- Research article
- Open Access
Reassociation kinetics-based approach for partial genome sequencing of the cattle tick, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus
- Felix D Guerrero†1Email author,
- Paula Moolhuijzen†2,
- Daniel G Peterson3,
- Shelby Bidwell4,
- Elisabet Caler4,
- Matthew Bellgard2,
- Vishvanath M Nene5 and
- Appolinaire Djikeng5
© Guerrero et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2010
Received: 4 March 2010
Accepted: 11 June 2010
Published: 11 June 2010
The size and repetitive nature of the Rhipicephalus microplus genome makes obtaining a full genome sequence fiscally and technically problematic. To selectively obtain gene-enriched regions of this tick's genome, Cot filtration was performed, and Cot-filtered DNA was sequenced via 454 FLX pyrosequencing.
The sequenced Cot-filtered genomic DNA was assembled with an EST-based gene index of 14,586 unique entries where each EST served as a potential "seed" for scaffold formation. The new sequence assembly extended the lengths of 3,913 of the 14,586 gene index entries. Over half of the extensions corresponded to extensions of over 30 amino acids. To survey the repetitive elements in the tick genome, the complete sequences of five BAC clones were determined. Both Class I and II transposable elements were found. Comparison of the BAC and Cot filtration data indicates that Cot filtration was highly successful in filtering repetitive DNA out of the genomic DNA used in 454 sequencing.
Cot filtration is a very useful strategy to incorporate into genome sequencing projects on organisms with large genome sizes and which contain high percentages of repetitive, difficult to assemble, genomic DNA. Combining the Cot selection approach with 454 sequencing and assembly with a pre-existing EST database as seeds resulted in extensions of 27% of the members of the EST database.
Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus, the tropical/southern cattle tick, is a livestock ectoparasite which has negatively impacted the cattle industry throughout the world. This tick is a vector for the pathogenic organisms which cause bovine babesiosis and anaplasmosis. Moreover, heavy tick loads reduce cattle productivity and irreparably damage hides. Annual economic losses attributable to R. microplus infestations have been estimated in Brazil and Australia to be approximately $2 billion  and over $100 million , respectively. The cattle tick was a serious pest in the U. S. with estimated losses to the U. S. cattle industry of over $130 million in the early 1900s, equivalent to approximately $3 billion in 2009 dollars . An aggressive control program led to the eradication of the cattle tick from the U. S. However, R. microplus has developed resistance to almost all of the chemical classes available for control programs and novel control technologies are desperately needed by producers and tick eradication programs in countries where eradication has not been possible. Also, it is imperative that cattle producers in the U. S. be proactive in preventing the very real possibility of the tick's re-establishment.
Driven by the need for novel R. microplus control approaches, molecular studies have been initiated in laboratories in several countries. Rosario-Cruz et al.  reported a survey of R. microplus tick populations in Mexico to determine the molecular mechanism of resistance to pyrethroid acaricides. Lew-Tabor et al.  comprehensively analyzed events in the R. microplus transcriptome during tick attachment and development, identifying specific transcripts associated with these activities. Kurscheid et al.  characterized the RNAi pathway in R. microplus and identified 31 RNAi-related proteins. Canales et al.  evaluated vaccination with a Boophilus tick protein for effectiveness as a control strategy in response to Boophilus tick infestations. Additionally, genomic databases and other resources have been developed which provide the foundation for a R. microplus genome sequencing project. For example, Ullmann et al. , using reassociation kinetics techniques, estimated the size of the genome at 7.1 × 109 bp. Wang et al.  reported comparative studies of a R. microplus EST database (presently updated to BmiGI Version 2.1, http://compbio.dfci.harvard.edu/tgi/cgi-bin/tgi/gimain.pl?gudb=b_microplus) which then consisted of 13,643 unique transcripts assembled from over 42,000 expressed sequence tags (ESTs). Guerrero and Nene  analyzed a R. microplus BAC library and this library was subsequently used in chromosome studies to investigate genome organization in the cattle tick . R. microplus microarrays have been developed and utilized in studies of acaricide-inducible gene expression  and in profiling gene expression induced by infection of R. microplus with Babesia bovis (F. Guerrero, unpublished data). Additionally, the genome sequencing project for the black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis, has been completed (; http://iscapularis.vectorbase.org/index.php). The first I. scapularis gene set was released in December 2008 by VectorBase and GenBank and is available for downloading and browsing from the Ixodes genome project data page at VectorBase.
The large size of the R. microplus genome and its highly repetitive nature has precluded whole genome sequencing project with present technologies and costs. To date, R. microplus sequencing efforts to date have largely focused on acquisition of ESTs from various tissues and lifestages. However, EST sequencing provides information only on the coding regions expressed in a given tissue or set of tissues. Other reduced-representation sequencing techniques must be employed to obtain low-copy sequence regions (e.g., promoters, introns, and non-expressed genes) missed by EST approaches . In this regard, Cot filtration was reported to be an effective protocol to include when exploring the gene space of large genome species. For example, sequencing wheat genomic DNA libraries prepared after Cot filtration resulted in a three-fold reduction in repetitive DNA and a >13-fold enrichment in genes compared to data from non-filtered genomic DNA . The wheat genome is over twice the size of the genome of R. microplus  and contains over 85% repeat sequences . To test the utility of Cot filtration in exploring the R. microplus genome, we used reassociation kinetics to filter cattle tick genomic DNA and sequenced six flow cells of the resulting Cot-filtered product using 454 FLX pyrosequencing. The 634 × 106 nucleotides of sequence generated was assembled into a database of contigs and singletons and the contigs analyzed by Blast. In order to gather sequence information on the R. microplus genome structure with a more traditional approach, we also selected five BAC clones which were sequenced to closure. Two clones were selected at random and three were selected by hybridization to known cDNAs of interest.
Results and discussion
BAC clone sequencing and annotation
The randomly selected BAC 74-F12 did not contain any protein coding sequences other than the gag retroviral fragment which appeared to be a full length hit to the gag coding region (Additional files 1 and 2) and 2 regions of similarity to partial fragments of an endonuclease/reverse transcriptase (Figure 1e). The other randomly selected BAC, 77-J9, had 3 regions of sequence similarity to parts of regions coding for pol or gag retroviral sequences and one region with similarity to the full length coding region for an I. scapularis hypothetical protein (Figure 1d). The lack of known tick expressed gene coding regions and the abundance of retroviral sequences from these two randomly selected BACs suggests a rather low tick expressed gene density in the R. microplus genome. In addition to the low known tick gene content in the two randomly selected BACs, all five BACs contained a significant level of repeats and transposons. The functionality of these transposons is not known, however, nearly full length hits to the gag-pol polyprotein nucleotide sequence were found on BACs 77-G20 and 74-F12 (Figures 1b i and 1e i; Additional file 1). The microsatellite repeats (both tandem and dispersed) identified in these BACs include (CAAT) n , (GAA) n , (GA) n , (CAT) n , (TA) n and (TGAG) n (data not shown). NUCmer analysis (discussed below) also was consistent with a highly repetitive genome. These findings are in general agreement with the previous estimation that as much as 70% of the R. microplus genome may be repetitive . Also, Van Zee et al.  reported a ~95 bp repeat element in the Ixodes scapularis genome which is estimated to occur over 1 million times in that tick's genome. Highly repetitive genomes present difficulties in sequencing and assembly steps of whole genome sequencing projects. In fact, the highly repetitive nature of the R. microplus genome presented problems in the sequencing and contig assembly of a BAC not reported in this study, but selected on the basis of its similarity to a GGY protein domain-containing gene (P. Moolhuijzen, unpublished data).
The three BACs selected with specific probes were targeted because of our interest in identifying molecular mechanisms of resistance to acaricides; the esterase and cytochrome P450 family of enzymes are known to be involved in acaricide resistance in R. microplus, though information on specific genes involved remains limited. The BAC selected with the CzEst9 probe, 129-N14, contains eight regions with sequence similarity to GenBank entries. Three of these were gag- or pol-like retroviral sequences, one was similar to RNAse H/integrase, while two were similar to hypothetical proteins. The entire gene coding region of CzEst9 was found in 129-N14 as were sequences with similarity to a zinc finger protein. Only the CzEst9 and Branchiostoma floridae hypothetical protein hits appeared to be full length (Fig 1c; Additional file 1).
BACs 66-M7 and 77-G20 were both selected with the P450/AChE1 mixed probe and each contained two Genscan predicted copies of protein coding regions with sequence similarity to the R. microplus Cyp41 cytochrome P450 reported by Crampton et al.  (Figure 1a and 1b). The P450 genes comprise a very large gene family of enzymes that are present in most organisms and which function in many oxidative detoxification pathways, often in mechanisms whereby arthropods develop pesticide resistance . We were interested in sequencing genomic DNA corresponding to the Cyp 41-like TC7171 from BmiGI Version 2. Crampton et al.  described Cyp41 as most similar to P450 families which metabolize compounds such as pesticides, and Guerrero et al.  found that expression of the transcript that corresponded to TC7171 was very abundant in an organophosphate resistant strain of R. microplus compared to an organophosphate susceptible strain. Additionally, the susceptible strain responded to organophosphate application by reducing the relative expression of TC7171 transcript compared to overall gene expression, while the resistant strain responded to organophosphate by increasing relative expression of TC7171. Thus, the discovery of these BACs with cytochrome P450-like sequences will be very helpful to our studies of metabolism-based acaricide resistance genes. BAC 77-G20 appears to contain the full length Cyp41-like sequence and a downstream tandemly-arranged partial copy which encodes the N-terminal part of the Cyp41-like protein (Fig 1b). Interestingly, the two Cyp41-like copies in BAC 66-M7 are arranged in a head-on fashion (Figure 1a iv and v), transcribed from different strands of the genomic DNA. It is possible the BAC assembly incorrectly oriented the sequences corresponding to Fig 1a Hit iv because the Genscan analysis discovered this region coded for the C-terminal region of Cyp41, while the Figure 1a Hit v sequence coded for the N-terminal and middle areas of Cyp41 (Additional file 1).
454 pyrosequencing of Cot fractionated genomic DNA
Summary of sequencing runs generated by 454 pyrosequencing.
No. of reads
Total no. of bases
Avg. read length
No. of non-redundant seqs
Summary of the raw data assembly of 6 runs on 454 using newbler assembler.
Total number of reads
Total number of bases
Number of searches
Seed hits found
Large Contig Metrics
Number of contigs
Number of bases
Average contig size
N50 contig size
Largest contig size
Q40 plus bases
Q39 minus bases
All Contig Metrics
Number of contigs
Number of bases
In summary, the Cot-filtration approach provided a valuable intermediate dataset that bridges the gap between focused EST sequencing and whole genome sequencing. Our Cot-filtered DNA 454 sequencing allowed us to add from 50-450 bp onto 2,103 members of our preexisting BmiGI Version 2.1 EST database of 14,586 unique sequences. This corresponds to potentially 16-150 new amino acids added to the extended BmiGI members. Further bioinformatic analysis is required to identify promoter and intronic sequences in the Cot-filtered DNA dataset. This would include utilizing the I. scapularis genome sequence to align our dataset contigs and help identify genome components and elements such as putative exon/intron boundaries, 5' and 3' untranslated regions, promoters, transcription factor binding elements, regions of synteny, among others. The 454 sequencing dataset from our study is available from Genbank and it is hoped this dataset will provide a resource for genome studies of R. microplus specifically and ticks in general.
Tick strains and rearing
Ticks from the Deutch strain of R. microplus were reared at the USDA-ARS Cattle Fever Tick Research Laboratory in Mission, TX . This strain originated from an outbreak in Webb County, TX in 2001 and has been reared in the laboratory since the outbreak was discovered and sampled. Although inbred and started from only a few individual adult ticks, the strain is not genetically homogeneous.
Genomic DNA extraction, library construction, and BAC screening and sequencing
In our laboratory tick-rearing protocols, at each generation approximately 50 engorged females that have dropped off their bovine host are collected and used to obtain ovipositional data. Eggs from this group of females are combined in a petri plate, mixed with a spatula and weighed into vials containing approximately 3 g of eggs. These vials are labeled with generation identification data and stored at -80°C. Eggs from the f7, f10, f11, and f12 generations of the R. microplus Deutch strain were pooled and a total of 10 g used to purify very high molecular genomic DNA following the protocol from Sambrook et al. . Following 4 d of dialysis in 50 mM Tris, 10 mM EDTA, pH 8.0 dialysis buffer, changing buffer twice daily, 15.6 mg of genomic DNA was recovered. Analysis of a 100 ng aliquot of the DNA by 0.4% TAE agarose gel revealed that the average size of the genomic DNA was over 214 kb (data not shown). This sample was stored at 4°C for Cot enrichment experiments described below.
Approximately 2 g larvae from the f8 generation of the Deutch strain were used by Amplicon Express Inc. (Pullman, WA) to isolate genomic DNA to synthesize a BAC library of approximately 0.8× coverage. Our intention was to produce the BAC library from a Deutch strain generation that was relatively close in time to the introduction of Deutch from the field collection into laboratory rearing, but not so far removed that genetic differences from laboratory rearing might have been introduced to the genome. Egg samples from f1-f8 and adult or larval samples from f1-f7 were no longer available. Thus, we selected larvae from f8 as our best available sample for producing the BAC library. Briefly, high molecular genomic DNA plugs were prepared and Mbo I partial digestion used to produce compatible ends for ligation into the Bam HI site of the BAC vector pECBAC1. Transformants (46,080) were robotically picked and arrayed onto 384-well plates. Twenty BACs were selected at random and average BAC clone insert size was determined as 118 kb. BAC clones were either randomly selected or selected from hybridization screen with genes of interest for complete sequencing as briefly described below. Hybridization probes were synthesized using the Strip-EZ DNA Kit (Ambion, Austin, TX), labeling with α-32P-dATP (3000 Ci/mmol, 10 μCi/μl, Perkin Elmer, Shelton, CT). CzEst9 probe was synthesized using PfuTurbo Hotstart DNA Polymerase (Stratagene, La Jolla, CA) with gel purified primers FG-328 and FG-329 (Additional file 5) on a DNA plasmid containing the entire open reading frame of the esterase. Probes for AChE1 and the putative cytochrome P450 were synthesized from template derived from reverse transcriptase-PCR performed with the AccuScript High Fidelity RT-PCR System (Stratagene) on total RNA isolated from tick larvae using the Totally RNA Kit (Ambion). Primers from these reactions are also noted in Additional Datafile 5.
BAC sequencing was performed at the J. Craig Venter Institute (Rockville, MD). For complete BAC sequencing, a library of medium size inserts (4 - 6 kb) was constructed in pHOS2. The BAC DNA (2 μg) was sheared using a nebulizer and the resulting fragments of 4 - 6 kb were blunt-ended, ligated to adapters, and cloned into the pHOS2 vector to generate a library. An aliquot of the library was used to transform competent bacterial GC cells. From each medium size insert library, a total of 1,152 clones were randomly selected and sequenced from each end, yielding read length of 720 - 760 bp. The resulting sequence data was processed for vector removal and used to assemble complete BAC sequences. Targeted PCR amplification and sequencing was used to close sequence gaps that remained after the assembly. The BAC sequences have been submitted to GenBank with accession numbers of HM193853-HM193857 for BACs Bm-74-F12, Bm-77-J9, Bm-129-N14, Bm-66-M7, and Bm-77-G20, respectively.
Cot-enrichment and 454 sequencing
Total R. microplus genomic DNA prepared as described above was processed by Cot filtration to enrich for single/low-copy and moderately repetitive DNAs. The Cot filtration was performed as previously described with some modifications [15, 22, 26]. As the Cot filtration protocols were described in detail in those two references, we describe briefly the overall approach related to the cattle tick. The Cot analysis performed by Ullmann et al.  had determined the genome size and reassociation rates for the foldback, highly repetitive, moderately repetitive and unique fractions of the cattle tick genome. Using that data in conjunction with the mathematical approach detailed in Lamoureux et al. , we determined a Cot cloning value of 660 M.s. At this value, 90% of the single copy DNA should remain single stranded and we aimed to isolate and clone that single stranded fraction of genomic DNA. R. microplus genomic DNA was sheared with a HydroShear DNA Shearing Device (GeneMachines, San Carlos, CA) to a mean fragment size of 1.5 kb. Two hundred μg of the sheared DNA was denatured at 95°C for 5 min, then quickly transferred to 70°C for 1 hr 48 min 6 sec , which is the calculated renaturation time equivalent for Cot = 660 M.s. Following the renaturation, DNA was immediately diluted 100-fold in 0.03 M NaPO4 prewarmed at 60°C and applied onto a hydroxyapatite column equilibrated in 0.03 M NaPO4 at 60°C. The non-reassociated ssDNA fraction that contains the unique fraction of the genome was eluted using 0.12 M NaPO4, and concentrated using a Millipore Centriplus YM-30 column, concurrently changing the buffer to 10 mM Tris (pH 8.0). The ssDNA was used to make dsDNA by second strand synthesis using DNA polymerase I Klenow Fragment (3'-5' exo-; New England BioLabs, Ipswich, MA) and random primers. The resulting dsDNA was digested with mung bean nuclease to remove any single strand overhangs followed by purification using a Qiagen DNA purification kit. To enrich for DNA fragments of sizes suitable for 454 FLX sequencing, 250 to 600 bp fragments were purified from the agarose gel using the Qiagen Qiaex II Kit. The gel purified material was processed for 454 sequencing using the FLX machine following established manufacturer's protocols . Six FLX runs were performed using the sample prepared sample of Cot-filtered genomic DNA. This data has been deposited at DDBJ/EMBL/GenBank as Whole Genome Shotgun project under the accession ADMZ00000000. The version described in this paper is the first version, ADMZ01000000.
Sequence Data Analysis
The fasta and quality files were extracted from the 454 reads (unpaired) in the Standard Flowgram Format (SFF) files using the python script 'sff_extract.py' and the random first 9-mer and 4 tcag clipped. Mira V2.9.43  was used to assemble the 454 reads against an existing sequence backbone of the BmiGI Version 2.1 gene index [9, 29]. Mira options were selected for an accurate highly repetitive 454 assembly. The 454 reads were mapped to the assembled BAC sequences using Maq Version: 0.7.0 alignment tool (http://maq.sourceforge.net/maq-man.shtml#intro) and the Newbler assembler Software Release: 2.0.00.20 . The alignments were visualized using BioPerl scripts . For our BAC study, BLAST hits having e-values below 0.001 were considered as significant hits. NUCmer version 3.06 at default settings  was used to visualize the repetitive nature of the BACs. Genscan was utilized to identify open reading frame matches to GenBank entries .
Research was supported by the National Research Initiative of the USDA-CSREES grant #2005-35604-15440 (to F.D.G.) and NSF DBI-0421717 award (to D.G.P.). We are grateful for technical advice received from CCG staff members Rudi Appels, Zayed Albertyn and Adam Hunter and assistance from David Schibeci with CCG system administration. We thank the assistance of Drs. Ala Lew and Manuel Rodriguez Valles for critical review of the manuscript. Also, thanks to Dr. Zenaida Magbanua, Mississippi State University, for assistance with Cot protocols. This article reports the results of research only. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation of endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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