Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Vertebrate genome sequencing using nanopore technology

An international team from the Netherlands, France, Norway and Austria demonstrate how new sequencing technologies can be used to efficiently generate the genome, DNA, sequence of an endangered animal, the European Eel.

With ever improving technologies for reading DNA, and rapidly reducing costs, genomics is now finding applications beyond the biology of humans and model organisms. The latest DNA sequencing technology comes in a handheld device – the MinION, developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies.

The European eel genome is the first vertebrate animal genome to be based on nanopore sequencing. In combination with the bioinformatics methods developed in the article, this technology is promising for many other non-model organisms, as it requires only a modest investment in both sequencing equipment and computing power.

Dna sequence eel logo

Declining wild stocks

European eels reproduce exclusively in the Sargasso Sea, more than 6000 kilometers from mainland Europe. Therefore, all eel production and consumption currently relies on declining wild stocks. Genomic resources can form the basis for unraveling the physiological control of the eel’s reproductive cycle, as well as understanding its ecology and evolution.

In an article published in Scientific Reports, an international team from the Netherlands, France, Norway and Austria (including IBL researchers Michael Liem, Herman Spaink, Guido van den Thillart and Christiaan Henkel) demonstrates how MinION sequencing can be used to efficiently generate the genome sequence of an endangered animal, the European eel.

Tulip genome

In Leiden, the tulip is the next iconic genome on the list. Not unlike eels, tulips suffer from breeding difficulties that could be addressed using genomics technology. Until now, sequencing its genome was simply not possible, as it is more than ten times as large as the human genome. However, based on the technologies pioneered for the eel genome, Leiden-based genomics consortium Generade is currently working on a draft genome of the tulip.