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  1. Abstract Background Microbes and their viruses are hidden engines driving Earth’s ecosystems from the oceans and soils to humans and bioreactors. Though gene marker approaches can now be complemented by genome-resolved studies of inter-(macrodiversity) and intra-(microdiversity) population variation, analytical tools to do so remain scattered or under-developed. Results Here, we introduce MetaPop, an open-source bioinformatic pipeline that provides a single interface to analyze and visualize microbial and viral community metagenomes at both the macro - and microdiversity levels. Macrodiversity estimates include population abundances and α- and β-diversity. Microdiversity calculations include identification of single nucleotide polymorphisms, novel codon-constrained linkage of SNPs, nucleotide diversity ( π and θ ), and selective pressures (pN/pS and Tajima’s D ) within and fixation indices ( F ST ) between populations. MetaPop will also identify genes with distinct codon usage. Following rigorous validation, we applied MetaPop to the gut viromes of autistic children that underwent fecal microbiota transfers and their neurotypical peers. The macrodiversity results confirmed our prior findings for viral populations (microbial shotgun metagenomes were not available) that diversity did not significantly differ between autistic and neurotypical children. However, by also quantifying microdiversity, MetaPop revealed lower average viral nucleotide diversity ( π ) in autisticmore »children. Analysis of the percentage of genomes detected under positive selection was also lower among autistic children, suggesting that higher viral π in neurotypical children may be beneficial because it allows populations to better “bet hedge” in changing environments. Further, comparisons of microdiversity pre- and post-FMT in autistic children revealed that the delivery FMT method (oral versus rectal) may influence viral activity and engraftment of microdiverse viral populations, with children who received their FMT rectally having higher microdiversity post-FMT. Overall, these results show that analyses at the macro level alone can miss important biological differences. Conclusions These findings suggest that standardized population and genetic variation analyses will be invaluable for maximizing biological inference, and MetaPop provides a convenient tool package to explore the dual impact of macro - and microdiversity across microbial communities.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  2. Community- and “species”-level analyses elucidate ecological impacts and roles of marine RNA viruses.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 10, 2023
  3. Abstract

    Microbes drive myriad ecosystem processes, but under strong influence from viruses. Because studying viruses in complex systems requires different tools than those for microbes, they remain underexplored. To combat this, we previously aggregated double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) virus analysis capabilities and resources into ‘iVirus’ on the CyVerse collaborative cyberinfrastructure. Here we substantially expand iVirus’s functionality and accessibility, to iVirus 2.0, as follows. First, core iVirus apps were integrated into the Department of Energy’s Systems Biology KnowledgeBase (KBase) to provide an additional analytical platform. Second, at CyVerse, 20 software tools (apps) were upgraded or added as new tools and capabilities. Third, nearly 20-fold more sequence reads were aggregated to capture new data and environments. Finally, documentation, as “live” protocols, was updated to maximize user interaction with and contribution to infrastructure development. Together, iVirus 2.0 serves as a uniquely central and accessible analytical platform for studying how viruses, particularly dsDNA viruses, impact diverse microbial ecosystems.

  4. Background Viruses influence global patterns of microbial diversity and nutrient cycles. Though viral metagenomics (viromics), specifically targeting dsDNA viruses, has been critical for revealing viral roles across diverse ecosystems, its analyses differ in many ways from those used for microbes. To date, viromics benchmarking has covered read pre-processing, assembly, relative abundance, read mapping thresholds and diversity estimation, but other steps would benefit from benchmarking and standardization. Here we use in silico-generated datasets and an extensive literature survey to evaluate and highlight how dataset composition (i.e., viromes vs bulk metagenomes) and assembly fragmentation impact (i) viral contig identification tool, (ii) virus taxonomic classification, and (iii) identification and curation of auxiliary metabolic genes (AMGs). Results The in silico benchmarking of five commonly used virus identification tools show that gene-content-based tools consistently performed well for long (≥3 kbp) contigs, while k -mer- and blast-based tools were uniquely able to detect viruses from short (≤3 kbp) contigs. Notably, however, the performance increase of k -mer- and blast-based tools for short contigs was obtained at the cost of increased false positives (sometimes up to ∼5% for virome and ∼75% bulk samples), particularly when eukaryotic or mobile genetic element sequences were included in the test datasets.more »For viral classification, variously sized genome fragments were assessed using gene-sharing network analytics to quantify drop-offs in taxonomic assignments, which revealed correct assignations ranging from ∼95% (whole genomes) down to ∼80% (3 kbp sized genome fragments). A similar trend was also observed for other viral classification tools such as VPF-class, ViPTree and VIRIDIC, suggesting that caution is warranted when classifying short genome fragments and not full genomes. Finally, we highlight how fragmented assemblies can lead to erroneous identification of AMGs and outline a best-practices workflow to curate candidate AMGs in viral genomes assembled from metagenomes. Conclusion Together, these benchmarking experiments and annotation guidelines should aid researchers seeking to best detect, classify, and characterize the myriad viruses ‘hidden’ in diverse sequence datasets.« less
  5. Abstract

    Viruses play an important role in the ecology and biogeochemistry of marine ecosystems. Beyond mortality and gene transfer, viruses can reprogram microbial metabolism during infection by expressing auxiliary metabolic genes (AMGs) involved in photosynthesis, central carbon metabolism, and nutrient cycling. While previous studies have focused on AMG diversity in the sunlit and dark ocean, less is known about the role of viruses in shaping metabolic networks along redox gradients associated with marine oxygen minimum zones (OMZs). Here, we analyzed relatively quantitative viral metagenomic datasets that profiled the oxygen gradient across Eastern Tropical South Pacific (ETSP) OMZ waters, assessing whether OMZ viruses might impact nitrogen (N) cycling via AMGs. Identified viral genomes encoded six N-cycle AMGs associated with denitrification, nitrification, assimilatory nitrate reduction, and nitrite transport. The majority of these AMGs (80%) were identified in T4-likeMyoviridaephages, predicted to infectCyanobacteriaandProteobacteria, or in unclassified archaeal viruses predicted to infectThaumarchaeota. Four AMGs were exclusive to anoxic waters and had distributions that paralleled homologous microbial genes. Together, these findings suggest viruses modulate N-cycling processes within the ETSP OMZ and may contribute to nitrogen loss throughout the global oceans thus providing a baseline for their inclusion in the ecosystem and geochemical models.

  6. Viruses of two candidate phyla are abundant in the ocean and revise our understanding of early RNA virus evolution.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 8, 2023
  7. Abstract Microbial and viral communities transform the chemistry of Earth's ecosystems, yet the specific reactions catalyzed by these biological engines are hard to decode due to the absence of a scalable, metabolically resolved, annotation software. Here, we present DRAM (Distilled and Refined Annotation of Metabolism), a framework to translate the deluge of microbiome-based genomic information into a catalog of microbial traits. To demonstrate the applicability of DRAM across metabolically diverse genomes, we evaluated DRAM performance on a defined, in silico soil community and previously published human gut metagenomes. We show that DRAM accurately assigned microbial contributions to geochemical cycles and automated the partitioning of gut microbial carbohydrate metabolism at substrate levels. DRAM-v, the viral mode of DRAM, established rules to identify virally-encoded auxiliary metabolic genes (AMGs), resulting in the metabolic categorization of thousands of putative AMGs from soils and guts. Together DRAM and DRAM-v provide critical metabolic profiling capabilities that decipher mechanisms underpinning microbiome function.
  8. Taxonomic classification of archaeal and bacterial viruses is challenging, yet also fundamental for developing a predictive understanding of microbial ecosystems. Recent identification of hundreds of thousands of new viral genomes and genome fragments, whose hosts remain unknown, requires a paradigm shift away from traditional classification approaches and towards the use of genomes for taxonomy. Here we revisited the use of genomes and their protein content as a means for developing a viral taxonomy for bacterial and archaeal viruses. A network-based analytic was evaluated and benchmarked against authority-accepted taxonomic assignments and found to be largely concordant. Exceptions were manually examined and found to represent areas of viral genome ‘sequence space’ that are under-sampled or prone to excessive genetic exchange. While both cases are poorly resolved by genome-based taxonomic approaches, the former will improve as viral sequence space is better sampled and the latter are uncommon. Finally, given the largely robust taxonomic capabilities of this approach, we sought to enable researchers to easily and systematically classify new viruses. Thus, we established a tool, vConTACT, as an app at iVirus, where it operates as a fast, highly scalable, user-friendly app within the free and powerful CyVerse cyberinfrastructure.