Bioinformatics

Hidden treasure in the microbiome

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Science  13 Sep 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6458, pp. 1132-1133
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6458.1132-g

We know that the human microbiome contains a wealth of largely unknown genetic diversity. Whole metagenome shotgun sequencing is needed to make the links between genes and phenotypes. Sberro et al. have computationally analyzed thousands of small protein-coding genes in the Human Microbiome Project data. More than 400,000 clusters of open reading frames (ORFs) of less than 150 nucleotides were constructed de novo. Within the approximately 4000 small ORFs likely to be protein-coding, the majority have no homology with known protein domains, and some are evolutionarily conserved, indicating that they have essential functions. Some peptides are transmembrane and secreted, which hints that they are used in signaling between bacteria and host. Others are implicated in bacterial immunity and horizontal gene transfer. Thus, this effort provides a rich resource for understanding the body's relationship with its microbiota.

Cell 178, 1245 (2019).

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