The pathomechanism of mycosis fungoides (MF), the most common type of primary cutaneous T-cell lymphomas (CTCLs) and a malignancy of non-recirculating, skin-resident T-cells, is unknown albeit underlying viral infections have been sought for. Human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) are ancient retroviral sequences in the human genome and their transcription is often deregulated in cancers. We explored the transcriptional activity of HERV sequences in a total of 34 samples comprising MF and psoriasis skin lesions, as well as corresponding non-malignant skin using a retrovirus-specific microarray and quantitative RT-PCR. To identify active HERV-W loci, we cloned the HERV-W specific RT-PCR products, sequenced the cDNA clones and assigned the sequences to HERV-W loci. Finally, we used immunohistochemistry on MF patient and non-malignant inflammatory skin samples to confirm specific HERV-encoded protein expression. Firstly, a distinct, skin-specific transcription profile consisting of five constitutively active HERV groups was established. Although individual variability was common, HERV-W showed significantly increased transcription in MF lesions compared to clinically intact skin from the same patient. Predominantly transcribed HERV-W loci were found to be located in chromosomes 6q21 and 7q21.2, chromosomal regions typically altered in CTCL. Surprisingly, we also found the expression of 7q21.2/ERVWE1-encoded Syncytin-1 (Env) protein in MF biopsies and expression of Syncytin-1 was seen in malignant lymphocytes, especially in the epidermotropic ones, in 15 of 30 cases studied. Most importantly, no Syncytin-1 expression was detected in inflammatory dermatosis (Lichen ruber planus) with skin-homing, non-malignant T lymphocytes. The expression of ERVWE1 mRNA was further confirmed in 3/7 MF lesions analyzed. Our observations strengthen the association between activated HERVs and cancer. The study offers a new perspective into the pathogenesis of CTCL since we demonstrate that differences in HERV-W transcription levels between lesional MF and non-malignant skin are significant, and that ERVWE1-encoded Syncytin-1 is expressed in MF lymphoma cells.
Members of the Planctomycetes clade share many unusual features for bacteria. Their cytoplasm contains membrane-bound compartments, they lack peptidoglycan and FtsZ, they divide by polar budding, and they are capable of endocytosis. Planctomycete genomes have remained enigmatic, generally being quite large (up to 9 Mb), and on average, 55% of their predicted proteins are of unknown function. Importantly, proteins related to the unusual traits of Planctomycetes remain largely unknown. Thus, we embarked on bioinformatic analyses of these genomes in an effort to predict proteins that are likely to be involved in compartmentalization, cell division, and signal transduction. We used three complementary strategies. First, we defined the Planctomycetes core genome and subtracted genes of well-studied model organisms. Second, we analyzed the gene content and synteny of morphogenesis and cell division genes and combined both methods using a “guilt-by-association” approach. Third, we identified signal transduction systems as well as sigma factors. These analyses provide a manageable list of candidate genes for future genetic studies and provide evidence for complex signaling in the Planctomycetes akin to that observed for bacteria with complex life-styles, such as Myxococcus xanthus.
The proportion of conserved DNA sequences with no clear function is steadily growing in bioinformatics databases. Studies of sequence and structural homology have indicated that many uncharacterized protein domain sequences are variants of functionally described domains. If these variants promote an organism's ecological fitness, they are likely to be conserved in the genome of its progeny and the population at large. The genetic composition of microbial communities in their native ecosystems is accessible through metagenomics. We hypothesize the co-variation of protein domain sequences across metagenomes from similar ecosystems will provide insights into their potential roles and aid further investigation.
We calculated the correlation of Pfam protein domain sequences across the Global Ocean Sampling metagenome collection, employing conservative detection and correlation thresholds to limit results to well-supported hits and associations. We then examined intercorrelations between domains of unknown function (DUFs) and domains involved in known metabolic pathways using network visualization and cluster-detection tools. We used a cautious “guilty-by-association” approach, referencing knowledge-level resources to identify and discuss associations that offer insight into DUF function. We observed numerous DUFs associated to photobiologically active domains and prevalent in the Cyanobacteria. Other clusters included DUFs associated with DNA maintenance and repair, inorganic nutrient metabolism, and sodium-translocating transport domains. We also observed a number of clusters reflecting known metabolic associations and cases that predicted functional reclassification of DUFs.
Critically examining domain covariation across metagenomic datasets can grant new perspectives on the roles and associations of DUFs in an ecological setting. Targeted attempts at DUF characterization in the laboratory or in silico may draw from these insights and opportunities to discover new associations and corroborate existing ones will arise as more large-scale metagenomic datasets emerge.
SILVA (from Latin silva, forest, http://www.arb-silva.de) is a comprehensive web resource for up to date, quality-controlled databases of aligned ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene sequences from the Bacteria, Archaea and Eukaryota domains and supplementary online services. The referred database release 111 (July 2012) contains 3 194 778 small subunit and 288 717 large subunit rRNA gene sequences. Since the initial description of the project, substantial new features have been introduced, including advanced quality control procedures, an improved rRNA gene aligner, online tools for probe and primer evaluation and optimized browsing, searching and downloading on the website. Furthermore, the extensively curated SILVA taxonomy and the new non-redundant SILVA datasets provide an ideal reference for high-throughput classification of data from next-generation sequencing approaches.
Metagenomics has become an indispensable tool for studying the diversity and metabolic potential of environmental microbes, whose bulk is as yet non-cultivable. Continual progress in next-generation sequencing allows for generating increasingly large metagenomes and studying multiple metagenomes over time or space. Recently, a new type of holistic ecosystem study has emerged that seeks to combine metagenomics with biodiversity, meta-expression and contextual data. Such ‘ecosystems biology’ approaches bear the potential to not only advance our understanding of environmental microbes to a new level but also impose challenges due to increasing data complexities, in particular with respect to bioinformatic post-processing. This mini review aims to address selected opportunities and challenges of modern metagenomics from a bioinformatics perspective and hopefully will serve as a useful resource for microbial ecologists and bioinformaticians alike.
16S rRNA biodiversity; binning; bioinformatics; Genomic Standards Consortium; metagenomics; next-generation sequencing
16S ribosomal RNA gene (rDNA) amplicon analysis remains the standard approach for the cultivation-independent investigation of microbial diversity. The accuracy of these analyses depends strongly on the choice of primers. The overall coverage and phylum spectrum of 175 primers and 512 primer pairs were evaluated in silico with respect to the SILVA 16S/18S rDNA non-redundant reference dataset (SSURef 108 NR). Based on this evaluation a selection of ‘best available’ primer pairs for Bacteria and Archaea for three amplicon size classes (100–400, 400–1000, ≥1000 bp) is provided. The most promising bacterial primer pair (S-D-Bact-0341-b-S-17/S-D-Bact-0785-a-A-21), with an amplicon size of 464 bp, was experimentally evaluated by comparing the taxonomic distribution of the 16S rDNA amplicons with 16S rDNA fragments from directly sequenced metagenomes. The results of this study may be used as a guideline for selecting primer pairs with the best overall coverage and phylum spectrum for specific applications, therefore reducing the bias in PCR-based microbial diversity studies.
Preventive health care is an important part of general practice however uptake of activities by patients is variable. Monetary incentives for doctors have been used in the UK and Australia to improve rates of screening and immunisation. Few studies have focussed on incentives for patients to attend preventive health care examinations. Our objective was to investigate the use of a monetary incentive to increase patient attendance with their general practitioner for a cardiovascular risk assessment (CVRA).
A pragmatic RCT was conducted in two Australian general practices. Participating GPs underwent academic detailing for cardiovascular risk assessment. 301 patients aged 40–74, who did not have cardiovascular disease, were independently randomised to receive a letter inviting them to a no cost cardiovascular risk assessment with their GP, or the same letter plus an offer of a $25 shopping voucher if they attended. An audit of patient medical records was also undertaken and a patient questionnaire administered to a sub sample of participants. Our main outcome measure was attendance for cardiovascular risk assessment.
In the RCT, 56/301(18.6%) patients attended for cardiovascular risk assessment, 29/182 (15.9%) in the control group and 27/119 (22.7%) in the intervention group. The estimated difference of 6.8% (95% CI: -2.5% to 16.0%) was not statistically significant, P = 0.15. The audit showed that GPs may underestimate patients’ absolute cardiovascular risk and the questionnaire that mailed invitations from GPs for a CVRA may encourage patients to attend.
A small monetary incentive does not improve attendance for cardiovascular risk assessment. Further research should be undertaken to determine if there are other incentives that may increase attendance for preventive activities in the general practice setting.
Clinical trials registration
Due to its extreme salinity and high Mg concentration the Dead Sea is characterized by a very low density of cells most of which are Archaea. We discovered several underwater fresh to brackish water springs in the Dead Sea harboring dense microbial communities. We provide the first characterization of these communities, discuss their possible origin, hydrochemical environment, energetic resources and the putative biogeochemical pathways they are mediating. Pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene and community fingerprinting methods showed that the spring community originates from the Dead Sea sediments and not from the aquifer. Furthermore, it suggested that there is a dense Archaeal community in the shoreline pore water of the lake. Sequences of bacterial sulfate reducers, nitrifiers iron oxidizers and iron reducers were identified as well. Analysis of white and green biofilms suggested that sulfide oxidation through chemolitotrophy and phototrophy is highly significant. Hyperspectral analysis showed a tight association between abundant green sulfur bacteria and cyanobacteria in the green biofilms. Together, our findings show that the Dead Sea floor harbors diverse microbial communities, part of which is not known from other hypersaline environments. Analysis of the water’s chemistry shows evidence of microbial activity along the path and suggests that the springs supply nitrogen, phosphorus and organic matter to the microbial communities in the Dead Sea. The underwater springs are a newly recognized water source for the Dead Sea. Their input of microorganisms and nutrients needs to be considered in the assessment of possible impact of dilution events of the lake surface waters, such as those that will occur in the future due to the intended establishment of the Red Sea−Dead Sea water conduit.
Motivation: In the analysis of homologous sequences, computation of multiple sequence alignments (MSAs) has become a bottleneck. This is especially troublesome for marker genes like the ribosomal RNA (rRNA) where already millions of sequences are publicly available and individual studies can easily produce hundreds of thousands of new sequences. Methods have been developed to cope with such numbers, but further improvements are needed to meet accuracy requirements.
Results: In this study, we present the SILVA Incremental Aligner (SINA) used to align the rRNA gene databases provided by the SILVA ribosomal RNA project. SINA uses a combination of k-mer searching and partial order alignment (POA) to maintain very high alignment accuracy while satisfying high throughput performance demands.
SINA was evaluated in comparison with the commonly used high throughput MSA programs PyNAST and mothur. The three BRAliBase III benchmark MSAs could be reproduced with 99.3, 97.6 and 96.1 accuracy. A larger benchmark MSA comprising 38 772 sequences could be reproduced with 98.9 and 99.3% accuracy using reference MSAs comprising 1000 and 5000 sequences. SINA was able to achieve higher accuracy than PyNAST and mothur in all performed benchmarks.
Availability: Alignment of up to 500 sequences using the latest SILVA SSU/LSU Ref datasets as reference MSA is offered at http://www.arb-silva.de/aligner. This page also links to Linux binaries, user manual and tutorial. SINA is made available under a personal use license.
Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
Next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies have enabled the application of broad-scale sequencing in microbial biodiversity and metagenome studies. Biodiversity is usually targeted by classifying 16S ribosomal RNA genes, while metagenomic approaches target metabolic genes. However, both approaches remain isolated, as long as the taxonomic and functional information cannot be interrelated. Techniques like self-organizing maps (SOMs) have been applied to cluster metagenomes into taxon-specific bins in order to link biodiversity with functions, but have not been applied to broad-scale NGS-based metagenomics yet. Here, we provide a novel implementation, demonstrate its potential and practicability, and provide a web-based service for public usage. Evaluation with published data sets mimicking varyingly complex habitats resulted into classification specificities and sensitivities of close to 100% to above 90% from phylum to genus level for assemblies exceeding 8 kb for low and medium complexity data. When applied to five real-world metagenomes of medium complexity from direct pyrosequencing of marine subsurface waters, classifications of assemblies above 2.5 kb were in good agreement with fluorescence in situ hybridizations, indicating that biodiversity was mostly retained within the metagenomes, and confirming high classification specificities. This was validated by two protein-based classifications (PBCs) methods. SOMs were able to retrieve the relevant taxa down to the genus level, while surpassing PBCs in resolution. In order to make the approach accessible to a broad audience, we implemented a feature-rich web-based SOM application named TaxSOM, which is freely available at http://www.megx.net/toolbox/taxsom. TaxSOM can classify reads or assemblies exceeding 2.5 kb with high accuracy and thus assists in linking biodiversity and functions in metagenome studies, which is a precondition to study microbial ecology in a holistic fashion.
binning; metagenomics; molecular ecology; self-organizing map (SOM); taxonomic classification; TaxSOM
Planctomycetes represent a remarkable clade in the domain Bacteria because they play crucial roles in global carbon and nitrogen cycles and display cellular structures that closely parallel those of eukaryotic cells. Studies on Planctomycetes have been hampered by the lack of genetic tools, which we developed for Planctomyces limnophilus.
Marine phages have an astounding global abundance and ecological impact. However, little knowledge is derived from phage genomes, as most of the open reading frames in their small genomes are unknown, novel proteins. To infer potential functional and ecological relevance of sequenced marine Pseudoalteromonas phage H105/1, two strategies were used. First, similarity searches were extended to include six viral and bacterial metagenomes paired with their respective environmental contextual data. This approach revealed ‘ecogenomic' patterns of Pseudoalteromonas phage H105/1, such as its estuarine origin. Second, intrinsic genome signatures (phylogenetic, codon adaptation and tetranucleotide (tetra) frequencies) were evaluated on a resolved intra-genomic level to shed light on the evolution of phage functional modules. On the basis of differential codon adaptation of Phage H105/1 proteins to the sequenced Pseudoalteromonas spp., regions of the phage genome with the most ‘host'-adapted proteins also have the strongest bacterial tetra signature, whereas the least ‘host'-adapted proteins have the strongest phage tetra signature. Such a pattern may reflect the evolutionary history of the respective phage proteins and functional modules. Finally, analysis of the structural proteome identified seven proteins that make up the mature virion, four of which were previously unknown. This integrated approach combines both novel and classical strategies and serves as a model to elucidate ecological inferences and evolutionary relationships from phage genomes that typically abound with unknown gene content.
ecogenomics; genome signatures; genomics; marine; phage; Pseudoalteromonas
State of the art (DNA) sequencing methods applied in “Omics” studies grant insight into the ‘blueprints’ of organisms from all domains of life. Sequencing is carried out around the globe and the data is submitted to the public repositories of the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration. However, the context in which these studies are conducted often gets lost, because experimental data, as well as information about the environment are rarely submitted along with the sequence data. If these contextual or metadata are missing, key opportunities of comparison and analysis across studies and habitats are hampered or even impossible. To address this problem, the Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC) promotes checklists and standards to better describe our sequence data collection and to promote the capturing, exchange and integration of sequence data with contextual data. In a recent community effort the GSC has developed a series of recommendations for contextual data that should be submitted along with sequence data. To support the scientific community to significantly enhance the quality and quantity of contextual data in the public sequence data repositories, specialized software tools are needed. In this work we present CDinFusion, a web-based tool to integrate contextual and sequence data in (Multi)FASTA format prior to submission. The tool is open source and available under the Lesser GNU Public License 3. A public installation is hosted and maintained at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology at http://www.megx.net/cdinfusion. The tool may also be installed locally using the open source code available at http://code.google.com/p/cdinfusion.
DNA-binding transcription factors (TFs) regulate cellular functions in prokaryotes, often in response to environmental stimuli. Thus, the environment exerts constant selective pressure on the TF gene content of microbial communities. Recently a study on marine Synechococcus strains detected differences in their genomic TF content related to environmental adaptation, but so far the effect of environmental parameters on the content of TFs in bacterial communities has not been systematically investigated.
We quantified the effect of environment stability on the transcription factor repertoire of marine pelagic microbes from the Global Ocean Sampling (GOS) metagenome using interpolated physico-chemical parameters and multivariate statistics. Thirty-five percent of the difference in relative TF abundances between samples could be explained by environment stability. Six percent was attributable to spatial distance but none to a combination of both spatial distance and stability. Some individual TFs showed a stronger relationship to environment stability and space than the total TF pool.
Environmental stability appears to have a clearly detectable effect on TF gene content in bacterioplanktonic communities described by the GOS metagenome. Interpolated environmental parameters were shown to compare well to in situ measurements and were essential for quantifying the effect of the environment on the TF content. It is demonstrated that comprehensive and well-structured contextual data will strongly enhance our ability to interpret the functional potential of microbes from metagenomic data.
transcription factors; ecological metagenomics; interpolated environmental data; multivariate statistics
A vast and rich body of information has grown up as a result of the world's enthusiasm for 'omics technologies. Finding ways to describe and make available this information that maximise its usefulness has become a major effort across the 'omics world. At the heart of this effort is the Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC), an open-membership organization that drives community-based standardization activities, Here we provide a short history of the GSC, provide an overview of its range of current activities, and make a call for the scientific community to join forces to improve the quality and quantity of contextual information about our public collections of genomes, metagenomes, and marker gene sequences.
Patients attending general practices receive only about sixty per cent of the preventive services that are indicated for them. This pilot study explores patient acceptability and perceived utility of automatically generated prevention summary and reminder sheets provided to patients immediately before consultations with their general practitioners.
Adult patients attending a general practitioner in a practice in Adelaide and a general practitioner in a practice in Melbourne, Australia for consultations in January and February 2009 received automatically-generated prevention summary and reminder sheets that highlighted indicated preventive activities that were due to be performed, and that encouraged the patient to discuss these with the general practitioner in the consultation. Patients completed a post-consultation questionnaire and were interviewed about their experience of receiving the sheets.
Sixty patients, median age 53 years (interquartile range 40-74) years, and 58% female, were recruited. Seventy eight per cent of patients found the sheets clear and easy to understand, 75% found them very or quite useful, 72% reported they had addressed with their general practitioner all of the preventive activities that were listed on the sheets as being due to be performed. A further 13% indicated that they had addressed most or some of the activities. 78% of patients said that they would like to keep receiving the sheets. Themes emerging from interviews with patients included: patient knowledge was enhanced; patient conceptions of health and the GP consultation were broadened; the consultation was enhanced; patient pro-activity was encouraged; patients were encouraged to plan their health care; the intervention was suitable for a variety of patients.
Most patients reported that they found the prevention summary and reminder sheets acceptable and useful. The actual increase in performance of preventive activities that may result from this new intervention needs to be tested in randomised controlled trials.
In any sequencing project, the possible depth of comparative analysis is determined largely by the amount and quality of the accompanying contextual data. The structure, content, and storage of this contextual data should be standardized to ensure consistent coverage of all sequenced entities and facilitate comparisons. The Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC) has developed the “Minimum Information about Genome/Metagenome Sequences (MIGS/MIMS)” checklist for the description of genomes and here we annotate all 30 publicly available marine bacteriophage sequences to the MIGS standard. These annotations build on existing International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration (INSDC) records, and confirm, as expected that current submissions lack most MIGS fields. MIGS fields were manually curated from the literature and placed in XML format as specified by the Genomic Contextual Data Markup Language (GCDML). These “machine-readable” reports were then analyzed to highlight patterns describing this collection of genomes. Completed reports are provided in GCDML. This work represents one step towards the annotation of our complete collection of genome sequences and shows the utility of capturing richer metadata along with raw sequences.
marine phages; contextual data; genome standards; markup language
In the future, we hope to see an open and thriving data market in which users can find and select data from a wide range of data providers. In such an open access market, data are products that must be packaged accordingly. Increasingly, eCommerce sellers present heterogeneous product lines to buyers using faceted browsing. Using this approach we have developed the Ontogrator platform, which allows for rapid retrieval of data in a way that would be familiar to any online shopper. Using Knowledge Organization Systems (KOS), especially ontologies, Ontogrator uses text mining to mark up data and faceted browsing to help users navigate, query and retrieve data. Ontogrator offers the potential to impact scientific research in two major ways: 1) by significantly improving the retrieval of relevant information; and 2) by significantly reducing the time required to compose standard database queries and assemble information for further research. Here we present a pilot implementation developed in collaboration with the Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC) that includes content from the StrainInfo, GOLD, CAMERA, Silva and Pubmed databases. This implementation demonstrates the power of ontogration and highlights that the usefulness of this approach is fully dependent on both the quality of data and the KOS (ontologies) used. Ideally, the use and further expansion of this collaborative system will help to surface issues associated with the underlying quality of annotation and could lead to a systematic means for accessing integrated data resources.
This report details the outcome the first meeting of the Earth Microbiome Project to discuss sample selection and acquisition. The meeting, held at the Argonne National Laboratory on Wednesday October 6th 2010, focused on discussion of how to prioritize environmental samples for sequencing and metagenomic analysis as part of the global effort of the EMP to systematically determine the functional and phylogenetic diversity of microbial communities across the world.
This report summarizes the proceedings of the 9th workshop of the Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC), held at the J. Craig Venter Institute, Rockville, MD, USA. It was the first GSC workshop to have open registration and attracted over 90 participants. This workshop featured sessions that provided overviews of the full range of ongoing GSC projects. It included sessions on Standards in Genomic Sciences, the open access journal of the GSC, building standards for genome annotation, the M5 platform for next-generation collaborative computational infrastructures, building ties with the biodiversity research community and two discussion panels with government and industry participants. Progress was made on all fronts, and major outcomes included the completion of the MIENS specification for publication and the formation of the Biodiversity working group.
Marinobacter adhaerens HP15 is the type strain of a newly identified marine species, which is phylogenetically related to M. flavimaris, M. algicola, and M. aquaeolei. It is of special interest for research on marine aggregate formation because it showed specific attachment to diatom cells. In vitro it led to exopolymer formation and aggregation of these algal cells to form marine snow particles. M. adhaerens HP15 is a free-living, motile, rod-shaped, Gram-negative gammaproteobacterium, which was originally isolated from marine particles sampled in the German Wadden Sea. M. adhaerens HP15 grows heterotrophically on various media, is easy to access genetically, and serves as a model organism to investigate the cellular and molecular interactions with the diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii. Here we describe the complete and annotated genome sequence of M. adhaerens HP15 as well as some details on flagella-associated genes. M. adhaerens HP15 possesses three replicons; the chromosome comprises 4,422,725 bp and codes for 4,180 protein-coding genes, 51 tRNAs and three rRNA operons, while the two circular plasmids are ~187 kb and ~42 kb in size and contain 178 and 52 protein-coding genes, respectively.
marine heterotrophic bacteria; diatoms; attachment; marine aggregate formation
This report summarizes the proceedings of the 8th meeting of the Genomic Standards Consortium held at the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, CA, USA on September 9-11, 2009. This three-day workshop marked the maturing of Genomic Standards Consortium from an informal gathering of researchers interested in developing standards in the field of genomic and metagenomics to an established community with a defined governance mechanism, its own open access journal, and a family of established standards for describing genomes, metagenomes and marker studies (i.e. ribosomal RNA gene surveys). There will be increased efforts within the GSC to reach out to the wider scientific community via a range of new projects. Further information about the GSC and its activities can be found at http://gensc.org/.
Environmental sequence datasets are increasing at an exponential rate; however, the vast majority of them lack appropriate descriptors like sampling location, time and depth/altitude: generally referred to as metadata or contextual data. The consistent capture and structured submission of these data is crucial for integrated data analysis and ecosystems modeling. The application MetaBar has been developed, to support consistent contextual data acquisition.
MetaBar is a spreadsheet and web-based software tool designed to assist users in the consistent acquisition, electronic storage, and submission of contextual data associated to their samples. A preconfigured Microsoft® Excel® spreadsheet is used to initiate structured contextual data storage in the field or laboratory. Each sample is given a unique identifier and at any stage the sheets can be uploaded to the MetaBar database server. To label samples, identifiers can be printed as barcodes. An intuitive web interface provides quick access to the contextual data in the MetaBar database as well as user and project management capabilities. Export functions facilitate contextual and sequence data submission to the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration (INSDC), comprising of the DNA DataBase of Japan (DDBJ), the European Molecular Biology Laboratory database (EMBL) and GenBank. MetaBar requests and stores contextual data in compliance to the Genomic Standards Consortium specifications. The MetaBar open source code base for local installation is available under the GNU General Public License version 3 (GNU GPL3).
The MetaBar software supports the typical workflow from data acquisition and field-sampling to contextual data enriched sequence submission to an INSDC database. The integration with the megx.net marine Ecological Genomics database and portal facilitates georeferenced data integration and metadata-based comparisons of sampling sites as well as interactive data visualization. The ample export functionalities and the INSDC submission support enable exchange of data across disciplines and safeguarding contextual data.
Dark chocolate and flavanol-rich cocoa products have attracted interest as an alternative treatment option for hypertension, a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Previous meta-analyses concluded that cocoa-rich foods may reduce blood pressure. Recently, several additional trials have been conducted with conflicting results. Our study summarises current evidence on the effect of flavanol-rich cocoa products on blood pressure in hypertensive and normotensive individuals.
We searched Medline, Cochrane and international trial registries between 1955 and 2009 for randomised controlled trials investigating the effect of cocoa as food or drink compared with placebo on systolic and diastolic blood pressure (SBP/DBP) for a minimum duration of 2 weeks. We conducted random effects meta-analysis of all studies fitting the inclusion criteria, as well as subgroup analysis by baseline blood pressure (hypertensive/normotensive). Meta-regression analysis explored the association between type of treatment, dosage, duration or baseline blood pressure and blood pressure outcome. Statistical significance was set at P < 0.05.
Fifteen trial arms of 13 assessed studies met the inclusion criteria. Pooled meta-analysis of all trials revealed a significant blood pressure-reducing effect of cocoa-chocolate compared with control (mean BP change ± SE: SBP: -3.2 ± 1.9 mmHg, P = 0.001; DBP: -2.0 ± 1.3 mmHg, P = 0.003). However, subgroup meta-analysis was significant only for the hypertensive or prehypertensive subgroups (SBP: -5.0 ± 3.0 mmHg; P = 0.0009; DBP: -2.7 ± 2.2 mm Hg, P = 0.01), while BP was not significantly reduced in the normotensive subgroups (SBP: -1.6 ± 2.3 mmHg, P = 0.17; DBP: -1.3 ± 1.6 mmHg, P = 0.12). Nine trials used chocolate containing 50% to 70% cocoa compared with white chocolate or other cocoa-free controls, while six trials compared high- with low-flavanol cocoa products. Daily flavanol dosages ranged from 30 mg to 1000 mg in the active treatment groups, and interventions ran for 2 to 18 weeks. Meta-regression analysis found study design and type of control to be borderline significant but possibly indirect predictors for blood pressure outcome.
Our meta-analysis suggests that dark chocolate is superior to placebo in reducing systolic hypertension or diastolic prehypertension. Flavanol-rich chocolate did not significantly reduce mean blood pressure below 140 mmHg systolic or 80 mmHg diastolic.