Elisabeth Veeckman

PhD student
Computational tools for functional interpretation of NGS (meta)genomics data.

Funding: ILVO GA-Genomics
Shared with T. Ruttink (ILVO)


  1. Veeckman, Elisabeth, Van Glabeke, S., Haegeman, A., Muylle, H., van Parijs, F. R. D., Byrne, S. L., Asp, T., et al. (2019). Overcoming challenges in variant calling: exploring sequence diversity in candidate genes for plant development in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne). DNA Research.
    Revealing DNA sequence variation within the Lolium perenne genepool is important for genetic analysis and development of breeding applications. We reviewed current literature on plant development to select candidate genes in pathways that control agronomic traits, and identified 503 orthologues in L. perenne. Using targeted resequencing, we constructed a comprehensive catalogue of genomic variation for a L. perenne germplasm collection of 736 genotypes derived from current cultivars, breeding material and wild accessions. To overcome challenges of variant calling in heterogeneous outbreeding species, we used two complementary strategies to explore sequence diversity. First, four variant calling pipelines were integrated with the VariantMetaCaller to reach maximal sensitivity. Additional multiplex amplicon sequencing was used to empirically estimate an appropriate precision threshold. Second, a de novo assembly strategy was used to reconstruct divergent alleles for each gene. The advantage of this approach was illustrated by discovery of 28 novel alleles of LpSDUF247, a polymorphic gene co-segregating with the S-locus of the grass self-incompatibility system. Our approach is applicable to other genetically diverse outbreeding species. The resulting collection of functionally annotated variants can be mined for variants causing phenotypic variation, either through genetic association studies, or by selecting carriers of rare defective alleles for physiological analyses.
  2. Veeckman, Elisabeth, Ruttink, T., & Vandepoele, K. (2016). Are we there yet? : reliably estimating the completeness of plant genome sequences. PLANT CELL, 28(8), 1759–1768.
    Genome sequencing is becoming cheaper and faster thanks to the introduction of next-generation sequencing techniques. Dozens of new plant genome sequences have been released in recent years, ranging from small to gigantic repeat-rich or polyploid genomes. Most genome projects have a dual purpose: delivering a contiguous, complete genome assembly and creating a full catalog of correctly predicted genes. Frequently, the completeness of a species' gene catalog is measured using a set of marker genes that are expected to be present. This expectation can be defined along an evolutionary gradient, ranging from highly conserved genes to species-specific genes. Large-scale population resequencing studies have revealed that gene space is fairly variable even between closely related individuals, which limits the definition of the expected gene space, and, consequently, the accuracy of estimates used to assess genome and gene space completeness. We argue that, based on the desired applications of a genome sequencing project, different completeness scores for the genome assembly and/or gene space should be determined. Using examples from several dicot and monocot genomes, we outline some pitfalls and recommendations regarding methods to estimate completeness during different steps of genome assembly and annotation.