Monday, April 27, 2009

Assembling the Marine Metagenome, One Cell at a Time

As I have already divulged on twitter and friendfeed, a paper on which I am an author just came out in PLoS One. The paper is Assembling the Marine Metagenome, One Cell at a Time

It represents a collaboration between a bunch of different institutes including the Joint Genome Institute, UC Davis, and the Bigelow Lab in Maine. The main thing in the paper is the use of whole genome amplification to aid in the sequencing of the genome from a single cell.

The first author on the paper Tonja Woyke at the Joint Genome Institute has been adopting and developing methods for this type of single cell work (extending for example the MDA "multiple displacement amplification" protocol. Woyke is one of those rare types who can do both complex lab work and genome analysis and a variety of other things and is also great to be around.

The other main player in the project was Ramunas Stepanauskas from the Bigelow Lab in Maine who is the "biologists" with an interest in the specific samples which were being worked on. These samples were flavobacteria (a type of bacteria) that live in surface ocean waters but have never been grown in isolation in the laboratory. And in such cases, single cell genomics is very useful and powerful. In the paper we show that having this genome is quite useful for interpreting metagenomic data (not surprising, but good to show).

Anyway - check out the paper if you are interested in microbial ecology and/or metagenomics. Or look at the press release here.

Figure 2. Biogeography of microorganisms closely related to MS024-2A and MS024-3C.
A. Geographic distribution of the Global Ocean Sampling (GOS) metagenome fragments with >95% identity to MS024-2A and MS024-3C DNA. Numerals on the map indicate GOS station numbers. B. Sea surface temperature in December 2003, which demonstrates hydrological separation of GOS aquatic samples collected north and south of Cape Hatteras (near GOS station 13). Provided is a composite Aqua-MODIS image for December 2003 ( The GOS stations were numbered in the order of their sampling, and stations 12, 13 and 14 were sampled on December 18, 19 and 20, 2003.


  1. There's a typo: her name is Tanja (Woyke) not Tonja.
    Congratulations on the paper!

  2. You know - I sat there looking at her name and said "something looks wrong" but I had just heard her tell someone it had a j not a y so I could not figure out why it looked wrong here. Doh


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