The new research field of metagenomics is providing exciting insights into various, previously unclassified ecological systems. Next-generation sequencing technologies are producing a rapid increase of environmental data in public databases. There is great need for specialized software solutions and statistical methods for dealing with complex metagenome data sets.
To facilitate the development and improvement of metagenomic tools and the planning of metagenomic projects, we introduce a sequencing simulator called MetaSim. Our software can be used to generate collections of synthetic reads that reflect the diverse taxonomical composition of typical metagenome data sets. Based on a database of given genomes, the program allows the user to design a metagenome by specifying the number of genomes present at different levels of the NCBI taxonomy, and then to collect reads from the metagenome using a simulation of a number of different sequencing technologies. A population sampler optionally produces evolved sequences based on source genomes and a given evolutionary tree.
MetaSim allows the user to simulate individual read datasets that can be used as standardized test scenarios for planning sequencing projects or for benchmarking metagenomic software.
When a bacterial genome is compared to the metagenome of an environment it inhabits, most genes recruit at high sequence identity. In free-living bacteria (for instance marine bacteria compared against the ocean metagenome) certain genomic regions are totally absent in recruitment plots, representing therefore genes unique to individual bacterial isolates. We show that these Metagenomic Islands (MIs) are also visible in bacteria living in human hosts when their genomes are compared to sequences from the human microbiome, despite the compartmentalized structure of human-related environments such as the gut. From an applied point of view, MIs of human pathogens (e.g. those identified in enterohaemorragic Escherichia coli against the gut metagenome or in pathogenic Neisseria meningitidis against the oral metagenome) include virulence genes that appear to be absent in related strains or species present in the microbiome of healthy individuals. We propose that this strategy (i.e. recruitment analysis of pathogenic bacteria against the metagenome of healthy subjects) can be used to detect pathogenicity regions in species where the genes involved in virulence are poorly characterized. Using this approach, we detect well-known pathogenicity islands and identify new potential virulence genes in several human pathogens.
Random community genomes (metagenomes) are now commonly used to study microbes in different environments. Over the past few years, the major challenge associated with metagenomics shifted from generating to analyzing sequences. High-throughput, low-cost next-generation sequencing has provided access to metagenomics to a wide range of researchers.
A high-throughput pipeline has been constructed to provide high-performance computing to all researchers interested in using metagenomics. The pipeline produces automated functional assignments of sequences in the metagenome by comparing both protein and nucleotide databases. Phylogenetic and functional summaries of the metagenomes are generated, and tools for comparative metagenomics are incorporated into the standard views. User access is controlled to ensure data privacy, but the collaborative environment underpinning the service provides a framework for sharing datasets between multiple users. In the metagenomics RAST, all users retain full control of their data, and everything is available for download in a variety of formats.
The open-source metagenomics RAST service provides a new paradigm for the annotation and analysis of metagenomes. With built-in support for multiple data sources and a back end that houses abstract data types, the metagenomics RAST is stable, extensible, and freely available to all researchers. This service has removed one of the primary bottlenecks in metagenome sequence analysis – the availability of high-performance computing for annotating the data.
Guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) is an important model for human intestinal research. We have characterized the faecal microbiota of 60 guinea pigs using Illumina shotgun metagenomics, and used this data to compile a gene catalogue of its prevalent microbiota. Subsequently, we compared the guinea pig microbiome to existing human gut metagenome data from the MetaHIT project.
We found that the bacterial richness obtained for human samples was lower than for guinea pig samples. The intestinal microbiotas of both species were dominated by the two phyla Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, but at genus level, the majority of identified genera (320 of 376) were differently abundant in the two hosts. For example, the guinea pig contained considerably more of the mucin-degrading Akkermansia, as well as of the methanogenic archaea Methanobrevibacter than found in humans. Most microbiome functional categories were less abundant in guinea pigs than in humans. Exceptions included functional categories possibly reflecting dehydration/rehydration stress in the guinea pig intestine. Finally, we showed that microbiological databases have serious anthropocentric biases, which impacts model organism research.
The results lay the foundation for future gastrointestinal research applying guinea pigs as models for humans.
With the rapid advances in sequencing technologies in recent years, the human genome is now considered incomplete without the complementing microbiome, which outnumbers human genes by a factor of one hundred. The human microbiome, and more specifically the gut microbiome, has received considerable attention and research efforts over the past decade. Many studies have identified and quantified “who is there?,” while others have determined some of their functional capacity, or “what are they doing?” In a recent study, we identified novel salt-tolerance loci from the human gut microbiome using combined functional metagenomic and bioinformatics based approaches. Herein, we discuss the identified loci, their role in salt-tolerance and their importance in the context of the gut environment. We also consider the utility and power of functional metagenomics for mining such environments for novel genes and proteins, as well as the implications and possible applications for future research.
functional metagenomics; human gut microbiome; salt tolerance; meta-biotechnology
Metagenomics is a rapidly growing field of research that aims at studying uncultured organisms to understand the true diversity of microbes, their functions, cooperation and evolution, in environments such as soil, water, ancient remains of animals, or the digestive system of animals and humans. The recent development of ultra-high throughput sequencing technologies, which do not require cloning or PCR amplification, and can produce huge numbers of DNA reads at an affordable cost, has boosted the number and scope of metagenomic sequencing projects. Increasingly, there is a need for new ways of comparing multiple metagenomics datasets, and for fast and user-friendly implementations of such approaches.
This paper introduces a number of new methods for interactively exploring, analyzing and comparing multiple metagenomic datasets, which will be made freely available in a new, comparative version 2.0 of the stand-alone metagenome analysis tool MEGAN.
There is a great need for powerful and user-friendly tools for comparative analysis of metagenomic data and MEGAN 2.0 will help to fill this gap.
The 99% of bacteria in the environment that are recalcitrant to culturing have spurred the development of metagenomics, a culture-independent approach to sample and characterize microbial genomes. Massive datasets of metagenomic sequences have been accumulated, but analysis of these sequences has focused primarily on the descriptive comparison of the relative abundance of proteins that belong to specific functional categories. More robust statistical methods are needed to make inferences from metagenomic data. In this study, we developed and applied a suite of tools to describe and compare the richness, membership, and structure of microbial communities using peptide fragment sequences extracted from metagenomic sequence data.
Application of these tools to acid mine drainage, soil, and whale fall metagenomic sequence collections revealed groups of peptide fragments with a relatively high abundance and no known function. When combined with analysis of 16S rRNA gene fragments from the same communities these tools enabled us to demonstrate that although there was no overlap in the types of 16S rRNA gene sequence observed, there was a core collection of operational protein families that was shared among the three environments.
The results of comparisons between the three habitats were surprising considering the relatively low overlap of membership and the distinctively different characteristics of the three habitats. These tools will facilitate the use of metagenomics to pursue statistically sound genome-based ecological analyses.
As metagenomic studies continue to increase in their number, sequence volume and complexity, the scalability of biological analysis frameworks has become a rate-limiting factor to meaningful data interpretation. To address this issue, we have developed JCVI Metagenomics Reports (METAREP) as an open source tool to query, browse, and compare extremely large volumes of metagenomic annotations. Here we present improvements to this software including the implementation of a dynamic weighting of taxonomic and functional annotation, support for distributed searches, advanced clustering routines, and integration of additional annotation input formats. The utility of these improvements to data interpretation are demonstrated through the application of multiple comparative analysis strategies to shotgun metagenomic data produced by the National Institutes of Health Roadmap for Biomedical Research Human Microbiome Project (HMP) (http://nihroadmap.nih.gov). Specifically, the scalability of the dynamic weighting feature is evaluated and established by its application to the analysis of over 400 million weighted gene annotations derived from 14 billion short reads as predicted by the HMP Unified Metabolic Analysis Network (HUMAnN) pipeline. Further, the capacity of METAREP to facilitate the identification and simultaneous comparison of taxonomic and functional annotations including biological pathway and individual enzyme abundances from hundreds of community samples is demonstrated by providing scenarios that describe how these data can be mined to answer biological questions related to the human microbiome. These strategies provide users with a reference of how to conduct similar large-scale metagenomic analyses using METAREP with their own sequence data, while in this study they reveal insights into the nature and extent of variation in taxonomic and functional profiles across body habitats and individuals. Over one thousand HMP WGS datasets and the latest open source code are available at http://www.jcvi.org/hmp-metarep.
Summary: Fragment recruitment, a process of aligning sequencing reads to reference genomes, is a crucial step in metagenomic data analysis. The available sequence alignment programs are either slow or insufficient for recruiting metagenomic reads. We implemented an efficient algorithm, FR-HIT, for fragment recruitment. We applied FR-HIT and several other tools including BLASTN, MegaBLAST, BLAT, LAST, SSAHA2, SOAP2, BWA and BWA-SW to recruit four metagenomic datasets from different type of sequencers. On average, FR-HIT and BLASTN recruited significantly more reads than other programs, while FR-HIT is about two orders of magnitude faster than BLASTN. FR-HIT is slower than the fastest SOAP2, BWA and BWA-SW, but it recruited 1–5 times more reads.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
The Integrated Microbial Genomes and Metagenomes (IMG/M) resource is a data management system that supports the analysis of sequence data from microbial communities in the integrated context of all publicly available draft and complete genomes from the three domains of life as well as a large number of plasmids and viruses. IMG/M currently contains thousands of genomes and metagenome samples with billions of genes. IMG/M-HMP is an IMG/M data mart serving the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) Human Microbiome Project (HMP), focussed on HMP generated metagenome datasets, and is one of the central resources provided from the HMP Data Analysis and Coordination Center (DACC). IMG/M-HMP is available at http://www.hmpdacc-resources.org/imgm_hmp/.
Enabled by rapid advances in sequencing technology, metagenomic studies aim to characterize entire communities of microbes bypassing the need for culturing individual bacterial members. One major goal of metagenomic studies is to identify specific functional adaptations of microbial communities to their habitats. The functional profile and the abundances for a sample can be estimated by mapping metagenomic sequences to the global metabolic network consisting of thousands of molecular reactions. Here we describe a powerful analytical method (MetaPath) that can identify differentially abundant pathways in metagenomic datasets, relying on a combination of metagenomic sequence data and prior metabolic pathway knowledge.
First, we introduce a scoring function for an arbitrary subnetwork and find the max-weight subnetwork in the global network by a greedy search algorithm. Then we compute two p values (pabund and pstruct) using nonparametric approaches to answer two different statistical questions: (1) is this subnetwork differentically abundant? (2) What is the probability of finding such good subnetworks by chance given the data and network structure? Finally, significant metabolic subnetworks are discovered based on these two p values.
In order to validate our methods, we have designed a simulated metabolic pathways dataset and show that MetaPath outperforms other commonly used approaches. We also demonstrate the power of our methods in analyzing two publicly available metagenomic datasets, and show that the subnetworks identified by MetaPath provide valuable insights into the biological activities of the microbiome.
We have introduced a statistical method for finding significant metabolic subnetworks from metagenomic datasets. Compared with previous methods, results from MetaPath are more robust against noise in the data, and have significantly higher sensitivity and specificity (when tested on simulated datasets). When applied to two publicly available metagenomic datasets, the output of MetaPath is consistent with previous observations and also provides several new insights into the metabolic activity of the gut microbiome. The software is freely available at http://metapath.cbcb.umd.edu.
Metagenomics applies a suite of genomic technologies and bioinformatics tools to directly access the genetic content of entire communities of organisms. The field of metagenomics has been responsible for substantial advances in microbial ecology, evolution, and diversity over the past 5 to 10 years, and many research laboratories are actively engaged in it now. With the growing numbers of activities also comes a plethora of methodological knowledge and expertise that should guide future developments in the field. This review summarizes the current opinions in metagenomics, and provides practical guidance and advice on sample processing, sequencing technology, assembly, binning, annotation, experimental design, statistical analysis, data storage, and data sharing. As more metagenomic datasets are generated, the availability of standardized procedures and shared data storage and analysis becomes increasingly important to ensure that output of individual projects can be assessed and compared.
sampling; sequencing; assembly; binning; annotation; data storage; data sharing; DNA extraction; microbial ecology; microbial diversity
Microbial metagenomic analyses rely on an increasing number of publicly available tools. Installation, integration, and maintenance of the tools poses significant burden on many researchers and creates a barrier to adoption of microbiome analysis, particularly in translational settings.
To address this need we have integrated a rich collection of microbiome analysis tools into the Genboree Microbiome Toolset and exposed them to the scientific community using the Software-as-a-Service model via the Genboree Workbench. The Genboree Microbiome Toolset provides an interactive environment for users at all bioinformatic experience levels in which to conduct microbiome analysis. The Toolset drives hypothesis generation by providing a wide range of analyses including alpha diversity and beta diversity, phylogenetic profiling, supervised machine learning, and feature selection.
We validate the Toolset in two studies of the gut microbiota, one involving obese and lean twins, and the other involving children suffering from the irritable bowel syndrome.
By lowering the barrier to performing a comprehensive set of microbiome analyses, the Toolset empowers investigators to translate high-volume sequencing data into valuable biomedical discoveries.
Microbial communities carry out the majority of the biochemical activity on the planet, and they play integral roles in processes including metabolism and immune homeostasis in the human microbiome. Shotgun sequencing of such communities' metagenomes provides information complementary to organismal abundances from taxonomic markers, but the resulting data typically comprise short reads from hundreds of different organisms and are at best challenging to assemble comparably to single-organism genomes. Here, we describe an alternative approach to infer the functional and metabolic potential of a microbial community metagenome. We determined the gene families and pathways present or absent within a community, as well as their relative abundances, directly from short sequence reads. We validated this methodology using a collection of synthetic metagenomes, recovering the presence and abundance both of large pathways and of small functional modules with high accuracy. We subsequently applied this method, HUMAnN, to the microbial communities of 649 metagenomes drawn from seven primary body sites on 102 individuals as part of the Human Microbiome Project (HMP). This provided a means to compare functional diversity and organismal ecology in the human microbiome, and we determined a core of 24 ubiquitously present modules. Core pathways were often implemented by different enzyme families within different body sites, and 168 functional modules and 196 metabolic pathways varied in metagenomic abundance specifically to one or more niches within the microbiome. These included glycosaminoglycan degradation in the gut, as well as phosphate and amino acid transport linked to host phenotype (vaginal pH) in the posterior fornix. An implementation of our methodology is available at http://huttenhower.sph.harvard.edu/humann. This provides a means to accurately and efficiently characterize microbial metabolic pathways and functional modules directly from high-throughput sequencing reads, enabling the determination of community roles in the HMP cohort and in future metagenomic studies.
The human body is inhabited by trillions of bacteria and other microbes, which have recently been studied in many different habitats (including gut, mouth, skin, and urogenital) by the Human Microbiome Project (HMP). These microbial communities were assayed using high-throughput DNA sequencing, but it can be challenging to determine their biological functions based solely on the resulting short sequences. To reconstruct the metabolic activities of such communities, we have developed HUMAnN, a method to accurately infer community function directly from short DNA reads. The method's accuracy was validated using a collection of synthetic microbial communities. Applying HUMAnN to data from the HMP, we showed that, unlike individual microbial species, many metabolic processes were present among all body habitats. However, the frequencies of these processes varied dramatically, and some were highly enriched within individual habitats to provide niche specialization (e.g. in the gut, which is abundant in food matter but low in oxygen). Other community functions were linked specifically to properties of the human host, such as biochemical processes only present in vaginal habitats with particularly high or low pH. Studying additional environmental or disease-associated communities using HUMAnN will further improve our understanding of how the microbial organisms in a community are linked to the biological processes they carry out.
Motivation: Metagenomics is a recent field of biology that studies microbial communities by analyzing their genomic content directly sequenced from the environment. A metagenomic dataset consists of many short DNA or RNA fragments called reads. One interesting problem in metagenomic data analysis is the discovery of the taxonomic composition of a given dataset. A simple method for this task, called the Lowest Common Ancestor (LCA), is employed in state-of-the-art computational tools for metagenomic data analysis of very short reads (about 100 bp). However LCA has two main drawbacks: it possibly assigns many reads to high taxonomic ranks and it discards a high number of reads.
Results: We present MTR, a new method for tackling these drawbacks using clustering at Multiple Taxonomic Ranks. Unlike LCA, which processes the reads one-by-one, MTR exploits information shared by reads. Specifically, MTR consists of two main phases. First, for each taxonomic rank, a collection of potential clusters of reads is generated, and each potential cluster is associated to a taxon at that rank. Next, a small number of clusters is selected at each rank using a combinatorial optimization algorithm. The effectiveness of the resulting method is tested on a large number of simulated and real-life metagenomes. Results of experiments show that MTR improves on LCA by discarding a significantly smaller number of reads and by assigning much more reads at lower taxonomic ranks. Moreover, MTR provides a more faithful taxonomic characterization of the metagenome population distribution.
Availability: Matlab and C++ source codes of the method available at http://cs.ru.nl/˜gori/software/MTR.tar.gz.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
The human gut harbors thousands of bacterial taxa. A profusion of metagenomic sequence data has been generated from human stool samples in the last few years, raising the question of whether more taxa remain to be identified. We assessed metagenomic data generated by the Human Microbiome Project Consortium to determine if novel taxa remain to be discovered in stool samples from healthy individuals. To do this, we established a rigorous bioinformatics pipeline that uses sequence data from multiple platforms (Illumina GAIIX and Roche 454 FLX Titanium) and approaches (whole-genome shotgun and 16S rDNA amplicons) to validate novel taxa. We applied this approach to stool samples from 11 healthy subjects collected as part of the Human Microbiome Project. We discovered several low-abundance, novel bacterial taxa, which span three major phyla in the bacterial tree of life. We determined that these taxa are present in a larger set of Human Microbiome Project subjects and are found in two sampling sites (Houston and St. Louis). We show that the number of false-positive novel sequences (primarily chimeric sequences) would have been two orders of magnitude higher than the true number of novel taxa without validation using multiple datasets, highlighting the importance of establishing rigorous standards for the identification of novel taxa in metagenomic data. The majority of novel sequences are related to the recently discovered genus Barnesiella, further encouraging efforts to characterize the members of this genus and to study their roles in the microbial communities of the gut. A better understanding of the effects of less-abundant bacteria is important as we seek to understand the complex gut microbiome in healthy individuals and link changes in the microbiome to disease.
A major challenge facing metagenomics is the development of tools for the characterization of functional and taxonomic content of vast amounts of short metagenome reads. The efficacy of clustering methods depends on the number of reads in the dataset, the read length and relative abundances of source genomes in the microbial community. In this paper, we formulate an unsupervised naive Bayes multispecies, multidimensional mixture model for reads from a metagenome. We use the proposed model to cluster metagenomic reads by their species of origin and to characterize the abundance of each species. We model the distribution of word counts along a genome as a Gaussian for shorter, frequent words and as a Poisson for longer words that are rare. We employ either a mixture of Gaussians or mixture of Poissons to model reads within each bin. Further, we handle the high-dimensionality and sparsity associated with the data, by grouping the set of words comprising the reads, resulting in a two-way mixture model. Finally, we demonstrate the accuracy and applicability of this method on simulated and real metagenomes. Our method can accurately cluster reads as short as 100 bps and is robust to varying abundances, divergences and read lengths.
Motivation: Next-generation sequencing techniques allow us to generate reads from a microbial environment in order to analyze the microbial community. However, assembling of a set of mixed reads from different species to form contigs is a bottleneck of metagenomic research. Although there are many assemblers for assembling reads from a single genome, there are no assemblers for assembling reads in metagenomic data without reference genome sequences. Moreover, the performances of these assemblers on metagenomic data are far from satisfactory, because of the existence of common regions in the genomes of subspecies and species, which make the assembly problem much more complicated.
Results: We introduce the Meta-IDBA algorithm for assembling reads in metagenomic data, which contain multiple genomes from different species. There are two core steps in Meta-IDBA. It first tries to partition the de Bruijn graph into isolated components of different species based on an important observation. Then, for each component, it captures the slight variants of the genomes of subspecies from the same species by multiple alignments and represents the genome of one species, using a consensus sequence. Comparison of the performances of Meta-IDBA and existing assemblers, such as Velvet and Abyss for different metagenomic datasets shows that Meta-IDBA can reconstruct longer contigs with similar accuracy.
Availability: Meta-IDBA toolkit is available at our website http://www.cs.hku.hk/~alse/metaidba.
Metagenomic approaches are increasingly recognized as a baseline for understanding the
ecology and evolution of microbial ecosystems. The development of methods for pathway
inference from metagenomics data is of paramount importance to link a phenotype to a
cascade of events stemming from a series of connected sets of genes or proteins.
Biochemical and regulatory pathways have until recently been thought and modelled within
one cell type, one organism, one species. This vision is being dramatically changed by the
advent of whole microbiome sequencing studies, revealing the role of symbiotic microbial
populations in fundamental biochemical functions. The new landscape we face requires a
clear picture of the potentialities of existing tools and development of new tools to
characterize, reconstruct and model biochemical and regulatory pathways as the result of
integration of function in complex symbiotic interactions of ontologically and
evolutionary distinct cell types.
metagenomics; next-generation sequencing; microbiome; pathway analysis; gene annotation
Metagenomics has revolutionized microbiology by paving the way for a cultivation-independent assessment and exploitation of microbial communities present in complex ecosystems. Metagenomics comprising construction and screening of metagenomic DNA libraries has proven to be a powerful tool to isolate new enzymes and drugs of industrial importance. So far, the majority of the metagenomically exploited habitats comprised temperate environments, such as soil and marine environments. Recently, metagenomes of extreme environments have also been used as sources of novel biocatalysts. The employment of next-generation sequencing techniques for metagenomics resulted in the generation of large sequence data sets derived from various environments, such as soil, the human body, and ocean water. Analyses of these data sets opened a window into the enormous taxonomic and functional diversity of environmental microbial communities. To assess the functional dynamics of microbial communities, metatranscriptomics and metaproteomics have been developed. The combination of DNA-based, mRNA-based, and protein-based analyses of microbial communities present in different environments is a way to elucidate the compositions, functions, and interactions of microbial communities and to link these to environmental processes.
Little is known regarding the pool of mobile genetic elements associated with the human gut microbiome. In this study we employed the culture independent TRACA system to isolate novel plasmids from the human gut microbiota, and a comparative metagenomic analysis to investigate the distribution and relative abundance of functions encoded by these plasmids in the human gut microbiome.
Novel plasmids were acquired from the human gut microbiome, and homologous nucleotide sequences with high identity (>90%) to two plasmids (pTRACA10 and pTRACA22) were identified in the multiple human gut microbiomes analysed here. However, no homologous nucleotide sequences to these plasmids were identified in the murine gut or environmental metagenomes. Functions encoded by the plasmids pTRACA10 and pTRACA22 were found to be more prevalent in the human gut microbiome when compared to microbial communities from other environments. Among the most prevalent functions identified was a putative RelBE toxin-antitoxin (TA) addiction module, and subsequent analysis revealed that this was most closely related to putative TA modules from gut associated bacteria belonging to the Firmicutes. A broad phylogenetic distribution of RelE toxin genes was observed in gut associated bacterial species (Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria), but no RelE homologues were identified in gut associated archaeal species. We also provide indirect evidence for the horizontal transfer of these genes between bacterial species belonging to disparate phylogenetic divisions, namely Gram negative Proteobacteria and Gram positive species from the Firmicutes division.
The application of a culture independent system to capture novel plasmids from the human gut mobile metagenome, coupled with subsequent comparative metagenomic analysis, highlighted the unexpected prevalence of plasmid encoded functions in the gut microbial ecosystem. In particular the increased relative abundance and broad phylogenetic distribution was identified for a putative RelBE toxin/antitoxin addiction module, a putative phosphohydrolase/phosphoesterase, and an ORF of unknown function. Our analysis also indicates that some plasmids or plasmid families are present in the gut microbiomes of geographically isolated human hosts with a broad global distribution (America, Japan and Europe), and are potentially unique to the human gut microbiome. Further investigation of the plasmid population associated with the human gut is likely to provide important insights into the development, functioning and evolution of the human gut microbiota.
Marine microbial genomics and metagenomics is an emerging field in environmental research. Since the completion of the first marine bacterial genome in 2003, the number of fully sequenced marine bacteria has grown rapidly. Concurrently, marine metagenomics studies are performed on a regular basis, and the resulting number of sequences is growing exponentially. To address environmentally relevant questions like organismal adaptations to oceanic provinces and regional differences in the microbial cycling of nutrients, it is necessary to couple sequence data with geographical information and supplement them with contextual information like physical, chemical and biological data. Therefore, new specialized databases are needed to organize and standardize data storage as well as centralize data access and interpretation. We introduce Megx.net, a set of databases and tools that handle genomic and metagenomic sequences in their environmental contexts. Megx.net includes (i) a geographic information system to systematically store and analyse marine genomic and metagenomic data in conjunction with contextual information; (ii) an environmental genome browser with fast search functionalities; (iii) a database with precomputed analyses for selected complete genomes; and (iv) a database and tool to classify metagenomic fragments based on oligonucleotide signatures. These integrative databases and webserver will help researchers to generate a better understanding of the functioning of marine ecosystems. All resources are freely accessible at .
Peptide spectrum matching (PSM) is the standard method in shotgun proteomics data analysis. It relies on the availability of an accurate and complete sample proteome that is used to make interpretation of the spectra feasible. Although this procedure has proven to be effective in many proteomics studies, the approach has limitations when applied on complex samples of microbial communities, such as those found in the human intestinal tract. Metagenome studies have indicated that the human intestinal microbiome contains over 100 times more genes than the human genome and it has been estimated that this ecosystem contains over 5000 bacterial species. The genomes of the vast majority of these species have not yet been sequenced and hence their proteomes remain unknown. To enable data analysis of shotgun proteomics data using PSM, and circumvent the lack of a defined matched metaproteome, an iterative workflow was developed that is based on a synthetic metaproteome and the developing metagenomic databases that are both representative for but not necessarily originating from the sample of interest.
Two human fecal samples for which metagenomic data had been collected, were analyzed for their metaproteome using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and used to benchmark the developed iterative workflow to other methods. The results show that the developed method is able to detect over 3,000 peptides per fecal sample from the spectral data by circumventing the lack of a defined proteome without naive translation of matched metagenomes and cross-species peptide identification.
The developed iterative workflow achieved an approximate two-fold increase in the amount of identified spectra at a false discovery rate of 1% and can be applied in metaproteomic studies of the human intestinal tract or other complex ecosystems.
In the last 20 years, the applications of genomics tools have completely transformed the field of microbial research. This has primarily happened due to revolution in sequencing technologies that have become available today. This review therefore, first describes the discoveries, upgradation and automation of sequencing techniques in a chronological order, followed by a brief discussion on microbial genomics. Some of the recently sequenced bacterial genomes are described to explain how complete genome data is now being used to derive interesting findings. Apart from the genomics of individual microbes, the study of unculturable microbiota from different environments is increasingly gaining importance. The second section is thus dedicated to the concept of metagenomics describing environmental DNA isolation, metagenomic library construction and screening methods to look for novel and potentially important genes, enzymes and biomolecules. It also deals with the pioneering studies in the area of metagenomics that are offering new insights into the previously unappreciated microbial world.
The NGS (next generation sequencing)-based metagenomic data analysis is becoming the mainstream for the study of microbial communities. Faced with a large amount of data in metagenomic research, effective data visualization is important for scientists to effectively explore, interpret and manipulate such rich information. The visualization of the metagenomic data, especially multi-sample data, is one of the most critical challenges. The different data sample sources, sequencing approaches and heterogeneous data formats make robust and seamless data visualization difficult. Moreover, researchers have different focuses on metagenomic studies: taxonomical or functional, sample-centric or genome-centric, single sample or multiple samples, etc. However, current efforts in metagenomic data visualization cannot fulfill all of these needs, and it is extremely hard to organize all of these visualization effects in a systematic manner. An extendable, interactive visualization tool would be the method of choice to fulfill all of these visualization needs. In this paper, we have present MetaSee, an extendable toolbox that facilitates the interactive visualization of metagenomic samples of interests. The main components of MetaSee include: (I) a core visualization engine that is composed of different views for comparison of multiple samples: Global view, Phylogenetic view, Sample view and Taxa view, as well as link-out for more in-depth analysis; (II) front-end user interface with real metagenomic models that connect to the above core visualization engine and (III) open-source portal for the development of plug-ins for MetaSee. This integrative visualization tool not only provides the visualization effects, but also enables researchers to perform in-depth analysis of the metagenomic samples of interests. Moreover, its open-source portal allows for the design of plug-ins for MetaSee, which would facilitate the development of any additional visualization effects.