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  1. 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.

  2. 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
  3. Community- and “species”-level analyses elucidate ecological impacts and roles of marine RNA viruses.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 10, 2023
  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
  5. 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
  6. Robinson, Peter (Ed.)
    Abstract Motivation Viruses infect, reprogram, and kill microbes, leading to profound ecosystem consequences, from elemental cycling in oceans and soils to microbiome-modulated diseases in plants and animals. Although metagenomic datasets are increasingly available, identifying viruses in them is challenging due to poor representation and annotation of viral sequences in databases. Results Here we establish efam, an expanded collection of Hidden Markov Model (HMM) profiles that represent viral protein families conservatively identified from the Global Ocean Virome 2.0 dataset. This resulted in 240,311 HMM profiles, each with at least 2 protein sequences, making efam >7-fold larger than the next largest, pan-ecosystem viral HMM profile database. Adjusting the criteria for viral contig confidence from “conservative” to “eXtremely Conservative” resulted in 37,841 HMM profiles in our efam-XC database. To assess the value of this resource, we integrated efam-XC into VirSorter viral discovery software to discover viruses from less-studied, ecologically distinct oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) marine habitats. This expanded database led to an increase in viruses recovered from every tested OMZ virome by ∼24% on average (up to ∼42%) and especially improved the recovery of often-missed shorter contigs (<5 kb). Additionally, to help elucidate lesser-known viral protein functions, we annotated the profiles using multiple databasesmore »from the DRAM pipeline and virion-associated metaproteomic data, which doubled the number of annotations obtainable by standard, single-database annotation approaches. Together, these marine resources (efam and efam-XC) are provided as searchable, compressed HMM databases that will be updated bi-annually to help maximize viral sequence discovery and study from any ecosystem. Availability The resources are available on the iVirus platform at ( Supplementary information Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.« less
  7. 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
  8. 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.