Comprehensive evaluation of shotgun metagenomics, amplicon sequencing, and harmonization of these platforms for epidemiological studies

Cell Rep Methods. 2023 Jan 23;3(1):100391. doi: 10.1016/j.crmeth.2022.100391.


In a large cohort of 1,772 participants from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos with overlapping 16SV4 rRNA gene (bacterial amplicon), ITS1 (fungal amplicon), and shotgun sequencing data, we demonstrate that 16SV4 amplicon sequencing and shotgun metagenomics offer the same level of taxonomic accuracy for bacteria at the genus level even at shallow sequencing depths. In contrast, for fungal taxa, we did not observe meaningful agreements between shotgun and ITS1 amplicon results. Finally, we show that amplicon and shotgun data can be harmonized and pooled to yield larger microbiome datasets with excellent agreement (<1% effect size variance across three independent outcomes) using pooled amplicon/shotgun data compared to pure shotgun metagenomic analysis. Thus, there are multiple approaches to study the microbiome in epidemiological studies, and we provide a demonstration of a powerful pooling approach that will allow researchers to leverage the massive amount of amplicon sequencing data generated over the last two decades.

Keywords: 16S rrna; HCHS/SOL; ITS1; amplicon; epidemiology; fungi; harmonization; meta-analysis; metagenomic; shotgun.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods
  • Humans
  • Metagenome
  • Microbiota* / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods