Classification of 16S rRNA reads is improved using a niche-specific database constructed by near-full length sequencing. Academic Article uri icon


  • Surveys of microbial populations in environmental niches of interest often utilize sequence variation in the gene encoding the ribosomal small subunit (the 16S rRNA gene). Generally, these surveys target the 16S genes using semi-degenerate primers to amplify portions of a subset of bacterial species, sequence the amplicons in bulk, and assign to putative taxonomic categories by comparison to databases purporting to connect specific sequences in the main variable regions of the gene to specific organisms. Due to sequence length constraints of the most popular bulk sequencing platforms, the primers selected amplify one to three of the nine variable regions, and taxonomic assignment is based on relatively short stretches of sequence (150-500 bases). We demonstrate that taxonomic assignment is improved through reduced unassigned reads by including a survey of near-full-length sequences specific to the target environment, using a niche of interest represented by the upper respiratory tract (URT) of cattle. We created a custom Bovine URT database from these longer sequences for assignment of shorter, less expensive reads in comparisons of the upper respiratory tract among individual animals. This process improves the ability to detect changes in the microbial populations of a given environment, and the accuracy of defining the content of that environment at increasingly higher taxonomic resolution.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

altmetric score

  • 16.83

author list (cited authors)

  • Myer, P. R., McDaneld, T. G., Kuehn, L. A., Dedonder, K. D., Apley, M. D., Capik, S. F., ... Smith, T.

citation count

  • 11

complete list of authors

  • Myer, Phillip R||McDaneld, Tara G||Kuehn, Larry A||Dedonder, Keith D||Apley, Michael D||Capik, Sarah F||Lubbers, Brian V||Harhay, Gregory P||Harhay, Dayna M||Keele, John W||Henniger, Madison T||Clemmons, Brooke A||Smith, Timothy PL

editor list (cited editors)

  • Schierwater, B.

publication date

  • January 2020