Thursday, January 3, 2013

Blog Series: Workshop on Genomics; Cesky Krumlov; Preparation--Metagenomics

Section 7: Metagenomics

Metagenomics is a massive topic! My first encounter with metagenomics was in my Ph.D. work; metagenomics of a hot spring microbial community (we focused on two hot springs in Yellowstone National Park).

For the purposes of this workshop 2 readings and a PubMed search are suggested:
  1. Wooley, JC; A Godzik and I Friedberg. 2010. A primer on metagenomics. PLoS Computational Biology 6:e1000667. (open access and a good read)
  2. QIIME PubMed Search
  3. Knights, D; EK Costello and R Knight. 2011. Supervised classification of human microbiota. FEMS Microbiology Reviews. 35:343-359. (not open access, subscription required).
Essentially, metagenomics focuses on all, or as many as can be detected using todays methods, of the organisms within an environment (usually unculturable organisms are the 'target'). That's not to say you can't 'create' an environment in the lab that hosts several known or culturable organisms and do a metagenomics study on that, but most of the research has been done on 'in vivo' environments such as hot springs, the ocean, acid drainage sites, and humans...to name a few. Dr. Rob Knight's lab at UC Boulder, CO for instance has been involved in quite a bit of work in metagenomics as it pertains to humans and environmental bacteria. One of the papers, aside from the one above, which alas is not freely available either is quite nice and focuses on human gut microbiota (Lozupone, CA et al., 2012. Nature).

Looking for more open access pubs with a focus on microbiomes/metagenomics?
Nature Reviews also has a focus on metagenomics that might be useful in finding more studies across fields in this subject, though I cannot guarantee what's open access and what's not.

QIIME = Quantitative Insights into Microbial Ecology. It's a software package (refer to disclaimer about software!) that assists in the analysis of microbial communities and focuses on data generated via high throughput sequencing methods.

Personal Opinion...it's pretty cool. Unfortunately it's not approved at WRAIR...yet.

Jesse Stombaugh from the Biofrontiers Institute (UC Boulder, CO) has some nice slides that show some of QIIME's analysis. Slides 14-19 show you the QIIME workflow. Additionally if you find microBEnet a group that focuses on microbiology of the Built Environment on youtube, they have several videos detailing how to use QIIME.

Or if you're the type of bioinformatic cowboy to just jump into the program itself, check out the QIIME website. If you're a programmer, python is useful to know but not totally necessary if you end up getting into the nuts and bolts of the software. For those of you going python-wha??? See next section on programming which will talk about BioPerl and some Python.

Alright fellow aspiring bioinformaticians...my last prep blog will probably come in the Czech Republic as I head out tonight, then we'll be jumping right into the workshop!

Next Up: Preparation--Programming