Background: There are numerous computational tools for taxonomic or functional analysis of microbiome samples, optimized to run on hundreds of millions of short, high quality sequencing reads. Programs such as MEGAN allow the user to interactively navigate these large datasets. Long read sequencing technologies continue to improve and produce increasing numbers of longer reads (of varying lengths in the range of 10k-1M bps, say), but of low quality. There is an increasing interest in using long reads in microbiome sequencing, and there is a need to adapt short read tools to long read datasets.
Methods: We describe a new LCA-based algorithm for taxonomic binning, and an interval-tree based algorithm for functional binning, that are explicitly designed for long reads and assembled contigs. We provide a new interactive tool for investigating the alignment of long reads against reference sequences. For taxonomic and functional binning, we propose to use LAST to compare long reads against the NCBI-nr protein reference database so as to obtain frame-shift aware alignments, and then to process the results using our new methods.
Results: All presented methods are implemented in the open source edition of MEGAN, and we refer to this new extension as MEGAN-LR (MEGAN long read). We evaluate the LAST+MEGAN-LR approach in a simulation study, and on a number of mock community datasets consisting of Nanopore reads, PacBio reads and assembled PacBio reads. We also illustrate the practical application on a Nanopore dataset that we sequenced from an anammox bio-rector community.
Reviewers: This article was reviewed by Nicola Segata together with Moreno Zolfo, Pete James Lockhart and Serghei Mangul.
Conclusion: This work extends the applicability of the widely-used metagenomic analysis software MEGAN to long reads. Our study suggests that the presented LAST+MEGAN-LR pipeline is sufficiently fast and accurate.
Keywords: Algorithms; Functional binning; Long reads; Microbiome; Nanopore; PacBio; Sequence analysis; Software; Taxonomic binning.