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  1. Abstract Background Viruses are a significant player in many biosphere and human ecosystems, but most signals remain “hidden” in metagenomic/metatranscriptomic sequence datasets due to the lack of universal gene markers, database representatives, and insufficiently advanced identification tools. Results Here, we introduce VirSorter2, a DNA and RNA virus identification tool that leverages genome-informed database advances across a collection of customized automatic classifiers to improve the accuracy and range of virus sequence detection. When benchmarked against genomes from both isolated and uncultivated viruses, VirSorter2 uniquely performed consistently with high accuracy (F1-score > 0.8) across viral diversity, while all other tools under-detected viruses outside of the group most represented in reference databases (i.e., those in the order Caudovirales ). Among the tools evaluated, VirSorter2 was also uniquely able to minimize errors associated with atypical cellular sequences including eukaryotic genomes and plasmids. Finally, as the virosphere exploration unravels novel viral sequences, VirSorter2’s modular design makes it inherently able to expand to new types of viruses via the design of new classifiers to maintain maximal sensitivity and specificity. Conclusion With multi-classifier and modular design, VirSorter2 demonstrates higher overall accuracy across major viral groups and will advance our knowledge of virus evolution, diversity, and virus-microbe interaction inmore »various ecosystems. Source code of VirSorter2 is freely available ( ), and VirSorter2 is also available both on bioconda and as an iVirus app on CyVerse ( ).« less
  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. 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
  4. 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