Long-read sequencing reveals intra-species tolerance of substantial structural variations and new subtelomere formation in C. elegans

Genome Res. 2019 Jun;29(6):1023-1035. doi: 10.1101/gr.246082.118. Epub 2019 May 23.


Long-read sequencing technologies have contributed greatly to comparative genomics among species and can also be applied to study genomics within a species. In this study, to determine how substantial genomic changes are generated and tolerated within a species, we sequenced a C. elegans strain, CB4856, which is one of the most genetically divergent strains compared to the N2 reference strain. For this comparison, we used the Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) RSII platform (80×, N50 read length 11.8 kb) and generated de novo genome assembly to the level of pseudochromosomes containing 76 contigs (N50 contig = 2.8 Mb). We identified structural variations that affected as many as 2694 genes, most of which are at chromosome arms. Subtelomeric regions contained the most extensive genomic rearrangements, which even created new subtelomeres in some cases. The subtelomere structure of Chromosome VR implies that ancestral telomere damage was repaired by alternative lengthening of telomeres even in the presence of a functional telomerase gene and that a new subtelomere was formed by break-induced replication. Our study demonstrates that substantial genomic changes including structural variations and new subtelomeres can be tolerated within a species, and that these changes may accumulate genetic diversity within a species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Chromosome Structures
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genome, Helminth
  • Genomics / methods
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Molecular Sequence Annotation
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Species Specificity
  • Telomere / genetics*