Microsatellite Length Scoring by Single Molecule Real Time Sequencing - Effects of Sequence Structure and PCR Regime

PLoS One. 2016 Jul 14;11(7):e0159232. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0159232. eCollection 2016.


Microsatellites are DNA sequences consisting of repeated, short (1-6 bp) sequence motifs that are highly mutable by enzymatic slippage during replication. Due to their high intrinsic variability, microsatellites have important applications in population genetics, forensics, genome mapping, as well as cancer diagnostics and prognosis. The current analytical standard for microsatellites is based on length scoring by high precision electrophoresis, but due to increasing efficiency next-generation sequencing techniques may provide a viable alternative. Here, we evaluated single molecule real time (SMRT) sequencing, implemented in the PacBio series of sequencing apparatuses, as a means of microsatellite length scoring. To this end we carried out multiplexed SMRT sequencing of plasmid-carried artificial microsatellites of varying structure under different pre-sequencing PCR regimes. For each repeat structure, reads corresponding to the target length dominated. We found that pre-sequencing amplification had large effects on scoring accuracy and error distribution relative to controls, but that the effects of the number of amplification cycles were generally weak. In line with expectations enzymatic slippage decreased proportionally with microsatellite repeat unit length and increased with repetition number. Finally, we determined directional mutation trends, showing that PCR and SMRT sequencing introduced consistent but opposing error patterns in contraction and expansion of the microsatellites on the repeat motif and single nucleotide level.

MeSH terms

  • Cloning, Molecular
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods*
  • Humans
  • Microsatellite Repeats / genetics*
  • Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results

Grant support

This study was funded by Research Council of Norway grant 214285/F20. URL: http://www.forskningsradet.no/.