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  1. INTRODUCTION One of the central applications of the human reference genome has been to serve as a baseline for comparison in nearly all human genomic studies. Unfortunately, many difficult regions of the reference genome have remained unresolved for decades and are affected by collapsed duplications, missing sequences, and other issues. Relative to the current human reference genome, GRCh38, the Telomere-to-Telomere CHM13 (T2T-CHM13) genome closes all remaining gaps, adds nearly 200 million base pairs (Mbp) of sequence, corrects thousands of structural errors, and unlocks the most complex regions of the human genome for scientific inquiry. RATIONALE We demonstrate how the T2T-CHM13 reference genome universally improves read mapping and variant identification in a globally diverse cohort. This cohort includes all 3202 samples from the expanded 1000 Genomes Project (1KGP), sequenced with short reads, as well as 17 globally diverse samples sequenced with long reads. By applying state-of-the-art methods for calling single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) and structural variants (SVs), we document the strengths and limitations of T2T-CHM13 relative to its predecessors and highlight its promise for revealing new biological insights within technically challenging regions of the genome. RESULTS Across the 1KGP samples, we found more than 1 million additional high-quality variants genome-wide using T2T-CHM13more »than with GRCh38. Within previously unresolved regions of the genome, we identified hundreds of thousands of variants per sample—a promising opportunity for evolutionary and biomedical discovery. T2T-CHM13 improves the Mendelian concordance rate among trios and eliminates tens of thousands of spurious SNVs per sample, including a reduction of false positives in 269 challenging, medically relevant genes by up to a factor of 12. These corrections are in large part due to improvements to 70 protein-coding genes in >9 Mbp of inaccurate sequence caused by falsely collapsed or duplicated regions in GRCh38. Using the T2T-CHM13 genome also yields a more comprehensive view of SVs genome-wide, with a greatly improved balance of insertions and deletions. Finally, by providing numerous resources for T2T-CHM13 (including 1KGP genotypes, accessibility masks, and prominent annotation databases), our work will facilitate the transition to T2T-CHM13 from the current reference genome. CONCLUSION The vast improvements in variant discovery across samples of diverse ancestries position T2T-CHM13 to succeed as the next prevailing reference for human genetics. T2T-CHM13 thus offers a model for the construction and study of high-quality reference genomes from globally diverse individuals, such as is now being pursued through collaboration with the Human Pangenome Reference Consortium. As a foundation, our work underscores the benefits of an accurate and complete reference genome for revealing diversity across human populations. Genomic features and resources available for T2T-CHM13. Comparisons to GRCh38 reveal broad improvements in SNVs, indels, and SVs discovered across diverse human populations by means of short-read (1KGP) and long-read sequencing (LRS). These improvements are due to resolution of complex genomic loci (nonsyntenic and previously unresolved), duplication errors, and discordant haplotypes, including those in medically relevant genes.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  2. INTRODUCTION To faithfully distribute genetic material to daughter cells during cell division, spindle fibers must couple to DNA by means of a structure called the kinetochore, which assembles at each chromosome’s centromere. Human centromeres are located within large arrays of tandemly repeated DNA sequences known as alpha satellite (αSat), which often span millions of base pairs on each chromosome. Arrays of αSat are frequently surrounded by other types of tandem satellite repeats, which have poorly understood functions, along with nonrepetitive sequences, including transcribed genes. Previous genome sequencing efforts have been unable to generate complete assemblies of satellite-rich regions because of their scale and repetitive nature, limiting the ability to study their organization, variation, and function. RATIONALE Pericentromeric and centromeric (peri/centromeric) satellite DNA sequences have remained almost entirely missing from the assembled human reference genome for the past 20 years. Using a complete, telomere-to-telomere (T2T) assembly of a human genome, we developed and deployed tailored computational approaches to reveal the organization and evolutionary patterns of these satellite arrays at both large and small length scales. We also performed experiments to map precisely which αSat repeats interact with kinetochore proteins. Last, we compared peri/centromeric regions among multiple individuals to understand how thesemore »sequences vary across diverse genetic backgrounds. RESULTS Satellite repeats constitute 6.2% of the T2T-CHM13 genome assembly, with αSat representing the single largest component (2.8% of the genome). By studying the sequence relationships of αSat repeats in detail across each centromere, we found genome-wide evidence that human centromeres evolve through “layered expansions.” Specifically, distinct repetitive variants arise within each centromeric region and expand through mechanisms that resemble successive tandem duplications, whereas older flanking sequences shrink and diverge over time. We also revealed that the most recently expanded repeats within each αSat array are more likely to interact with the inner kinetochore protein Centromere Protein A (CENP-A), which coincides with regions of reduced CpG methylation. This suggests a strong relationship between local satellite repeat expansion, kinetochore positioning, and DNA hypomethylation. Furthermore, we uncovered large and unexpected structural rearrangements that affect multiple satellite repeat types, including active centromeric αSat arrays. Last, by comparing sequence information from nearly 1600 individuals’ X chromosomes, we observed that individuals with recent African ancestry possess the greatest genetic diversity in the region surrounding the centromere, which sometimes contains a predominantly African αSat sequence variant. CONCLUSION The genetic and epigenetic properties of centromeres are closely interwoven through evolution. These findings raise important questions about the specific molecular mechanisms responsible for the relationship between inner kinetochore proteins, DNA hypomethylation, and layered αSat expansions. Even more questions remain about the function and evolution of non-αSat repeats. To begin answering these questions, we have produced a comprehensive encyclopedia of peri/centromeric sequences in a human genome, and we demonstrated how these regions can be studied with modern genomic tools. Our work also illuminates the rich genetic variation hidden within these formerly missing regions of the genome, which may contribute to health and disease. This unexplored variation underlines the need for more T2T human genome assemblies from genetically diverse individuals. Gapless assemblies illuminate centromere evolution. ( Top ) The organization of peri/centromeric satellite repeats. ( Bottom left ) A schematic portraying (i) evidence for centromere evolution through layered expansions and (ii) the localization of inner-kinetochore proteins in the youngest, most recently expanded repeats, which coincide with a region of DNA hypomethylation. ( Bottom right ) An illustration of the global distribution of chrX centromere haplotypes, showing increased diversity in populations with recent African ancestry.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  3. Since its initial release in 2000, the human reference genome has covered only the euchromatic fraction of the genome, leaving important heterochromatic regions unfinished. Addressing the remaining 8% of the genome, the Telomere-to-Telomere (T2T) Consortium presents a complete 3.055 billion–base pair sequence of a human genome, T2T-CHM13, that includes gapless assemblies for all chromosomes except Y, corrects errors in the prior references, and introduces nearly 200 million base pairs of sequence containing 1956 gene predictions, 99 of which are predicted to be protein coding. The completed regions include all centromeric satellite arrays, recent segmental duplications, and the short arms of all five acrocentric chromosomes, unlocking these complex regions of the genome to variational and functional studies.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023