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Title: Benchmarking differential abundance analysis methods for correlated microbiome sequencing data
Abstract

Differential abundance analysis (DAA) is one central statistical task in microbiome data analysis. A robust and powerful DAA tool can help identify highly confident microbial candidates for further biological validation. Current microbiome studies frequently generate correlated samples from different microbiome sampling schemes such as spatial and temporal sampling. In the past decade, a number of DAA tools for correlated microbiome data (DAA-c) have been proposed. Disturbingly, different DAA-c tools could sometimes produce quite discordant results. To recommend the best practice to the field, we performed the first comprehensive evaluation of existing DAA-c tools using real data-based simulations. Overall, the linear model-based methods LinDA, MaAsLin2 and LDM are more robust than methods based on generalized linear models. The LinDA method is the only method that maintains reasonable performance in the presence of strong compositional effects.

 
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Award ID(s):
2113360
NSF-PAR ID:
10390210
Author(s) / Creator(s):
;
Publisher / Repository:
Oxford University Press
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Briefings in Bioinformatics
Volume:
24
Issue:
1
ISSN:
1467-5463
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  2. Abstract Background Differential abundance analysis (DAA) is one central statistical task in microbiome data analysis. A robust and powerful DAA tool can help identify highly confident microbial candidates for further biological validation. Numerous DAA tools have been proposed in the past decade addressing the special characteristics of microbiome data such as zero inflation and compositional effects. Disturbingly, different DAA tools could sometimes produce quite discordant results, opening to the possibility of cherry-picking the tool in favor of one’s own hypothesis. To recommend the best DAA tool or practice to the field, a comprehensive evaluation, which covers as many biologically relevant scenarios as possible, is critically needed. Results We performed by far the most comprehensive evaluation of existing DAA tools using real data-based simulations. We found that DAA methods explicitly addressing compositional effects such as ANCOM-BC, Aldex2, metagenomeSeq (fitFeatureModel), and DACOMP did have improved performance in false-positive control. But they are still not optimal: type 1 error inflation or low statistical power has been observed in many settings. The recent LDM method generally had the best power, but its false-positive control in the presence of strong compositional effects was not satisfactory. Overall, none of the evaluated methods is simultaneously robust, powerful, and flexible, which makes the selection of the best DAA tool difficult. To meet the analysis needs, we designed an optimized procedure, ZicoSeq, drawing on the strength of the existing DAA methods. We show that ZicoSeq generally controlled for false positives across settings, and the power was among the highest. Application of DAA methods to a large collection of real datasets revealed a similar pattern observed in simulation studies. Conclusions Based on the benchmarking study, we conclude that none of the existing DAA methods evaluated can be applied blindly to any real microbiome dataset. The applicability of an existing DAA method depends on specific settings, which are usually unknown a priori. To circumvent the difficulty of selecting the best DAA tool in practice, we design ZicoSeq, which addresses the major challenges in DAA and remedies the drawbacks of existing DAA methods. ZicoSeq can be applied to microbiome datasets from diverse settings and is a useful DAA tool for robust microbiome biomarker discovery. 
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    Methods

    We analyzed theδ2H in the wings (δ2Hwing) of 142 resident butterflies from 56 sites across the Afro‐Palearctic. Theδ2Hwingvalues were compared to the predicted local growing‐season precipitationδ2H values (δ2HGSP) using a linear regression model to develop an insect wingδ2H isoscape. We used multivariate linear mixed models and high‐resolution and time‐specific remote sensing climate and environmental data to explore the controls of the residualδ2Hwingvariability.

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