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Inclusion of Oxford Nanopore long reads improves all microbial and phage metagenome-assembled genomes from a complex aquifer system

By Will A. Overholt, Martin Hölzer, Patricia Geesink, Celia Diezel, Manja Marz, Kirsten Küsel

Posted 19 Dec 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2019.12.18.880807

Assembling microbial and phage genomes from metagenomes is a powerful and appealing method to understand structure-function relationships in complex environments. In order to compare the recovery of genomes from microorganisms and their phages from groundwater, we generated shotgun metagenomes with Illumina sequencing accompanied by long reads derived from the Oxford Nanopore sequencing platform. Assembly and metagenome-assembled genome (MAG) metrics for both microbes and viruses were determined from Illumina-only assemblies and a hybrid assembly approach. Strikingly, the hybrid approach more than doubled the number of mid to high-quality MAGs (> 50% completion, < 10% redundancy), generated nearly four-fold more phage genomes, and improved all associated genome metrics relative to the Illumina only method. The hybrid assemblies yielded MAGs that were on average 7.8% more complete, with 133 fewer contigs and a 14 kbp greater N50. Furthermore, the longer contigs from the hybrid approach generated microbial MAGs that had a higher proportion of rRNA genes. We demonstrate this usefulness by linking microbial MAGs containing 16S rRNA genes with extensive amplicon dataset. This work provides quantitative data to inform a cost-benefit analysis on the decision to supplement shotgun metagenomic projects with long reads towards the goal of recovering genomes from environmentally abundant groups.

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