Microbial community profiling for human microbiome projects: Tools, techniques, and challenges

Genome Res. 2009 Jul;19(7):1141-52. doi: 10.1101/gr.085464.108. Epub 2009 Apr 21.


High-throughput sequencing studies and new software tools are revolutionizing microbial community analyses, yet the variety of experimental and computational methods can be daunting. In this review, we discuss some of the different approaches to community profiling, highlighting strengths and weaknesses of various experimental approaches, sequencing methodologies, and analytical methods. We also address one key question emerging from various Human Microbiome Projects: Is there a substantial core of abundant organisms or lineages that we all share? It appears that in some human body habitats, such as the hand and the gut, the diversity among individuals is so great that we can rule out the possibility that any species is at high abundance in all individuals: It is possible that the focus should instead be on higher-level taxa or on functional genes instead.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Humans
  • Metagenome*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / classification
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S