The human gut contains dense and diverse microbial communities which have profound influences on human health. Gaining meaningful insights into these communities requires provision of high quality microbial nucleic acids from human fecal samples, as well as an understanding of the sources of variation and their impacts on the experimental model. We present here a systematic analysis of commonly used microbial DNA extraction methods, and identify significant sources of variation. Five extraction methods (Human Microbiome Project protocol, MoBio PowerSoil DNA Isolation Kit, QIAamp DNA Stool Mini Kit, ZR Fecal DNA MiniPrep, phenol:chloroform-based DNA isolation) were evaluated based on the following criteria: DNA yield, quality and integrity, and microbial community structure based on Illumina amplicon sequencing of the V4 region of bacterial and archaeal 16S rRNA genes. Our results indicate that the largest portion of variation within the model was attributed to differences between subjects (biological variation), with a smaller proportion of variation associated with DNA extraction method (technical variation) and intra-subject variation. A comprehensive understanding of the potential impact of technical variation on the human gut microbiota will help limit preventable bias, enabling more accurate diversity estimates.
Keywords: PERMANOVA; beta diversity; human gut microbiota; nucleic acids extraction.