Complete nontuberculous mycobacteria whole genomes using an optimized DNA extraction protocol for long-read sequencing

Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are a major cause of pulmonary and systemic disease in at-risk populations. Gaps in knowledge about transmission patterns, evolution, and pathogenicity during infection have prompted a recent surge in genomic NTM research. Increased availability and affordability of whole genome sequencing (WGS) techniques provide new opportunities to sequence and construct complete bacterial genomes faster and at a lower cost. However, extracting large quantities of pure genomic DNA is particularly challenging with NTM due to its slow growth and recalcitrant cell wall.

Here we report a DNA extraction protocol that is optimized for long-read WGS of NTM, yielding large quantities of highly pure DNA with no additional clean-up steps.

Our DNA extraction method was compared to 6 other methods with variations in timing of mechanical disruption and enzymatic digestion of the cell wall, quantity of matrix material, and reagents used in extraction and precipitation. We tested our optimized method on 38 clinical isolates from the M. avium and M. abscessus complexes, which yielded optimal quality and quantity measurements for Oxford Nanopore Technologies sequencing. We also present the efficient completion of circularized M. avium subspecies hominissuis genomes using our extraction technique and the long-read sequencing MinION platform, including the identification of a novel plasmid.

Our optimized extraction protocol and assembly pipeline was both sufficient and efficient for genome closure. We expect that our finely-tuned extraction method will prove to be a valuable tool in long-read sequencing and completion of mycobacterial genomes going forward. Utilization of comprehensive, long-read based approaches will advance the understanding evolution and pathogenicity of NTM infections.

Authors: Jennifer M. Bouso, Paul J. Planet