MetaCHIP: community-level horizontal gene transfer identification through the combination of best-match and phylogenetic approaches
Citable Link (URL):http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/15859
Abstract Background Metagenomic datasets provide an opportunity to study horizontal gene transfer (HGT) on the level of a microbial community. However, current HGT detection methods cannot be applied to community-level datasets or require reference genomes. Here, we present MetaCHIP, a pipeline for reference-independent HGT identification at the community level. Results Assessment of MetaCHIP’s performance on simulated datasets revealed that it can predict HGTs with various degrees of genetic divergence from metagenomic datasets. The results also indicated that the detection of very recent gene transfers (i.e. those with low levels of genetic divergence) from metagenomics datasets is largely affected by the read assembly step. Comparison of MetaCHIP with a previous analysis on soil bacteria showed a high level of consistency for the prediction of recent HGTs and revealed a large number of additional non-recent gene transfers, which can provide new biological and ecological insight. Assessment of MetaCHIP’s performance on real metagenomic datasets confirmed the role of HGT in the spread of genes related to antibiotic resistance in the human gut microbiome. Further testing also showed that functions related to energy production and conversion as well as carbohydrate transport and metabolism are frequently transferred among free-living microorganisms. Conclusion MetaCHIP provides an opportunity to study HGTs among members of a microbial community and therefore has several applications in the field of microbial ecology and evolution. MetaCHIP is implemented in Python and freely available at https://github.com/songweizhi/MetaCHIP .