A major research goal in microbial ecology is to understand the relationship between gene organization and function involved in environmental processes of potential interest. Given that more than an estimated 99% of microorganisms in most environments are not amenable to culturing, methods for culture-independent studies of genes of interest have been developed. The wealth of metagenomic approaches allows environmental microbiologists to directly explore the enormous genetic diversity of microbial communities. However, it is extremely difficult to obtain the appropriate sequencing depth of any particular gene that can entirely represent the complexity of microbial metagenomes and be able to draw meaningful conclusions about these communities. This review presents a summary of the metagenomic approaches that have been useful for collecting more information about specific genes. Specific subsets of metagenomes that focus on sequence analysis were selected in each metagenomic studies. This 'targeted metagenomics' approach will provide extensive insight into the functional, ecological and evolutionary patterns of important genes found in microorganisms from various ecosystems.
© 2011 Society for Applied Microbiology and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.