Soil and water

University unveils catalog of microbial genes


A team from Fudan University in Shanghai launched the world’s most comprehensive catalog of microbial genes – a database of 303 million unigens that will help researchers better understand the relationship between microorganisms and health human.

A unigen is a DNA sequence representative of gene sequences that originate from the same microbial species.

A catalog article, “Towards the biogeography of prokaryotic genes,” was published Thursday in the scientific journal Nature.

Bacterial communities live in habitats, and each community includes a unique group of species called a microbiome, which contains genes with specific functions.

To collect all the genes from the global microbiome to create the catalog, a team from the Fudan Institute of Science and Technology for Brain-Inspired Intelligence – Luis Pedro Coelho, Zhao Xingming, and Peer Bork – identified unigens in 14 environments, including human and animal bodies. , soil and water. They created the database based on 13,000 publicly available data items.

The researchers said microbiome research is normally done based on different habitats such as human microorganisms and marine microorganisms, but the catalog can analyze microbial metagenomes in different habitats on a global scale.

When collecting unigens, they found that relatively few (5.8%) could be identified in all habitats. These unigens were generally linked to antibiotic resistance, with some being able to move from one genome to another.

Understanding how bacteria and genes move from one environment to another is essential for human health research, understanding antibiotic resistance and the development of antibacterial drugs, they said.

Zhao said the team plans to use the catalog to study the influence of microbes on human health, cognition and behavior.