Robustness analysis of metabolic predictions in algal microbial communities based on different annotation pipelines

PeerJ. 2021 May 6;9:e11344. doi: 10.7717/peerj.11344. eCollection 2021.


Animals, plants, and algae rely on symbiotic microorganisms for their development and functioning. Genome sequencing and genomic analyses of these microorganisms provide opportunities to construct metabolic networks and to analyze the metabolism of the symbiotic communities they constitute. Genome-scale metabolic network reconstructions rest on information gained from genome annotation. As there are multiple annotation pipelines available, the question arises to what extent differences in annotation pipelines impact outcomes of these analyses. Here, we compare five commonly used pipelines (Prokka, MaGe, IMG, DFAST, RAST) from predicted annotation features (coding sequences, Enzyme Commission numbers, hypothetical proteins) to the metabolic network-based analysis of symbiotic communities (biochemical reactions, producible compounds, and selection of minimal complementary bacterial communities). While Prokka and IMG produced the most extensive networks, RAST and DFAST networks produced the fewest false positives and the most connected networks with the fewest dead-end metabolites. Our results underline differences between the outputs of the tested pipelines at all examined levels, with small differences in the draft metabolic networks resulting in the selection of different microbial consortia to expand the metabolic capabilities of the algal host. However, the consortia generated yielded similar predicted producible compounds and could therefore be considered functionally interchangeable. This contrast between selected communities and community functions depending on the annotation pipeline needs to be taken into consideration when interpreting the results of metabolic complementarity analyses. In the future, experimental validation of bioinformatic predictions will likely be crucial to both evaluate and refine the pipelines and needs to be coupled with increased efforts to expand and improve annotations in reference databases.

Keywords: Functional annotation; Genome-scale metabolic networks; Holobionts; Metabolic complementary analyses; Metabolic exchanges; Gene prediction.

Grant support

This work was supported partially by the CNRS Momentum call and the ANR project IDEALG [ANR-10-BTBR-04] “Investissements d’Avenir, Biotechnologies-Bioressources”. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.