Long range PCR-based deep sequencing for haplotype determination in mixed HCMV infections

Nadja Brait, Büşra Külekçi, Irene Goerzer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Short read sequencing has been used extensively to decipher the genome diversity of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) strains, but falls short to reveal individual genomes in mixed HCMV strain populations. Novel third-generation sequencing platforms offer an extended read length and promise to resolve how distant polymorphic sites along individual genomes are linked. In the present study, we established a long amplicon PacBio sequencing workflow to identify the absolute and relative quantities of unique HCMV haplotypes spanning over multiple hypervariable sites in mixtures. Initial validation of this approach was performed with defined HCMV DNA templates derived from cell-culture enriched viruses and was further tested for its suitability on patient samples carrying mixed HCMV infections.

RESULTS: Total substitution and indel error rate of mapped reads ranged from 0.17 to 0.43% depending on the stringency of quality trimming. Artificial HCMV DNA mixtures were correctly determined down to 1% abundance of the minor DNA source when the total HCMV DNA input was 4 × 104 copies/ml. PCR products of up to 7.7 kb and a GC content < 55% were efficiently generated when DNA was directly isolated from patient samples. In a single sample, up to three distinct haplotypes were identified showing varying relative frequencies. Alignments of distinct haplotype sequences within patient samples showed uneven distribution of sequence diversity, interspersed by long identical stretches. Moreover, diversity estimation at single polymorphic regions as assessed by short amplicon sequencing may markedly underestimate the overall diversity of mixed haplotype populations.

CONCLUSIONS: Quantitative haplotype determination by long amplicon sequencing provides a novel approach for HCMV strain characterisation in mixed infected samples which can be scaled up to cover the majority of the genome by multi-amplicon panels. This will substantially improve our understanding of intra-host HCMV strain diversity and its dynamic behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Article number31
Number of pages16
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6-Jan-2022


  • Cytomegalovirus/genetics
  • Haplotypes
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA

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