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Title: Accurate viral genome reconstruction and host assignment with proximity-ligation sequencing
Viruses play crucial roles in the ecology of microbial communities, yet they remain relatively understudied in their native environments. Despite many advancements in high-throughput whole-genome sequencing (WGS), sequence assembly, and annotation of viruses, the reconstruction of full-length viral genomes directly from metagenomic sequencing is possible only for the most abundant phages and requires long-read sequencing technologies. Additionally, the prediction of their cellular hosts remains difficult from conventional metagenomic sequencing alone. To address these gaps in the field and to accelerate the study of viruses directly in their native microbiomes, we developed an end-to-end bioinformatics platform for viral genome reconstruction and host attribution from metagenomic data using proximity-ligation sequencing (i.e., Hi-C). We demonstrate the capabilities of the platform by recovering and characterizing the metavirome of a variety of metagenomes, including a fecal microbiome that has also been sequenced with accurate long reads, allowing for the assessment and benchmarking of the new methods. The platform can accurately extract numerous near-complete viral genomes even from highly fragmented short-read assemblies and can reliably predict their cellular hosts with minimal false positives. To our knowledge, this is the first software for performing these tasks. Being significantly cheaper than long-read sequencing of comparable depth, the incorporation more » of proximity-ligation sequencing in microbiome research shows promise to greatly accelerate future advancements in the field. « less
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