Current and Promising Approaches to Identify Horizontal Gene Transfer Events in Metagenomes.

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Current and Promising Approaches to Identify Horizontal Gene Transfer Events in Metagenomes.

Genome Biol Evol. 2019 Aug 26;:

Authors: Douglas GM, Langille MGI

High-throughput shotgun metagenomics sequencing has enabled the profiling of myriad natural communities. This data is commonly used to identify gene families and pathways that were potentially gained or lost in an environment and which may be involved in microbial adaptation. Despite the widespread interest in these events, there are no established best-practices for identifying gene gain and loss in metagenomics data. Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) represents several mechanisms of gene gain that are especially of interest in clinical microbiology, due to the rapid spread of antibiotic resistance genes in natural communities. Several additional mechanisms of gene gain and loss, including gene duplication, gene loss-of-function events, and de novo gene birth are also important to consider in the context of metagenomes, but have been less studied. This review is largely focused on detecting HGT in prokaryotic metagenomes, but methods for detecting these other mechanisms are first discussed. For this article to be self-contained we provide a general background on HGT and the different possible signatures of this process. Lastly, we discuss how improved assembly of genomes from metagenomes would be the most straight-forward approach for improving the inference of gene gain and loss events. Several recent technological advances could help improve metagenome assemblies: long-read sequencing, determining the physical proximity of contigs, optical mapping of short sequences along chromosomes, and single-cell metagenomics. The benefits and limitations of these advances are discussed and open-questions in this area are highlighted.

PMID: 31504488 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]