Direct RNA sequencing of the coding complete Influenza A virus genome

For the first time, a complete genome of an RNA virus has been sequenced in its original form. Previously, RNA was sequenced by the chemical degradation of radiolabelled RNA, a difficult method that produced only short sequences. Instead, RNA has usually been sequenced indirectly by copying it into cDNA, which is often amplified to dsDNA by PCR and subsequently analyzed using a variety of DNA sequencing methods. We designed an adapter to short highly conserved termi of the influenza virus genome to target the (-) sense RNA into a protein nanopore on the Oxford Nanopore MinION sequencing platform. Utilizing this method and total RNA extracted from the allantoic fluid of infected chicken eggs, we demonstrate successful sequencing of the complete influenza virus genome with 100% nucleotide coverage, 99% consensus identity, and 99% of reads mapped to influenza. By utilizing the same methodology we can redesign the adapter in order to expand the targets to include viral mRNA and (+) sense cRNA, which are essential to the viral life cycle. This has the potential to identify and quantify splice variants and base modifications, which are not practically measurable with current methods.

Authors: Matthew W Keller, Benjamin L Rambo-Martin, Malania M Wilson, Callie A Ridenour, Samuel S Shepard, Thomas J Stark, Elizabeth B Neuhaus, Vivien G Dugan, David E Wentworth, John R Barnes