Research ArticleMICROBIOLOGY

Scaffolding bacterial genomes and probing host-virus interactions in gut microbiome by proximity ligation (chromosome capture) assay

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Science Advances  17 Feb 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 2, e1602105
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1602105


The biochemical activities of microbial communities, or microbiomes, are essential parts of environmental and animal ecosystems. The dynamics, balance, and effects of these communities are strongly influenced by phages present in the population. Being able to characterize bacterium-phage relationships is therefore essential to investigate these ecosystems to the full extent of their complexity. However, this task is currently limited by (i) the ability to characterize complete bacterial and viral genomes from a complex mix of species and (ii) the difficulty to assign phage sequences to their bacterial hosts. We show that both limitations can be circumvented using meta3C, an experimental and computational approach that exploits the physical contacts between DNA molecules to infer their proximity. In a single experiment, dozens of bacterial and phage genomes present in a complex mouse gut microbiota were assembled and scaffolded de novo. The phage genomes were then assigned to their putative bacterial hosts according to the physical contacts between the different DNA molecules, opening new perspectives for a comprehensive picture of the genomic structure of the gut flora. Therefore, this work holds far-reaching implications for human health studies aiming to bridge the virome to the microbiome.

  • metagenomics
  • mouse
  • phage
  • proximity ligation
  • Hi-C
  • meta3C
  • contact genomics
  • virome
  • mammal
  • genome assembly

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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