Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 8

Genomics Related Abstracts

8 Evolutionary Genomic Analysis of Adaptation Genomics

Authors: Agostinho Antunes


The completion of the human genome sequencing in 2003 opened a new perspective into the importance of whole genome sequencing projects, and currently multiple species are having their genomes completed sequenced, from simple organisms, such as bacteria, to more complex taxa, such as mammals. This voluminous sequencing data generated across multiple organisms provides also the framework to better understand the genetic makeup of such species and related ones, allowing to explore the genetic changes underlining the evolution of diverse phenotypic traits. Here, recent results from our group retrieved from comparative evolutionary genomic analyses of varied species will be considered to exemplify how gene novelty and gene enhancement by positive selection might have been determinant in the success of adaptive radiations into diverse habitats and lifestyles.

Keywords: Genomics, Evolution, Animals, Adaptation

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7 SPARK: An Open-Source Knowledge Discovery Platform That Leverages Non-Relational Databases and Massively Parallel Computational Power for Heterogeneous Genomic Datasets

Authors: Thilina Ranaweera, Enes Makalic, John L. Hopper, Adrian Bickerstaffe


Data are the primary asset of biomedical researchers, and the engine for both discovery and research translation. As the volume and complexity of research datasets increase, especially with new technologies such as large single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) chips, so too does the requirement for software to manage, process and analyze the data. Researchers often need to execute complicated queries and conduct complex analyzes of large-scale datasets. Existing tools to analyze such data, and other types of high-dimensional data, unfortunately suffer from one or more major problems. They typically require a high level of computing expertise, are too simplistic (i.e., do not fit realistic models that allow for complex interactions), are limited by computing power, do not exploit the computing power of large-scale parallel architectures (e.g. supercomputers, GPU clusters etc.), or are limited in the types of analysis available, compounded by the fact that integrating new analysis methods is not straightforward. Solutions to these problems, such as those developed and implemented on parallel architectures, are currently available to only a relatively small portion of medical researchers with access and know-how. The past decade has seen a rapid expansion of data management systems for the medical domain. Much attention has been given to systems that manage phenotype datasets generated by medical studies. The introduction of heterogeneous genomic data for research subjects that reside in these systems has highlighted the need for substantial improvements in software architecture. To address this problem, we have developed SPARK, an enabling and translational system for medical research, leveraging existing high performance computing resources, and analysis techniques currently available or being developed. It builds these into The Ark, an open-source web-based system designed to manage medical data. SPARK provides a next-generation biomedical data management solution that is based upon a novel Micro-Service architecture and Big Data technologies. The system serves to demonstrate the applicability of Micro-Service architectures for the development of high performance computing applications. When applied to high-dimensional medical datasets such as genomic data, relational data management approaches with normalized data structures suffer from unfeasibly high execution times for basic operations such as insert (i.e. importing a GWAS dataset) and the queries that are typical of the genomics research domain. SPARK resolves these problems by incorporating non-relational NoSQL databases that have been driven by the emergence of Big Data. SPARK provides researchers across the world with user-friendly access to state-of-the-art data management and analysis tools while eliminating the need for high-level informatics and programming skills. The system will benefit health and medical research by eliminating the burden of large-scale data management, querying, cleaning, and analysis. SPARK represents a major advancement in genome research technologies, vastly reducing the burden of working with genomic datasets, and enabling cutting edge analysis approaches that have previously been out of reach for many medical researchers.

Keywords: Information Systems, Genomics, software, Biomedical Research

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6 Predictive Pathogen Biology: Genome-Based Prediction of Pathogenic Potential and Countermeasures Targets

Authors: Debjit Ray


Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) and recombination leads to the emergence of bacterial antibiotic resistance and pathogenic traits. HGT events can be identified by comparing a large number of fully sequenced genomes across a species or genus, define the phylogenetic range of HGT, and find potential sources of new resistance genes. In-depth comparative phylogenomics can also identify subtle genome or plasmid structural changes or mutations associated with phenotypic changes. Comparative phylogenomics requires that accurately sequenced, complete and properly annotated genomes of the organism. Assembling closed genomes requires additional mate-pair reads or “long read” sequencing data to accompany short-read paired-end data. To bring down the cost and time required of producing assembled genomes and annotating genome features that inform drug resistance and pathogenicity, we are analyzing the performance for genome assembly of data from the Illumina NextSeq, which has faster throughput than the Illumina HiSeq (~1-2 days versus ~1 week), and shorter reads (150bp paired-end versus 300bp paired end) but higher capacity (150-400M reads per run versus ~5-15M) compared to the Illumina MiSeq. Bioinformatics improvements are also needed to make rapid, routine production of complete genomes a reality. Modern assemblers such as SPAdes 3.6.0 running on a standard Linux blade are capable in a few hours of converting mixes of reads from different library preps into high-quality assemblies with only a few gaps. Remaining breaks in scaffolds are generally due to repeats (e.g., rRNA genes) are addressed by our software for gap closure techniques, that avoid custom PCR or targeted sequencing. Our goal is to improve the understanding of emergence of pathogenesis using sequencing, comparative genomics, and machine learning analysis of ~1000 pathogen genomes. Machine learning algorithms will be used to digest the diverse features (change in virulence genes, recombination, horizontal gene transfer, patient diagnostics). Temporal data and evolutionary models can thus determine whether the origin of a particular isolate is likely to have been from the environment (could it have evolved from previous isolates). It can be useful for comparing differences in virulence along or across the tree. More intriguing, it can test whether there is a direction to virulence strength. This would open new avenues in the prediction of uncharacterized clinical bugs and multidrug resistance evolution and pathogen emergence.

Keywords: Genomics, Pathogens, Genome Assembly, superbugs

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5 Fuzzy Data, Random Drift, and a Theoretical Model for the Sequential Emergence of Religious Capacity in Genus Homo

Authors: Margaret Boone Rappaport, Christopher J. Corbally


The ancient ape ancestral population from which living great ape and human species evolved had demographic features affecting their evolution. The population was large, had great genetic variability, and natural selection was effective at honing adaptations. The emerging populations of chimpanzees and humans were affected more by founder effects and genetic drift because they were smaller. Natural selection did not disappear, but it was not as strong. Consequences of the 'population crash' and the human effective population size are introduced briefly. The history of the ancient apes is written in the genomes of living humans and great apes. The expansion of the brain began before the human line emerged. Coalescence times for some genes are very old – up to several million years, long before Homo sapiens. The mismatch between gene trees and species trees highlights the anthropoid speciation processes, and gives the human genome history a fuzzy, probabilistic quality. However, it suggests traits that might form a foundation for capacities emerging later. A theoretical model is presented in which the genomes of early ape populations provide the substructure for the emergence of religious capacity later on the human line. The model does not search for religion, but its foundations. It suggests a course by which an evolutionary line that began with prosimians eventually produced a human species with biologically based religious capacity. The model of the sequential emergence of religious capacity relies on cognitive science, neuroscience, paleoneurology, primate field studies, cognitive archaeology, genomics, and population genetics. And, it emphasizes five trait types: (1) Documented, positive selection of sensory capabilities on the human line may have favored survival, but also eventually enriched human religious experience. (2) The bonobo model suggests a possible down-regulation of aggression and increase in tolerance while feeding, as well as paedomorphism – but, in a human species that remains cognitively sharp (unlike the bonobo). The two species emerged from the same ancient ape population, so it is logical to search for shared traits. (3) An up-regulation of emotional sensitivity and compassion seems to have occurred on the human line. This finds support in modern genetic studies. (4) The authors’ published model of morality's emergence in Homo erectus encompasses a cognitively based, decision-making capacity that was hypothetically overtaken, in part, by religious capacity. Together, they produced a strong, variable, biocultural capability to support human sociability. (5) The full flowering of human religious capacity came with the parietal expansion and smaller face (klinorhynchy) found only in Homo sapiens. Details from paleoneurology suggest the stage was set for human theologies. Larger parietal lobes allowed humans to imagine inner spaces, processes, and beings, and, with the frontal lobe, led to the first theologies composed of structured and integrated theories of the relationships between humans and the supernatural. The model leads to the evolution of a small population of African hominins that was ready to emerge with religious capacity when the species Homo sapiens evolved two hundred thousand years ago. By 50-60,000 years ago, when human ancestors left Africa, they were fully enabled.

Keywords: Genomics, Genetic Drift, parietal expansion, religious capacity

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4 Insights into Archaeological Human Sample Microbiome Using 16S rRNA Gene Sequencing

Authors: Alisa Kazarina, Guntis Gerhards, Elina Petersone-Gordina, Ilva Pole, Viktorija Igumnova, Janis Kimsis, Valentina Capligina, Renate Ranka


Human body is inhabited by a vast number of microorganisms, collectively known as the human microbiome, and there is a tremendous interest in evolutionary changes in human microbial ecology, diversity and function. The field of paleomicrobiology, study of ancient human microbiome, is powered by modern techniques of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), which allows extracting microbial genomic data directly from archaeological sample of interest. One of the major techniques is 16S rRNA gene sequencing, by which certain 16S rRNA gene hypervariable regions are being amplified and sequenced. However, some limitations of this method exist including the taxonomic precision and efficacy of different regions used. The aim of this study was to evaluate the phylogenetic sensitivity of different 16S rRNA gene hypervariable regions for microbiome studies in the archaeological samples. Towards this aim, archaeological bone samples and corresponding soil samples from each burial environment were collected in Medieval cemeteries in Latvia. The Ion 16S™ Metagenomics Kit targeting different 16S rRNA gene hypervariable regions was used for library construction (Ion Torrent technologies). Sequenced data were analysed by using appropriate bioinformatic techniques; alignment and taxonomic representation was done using Mothur program. Sequences of most abundant genus were further aligned to E. coli 16S rRNA gene reference sequence using MEGA7 in order to identify the hypervariable region of the segment of interest. Our results showed that different hypervariable regions had different discriminatory power depending on the groups of microbes, as well as the nature of samples. On the basis of our results, we suggest that wider range of primers used can provide more accurate recapitulation of microbial communities in archaeological samples. Acknowledgements. This work was supported by the ERAF grant Nr.

Keywords: Bioinformatics, Genomics, Archaeology, Molecular Biology, Microbiome, Next-generation sequencing, ancient human microbiome

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3 Screening of Wheat Wild Relatives as a Gene Pool for Improved Photosynthesis in Wheat Breeding

Authors: Amanda J. Burridge, Keith J. Edwards, Paul A. Wilkinson, Tom Batstone, Erik H. Murchie, Lorna McAusland, Ana Elizabete Carmo-Silva, Ivan Jauregui, Tracy Lawson, Silvere R. M. Vialet-Chabrand


The rate of genetic progress in wheat production must be improved to meet global food security targets. However, past selection for domestication traits has reduced the genetic variation in modern wheat cultivars, a fact that could severely limit the future rate of genetic gain. The genetic variation in agronomically important traits for the wild relatives and progenitors of wheat is far greater than that of the current domesticated cultivars, but transferring these traits into modern cultivars is not straightforward. Between the elite cultivars of wheat, photosynthetic capacity is a key trait for which there is limited variation. Early screening of wheat wild relative and progenitors has shown differences in photosynthetic capacity and efficiency not only between wild relative species but marked differences between the accessions of each species. By identifying wild relative accessions with improved photosynthetic traits and characterising the genetic variation responsible, it is possible to incorporate these traits into advanced breeding programmes by wide crossing and introgression programmes. To identify the potential variety of photosynthetic capacity and efficiency available in the secondary and tertiary genepool, a wide scale survey was carried out for over 600 accessions from 80 species including those from the genus Aegilops, Triticum, Thinopyrum, Elymus, and Secale. Genotype data were generated for each accession using a ‘Wheat Wild Relative’ Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) genotyping array composed of 35,000 SNP markers polymorphic between wild relatives and elite hexaploid wheat. This genotype data was combined with phenotypic measurements such as gas exchange (CO₂, H₂O), chlorophyll fluorescence, growth, morphology, and RuBisCO activity to identify potential breeding material with enhanced photosynthetic capacity and efficiency. The data and associated analysis tools presented here will prove useful to anyone interested in increasing the genetic diversity in hexaploid wheat or the application of complex genotyping data to plant breeding.

Keywords: Genomics, Wheat, Photosynthesis, wild relatives, pre-breeding

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2 Diversity, Biochemical and Genomic Assessment of Selected Benthic Species of Two Tropical Lagoons, Southwest Nigeria

Authors: G. F. Okunade, M. O. Lawal, R. E. Uwadiae, D. Portnoy


The diversity, physico-chemical, biochemical and genomics assessment of Macrofauna species of Ologe and Badagry Lagoons were carried out between August 2016 and July 2018. The concentrations of Fe, Zn, Mn, Cd, Cr, and Pb in water were determined by Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer (AAS). Particle size distribution was determined with wet-sieving and sedimentation using hydrometer method. Genomics analyses were carried using 25 P. fusca (quadriseriata) and 25 P.fusca from each lagoon due to abundance in both lagoons all through the two years of collection. DNA was isolated from each sample using the Mag-Bind Blood and Tissue DNA HD 96 kit; a method designed to isolate high quality. The biochemical characteristics were analysed in the dominanat species (P.aurita and T. fuscatus) using ELISA kits. Physico-chemical parameters such as pH, total dissolved solids, dissolved oxygen, conductivity and TDS were analysed using APHA standard protocols. The Physico-chemical parameters of the water quality recorded with mean values of 32.46 ± 0.66mg/L and 41.93 ± 0.65 for COD, 27.28 ± 0.97 and 34.82 ± 0.1 mg/L for BOD, 0.04 ± 4.71 mg/L for DO, 6.65 and 6.58 for pH in Ologe and Badagry lagoons with significant variations (p ≤ 0.05) across seasons. The mean and standard deviation of salinity for Ologe and Badagry Lagoons ranged from 0.43 ± 0.30 to 0.27 ± 0.09. A total of 4210 species belonging to a phylum, two classes, four families and a total of 2008 species in Ologe lagoon while a phylum, two classes, 5 families and a total of 2202 species in Badagry lagoon. The percentage composition of the classes at Ologe lagoon had 99% gastropod and 1% bivalve, while Gastropod contributed 98.91% and bivalve 1.09% in Badagry lagoon. Particle size was distributed in 0.002mm to 2.00mm, particle size distribution in Ologe lagoon recorded 0.83% gravels, 97.83% sand, and 1.33% silt particles while Badagry lagoon recorded 7.43% sand, 24.71% silt, and 67.86% clay particles hence, the excessive dredging activities going on in the lagoon. Maximum percentage of sand (100%) was seen in station 6 in Ologe lagoon while the minimum (96%) was found in station 1. P. aurita (Ologe Lagoon) and T. fuscastus (Badagry Lagoon) were the most abundant benthic species in which both contributed 61.05% and 64.35%, respectively. The enzymatic activities of P. aurita observed with mean values of 21.03 mg/dl for AST, 10.33 mg/dl for ALP, 82.16 mg/dl for ALT and 73.06 mg/dl for CHO in Ologe Lagoon While T. fuscatus observed mean values of Badagry Lagoon) recorded mean values 29.76 mg/dl, ALP with 11.69mg/L, ALT with 140.58 mg/dl and CHO with 45.98 mg/dl. There were significant variations (P < 0.05) in AST and CHO levels of activities in the muscles of the species.

Keywords: Genomics, Metals, particle size, benthos, biochemical responses

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1 Improving the Biocontrol of the Argentine Stem Weevil; Using the Parasitic Wasp Microctonus hyperodae

Authors: John G. Skelly, Peter K. Dearden, Thomas W. R. Harrop, Sarah N. Inwood, Joseph Guhlin


The Argentine stem weevil (ASW; L. bonariensis) is an economically important pasture pest in New Zealand, which causes about $200 million of damage per annum. Microctonus hyperodae (Mh), a parasite of the ASW in its natural range in South America, was introduced into New Zealand to curb the pasture damage caused by the ASW. Mh is an endoparasitic wasp that lays its eggs in the ASW halting its reproduction. Mh was initially successful at preventing ASW proliferation and reducing pasture damage. The effectiveness of Mh has since declined due to decreased parasitism rates and has resulted in increased pasture damage. Although the mechanism through which ASW has developed resistance to Mh has not been discovered, it has been proposed to be due to the different reproductive modes used by Mh and the ASW in New Zealand. The ASW reproduces sexually, whereas Mh reproduces asexually, which has been hypothesised to have allowed the ASW to ‘out evolve’ Mh. Other species within the Microctonus genus reproduce both sexually and asexually. Strains of Microctonus aethiopoides (Ma), a species closely related to Mh, reproduce either by sexual or asexual reproduction. Comparing the genomes of sexual and asexual Microctonus may allow for the identification of the mechanism of asexual reproduction and other characteristics that may improve Mh as a biocontrol agent. The genomes of Mh and three strains of Ma, two of which reproduce sexually and one reproduces asexually, have been sequenced and annotated. The French (MaFR) and Moroccan (MaMO) reproduce sexually, whereas the Irish strain (MaIR) reproduces asexually. Like Mh, The Ma strains are also used as biocontrol agents, but for different weevil species. The genomes of Mh and MaIR were subsequently upgraded using Hi-C, resulting in a set of high quality, highly contiguous genomes. A subset of the genes involved in mitosis and meiosis, which have been identified though the use of Hidden Markov Models generated from genes involved in these processes in other Hymenoptera, have been catalogued in Mh and the strains of Ma. Meiosis and mitosis genes were broadly conserved in both sexual and asexual Microctonus species. This implies that either the asexual species have retained a subset of the molecular components required for sexual reproduction or that the molecular mechanisms of mitosis and meiosis are different or differently regulated in Microctonus to other insect species in which these mechanisms are more broadly characterised. Bioinformatic analysis of the chemoreceptor compliment in Microctonus has revealed some variation in the number of olfactory receptors, which may be related to host preference. Phylogenetic analysis of olfactory receptors highlights variation, which may be able to explain different host range preferences in the Microctonus. Hi-C clustering implies that Mh has 12 chromosomes, and MaIR has 8. Hence there may be variation in gene regulation between species. Genome alignment of Mh and MaIR implies that there may be large scale genome structural variation. Greater insight into the genetics of these agriculturally important group of parasitic wasps may be beneficial in restoring or maintaining their biocontrol efficacy.

Keywords: Genomics, argentine stem weevil, asexual, Microctonus hyperodae

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