Metatranscriptomics is a powerful method for studying the composition and function of complex microbial communities. The application of metatranscriptomics to multispecies parasite infections is of particular interest, as research on parasite evolution and diversification has been hampered by technical challenges to genome‐scale DNA sequencing. In particular, blood parasites of vertebrates are abundant and diverse although they often occur at low infection intensities and exist as multispecies infections, rendering the isolation of genomic sequence data challenging. Here, we use birds and their diverse haemosporidian parasites to illustrate the potential for metatranscriptome sequencing to generate large quantities of genome‐wide sequence data from multiple blood parasite species simultaneously. We used RNA‐sequencing of 24 blood samples from songbirds in North America to show that metatranscriptomes can yield large proportions of haemosporidian protein‐coding gene repertoires even when infections are of low intensity (<0.1% red blood cells infected) and consist of multiple parasite taxa. By bioinformatically separating host and parasite transcripts and assigning them to the haemosporidian genus of origin, we found that transcriptomes detected ~23% more total parasite infections across all samples than were identified using microscopy and DNA barcoding. For single‐species infections, we obtained data for >1,300 loci from samples with as lowmore »
Diverse communities of microbial eukaryotes in the global ocean provide a variety of essential ecosystem services, from primary production and carbon flow through trophic transfer to cooperation via symbioses. Increasingly, these communities are being understood through the lens of omics tools, which enable high-throughput processing of diverse communities. Metatranscriptomics offers an understanding of near real-time gene expression in microbial eukaryotic communities, providing a window into community metabolic activity.
Here we present a workflow for eukaryotic metatranscriptome assembly, and validate the ability of the pipeline to recapitulate real and manufactured eukaryotic community-level expression data. We also include an open-source tool for simulating environmental metatranscriptomes for testing and validation purposes. We reanalyze previously published metatranscriptomic datasets using our metatranscriptome analysis approach.
We determined that a multi-assembler approach improves eukaryotic metatranscriptome assembly based on recapitulated taxonomic and functional annotations from an in-silico mock community. The systematic validation of metatranscriptome assembly and annotation methods provided here is a necessary step to assess the fidelity of our community composition measurements and functional content assignments from eukaryotic metatranscriptomes.
- Publication Date:
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- Journal Name:
- BMC Bioinformatics
- Springer Science + Business Media
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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Metatranscriptomics yields new genomic resources and sensitive detection of infections for diverse blood parasites
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