Making the Most of "Omics" for Symbiosis Research

Biol Bull. 2012 Aug;223(1):21-9. doi: 10.1086/BBLv223n1p21.


Omics, including genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics, enable us to explain symbioses in terms of the underlying molecules and their interactions. The central task is to transform molecular catalogs of genes, metabolites, etc., into a dynamic understanding of symbiosis function. We review four exemplars of omics studies that achieve this goal, through defined biological questions relating to metabolic integration and regulation of animal-microbial symbioses, the genetic autonomy of bacterial symbionts, and symbiotic protection of animal hosts from pathogens. As omic datasets become increasingly complex, computationally sophisticated downstream analyses are essential to reveal interactions not evident from visual inspection of the data. We discuss two approaches, phylogenomics and transcriptional clustering, that can divide the primary output of omics studies-long lists of factors-into manageable subsets, and we describe how they have been applied to analyze large datasets and generate testable hypotheses.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / chemistry*
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Genomics / trends
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Metabolomics / trends
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • Proteomics / trends
  • Symbiosis*