uncovering oral neisseria tropism and persistence using metagenomic sequencing
nature microbiology 2016/05/27
microbial epidemiology and population genomics have previously been carried out near-exclusively for organisms grown in vitro. metagenomics helps to overcome this limitation, but it is still challenging to achieve strain-level characterization of microorganisms from culture-independent data with sufficient resolution for epidemiological modelling. here, we have developed multiple complementary approaches that can be combined to profile and track individual microbial strains. to specifically profile highly recombinant neisseriae from oral metagenomes, we integrated four metagenomic analysis techniques: single nucleotide polymorphisms in the clade's core genome, dna uptake sequence signatures, metagenomic multilocus sequence typing and strain-specific marker genes. we applied these tools to 520 oral metagenomes from the human microbiome project, finding evidence of site tropism and temporal intra-subject strain retention. although the opportunistic pathogen neisseria meningitidis is enriched for colonization in the throat, n. flavescens and n. subflava populate the tongue dorsum, and n. sicca, n. mucosa and n. elongata the gingival plaque. the buccal mucosa appeared as an intermediate ecological niche between the plaque and the tongue. the resulting approaches to metagenomic strain profiling are generalizable and can be extended to other organisms and microbiomes across environments.