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  1. Schadt, Christopher W. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Many ant species grow fungus gardens that predigest food as an essential step of the ants’ nutrient uptake. These symbiotic fungus gardens have long been studied and feature a gradient of increasing substrate degradation from top to bottom. To further facilitate the study of fungus gardens and enable the understanding of the predigestion process in more detail than currently known, we applied recent mass spectrometry-based approaches and generated a three-dimensional (3D) molecular map of an Atta texana fungus garden to reveal chemical modifications as plant substrates pass through it. The metabolomics approach presented in this study can be applied to study similar processes in natural environments to compare with lab-maintained ecosystems. IMPORTANCE The study of complex ecosystems requires an understanding of the chemical processes involving molecules from several sources. Some of the molecules present in fungus-growing ants’ symbiotic system originate from plants. To facilitate the study of fungus gardens from a chemical perspective, we provide a molecular map of an Atta texana fungus garden to reveal chemical modifications as plant substrates pass through it. The metabolomics approach presented in this study can be applied to study similar processes in natural environments.
  2. Metabolomics has started to embrace computational approaches for chemical interpretation of large data sets. Yet, metabolite annotation remains a key challenge. Recently, molecular networking and MS2LDA emerged as molecular mining tools that find molecular families and substructures in mass spectrometry fragmentation data. Moreover, in silico annotation tools obtain and rank candidate molecules for fragmentation spectra. Ideally, all structural information obtained and inferred from these computational tools could be combined to increase the resulting chemical insight one can obtain from a data set. However, integration is currently hampered as each tool has its own output format and efficient matching of data across these tools is lacking. Here, we introduce MolNetEnhancer, a workflow that combines the outputs from molecular networking, MS2LDA, in silico annotation tools (such as Network Annotation Propagation or DEREPLICATOR), and the automated chemical classification through ClassyFire to provide a more comprehensive chemical overview of metabolomics data whilst at the same time illuminating structural details for each fragmentation spectrum. We present examples from four plant and bacterial case studies and show how MolNetEnhancer enables the chemical annotation, visualization, and discovery of the subtle substructural diversity within molecular families. We conclude that MolNetEnhancer is a useful tool that greatly assists themore »metabolomics researcher in deciphering the metabolome through combination of multiple independent in silico pipelines.« less
  3. ABSTRACT Small molecules are the primary communication media of the microbial world. Recent bioinformatic studies, exploring the biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) which produce many small molecules, have highlighted the incredible biochemical potential of the signaling molecules encoded by the human microbiome. Thus far, most research efforts have focused on understanding the social language of the gut microbiome, leaving crucial signaling molecules produced by oral bacteria and their connection to health versus disease in need of investigation. In this study, a total of 4,915 BGCs were identified across 461 genomes representing a broad taxonomic diversity of oral bacteria. Sequence similarity networking provided a putative product class for more than 100 unclassified novel BGCs. The newly identified BGCs were cross-referenced against 254 metagenomes and metatranscriptomes derived from individuals either with good oral health or with dental caries or periodontitis. This analysis revealed 2,473 BGCs, which were differentially represented across the oral microbiomes associated with health versus disease. Coabundance network analysis identified numerous inverse correlations between BGCs and specific oral taxa. These correlations were present in healthy individuals but greatly reduced in individuals with dental caries, which may suggest a defect in colonization resistance. Finally, corroborating mass spectrometry identified several compounds with homologymore »to products of the predicted BGC classes. Together, these findings greatly expand the number of known biosynthetic pathways present in the oral microbiome and provide an atlas for experimental characterization of these abundant, yet poorly understood, molecules and socio-chemical relationships, which impact the development of caries and periodontitis, two of the world’s most common chronic diseases. IMPORTANCE The healthy oral microbiome is symbiotic with the human host, importantly providing colonization resistance against potential pathogens. Dental caries and periodontitis are two of the world’s most common and costly chronic infectious diseases and are caused by a localized dysbiosis of the oral microbiome. Bacterially produced small molecules, often encoded by BGCs, are the primary communication media of bacterial communities and play a crucial, yet largely unknown, role in the transition from health to dysbiosis. This study provides a comprehensive mapping of the BGC repertoire of the human oral microbiome and identifies major differences in health compared to disease. Furthermore, BGC representation and expression is linked to the abundance of particular oral bacterial taxa in health versus dental caries and periodontitis. Overall, this study provides a significant insight into the chemical communication network of the healthy oral microbiome and how it devolves in the case of two prominent diseases.« less
  4. null (Ed.)