The role of the microbiome in health and disease is attracting great attention, yet we still know little about some of the most prevalent microorganisms inside our bodies. Several years ago, Human Microbiome Project (HMP) researchers generated a list of "most wanted" taxa: bacteria both prevalent among healthy volunteers and distantly related to any sequenced organisms. Unfortunately, the challenge of assembling high quality genomes from a tangle of metagenomic reads has slowed progress in learning about these uncultured bacteria. Here, we describe how recent advances in sequencing and analysis allowed us to assemble "most wanted" genomes from metagenomic data collected from four stool samples. Using a combination of both de novo and guided assembly methods, we assembled and binned over 100 genomes from an initial data set of over 1,300 Gbp. One of these genome bins, which met HMP's criteria for a "most wanted" taxa, contained three essentially complete genomes belonging to a previously uncultivated species. This species is most closely related to Eubacterium desmolans and the clostridial cluster IV/CIostridium leptum subgroup species Butyncicoccus pullicaecorum (71-76% average nucleotide identity). Gene function analysis indicates that the species is an obligate anaerobe, forms spores, and produces the antiinflammatory short -chain fatty acids acetate and butyrate. It also appears to take up metabolically costly molecules such as cobalamin, methionine, and branch-chained amino acids from the environment, and to lack virulence genes. Thus, the evidence is consistent with a secondary degrader that occupies a host-dependent, nutrient scavenging niche within the gut; its ability to produce butyrate, which is thought to play an anti-inflammatory role, makes it intriguing for the study of diseases such as colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. In conclusion, we have assembled essentially complete genomes from stool metagenomic data, yielding valuable information about uncultured organisms' metabolic and ecologic niches, factors that may be required to successfully culture these bacteria, and their role in maintaining health and causing disease.
Bibliographical note© 2016 Jeraldo, Hernandez, Nielsen, Chen, White, Goldenfeld, Nelson, Alhquist, Boardman and Chia. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
- Genome assembly