Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Life Sciences

Major Professor

Steven D. Brown

Committee Members

Christopher W. Schadt, Mitchel J. Doktycz, Dale A. Pelletier, Gladys Alexandre


In past decade, tremendous progress has been made in DNA sequencing methodologies in terms of throughput, speed, read-lengths, along with a sharp decrease in per base cost. These technologies, commonly referred to as next-generation sequencing (NGS) are complimented by the development of hybrid assembly approaches which can utilize multiple NGS platforms. In the first part of my dissertation I performed systematic evaluations and optimizations of nine de novo and hybrid assembly protocols across four novel microbial genomes. While each had strengths and weaknesses, via optimization using multiple strategies I obtained dramatic improvements in overall assembly size and quality. To select the best assembly, I also proposed the novel rDNA operon validation approach to evaluate assembly accuracy. Additionally, I investigated the ability of third-generation PacBio sequencing platform and achieved automated finishing of Clostridium autoethanogenum without any accessory data. These complete genome sequences facilitated comparisons which revealed rDNA operons as a major limitation for short read technologies, and also enabled comparative and functional genomics analysis. To facilitate future assessment and algorithms developments of NGS technologies we publically released the sequence datasets for C. autoethanogenum which span three generations of sequencing technologies, containing six types of data from four NGS platforms. To assess limitations of NGS technologies, assessment of unassembled regions within Illumina and PacBio assemblies was performed using eight microbial genomes. This analysis confirmed rDNA operons as major breakpoints within Illumina assembly while gaps within PacBio assembly appears to be an unaccounted for event and assembly quality is cumulative effect of read-depth, read-quality, sample DNA quality and presence of phage DNA or mobile genetic elements. In a final collaborative study an enrichment protocol was applied for isolation of live endophytic bacteria from roots of the tree Populus deltoides. This protocol achieved a significant reduction in contaminating plant DNA and enabled use these samples for single-cell genomics analysis for the first time. Whole genome sequencing of selected single-cell genomes was performed, assembly and contamination removal optimized, and followed by the bioinformatics, phylogenetic and comparative genomics analyses to identify unique characteristics of these uncultured microorganisms.

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