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Concept: 30S


16S ribosomal RNA gene (rDNA) amplicon analysis remains the standard approach for the cultivation-independent investigation of microbial diversity. The accuracy of these analyses depends strongly on the choice of primers. The overall coverage and phylum spectrum of 175 primers and 512 primer pairs were evaluated in silico with respect to the SILVA 16S/18S rDNA non-redundant reference dataset (SSURef 108 NR). Based on this evaluation a selection of ‘best available’ primer pairs for Bacteria and Archaea for three amplicon size classes (100-400, 400-1000, ≥1000 bp) is provided. The most promising bacterial primer pair (S-D-Bact-0341-b-S-17/S-D-Bact-0785-a-A-21), with an amplicon size of 464 bp, was experimentally evaluated by comparing the taxonomic distribution of the 16S rDNA amplicons with 16S rDNA fragments from directly sequenced metagenomes. The results of this study may be used as a guideline for selecting primer pairs with the best overall coverage and phylum spectrum for specific applications, therefore reducing the bias in PCR-based microbial diversity studies.

Concepts: DNA, Archaea, Bacteria, Molecular biology, RNA, Ribosomal RNA, Ribosome, 30S


Analysis of microbial communities by high-throughput pyrosequencing of SSU rRNA gene PCR amplicons has transformed microbial ecology research and led to the observation that many communities contain a diverse assortment of rare taxa-a phenomenon termed the Rare Biosphere. Multiple studies have investigated the effect of pyrosequencing read quality on operational taxonomic unit (OTU) richness for contrived communities, yet there is limited information on the fidelity of community structure estimates obtained through this approach. Given that PCR biases are widely recognized, and further unknown biases may arise from the sequencing process itself, a priori assumptions about the neutrality of the data generation process are at best unvalidated. Furthermore, post-sequencing quality control algorithms have not been explicitly evaluated for the accuracy of recovered representative sequences and its impact on downstream analyses, reducing useful discussion on pyrosequencing reads to their diversity and abundances. Here we report on community structures and sequences recovered for in vitro-simulated communities consisting of twenty 16S rRNA gene clones tiered at known proportions. PCR amplicon libraries of the V3-V4 and V6 hypervariable regions from the in vitro-simulated communities were sequenced using the Roche 454 GS FLX Titanium platform. Commonly used quality control protocols resulted in the formation of OTUs with >1% abundance composed entirely of erroneous sequences, while over-aggressive clustering approaches obfuscated real, expected OTUs. The pyrosequencing process itself did not appear to impose significant biases on overall community structure estimates, although the detection limit for rare taxa may be affected by PCR amplicon size and quality control approach employed. Meanwhile, PCR biases associated with the initial amplicon generation may impose greater distortions in the observed community structure.

Concepts: Scientific method, Archaea, Ribosomal RNA, Biotechnology, DNA sequencing, 16S ribosomal RNA, 30S, Sequence


Growing evidence indicates that disrupting the microbial community that comprises the intestinal tract, known as the gut microbiome, can contribute to the development or severity of disease. As a result, it is important to discern the agents responsible for microbiome disruption. While animals are frequently exposed to a diverse array of environmental chemicals, little is known about their effects on gut microbiome stability and structure. Here, we demonstrate how zebrafish can be used to glean insight into the effects of environmental chemical exposure on the structure and ecological dynamics of the gut microbiome. Specifically, we exposed forty-five adult zebrafish to triclosan-laden food for four or seven days or a control diet, and analyzed their microbial communities using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing. Triclosan exposure was associated with rapid shifts in microbiome structure and diversity. We find evidence that several operational taxonomic units (OTUs) associated with the family Enterobacteriaceae appear to be susceptible to triclosan exposure, while OTUs associated with the genus Pseudomonas appeared to be more resilient and resistant to exposure. We also found that triclosan exposure is associated with topological alterations to microbial interaction networks and results in an overall increase in the number of negative interactions per microbe in these networks. Together these data indicate that triclosan exposure results in altered composition and ecological dynamics of microbial communities in the gut. Our work demonstrates that because zebrafish afford rapid and inexpensive interrogation of a large number of individuals, it is a useful experimental system for the discovery of the gut microbiome’s interaction with environmental chemicals.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Microbiology, Ribosomal RNA, Antibiotic resistance, Biotechnology, 16S ribosomal RNA, 30S


The development and continuous improvement of high-throughput sequencing platforms has stimulated interest in the study of complex microbial communities. Currently, the most popular sequencing approach to study microbial community composition and dynamics is targeted 16S rRNA gene metabarcoding. To prepare samples for sequencing, there are a variety of processing steps, each with the potential to introduce bias at the data analysis stage. In this short review, key information from the literature pertaining to each processing step is described and consequently, general recommendations for future 16S rRNA gene metabarcoding experiments are made.

Concepts: Archaea, Microbiology, Species, Ribosomal RNA, Biotechnology, 16S ribosomal RNA, 30S


T cell infiltration of solid tumors is associated with favorable patient outcomes, yet the mechanisms underlying variable immune responses between individuals are not well understood. One possible modulator could be the intestinal microbiota. We compared melanoma growth in mice harboring distinct commensal microbiota and observed differences in spontaneous antitumor immunity, which were eliminated upon cohousing or following fecal transfer. 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing identified Bifidobacterium as associated with the antitumor effects. Oral administration of Bifidobacterium alone improved tumor control to the same degree as anti-PD-L1 therapy (checkpoint blockade), and combination treatment nearly abolished tumor outgrowth. Augmented dendritic cell function leading to enhanced CD8(+) T cell priming and accumulation in the tumor microenvironment mediated the effect. Our data suggest that manipulating the microbiota may modulate cancer immunotherapy.

Concepts: Immune system, Cancer, Bacteria, Gut flora, Oncology, Ribosomal RNA, 30S, Dendritic cell


Next-generation sequencing of 16S ribosomal RNA is widely used to survey microbial communities. Sequences are typically assigned to Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs). Closed- and open-reference OTU assignment matches reads to a reference database at 97% identity (closed), then clusters unmatched reads using a de novo method (open). Implementations of these methods in the QIIME package were tested on several mock community datasets with 20 strains using different sequencing technologies and primers. Richness (number of reported OTUs) was often greatly exaggerated, with hundreds or thousands of OTUs generated on Illumina datasets. Between-sample diversity was also found to be highly exaggerated in many cases, with weighted Jaccard distances between identical mock samples often close to one, indicating very low similarity. Non-overlapping hyper-variable regions in 70% of species were assigned to different OTUs. On mock communities with Illumina V4 reads, 56% to 88% of predicted genus names were false positives. Biological inferences obtained using these methods are therefore not reliable.

Concepts: Archaea, Microbiology, RNA, Species, Ribosomal RNA, Ribosome, 16S ribosomal RNA, 30S


There is mounting evidence that the microbiome has potent immunoregulatory functions. We assessed the effects of intestinal dysbiosis in a model of Sjögren syndrome (SS) by subjecting mice to desiccating stress (DS) and antibiotics (ABX). We characterized the conjunctival, tongue and fecal microbiome profiles of patients with SS. Severity of ocular surface and systemic disease was graded. 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing characterized the microbiota. ABX + DS mice had a significantly worse dry eye phenotype compared to controls, a decrease in Clostridium and an increase in Enterobacter, Escherichia/Shigella, and Pseudomonas in stool after ABX + DS for 10 days. Goblet cell density was significantly lower in ABX treated groups compared to controls. Stool from SS subjects had greater relative abundances of Pseudobutyrivibrio, Escherichia/Shigella, Blautia, and Streptococcus, while relative abundance of Bacteroides, Parabacteroides, Faecalibacterium, and Prevotella was reduced compared to controls. The severity of SS ocular and systemic disease was inversely correlated with microbial diversity. These findings suggest that SS is marked by a dysbiotic intestinal microbiome driven by low relative abundance of commensal bacteria and high relative abundance of potentially pathogenic genera that is associated with worse ocular mucosal disease in a mouse model of SS and in SS patients.

Concepts: Gene, Archaea, Bacteria, Gut flora, RNA, Ribosomal RNA, Ribosome, 30S


Introduction of synthetic circuits into microbes creates competition between circuit and host genes for shared cellular resources, such as ribosomes. This can lead to the emergence of unwanted coupling between the expression of different circuit genes, complicating the design process and potentially leading to circuit failure. By expressing a synthetic 16S rRNA with altered specificity, we can partition the ribosome pool into host-specific and circuit-specific activities. We show mathematically and experimentally that the effects of resource competition can be alleviated by targeting genes to different ribosomal pools. This division of labour can be used to increase flux through a metabolic pathway. We develop a model of cell physiology which is able to capture these observations and use it to design a dynamic resource allocation controller. When implemented, this controller acts to decouple genes by increasing orthogonal ribosome production as the demand for translational resources by a synthetic circuit increases.

Concepts: Protein, Cell nucleus, Archaea, Bacteria, RNA, Ribosomal RNA, Ribosome, 30S


Phytoplasmas are routinely detected by nucleic acid-based techniques. These approaches rely on enriched phytoplasma DNA extracts of good quality, following labor intensive and time-consuming purification protocols. Here we describe a very rapid, specific, sensitive, and reliable method for flavescence dorée phytoplasma detection, based on real-time Taqman(®) reverse transcription-PCR of the 16S rRNA. The protocol is particularly useful for large-scale screening of vineyards and nurseries, pathogen surveys, and field epidemiological studies.

Concepts: Biology, Ribosomal RNA, 16S ribosomal RNA, 30S, English-language films, Protocol, Phytoplasma


In a recent study, we demonstrated the ability of stem loop probe DNA probes to identify the presence of a specific 16S rRNA species obtained from a complex sludge extract. In this paper, we extend those experiments and show how stem-loop DNA probes can be used in an array format and used to detect the presence of multiple bacterial species in a complex environment without the need for any target amplification.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, RNA, Species, Ribosomal RNA, 16S ribosomal RNA, 30S, Stem-loop