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Open Access Methodology

CloVR-ITS: Automated internal transcribed spacer amplicon sequence analysis pipeline for the characterization of fungal microbiota

James Robert White*, Cynthia Maddox, Owen White, Samuel V Angiuoli and W Florian Fricke*

Author Affiliations

Institute for Genome Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine, BioPark II - 801 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD, 21201, USA

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Microbiome 2013, 1:6  doi:10.1186/2049-2618-1-6

Published: 4 February 2013

Abstract

Background

Besides the development of comprehensive tools for high-throughput 16S ribosomal RNA amplicon sequence analysis, there exists a growing need for protocols emphasizing alternative phylogenetic markers such as those representing eukaryotic organisms.

Results

Here we introduce CloVR-ITS, an automated pipeline for comparative analysis of internal transcribed spacer (ITS) pyrosequences amplified from metagenomic DNA isolates and representing fungal species. This pipeline performs a variety of steps similar to those commonly used for 16S rRNA amplicon sequence analysis, including preprocessing for quality, chimera detection, clustering of sequences into operational taxonomic units (OTUs), taxonomic assignment (at class, order, family, genus, and species levels) and statistical analysis of sample groups of interest based on user-provided information. Using ITS amplicon pyrosequencing data from a previous human gastric fluid study, we demonstrate the utility of CloVR-ITS for fungal microbiota analysis and provide runtime and cost examples, including analysis of extremely large datasets on the cloud. We show that the largest fractions of reads from the stomach fluid samples were assigned to Dothideomycetes, Saccharomycetes, Agaricomycetes and Sordariomycetes but that all samples were dominated by sequences that could not be taxonomically classified. Representatives of the Candida genus were identified in all samples, most notably C. quercitrusa, while sequence reads assigned to the Aspergillus genus were only identified in a subset of samples. CloVR-ITS is made available as a pre-installed, automated, and portable software pipeline for cloud-friendly execution as part of the CloVR virtual machine package (http://clovr.org webcite).

Conclusion

The CloVR-ITS pipeline provides fungal microbiota analysis that can be complementary to bacterial 16S rRNA and total metagenome sequence analysis allowing for more comprehensive studies of environmental and host-associated microbial communities.

Keywords:
Internal transcribed spacer (ITS); Fungal microbiota; Automated sequence analysis pipeline; Cloud computing