Background: In the event of biocrimes or infectious disease outbreaks, high-resolution genetic characterization for identifying the agent and attributing it to a specific source can be crucial for an effective response. Until recently, in-depth genetic characterization required expensive and time-consuming Sanger sequencing of a few strains, followed by genotyping of a small number of marker loci in a panel of isolates at or by gel-based approaches such as pulsed field gel electrophoresis, which by necessity ignores most of the genome. Next-generation, massively parallel sequencing (MPS) technology (specifically the Applied Biosystems sequencing by oligonucleotide ligation and detection (SOLiD™) system) is a powerful investigative tool for rapid, cost-effective and parallel microbial whole-genome characterization.Results: To demonstrate the utility of MPS for whole-genome typing of monomorphic pathogens, four Bacillus anthracis and four Yersinia pestis strains were sequenced in parallel. Reads were aligned to complete reference genomes, and genomic variations were identified. Resequencing of the B. anthracis Ames ancestor strain detected no false-positive single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), and mapping of reads to the Sterne strain correctly identified 98% of the 133 SNPs that are not clustered or associated with repeats. Three geographically distinct B. anthracis strains from the A branch lineage were found to have between 352 and 471 SNPs each, relative to the Ames genome, and one strain harbored a genomic amplification. Sequencing of four Y. pestis strains from the Orientalis lineage identified between 20 and 54 SNPs per strain relative to the CO92 genome, with the single Bolivian isolate having approximately twice as many SNPs as the three more closely related North American strains. Coverage plotting also revealed a common deletion in two strains and an amplification in the Bolivian strain that appear to be due to insertion element-mediated recombination events. Most private SNPs (that is, a, variant found in only one strain in this set) selected for validation by Sanger sequencing were confirmed, although rare false-positive SNPs were associated with variable nucleotide tandem repeats.Conclusions: The high-throughput, multiplexing capability, and accuracy of this system make it suitable for rapid whole-genome typing of microbial pathogens during a forensic or epidemiological investigation. By interrogating nearly every base of the genome, rare polymorphisms can be reliably discovered, thus facilitating high-resolution strain tracking and strengthening forensic attribution.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Molecular Biology