Bayesian mixture analysis for metagenomic community profiling.

Bayesian mixture analysis for metagenomic community profiling.

Sofia Morfopoulou, Vincent Plagnol

Deep sequencing of clinical samples is now an established tool for the detection of infectious pathogens, with direct medical applications. The large amount of data generated provides an opportunity to detect species even at very low levels, provided that computational tools can effectively interpret potentially complex metagenomic mixtures. Data interpretation is complicated by the fact that short sequencing reads can match multiple organisms and by the lack of completeness of existing databases, in particular for viral pathogens. This interpretation problem can be formulated statistically as a mixture model, where the species of origin of each read is missing, but the complete knowledge of all species present in the mixture helps with the individual reads assignment. Several analytical tools have been proposed to approximately solve this computational problem. Here, we show that the use of parallel Monte Carlo Markov chains (MCMC) for the exploration of the species space enables the identification of the set of species most likely to contribute to the mixture. The added accuracy comes at a cost of increased computation time. Our approach is useful for solving complex mixtures involving several related species. We designed our method specifically for the analysis of deep transcriptome sequencing datasets and with a particular focus on viral pathogen detection, but the principles are applicable more generally to all types of metagenomics mixtures. The code is available on github ( and the process is currently being implemented in a user friendly R package (metaMix, to be submitted to CRAN).

Long non-coding RNA discovery in Anopheles gambiae using deep RNA sequencing

Long non-coding RNA discovery in Anopheles gambiae using deep RNA sequencing

Adam M Jenkins, Robert M Waterhouse, Alan S Kopin, Marc A.T. Muskavitch

Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are mRNA-like transcripts longer than 200 bp that have no protein-coding potential. lncRNAs have recently been implicated in epigenetic regulation, transcriptional and post-transcriptional gene regulation, and regulation of genomic stability in mammals, Caenorhabditis elegans, and Drosophila melanogaster. Using deep RNA sequencing of multiple Anopheles gambiae life stages, we have identified over 600 novel lncRNAs and more than 200 previously unannotated putative protein-coding genes. The lncRNAs exhibit differential expression profiles across life stages and adult genders. Those lncRNAs that are antisense to known protein-coding genes or are contained within intronic regions of protein-coding genes may mediate transcriptional repression or stabilization of associated mRNAs. lncRNAs exhibit faster rates of sequence evolution across anophelines compared to previously known and newly identified protein-coding genes. This initial description of lncRNAs in An. gambiae offers the first genome-wide insights into long non-coding RNAs in this vector mosquito and defines a novel set of potential targets for the development of vector-based interventions that may curb the human malaria burden in disease-endemic countries.

Comparative Performance of Two Whole Genome Capture Methodologies on Ancient DNA Illumina Libraries

Comparative Performance of Two Whole Genome Capture Methodologies on Ancient DNA Illumina Libraries
Maria Avila-Arcos, Marcela Sandoval-Velasco, Hannes Schroeder, Meredith L Carpenter, Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas, Nathan Wales, Fernando PeƱaloza, Carlos D Bustamante, M. Thomas P Gilbert

1. The application of whole genome capture (WGC) methods to ancient DNA (aDNA) promises to increase the efficiency of ancient genome sequencing. 2. We compared the performance of two recently developed WGC methods in enriching human aDNA within Illumina libraries built using both double-stranded (DSL) and single-stranded (SSL) build protocols. Although both methods effectively enriched aDNA, one consistently produced marginally better results, giving us the opportunity to further explore the parameters influencing WGC experiments. 3. Our results suggest that bait length has an important influence on library enrichment. Moreover, we show that WGC biases against the shorter molecules that are enriched in SSL preparation protocols. Therefore application of WGC to such samples is not recommended without future optimization. Lastly, we document the effect of WGC on other features including clonality, GC composition and repetitive DNA content of captured libraries. 4. Our findings provide insights for researchers planning to perform WGC on aDNA, and suggest future tests and optimization to improve WGC efficiency.

Author post: Facilitated diffusion buffers noise in gene expression

This guest post is by Radu Zabet on his preprint (with Armin Schoech) Facilitated diffusion buffers noise in gene expression, arXived here.

How does the binding dynamics of transcription factors affect the noise in gene expression?

Transcription factors (TFs) are proteins that bind to DNA and control gene activity. Gene regulation can be modelled as a chemical reaction, which is fundamentally a stochastic process. Given the importance of an accurate control of the gene regulatory program in the cell, significant efforts have been made in understanding the noise properties of gene expression.

Why can noise in gene expression be modelled assuming an ON/OFF gene model?

With few exceptions, previous studies investigated the noise in gene expression assuming that the regulatory process is a two-state Markov model (genes switch stochastically between ON and OFF states). However, it is known that, mechanistically, transcription factors find their genomic target sites through facilitated diffusion, a combination of 3D diffusion in the cytoplasm/nucleoplasm and 1D random walk along the DNA, and this is likely to influence the noise properties of the gene regulation process. Previous experimental studies (e.g. see successfully modelled the noise measured experimentally by assuming an ON/OFF gene model (two-state Markov model) in bacterial and animal cells. In this manuscript, we built a three-state Markov model that accurately models the facilitated diffusion and we showed that for biologically relevant parameters, at least in bacteria (we assumed lac repressor system, noise in gene expression can be modelled assuming the ON/OFF gene model, but only if the binding/unbinding rates are adjusted accordingly. This explains why in many cases the experimental noise in gene regulation can be modelled assuming an ON/OFF gene model. Note that there are several exceptions where the noise in gene expression does not seem to be accounted by the ON/OFF gene model (e.g. or

What is the effect of facilitated diffusion on the noise in gene expression?

Next, assuming the ON/OFF gene model we investigated the evolutionary advantage that a TF, which performs facilitated diffusion, has on noise in gene expression compared to an equivalent TF that only performs the 3D diffusion (and does not perform 1D random walk on the DNA). Our results show that the noise in gene expression can be reduced significantly when the TF performs facilitated diffusion compared to its equivalent TF that only performs 3D diffusion in the cell. This is important, because while the majority of the studies identify the speedup in the binding site search process as the main evolutionary advantage of why facilitated diffusion exists, we show that, in addition to this speedup in binding kinetics, facilitated diffusion also reduces the noise in gene expression. Interestingly, it seems that the noise level in gene expression is reduced close to the noise level of an unregulated gene (the lowest noise level in gene expression that could be achieved), while the noise of an equivalent TF that performs only 3D diffusion is significantly higher.

Finally, to test our model, we parameterise it with values measured experimentally in the case of lac repressor in E. coli and we estimated the mean mRNA level to be 0.16 and the Fano factor (variance divided by mean) to be 1.3 (as opposed to 2.0 in the case of TF performing only 3D diffusion). These values are similar to the values measured experimentally in the low inducer case of Plac by (mean mRNA level of 0.15 and Fano factor of 1.25) and shows that facilitated diffusion is essential in explaining the experimentally measured noise in mRNA.

Author post: Sharing of Very Short IBD Segments between Humans, Neandertals, and Denisovans

This guest post is by Gundula Povysil and Sepp Hochreiter on their preprint Sharing of Very Short IBD Segments between Humans, Neandertals, and Denisovans, bioRxived here.

We completed our preprint Sharing of Very Short IBD Segments between Humans, Neandertals, and Denisovans in bioRxiv by presenting results not only for chromosome 1 but now for all autosomes and chromosome X.

In this manuscript we analyze the sharing of very short identity by descent (IBD) segments between humans, Neandertals, and Denisovans to gain new insights into their demographic history. In the updated version we included a separate chromosome X analysis (both IBD segment sharing and length of segments). We identified IBD segments in the 1000 Genomes Project sequencing data using our recently published method HapFABIA, many of which are shared with Neandertals or Denisovans.

Here we highlight the most interesting findings of our analysis:

Introgression from Denisovans into ancestors of Asians:

The Denisova genome most prominently matches IBD segments that are shared by Asians and on average these segments are longer than segments shared between other continental populations and the Denisova genome. Therefore, we could confirm an introgression from Denisovans into ancestors of Asians after their migration out of Africa.

Introgression from Neandertals into ancestors of Europeans and Asians:

While Neandertal-matching IBD segments are most often shared by Asians, Europeans share a considerably higher percentage of IBD segments with Neandertals compared to other populations, too. Neandertal-matching IBD segments that are shared by Asians or Europeans are longer than those observed in Africans. These IBD segments hint at a gene flow from Neandertals into ancestors of Asians and Europeans after they left Africa.

Ancient Neandertal and Denisova IBD segments survived only in Africans

Interestingly, many Neandertal- and/or Denisova-matching IBD segments are predominantly observed in Africans – some of them even exclusively. IBD segments shared between Africans and Neandertals or Denisovans are strikingly short, therefore we assume that they are very old. Consequently, we conclude that DNA regions from ancestors of humans, Neandertals, and Denisovans have survived in Africans.

Neandertal but no Denisova introgression on the X chromosome

Neandertal-matching IBD segments on chromosome X confirm gene flow from Neandertals into ancestors of Asians and Europeans outside Africa. Interestingly, there is hardly any signal of Denisova introgression on the X chromosome.

We highly appreciate any comments, discussions, or thoughts on our results.

Butter: High-precision genomic alignment of small RNA-seq data

Butter: High-precision genomic alignment of small RNA-seq data
Michael J Axtell

Eukaryotes produce large numbers of small non-coding RNAs that act as specificity determinants for various gene-regulatory complexes. These include microRNAs (miRNAs), endogenous short interfering RNAs (siRNAs), and Piwi-associated RNAs (piRNAs). These RNAs can be discovered, annotated, and quantified using small RNA-seq, a variant RNA-seq method based on highly parallel sequencing. Alignment to a reference genome is a critical step in analysis of small RNA-seq data. Because of their small size (20-30 nts depending on the organism and sub-type) and tendency to originate from multi-gene families or repetitive regions, reads that align equally well to more than one genomic location are very common. Typical methods to deal with multi-mapped small RNA-seq reads sacrifice either precision or sensitivity. The tool ‘butter’ balances precision and sensitivity by placing multi-mapped reads using an iterative approach, where the decision between possible locations is dictated by the local densities of more confidently aligned reads. Butter displays superior performance relative to other small RNA-seq aligners. Treatment of multi-mapped small RNA-seq reads has substantial impacts on downstream analyses, including quantification of MIRNA paralogs, and discovery of endogenous siRNA loci. Butter is freely available under a GNU general public license.

Facilitated diffusion buffers noise in gene expression

Facilitated diffusion buffers noise in gene expression

Armin Schoech, Nicolae Radu Zabet
(Submitted on 22 Jul 2014)

Transcription factors perform facilitated diffusion (3D diffusion in the cytosol and 1D diffusion on the DNA) when binding to their target sites to regulate gene expression. Here, we investigated the influence of this binding mechanism on the noise in gene expression. Our results showed that, for biologically relevant parameters, the binding process can be represented by a two-state Markov model and that the accelerated target finding due to facilitated diffusion leads to a reduction in both the mRNA and the protein noise.