Using machine learning and big data to explore the drug resistance landscape in HIV
Luc Blassel, Anna Tostevin, Christian Julian Villabona-arenas, Martine Peeters, Stéphane Hue & Olivier Gascuel
Drug resistance mutations (DRMs) appear in HIV under treatment pressure. DRMs are commonly transmitted to naive patients. The standard approach to reveal new DRMs is to test for significant frequency differences of mutations between treated and naive patients. However, we then consider each mutation individually and cannot hope to study interactions between several mutations. Here, we aim to leverage the ever-growing quantity of high-quality sequence data and machine learning methods to study such interactions (i.e. epistasis), as well as try to find new DRMs.
We trained classifiers to discriminate between Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitor (RTI)-experienced and RTI-naive samples on a large HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) sequence dataset from the UK (n ≈ 55,000), using all observed mutations as binary representation features. To assess the robustness of our findings, our classifiers were evaluated on independent data sets, both from the UK and Africa. Important representation features for each classifier were then extracted as potential DRMs. To find novel DRMs, we repeated this process by removing either features or samples associated to known DRMs.
When keeping all known resistance signal, we detected sufficiently prevalent known DRMs, thus validating the approach. When removing features corresponding to known DRMs, our classifiers retained some prediction accuracy, and six new mutations significantly associated with resistance were identified. These six mutations have a low genetic barrier, are correlated to known DRMs, and are spatially close to either the RT active site or the regulatory binding pocket. When removing both known DRM features and sequences containing at least one known DRM, our classifiers lose all prediction accuracy. These results likely indicate that all mutations directly conferring resistance have been found, and that our newly discovered DRMs are accessory or compensatory mutations. Moreover, we did not find any significant signal of epistasis, beyond the standard resistance scheme associating major DRMs to auxiliary mutations.
Origin, evolution and global spread of SARS-CoV-2
Anna Zhukova, Luc Blassel, Frédéric Lemoine, Marie Morel, Jakub Voznica & Olivier Gascuel
SARS-CoV-2 is the virus responsible for the global COVID19 pandemic. We review what is known about the origin of this virus, detected in China at the end of December 2019. The genome of this virus mainly evolves under the effect of point mutations. These are generally neutral and have no impact on virulence and severity, but some appear to influence infectivity, notably the D614G mutation of the Spike protein. To date (30/09/2020) no recombination of the virus has been documented in the human host, and very few insertions and deletions. The worldwide spread of the virus was the subject of controversies that we summarize, before proposing a new approach free from the limitations of previous methods. The results show a complex scenario with, for example, numerous introductions to the USA and returns of the virus from the USA to certain countries including France.
COVID-Align: Accurate online alignment of hCoV-19 genomes using a profile HMM
Frédéric Lemoine, Luc Blassel, Jakub Voznica & Olivier Gascuel
The first cases of the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in December 2019. Until the end of February 2020, the number of available genomes was below 1,000, and their multiple alignment was easily achieved using standard approaches. Subsequently, the availability of genomes has grown dramatically. Moreover, some genomes are of low quality with sequencing/assembly errors, making accurate re-alignment of all genomes nearly impossible on a daily basis. A more efficient, yet accurate approach was clearly required to pursue all subsequent bioinformatics analyses of this crucial data.
hCoV-19 genomes are highly conserved, with very few indels and no recombination. This makes the profile HMM approach particularly well suited to align new genomes, add them to an existing alignment and filter problematic ones. Using a core of ∼2,500 high quality genomes, we estimated a profile using HMMER, and implemented this profile in COVID-Align, a user-friendly interface to be used online or as standalone via Docker. The alignment of 1,000 genomes requires ∼50mn on our cluster. Moreover, COVID-Align provides summary statistics, which can be used to determine the sequencing quality and evolutionary novelty of input genomes (e.g. number of new mutations and indels).