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Robust and scalable barcoding for massively parallel long-read sequencing | Nature Portfolio

Updated: Jun 7, 2022

The beauty of maths and the elegance of molecular biology protocols to unlock the power of long-read sequencing technologies.


Nucleic-acid barcoding is an enabling technique for many applications, but its use remains limited in emerging long-read sequencing technologies with intrinsically low raw accuracy. Here, we apply so-called NS-watermark barcodes, whose error correction capability was previously validated in silico, in a proof of concept where we synthesize 3840 NS-watermark barcodes and use them to asymmetrically tag and simultaneously sequence amplicons from two evolutionarily distant species (namely Bordetella pertussis and Drosophila mojavensis) on the ONT MinION platform. To our knowledge, this is the largest number of distinct, non-random tags ever sequenced in parallel and the first report of microarray-based synthesis as a source for large oligonucleotide pools for barcoding. We recovered the identity of more than 86% of the barcodes, with a crosstalk rate of 0.17% (i.e., one misassignment every 584 reads). This falls in the range of the index hopping rate of established, high-accuracy Illumina sequencing, despite the increased number of tags and the relatively low accuracy of both microarray-based synthesis and long-read sequencing. The robustness of NS-watermark barcodes, together with their scalable design and compatibility with low-cost massive synthesis, makes them promising for present and future sequencing applications requiring massive labeling, such as long-read single-cell RNA-Seq.

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