Adapting functional genomic tools to metagenomic analyses: Investigating the role of gut bacteria in relation to obesity

Yuanhua Liu, Chenhong Zhang, Liping Zhao, Christine Nardini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


With the expanding availability of sequencing technologies, research previously centered on the human genome can now afford to include the study of humans' internal ecosystem (human microbiome). Given the scale of the data involved in this metagenomic research (two orders of magnitude larger than the human genome) and their importance in relation to human health, it is crucial to guarantee (along with the appropriate data collection and taxonomy) proper tools for data analysis. We propose to adapt the approaches defined for the analysis of gene-expressionmicroarray in order to infer information inmetagenomics. In particular, we applied SAM, a broadly used tool for the identification of differentially expressed genes among different samples classes, to a reported dataset on a research model with mice of two genotypes (a high density lipoprotein knockout mouse and its wild-type counterpart). The data contain two different diets (high-fat or normal-chow) to ensure the onset of obesity, prodrome of metabolic syndromes (MS). By using 16S rRNA gene as a genomic diversity marker, we illustrate how this approach can identify bacterial populations differentially enriched among different genetic and dietary conditions of the host. This approach faithfully reproduces highly-relevant results fromphylogenetic and standard statistical analyses, used to explain the role of the gut microbiome in relation to obesity. This represents a promising proof-of-principle for using functional genomic approaches in the fast growing area of metagenomics, and warrants the availability of a large body of thoroughly tested and theoretically soundmethodologies to this exciting new field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-361
Number of pages7
JournalBriefings in Functional Genomics
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


  • Functional genomic
  • Human microbiome
  • Metagenomics


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