Nanopore DNA sequencing and epigenetic detection with a MspA nanopore
Laszlo, Andrew Hunter
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DNA forms the molecular basis for all known life. Widespread DNA sequencing has the potential to revolutionize healthcare and our understanding of the life sciences. Sequencing has already had a profound effect on our understanding of the molecular basis of life and underpinnings of disease. Current DNA sequencing technologies require costly reagents, can sequence only short DNA strands, and take too long to complete entire genomes. Furthermore, the required DNA sample size limits the types of experiments that can be run. For instance sequencing single cells is extremely difficult. New technologies are key to making DNA sequencing as cheap and accessible as possible and for making new experiments possible. One such new technology is nanopore sequencing. In nanopore sequencing, a thin membrane is used to divide a salt solution into two wells: <italic>cis</italic> and <italic>trans</italic>. This membrane contains a single nanometer sized hole that forms the only electrical connection between the two wells. When a voltage is applied across the membrane, ion current flows through the nanopore. This ion current is the primary signal for nanopore sequencing. DNA is negatively charged and can be pulled into the pore. When DNA is pulled into the pore, it occludes the pore and reduces the ion current that can pass through the pore. Individual DNA nucleotides along the DNA strand block the pore to varying degrees. One can measure the degree to which the pore is blocked as DNA passes through the pore and use the ion current signal to read off the DNA sequence. This thesis chronicles recent advances in the Gundlach laboratory in which I have played a leading role. It describes our work testing the biological nanopore <italic>Mycobacterium smegmatis</italic> porin A (MspA) for nanopore sequencing. The thesis consists of five chapters and three appendices which contain supplemental information for Chapters 2, 3, and 4. Chapter 1 begins with some motivation and defines the current challenges in DNA sequencing. I also introduce epigenetic base modifications such as DNA methylation and describe challenges in detecting such modifications. I then introduce nanopore sequencing and discuss how it has potential to address challenges in both sequencing and modified base detection. Chapter 1 concludes with a summary of previous nanopore work that has formed the foundation for this thesis. Chapter 2 describes our work using a DNA polymerase to control DNA translocation through the pore. Chapter 3 discusses how the DNA polymerase/MspA based system developed in Chapter 2 can be used to detect epigenetically modified bases 5-methylcytosine and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine. In Chapter 4 I describe our work to generate and decode long nanopore reads of DNA. Homemade alignment algorithms are used to align nanopore reads to known sequence with applications ranging from species identification to hybrid genome assembly. Chapter 5 concludes the thesis and lays out a road map for the ultimate realization of <italic>de novo</italic> nanopore DNA sequencing and commercialization of an MspA-based device.
- Physics