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Title: TheOrganelle in theOintment: CrypticMitochondriaBiasCross-SpeciesMicrobiomeComparisons
The microbiomes of tropical corals are actively studied using 16S rRNA gene amplicons to understand microbial roles in coral health, metabolism, and disease resistance. However, due to the prokaryotic origins of mitochondria, primers targeting bacterial and archaeal 16S rRNA genes may also amplify homologous 12S mitochondrial rRNA genes from the host coral, associated microbial eukaryotes, and encrusting organisms. Standard microbial bioinformatics pipelines attempt to identify and remove these sequences by comparing them to reference taxonomies. However, commonly used tools have severely under-annotated mitochondrial sequences in 1440 coral microbiomes from the Global Coral Microbiome Project, preventing annotation of over 95% of reads in some samples. This issue persists when using Greengenes or SILVA prokaryotic reference taxonomies, and in other hosts, including 16S studies of vertebrates, and of marine sponges. Worse, mitochondrial under-annotation varies between coral families and across coral compartments, biasing comparisons of  - and  -diversity. By supplementing existing reference taxonomies with over 3000 animal mitochondrial rRNA gene sequences, we resolved roughly 97% of unique unclassified sequences as mitochondrial. These additional sequences did not cause a false elevation in mitochondrial annotations in mock communities with known compositions. We recommend using these extended taxonomies for coral microbiome analysis and whenever eukaryotic contamination may be a concern.
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International Symposium on New Frontiers in Reef Coral Biotechnology (5 May 2022, Taiwan)
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. The microbiomes of tropical corals are actively studied using 16S rRNA gene amplicons to understand microbial roles in coral health, metabolism, and disease resistance. However, primers targeting bacterial and archaeal 16S rRNA genes may also amplify organelle rRNA genes from the coral, associated microbial eukaryotes, and encrusting organisms. In this manuscript, we demonstrate that standard workflows for annotating microbial taxonomy severely under-annotate mitochondrial sequences in 1272 coral microbiomes from the Earth Microbiome Project. This issue prevents annotation of >95% of reads in some samples and persists when using either Greengenes or SILVA taxonomies. Worse, mitochondrial under-annotation varies between species and across anatomy, biasing comparisons of α- and β-diversity. By supplementing existing taxonomies with diverse mitochondrial rRNA sequences, we resolve ~97% of unique unclassified sequences as mitochondrial, without increasing misannotation in mock communities. We recommend using these extended taxonomies for coral microbiome analysis and encourage vigilance regarding similar issues in other hosts.
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