Submitted to: Lecture
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/26/2013
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Metagenomics addresses the collective genetic structure and functional composition of a microbial community at its native habitat. This approach has emerged as a powerful tool to study the structure and function of the microbiota for the past few years and is revolutionizing studies of microbial ecosystems and microbial diversity. The broad application potentials of metagenomics originate from the capacity and function of microorganisms. Microbes dominate our planet and make up ~ 50% of the Earth’s biomass. While residing in almost any environment, including those we humans consider “extreme”, microorganisms perform a critical function at both global and localized scale, producing nutrients and converting matter essential for survival and flourishing of all organisms. The realization that much of humanity is affected by the microorganisms residing in our body is having a profound impact on biomedical research. While a significant amount of knowledge on habitat-specific diversity and functionality in the gut microbiota has been accumulated, much of microbial diversity in the environment has not been systematically explored. Practical relevance of identifying biotic and abiotic factors responsible for temporal and spatial variations in the microbiota composition will be emphasized. Moreover, recent advancements in ultra-low cost sequencing technologies and bioinformatics tools and database resources, such as the development of a de novo metagenomics-specific short read assembler, as well as numerous challenges will be discussed.