Zhong C, Edlund A, Yang Y, McLean JS, Yooseph S

Metagenome and Metatranscriptome Analyses Using Protein Family Profiles.

PLoS computational biology. 2016-07-01; 12.7: e1004991.

Analyses of metagenome data (MG) and metatranscriptome data (MT) are often challenged by a paucity of complete reference genome sequences and the uneven/low sequencing depth of the constituent organisms in the microbial community, which respectively limit the power of reference-based alignment and de novo sequence assembly. These limitations make accurate protein family classification and abundance estimation challenging, which in turn hamper downstream analyses such as abundance profiling of metabolic pathways, identification of differentially encoded/expressed genes, and de novo reconstruction of complete gene and protein sequences from the protein family of interest. The profile hidden Markov model (HMM) framework enables the construction of very useful probabilistic models for protein families that allow for accurate modeling of position specific matches, insertions, and deletions. We present a novel homology detection algorithm that integrates banded Viterbi algorithm for profile HMM parsing with an iterative simultaneous alignment and assembly computational framework. The algorithm searches a given profile HMM of a protein family against a database of fragmentary MG/MT sequencing data and simultaneously assembles complete or near-complete gene and protein sequences of the protein family. The resulting program, HMM-GRASPx, demonstrates superior performance in aligning and assembling homologs when benchmarked on both simulated marine MG and real human saliva MG datasets. On real supragingival plaque and stool MG datasets that were generated from healthy individuals, HMM-GRASPx accurately estimates the abundances of the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) gene families and enables accurate characterization of the resistome profiles of these microbial communities. For real human oral microbiome MT datasets, using the HMM-GRASPx estimated transcript abundances significantly improves detection of differentially expressed (DE) genes. Finally, HMM-GRASPx was used to reconstruct comprehensive sets of complete or near-complete protein and nucleotide sequences for the query protein families. HMM-GRASPx is freely available online from

PMID: 27400380