BMC Genomics

Signal enrichment with strain-level resolution in metagenomes using topological data analysis

Download paper


Background: A metagenome is a collection of genomes, usually in a micro-environment, and sequencing a metagenomic sample en masse is a powerful means for investigating the community of the constituent microorganisms. One of the challenges is in distinguishing between similar organisms due to rampant multiple possible assignments of sequencing reads, resulting in false positive identifications. We map the problem to a topological data analysis (TDA) framework that extracts information from the geometric structure of data. Here the structure is defined by multi-way relationships between the sequencing reads using a reference database. Results: Based primarily on the patterns of co-mapping of the reads to multiple organisms in the reference database, we use two models: one a subcomplex of a Barycentric subdivision complex and the other a Čech complex. The Barycentric subcomplex allows a natural mapping of the reads along with their coverage of organisms while the Čech complex takes simply the number of reads into account to map the problem to homology computation. Using simulated genome mixtures we show not just enrichment of signal but also microbe identification with strain-level resolution. Conclusions: In particular, in the most refractory of cases where alternative algorithms that exploit unique reads (i.e., mapped to unique organisms) fail, we show that the TDA approach continues to show consistent performance. The Čech model that uses less information is equally effective, suggesting that even partial information when augmented with the appropriate structure is quite powerful.


04 Apr 2019


BMC Genomics