New insights into microbial ecology through subtle nucleotide variation
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Characterizing the community structure of naturally occurring microbes through marker gene amplicons has gained widespread acceptance for profiling microbial populations. The 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene provides a suitable target for most studies since (1) it meets the criteria for robust markers of evolution, e.g., both conserved and rapidly evolving regions that do not undergo horizontal gene transfer, (2) microbial ecologists have identified widely adopted primers and protocols for generating amplicons for sequencing, (3) analyses of both cultivars and environmental DNA have generated well-curated databases for taxonomic profiling, and (4) bioinformaticians and computational biologists have published comprehensive software tools for interpreting the data and generating publication-ready figures. Since the initial descriptions of high-throughput sequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons to survey microbial diversity, we have witnessed an explosion of association-based inferences of interactions between microbes and their environment.
© The Author(s), 2016. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Frontiers in Microbiology 7 (2016): 1318, doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.01318.
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