VITCOMIC2: visualization tool for the phylogenetic composition of microbial communities based on 16S rRNA gene amplicons and metagenomic shotgun sequencing

BMC Syst Biol. 2018 Mar 19;12(Suppl 2):30. doi: 10.1186/s12918-018-0545-2.


Background: The 16S rRNA gene-based amplicon sequencing analysis is widely used to determine the taxonomic composition of microbial communities. Once the taxonomic composition of each community is obtained, evolutionary relationships among taxa are inferred by a phylogenetic tree. Thus, the combined representation of taxonomic composition and phylogenetic relationships among taxa is a powerful method for understanding microbial community structure; however, applying phylogenetic tree-based representation with information on the abundance of thousands or more taxa in each community is a difficult task. For this purpose, we previously developed the tool VITCOMIC (VIsualization tool for Taxonomic COmpositions of MIcrobial Community), which is based on the genome-sequenced microbes' phylogenetic information. Here, we introduce VITCOMIC2, which incorporates substantive improvements over VITCOMIC that were necessary to address several issues associated with 16S rRNA gene-based analysis of microbial communities.

Results: We developed VITCOMIC2 to provide (i) sequence identity searches against broad reference taxa including uncultured taxa; (ii) normalization of 16S rRNA gene copy number differences among taxa; (iii) rapid sequence identity searches by applying the graphics processing unit-based sequence identity search tool CLAST; (iv) accurate taxonomic composition inference and nearly full-length 16S rRNA gene sequence reconstructions for metagenomic shotgun sequencing; and (v) an interactive user interface for simultaneous representation of the taxonomic composition of microbial communities and phylogenetic relationships among taxa. We validated the accuracy of processes (ii) and (iv) by using metagenomic shotgun sequencing data from a mock microbial community.

Conclusions: The improvements incorporated into VITCOMIC2 enable users to acquire an intuitive understanding of microbial community composition based on the 16S rRNA gene sequence data obtained from both metagenomic shotgun and amplicon sequencing.

Keywords: 16S rRNA gene; Metagenomics; Microbial community; Taxonomic composition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Graphics
  • Gene Dosage / genetics
  • Internet
  • Metagenomics / methods*
  • Microbiology*
  • Phylogeny*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / methods*
  • Software*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S