Genomes from Metagenomics

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Science  29 Nov 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6162, pp. 1057-1058
DOI: 10.1126/science.1247023

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Evaluation of the functional capacities of microorganisms long relied on laboratory cultivation of individual species. About a decade ago, recovery of draft genomes for a few uncultivated bacteria and archaea from natural communities opened the way for physiological prediction of their environmental roles. Further development of the metagenomics methods used in those early studies now allows the rapid delivery of accurately reconstructed microbial genomes from diverse environmental samples. The resulting knowledge has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the topology of the tree of life and the metabolic capacities distributed across it. Advances in bioinformatics promise a new era in which comprehensive genetic characterization is sufficiently rapid to find application in diagnostics for medicine, agriculture, forensic science, and biotechnology.