despite its very recent origin, the non-recombining neo-Y chromosome shows various signs of degeneration, including a significant enrichment of non-functional genes compared to the neo-X, and an excess of tandem duplications relative to other chromosomes. We also characterized a B-chromosome linked scaffold that contains an actively transcribed unit and shows sequence similarity to the subcentromeric regions of both the ancient X and the neo-X chromosome.
Our results provide novel insights into the very early stages of sex chromosome evolution and B chromosome origination, and suggest an unprecedented connection between the births of these two systems in D. albomicans.
PMCID: PMC3353239  PMID: 22439699
Drosophila albomicans; neo-sex chromosome; B chromosome
8.  Rice-Map: a new-generation rice genome browser 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:165.
The concurrent release of rice genome sequences for two subspecies (Oryza sativa L. ssp. japonica and Oryza sativa L. ssp. indica) facilitates rice studies at the whole genome level. Since the advent of high-throughput analysis, huge amounts of functional genomics data have been delivered rapidly, making an integrated online genome browser indispensable for scientists to visualize and analyze these data. Based on next-generation web technologies and high-throughput experimental data, we have developed Rice-Map, a novel genome browser for researchers to navigate, analyze and annotate rice genome interactively.
More than one hundred annotation tracks (81 for japonica and 82 for indica) have been compiled and loaded into Rice-Map. These pre-computed annotations cover gene models, transcript evidences, expression profiling, epigenetic modifications, inter-species and intra-species homologies, genetic markers and other genomic features. In addition to these pre-computed tracks, registered users can interactively add comments and research notes to Rice-Map as User-Defined Annotation entries. By smoothly scrolling, dragging and zooming, users can browse various genomic features simultaneously at multiple scales. On-the-fly analysis for selected entries could be performed through dedicated bioinformatic analysis platforms such as WebLab and Galaxy. Furthermore, a BioMart-powered data warehouse "Rice Mart" is offered for advanced users to fetch bulk datasets based on complex criteria.
Rice-Map delivers abundant up-to-date japonica and indica annotations, providing a valuable resource for both computational and bench biologists. Rice-Map is publicly accessible at, with all data available for free downloading.
PMCID: PMC3072960  PMID: 21450055
9.  Integration of linkage maps for the Amphidiploid Brassica napus and comparative mapping with Arabidopsis and Brassica rapa 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:101.
The large number of genetic linkage maps representing Brassica chromosomes constitute a potential platform for studying crop traits and genome evolution within Brassicaceae. However, the alignment of existing maps remains a major challenge. The integration of these genetic maps will enhance genetic resolution, and provide a means to navigate between sequence-tagged loci, and with contiguous genome sequences as these become available.
We report the first genome-wide integration of Brassica maps based on an automated pipeline which involved collation of genome-wide genotype data for sequence-tagged markers scored on three extensively used amphidiploid Brassica napus (2n = 38) populations. Representative markers were selected from consolidated maps for each population, and skeleton bin maps were generated. The skeleton maps for the three populations were then combined to generate an integrated map for each LG, comparing two different approaches, one encapsulated in JoinMap and the other in MergeMap. The BnaWAIT_01_2010a integrated genetic map was generated using JoinMap, and includes 5,162 genetic markers mapped onto 2,196 loci, with a total genetic length of 1,792 cM. The map density of one locus every 0.82 cM, corresponding to 515 Kbp, increases by at least three-fold the locus and marker density within the original maps. Within the B. napus integrated map we identified 103 conserved collinearity blocks relative to Arabidopsis, including five previously unreported blocks. The BnaWAIT_01_2010a map was used to investigate the integrity and conservation of order proposed for genome sequence scaffolds generated from the constituent A genome of Brassica rapa.
Our results provide a comprehensive genetic integration of the B. napus genome from a range of sources, which we anticipate will provide valuable information for rapeseed and Canola research.
PMCID: PMC3042011  PMID: 21306613
10.  Pig genome sequence - analysis and publication strategy 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:438.
The pig genome is being sequenced and characterised under the auspices of the Swine Genome Sequencing Consortium. The sequencing strategy followed a hybrid approach combining hierarchical shotgun sequencing of BAC clones and whole genome shotgun sequencing.
Assemblies of the BAC clone derived genome sequence have been annotated using the Pre-Ensembl and Ensembl automated pipelines and made accessible through the Pre-Ensembl/Ensembl browsers. The current annotated genome assembly (Sscrofa9) was released with Ensembl 56 in September 2009. A revised assembly (Sscrofa10) is under construction and will incorporate whole genome shotgun sequence (WGS) data providing > 30× genome coverage. The WGS sequence, most of which comprise short Illumina/Solexa reads, were generated from DNA from the same single Duroc sow as the source of the BAC library from which clones were preferentially selected for sequencing. In accordance with the Bermuda and Fort Lauderdale agreements and the more recent Toronto Statement the data have been released into public sequence repositories (Genbank/EMBL, NCBI/Ensembl trace repositories) in a timely manner and in advance of publication.
In this marker paper, the Swine Genome Sequencing Consortium (SGSC) sets outs its plans for analysis of the pig genome sequence, for the application and publication of the results.
PMCID: PMC3017778  PMID: 20642822
11.  BOAT: Basic Oligonucleotide Alignment Tool 
BMC Genomics  2009;10(Suppl 3):S2.
Next-generation DNA sequencing technologies generate tens of millions of sequencing reads in one run. These technologies are now widely used in biology research such as in genome-wide identification of polymorphisms, transcription factor binding sites, methylation states, and transcript expression profiles. Mapping the sequencing reads to reference genomes efficiently and effectively is one of the most critical analysis tasks. Although several tools have been developed, their performance suffers when both multiple substitutions and insertions/deletions (indels) occur together.
We report a new algorithm, Basic Oligonucleotide Alignment Tool (BOAT) that can accurately and efficiently map sequencing reads back to the reference genome. BOAT can handle several substitutions and indels simultaneously, a useful feature for identifying SNPs and other genomic structural variations in functional genomic studies. For better handling of low-quality reads, BOAT supports a "3'-end Trimming Mode" to build local optimized alignment for sequencing reads, further improving sensitivity. BOAT calculates an E-value for each hit as a quality assessment and provides customizable post-mapping filters for further mapping quality control.
Evaluations on both real and simulation datasets suggest that BOAT is capable of mapping large volumes of short reads to reference sequences with better sensitivity and lower memory requirement than other currently existing algorithms. The source code and pre-compiled binary packages of BOAT are publicly available for download at under GNU Public License (GPL). BOAT can be a useful new tool for functional genomics studies.
PMCID: PMC2788372  PMID: 19958483
12.  High-throughput single nucleotide polymorphism genotyping using nanofluidic Dynamic Arrays 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:561.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) have emerged as the genetic marker of choice for mapping disease loci and candidate gene association studies, because of their high density and relatively even distribution in the human genomes. There is a need for systems allowing medium multiplexing (ten to hundreds of SNPs) with high throughput, which can efficiently and cost-effectively generate genotypes for a very large sample set (thousands of individuals). Methods that are flexible, fast, accurate and cost-effective are urgently needed. This is also important for those who work on high throughput genotyping in non-model systems where off-the-shelf assays are not available and a flexible platform is needed.
We demonstrate the use of a nanofluidic Integrated Fluidic Circuit (IFC) - based genotyping system for medium-throughput multiplexing known as the Dynamic Array, by genotyping 994 individual human DNA samples on 47 different SNP assays, using nanoliter volumes of reagents. Call rates of greater than 99.5% and call accuracies of greater than 99.8% were achieved from our study, which demonstrates that this is a formidable genotyping platform. The experimental set up is very simple, with a time-to-result for each sample of about 3 hours.
Our results demonstrate that the Dynamic Array is an excellent genotyping system for medium-throughput multiplexing (30-300 SNPs), which is simple to use and combines rapid throughput with excellent call rates, high concordance and low cost. The exceptional call rates and call accuracy obtained may be of particular interest to those working on validation and replication of genome- wide- association (GWA) studies.
PMCID: PMC2789104  PMID: 19943955
13.  Gene conversion in the rice genome 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:93.
Gene conversion causes a non-reciprocal transfer of genetic information between similar sequences. Gene conversion can both homogenize genes and recruit point mutations thereby shaping the evolution of multigene families. In the rice genome, the large number of duplicated genes increases opportunities for gene conversion.
To characterize gene conversion in rice, we have defined 626 multigene families in which 377 gene conversions were detected using the GENECONV program. Over 60% of the conversions we detected were between chromosomes. We found that the inter-chromosomal conversions distributed between chromosome 1 and 5, 2 and 6, and 3 and 5 are more frequent than genome average (Z-test, P < 0.05). The frequencies of gene conversion on the same chromosome decreased with the physical distance between gene conversion partners. Ka/Ks analysis indicates that gene conversion is not tightly linked to natural selection in the rice genome. To assess the contribution of segmental duplication on gene conversion statistics, we determined locations of conversion partners with respect to inter-chromosomal segment duplication. The number of conversions associated with segmentation is less than ten percent. Pseudogenes in the rice genome with low similarity to Arabidopsis genes showed greater likelihood for gene conversion than those with high similarity to Arabidopsis genes. Functional annotations suggest that at least 14 multigene families related to disease or bacteria resistance were involved in conversion events.
The evolution of gene families in the rice genome may have been accelerated by conversion with pseudogenes. Our analysis suggests a possible role for gene conversion in the evolution of pathogen-response genes.
PMCID: PMC2277409  PMID: 18298833
14.  Identification and characterization of insect-specific proteins by genome data analysis 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:93.
Insects constitute the vast majority of known species with their importance including biodiversity, agricultural, and human health concerns. It is likely that the successful adaptation of the Insecta clade depends on specific components in its proteome that give rise to specialized features. However, proteome determination is an intensive undertaking. Here we present results from a computational method that uses genome analysis to characterize insect and eukaryote proteomes as an approximation complementary to experimental approaches.
Homologs in common to Drosophila melanogaster, Anopheles gambiae, Bombyx mori, Tribolium castaneum, and Apis mellifera were compared to the complete genomes of three non-insect eukaryotes (opisthokonts) Homo sapiens, Caenorhabditis elegans and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This operation yielded 154 groups of orthologous proteins in Drosophila to be insect-specific homologs; 466 groups were determined to be common to eukaryotes (represented by three opisthokonts). ESTs from the hemimetabolous insect Locust migratoria were also considered in order to approximate their corresponding genes in the insect-specific homologs. Stress and stimulus response proteins were found to constitute a higher fraction in the insect-specific homologs than in the homologs common to eukaryotes.
The significant representation of stress response and stimulus response proteins in proteins determined to be insect-specific, along with specific cuticle and pheromone/odorant binding proteins, suggest that communication and adaptation to environments may distinguish insect evolution relative to other eukaryotes. The tendency for low Ka/Ks ratios in the insect-specific protein set suggests purifying selection pressure. The generally larger number of paralogs in the insect-specific proteins may indicate adaptation to environment changes. Instances in our insect-specific protein set have been arrived at through experiments reported in the literature, supporting the accuracy of our approach.
PMCID: PMC1852559  PMID: 17407609
15.  Pigs in sequence space: A 0.66X coverage pig genome survey based on shotgun sequencing 
BMC Genomics  2005;6:70.
Comparative whole genome analysis of Mammalia can benefit from the addition of more species. The pig is an obvious choice due to its economic and medical importance as well as its evolutionary position in the artiodactyls.
We have generated ~3.84 million shotgun sequences (0.66X coverage) from the pig genome. The data are hereby released (NCBI Trace repository with center name "SDJVP", and project name "Sino-Danish Pig Genome Project") together with an initial evolutionary analysis.
The non-repetitive fraction of the sequences was aligned to the UCSC human-mouse alignment and the resulting three-species alignments were annotated using the human genome annotation. Ultra-conserved elements and miRNAs were identified. The results show that for each of these types of orthologous data, pig is much closer to human than mouse is. Purifying selection has been more efficient in pig compared to human, but not as efficient as in mouse, and pig seems to have an isochore structure most similar to the structure in human.
The addition of the pig to the set of species sequenced at low coverage adds to the understanding of selective pressures that have acted on the human genome by bisecting the evolutionary branch between human and mouse with the mouse branch being approximately 3 times as long as the human branch. Additionally, the joint alignment of the shot-gun sequences to the human-mouse alignment offers the investigator a rapid way to defining specific regions for analysis and resequencing.
PMCID: PMC1142312  PMID: 15885146

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