After nucleic acid extraction and sample QC, the next step in the NGS workflow is library preparation. NGS libraries are prepared to meet the platform requirements with respect to size, purity, concentration and efficient ligation of adaptors. Assessing the quality of a sequencing library before committing it to a full-scale sequencing run ensures maximum sequencing efficiency, leading to accurate sequencing data with more even coverage.
In this blog post, we list the various ways to QC libraries in order of most stringent to least stringent.
qPCR is a method of quantifying DNA based on PCR. qPCR tracks target concentration as a function of PCR cycle number to derive a quantitative estimate of the initial template concentration in a sample. As with conventional PCR, it uses a polymerase, dNTPs, and two primers designed to match sequences within a template. For the QC protocol, the primers match sequences within the adapters flanking a sequencing library.
Therefore, qPCR is an ideal method for measuring libraries in advance of generating clusters, because it will only measure templates that have both adaptor sequences on either end which will subsequently form clusters on a flow cell. In addition, qPCR is a very sensitive method of measuring DNA and therefore dilute libraries with concentrations below the threshold of detection of conventional spectrophotometric methods can be quantified by qPCR.
KAPA Biosystems SYBR FAST ‘Library Quantification Kit for Illumina Sequencing Platforms is commonly used with qPCR. This kit measures absolute numbers of molecules containing the Illumina adapter sequences, thus providing a highly accurate measurement of amplifiable molecules available for cluster generation.
The MiSeq system uses the same library prep methods and proven sequencing by synthesis chemistry as the HiSeq system. Thus, it is ideal for analyzing prepared libraries prior to performing high-throughput sequencing. Performing library quality control (QC) using the MiSeq system before committing it to a fullscale HiSeq run can save time and money while leading to better sequencing results.
Data generated by the MiSeq system is comparable to other Illumina next-generation sequencing platforms, ensuring a smooth transition from one instrument to another. Based on the individual experimental requirements, metrics obtained from performing simple QC can be used to streamline and improve your sequencing projects.
Using a single library prep method and taking only a single day, detailed QC parameters, including cluster density, library complexity, percent duplication, GC bias, and index representation can be generated on the MiSeq system. The MiSeq system has the unique ability to do paired-end (PE) sequencing for accurately assessing insert size. Library cluster density can also be determined and used to predict HiSeq cluster density, maximizing yield and reducing rework.
3. Fluorometric method
Quantifying DNA libraries using a fluorometric method that involves intercalating dyes specifically binding to DNA or RNA is highly useful. This method is very precise as DNA dyes do not bind to RNA and vice versa.
The Invitrogen™ Qubit™ Fluorometer a popular fluorometer that accurately measures DNA, RNA, and protein using the highly sensitive Invitrogen™ Qubit™ quantitation assays. The concentration of the target molecule in the sample is reported by a fluorescent dye that emits a signal only when bound to the target, which minimizes the effects of contaminants—including degraded DNA or RNA—on the result.
4. Automated electrophoresis
Several automated electrophoretic instruments are useful in estimating the size of the NGS libraries. The Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer system provides sizing, quantitation, and purity assessments for DNA, RNA, and protein samples. The Agilent 2200 TapeStation system is a tape-based platform for reliable electrophoresis platform for accurate size selection of generated libraries. PerkinElmer LabChip GX can be used for DNA and RNA quantitation and sizing using automated capillary electrophoresis separation. The Qiagen QIAxcel Advanced system fully automates sensitive, high-resolution capillary electrophoresis of up to 96 samples per run that can be used for library QC as well. All these instruments are accompanied by convenient analysis and data documentation software that make the library QC step faster and easier.
5. UV-Visible Spectroscopy
A UV-Vis spectrophotometer can be used to analyze spectral absorbance to measure the nucleic acid libraries and can differentiate between DNA, RNA and other absorbing contaminants. However, this method is not super accurate and should be paired with one of the other QC methods to ensure high-quality libraries. There are several US-Vis spectrophotometers currently available, such as currently available such as Thermo Scientific™ NanoDrop™ UV-Vis spectrophotometer, Qiagen QIAExpert System, Shimadzu Biospec-nano etc.
6. Bead normalization
This is the preferred QC method if < 12 libraries are to be QCed or if library yields are less than 15 nM, highly variable and unpredictable or Users are working with uncharacterized genomes and are inexperienced with the Nextera XT DNA Library Prep Kit protocol.
During bead-based normalization, DNA is bound to normalization beads and eluted off the beads at approximately the same concentration for each sample. Bead-based normalization enables scientists to bypass time-consuming library quantitation measurements and manual pipetting steps before loading libraries onto the sequencer. Bead-based normalization can provide significant cost and time savings for researchers processing many samples, or for researchers without access to any of the QC instruments listed in the above methods.