PolyG-DS: An ultrasensitive polyguanine tract-profiling method to detect clonal expansions and trace cell lineage

Yuezheng Zhang, Brendan F Kohrn, Ming Yang, Daniela Nachmanson, T Rinda Soong, I-Hsiu Lee, Yong Tao, Hans Clevers, Elizabeth M Swisher, Teresa A Brentnall, Lawrence A Loeb, Scott R Kennedy, Jesse J Salk, Kamila Naxerova, Rosa Ana Risques

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


Polyguanine tracts (PolyGs) are short guanine homopolymer repeats that are prone to accumulating mutations when cells divide. This feature makes them especially suitable for cell lineage tracing, which has been exploited to detect and characterize precancerous and cancerous somatic evolution. PolyG genotyping, however, is challenging because of the inherent biochemical difficulties in amplifying and sequencing repetitive regions. To overcome this limitation, we developed PolyG-DS, a next-generation sequencing (NGS) method that combines the error-correction capabilities of duplex sequencing (DS) with enrichment of PolyG loci using CRISPR-Cas9-targeted genomic fragmentation. PolyG-DS markedly reduces technical artifacts by comparing the sequences derived from the complementary strands of each original DNA molecule. We demonstrate that PolyG-DS genotyping is accurate, reproducible, and highly sensitive, enabling the detection of low-frequency alleles (<0.01) in spike-in samples using a panel of only 19 PolyG markers. PolyG-DS replicated prior results based on PolyG fragment length analysis by capillary electrophoresis, and exhibited higher sensitivity for identifying clonal expansions in the nondysplastic colon of patients with ulcerative colitis. We illustrate the utility of this method for resolving the phylogenetic relationship among precancerous lesions in ulcerative colitis and for tracing the metastatic dissemination of ovarian cancer. PolyG-DS enables the study of tumor evolution without prior knowledge of tumor driver mutations and provides a tool to perform cost-effective and easily scalable ultra-accurate NGS-based PolyG genotyping for multiple applications in biology, genetics, and cancer research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number31
Publication statusPublished - 03 Aug 2021


  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Lineage
  • Clonal Evolution
  • DNA/chemistry
  • Genotype
  • Guanine/chemistry
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms/genetics
  • Poly G/genetics


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