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Concept: 454 Life Sciences


The response of microbial communities to long-term environmental change is poorly understood. Here, we study bacterioplankton communities in a unique system of coastal Antarctic lakes that were exposed to progressive long-term environmental change, using 454 pyrosequencing of the 16S rDNA gene (V3-V4 regions). At the time of formation, most of the studied lakes harbored marine-coastal microbial communities, as they were connected to the sea. During the past 20 000 years, most lakes isolated from the sea, and subsequently they experienced a gradual, but strong, salinity change that eventually developed into a gradient ranging from freshwater (salinity 0) to hypersaline (salinity 100). Our results indicated that present bacterioplankton community composition was strongly correlated with salinity and weakly correlated with geographical distance between lakes. A few abundant taxa were shared between some lakes and coastal marine communities. Nevertheless, lakes contained a large number of taxa that were not detected in the adjacent sea. Abundant and rare taxa within saline communities presented similar biogeography, suggesting that these groups have comparable environmental sensitivity. Habitat specialists and generalists were detected among abundant and rare taxa, with specialists being relatively more abundant at the extremes of the salinity gradient. Altogether, progressive long-term salinity change appears to have promoted the diversification of bacterioplankton communities by modifying the composition of ancestral communities and by allowing the establishment of new taxa.

Concepts: Time, Bacteria, Microbiology, 454 Life Sciences, 16S ribosomal RNA, Seawater, The Establishment, Saline water


BACKGROUND: 454 pyrosequencing is a commonly used massively parallel DNA sequencing technology with a wide variety of application fields such as epigenetics, metagenomics and transcriptomics. A well-known problem of this platform is its sensitivity to base-calling insertion and deletion errors, particularly in the presence of long homopolymers. In addition, the base-call quality scores are not informative with respect to whether an insertion or a deletion error is more likely. Surprisingly, not much effort has been devoted to the development of improved base-calling methods and more intuitive quality scores for this platform. RESULTS: We present HPCall, a 454 base-calling method based on a weighted Hurdle Poisson model. HPCall uses a probabilistic framework to call the homopolymer lengths in the sequence by modeling well-known 454 noise predictors. Base-calling quality is assessed based on estimated probabilities for each homopolymer length, which are easily transformed to useful quality scores. CONCLUSIONS: Using a reference data set of the Escherichia coli K-12 strain, we show that HPCall produces superior quality scores that are very informative towards possible insertion and deletion errors, while maintaining a base-calling accuracy that is better than the current one. Given the generality of the framework, HPCall has the potential to also adapt to other homopolymer-sensitive sequencing technologies.

Concepts: DNA, Molecular biology, Escherichia coli, DNA sequencing, Pyrosequencing, 454 Life Sciences, Full genome sequencing, Metagenomics


It is still debated if pre-existing minority drug-resistant HIV-1 variants (MVs) affect the virological outcomes of first-line NNRTI-containing ART.

Concepts: Pyrosequencing, 454 Life Sciences, Case-control study


Metagenomics is a trending research area, calling for the need to analyze large quantities of data generated from next generation DNA sequencing technologies. The need to store, retrieve, analyze, share, and visualize such data challenges current online computational systems. Interpretation and annotation of specific information is especially a challenge for metagenomic data sets derived from environmental samples, because current annotation systems only offer broad classification of microbial diversity and function. Moreover, existing resources are not configured to readily address common questions relevant to environmental systems. Here we developed a new online user-friendly metagenomic analysis server called MetaStorm (, which facilitates customization of computational analysis for metagenomic data sets. Users can upload their own reference databases to tailor the metagenomics annotation to focus on various taxonomic and functional gene markers of interest. MetaStorm offers two major analysis pipelines: an assembly-based annotation pipeline and the standard read annotation pipeline used by existing web servers. These pipelines can be selected individually or together. Overall, MetaStorm provides enhanced interactive visualization to allow researchers to explore and manipulate taxonomy and functional annotation at various levels of resolution.

Concepts: DNA, Bioinformatics, Molecular biology, Genomics, Natural environment, Pyrosequencing, 454 Life Sciences, Metagenomics


We analyzed the diversity of bacterial epibionts and trophic ecology of a new species of Kiwa yeti crab discovered at two hydrothermal vent fields (E2 and E9) on the East Scotia Ridge (ESR) in the Southern Ocean using a combination of 454 pyrosequencing, Sanger sequencing, and stable isotope analysis. The Kiwa epibiont communities were dominated by Epsilon- and Gammaproteobacteria. About 454 sequencing of the epibionts on 15 individual Kiwa specimen revealed large regional differences between the two hydrothermal vent fields: at E2, the bacterial community on the Kiwa ventral setae was dominated (up to 75%) by Gammaproteobacteria, whereas at E9 Epsilonproteobacteria dominated (up to 98%). Carbon stable isotope analysis of both Kiwa and the bacterial epibionts also showed distinct differences between E2 and E9 in mean and variability. Both stable isotope and sequence data suggest a dominance of different carbon fixation pathways of the epibiont communities at the two vent fields. At E2, epibionts were putatively fixing carbon via the Calvin-Benson-Bassham and reverse tricarboxylic acid cycle, while at E9 the reverse tricarboxylic acid cycle dominated. Co-varying epibiont diversity and isotope values at E2 and E9 also present further support for the hypothesis that epibionts serve as a food source for Kiwa.

Concepts: DNA sequencing, Pyrosequencing, 454 Life Sciences, Annelid, Hydrothermal vent, Anomura, Kiwa hirsuta, Squat lobster


Domesticated apple (Malus × domestica Borkh) is a popular temperate fruit with high nutrient levels and diverse flavors. In 2012, global apple production accounted for at least one tenth of all harvested fruits. A high-quality apple genome assembly is crucial for the selection and breeding of new cultivars. Currently, a single reference genome is available for apple, assembled from 16.9 × genome coverage short reads via Sanger and 454 sequencing technologies. Although a useful resource, this assembly covers only ~89 % of the non-repetitive portion of the genome, and has a relatively short (16.7 kb) contig N50 length. These downsides make it difficult to apply this reference in transcriptive or whole-genome re-sequencing analyses.

Concepts: Plant, DNA sequencing, 454 Life Sciences, Fruit, Seed, Sequencing, Breeding, Apple


Although STR profiling is extremely powerful in identifying individuals from crime scene stains, it is unable to differentiate between monozygotic (MZ) twins. Efforts to address this include mutation analysis through whole genome sequencing and through DNA methylation studies. Methylation of DNA is affected by environmental factors; thus, as MZ twins age, their DNA methylation patterns change. This can be characterised by bi-sulfite treatment followed by pyrosequencing. However, this can be time consuming and expensive, thus unlikely to be widely used by investigators. If the sequences are different, then, in theory, the melting temperature should be different. Thus the aim of this study is to assess whether high resolution melt curve analysis can be used to differentiate between MZ twins. Five sets of MZ twins provided buccal swabs which underwent extraction, quantification, bi-sulfite treatment, PCR amplification and high resolution melting curve analysis targeting two markers, Alu-E2F3 and Alu-SP. Significant differences were observed between all MZ twins, targeting Alu-E2F3, and in four out of five MZ twins, targeting Alu-SP (p<0.05). Thus it has been demonstrated that bi-sulfite treatment followed by high resolution melting curve analysis could be used to differentiate between MZ twins.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Molecular biology, Biotechnology, DNA sequencing, 454 Life Sciences, DNA methylation, Twin


The introduction of benchtop sequencers has made adoption of whole genome sequencing possible for a broader community of researchers than ever before. Concurrently, metagenomic sequencing (MGS) is rapidly emerging as a tool for interrogating complex samples that defy conventional analyses. In addition, next-generation sequencers are increasingly being used in clinical or related settings, for instance to track outbreaks. However, information regarding the analytical sensitivity or limit of detection (LoD) of benchtop sequencers is currently lacking. Furthermore, the specificity of sequence information at or near the LoD is unknown.

Concepts: Bioinformatics, Genomics, DNA sequencing, 454 Life Sciences, Mathematical analysis, Sequence, DNA profiling, Shotgun sequencing


Herein, the mycobiota was characterized in fecal samples from sick patients and healthy subjects, collected from different geographical locations and using both culturomics and amplicon-based metagenomics approaches. Using the culturomics approach, a total of 17,800 fungal colonies were isolated from 14 fecal samples, and resulted in the isolation of 41 fungal species, of which 10 species had not been previously reported in the human gut. Deep sequencing of fungal-directed ITS1 and ITS2 amplicons led to the detection of a total of 142 OTUs and 173 OTUs from the ITS1 and ITS2 regions, respectively. Ascomycota composed the largest fraction of the total OTUs analyzed (78.9% and 68.2% of the OTUs from the ITS1 and ITS2 regions, respectively), followed by Basidiomycota (16.9% and 30.1% of the OTUs from the ITS1 and ITS2 regions, respectively). Interestingly, the results demonstrate that the ITS1/ITS2 amplicon sequencing provides different information about gut fungal communities compared to culturomics, though both approaches complete each other in assessing fungal diversity in fecal samples. We also report higher fungal diversity and abundance in patients compared to healthy subjects. In conclusion, combining both culturomic and amplicon-based metagenomic approaches may be a novel strategy towards analyzing fungal compositions in the human gut.

Concepts: Bacteria, Gut flora, Species, Fungus, 454 Life Sciences, Basidiomycota, Ascomycota, Environmental microbiology


MOTIVATION: Throughout the recent years, 454 pyrosequencing has emerged as an efficient alternative to traditional Sanger sequencing and is widely used in both de novo whole genome sequencing and metagenomics. Especially the latter application is extremely sensitive to sequencing errors and artificially duplicated reads. Both are common in 454 pyrosequencing and can create a strong bias in the estimation of diversity and composition of a sample. To date, there are several tools that aim to remove both sequencing noise and duplicates. Nevertheless, duplicate removal is often based on nucleotide sequences rather than on the underlying flow values which contain additional information. RESULTS: With the novel tool JATAC, we present an approach towards a more accurate duplicate removal by analyzing flow values directly. Making use of previous findings on 454 flow data characteristics, we combine read clustering with Bayesian distance measures. Finally, we provide a benchmark with an existing algorithm. AVAILABILITY: JATAC is freely available under the General Public License from CONTACT: SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Supplementary Material is available at Bioinformatics online.

Concepts: DNA, Molecular biology, DNA sequencing, Pyrosequencing, 454 Life Sciences, Full genome sequencing, Gene duplication, Shotgun sequencing