• Our aim is to advance our understanding of biological systems,

    ranging from single species to multi-species systems and ecosystems,

    based on data from large-scale bioanalytical methods.

  • We develop, improve and apply

    computational methods

    for the interpretation of molecular information in biology.

  • We establish and analyse

    quantitative mathematical models.


Latest publications

A Bioinformatics Guide to Plant Microbiome Analysis.

Recent evidence for intimate relationship of plants with their microbiota shows that plants host individual and diverse microbial communities that are essential for their survival. Understanding their relatedness using genome-based and high-throughput techniques remains a hot topic in microbiome research. Molecular analysis of the plant holobiont necessitates the application of specific sampling and preparatory steps that also consider sources of unwanted information, such as soil, co-amplified plant organelles, human DNA, and other contaminations. Here, we review state-of-the-art and present practical guidelines regarding experimental and computational aspects to be considered in molecular plant-microbiome studies. We discuss sequencing and "omics" techniques with a focus on the requirements needed to adapt these methods to individual research approaches. The choice of primers and sequence databases is of utmost importance for amplicon sequencing, while the assembly and binning of shotgun metagenomic sequences is crucial to obtain quality data. We discuss specific bioinformatic workflows to overcome the limitation of genome database resources and for covering large eukaryotic genomes such as fungi. In transcriptomics, it is necessary to account for the separation of host mRNA or dual-RNAseq data. Metaproteomics approaches provide a snapshot of the protein abundances within a plant tissue which requires the knowledge of complete and well-annotated plant genomes, as well as microbial genomes. Metabolomics offers a powerful tool to detect and quantify small molecules and molecular changes at the plant-bacteria interface if the necessary requirements with regard to (secondary) metabolite databases are considered. We highlight data integration and complementarity which should help to widen our understanding of the interactions among individual players of the plant holobiont in the future.

Lucaciu R, Pelikan C, Gerner SM, Zioutis C, Köstlbacher S, Marx H, Herbold CW, Schmidt H, Rattei T
2019 - Front Plant Sci, 1313

The Prevotella copri Complex Comprises Four Distinct Clades Underrepresented in Westernized Populations.

Prevotella copri is a common human gut microbe that has been both positively and negatively associated with host health. In a cross-continent meta-analysis exploiting >6,500 metagenomes, we obtained >1,000 genomes and explored the genetic and population structure of P. copri. P. copri encompasses four distinct clades (>10% inter-clade genetic divergence) that we propose constitute the P. copri complex, and all clades were confirmed by isolate sequencing. These clades are nearly ubiquitous and co-present in non-Westernized populations. Genomic analysis showed substantial functional diversity in the complex with notable differences in carbohydrate metabolism, suggesting that multi-generational dietary modifications may be driving reduced prevalence in Westernized populations. Analysis of ancient metagenomes highlighted patterns of P. copri presence consistent with modern non-Westernized populations and a clade delineation time pre-dating human migratory waves out of Africa. These findings reveal that P. copri exhibits a high diversity that is underrepresented in Western-lifestyle populations.

Tett A, Huang KD, Asnicar F, Fehlner-Peach H, Pasolli E, Karcher N, Armanini F, Manghi P, Bonham K, Zolfo M, De Filippis F, Magnabosco C, Bonneau R, Lusingu J, Amuasi J, Reinhard K, Rattei T, Boulund F, Engstrand L, Zink A, Collado MC, Littman DR, Eibach D, Ercolini D, Rota-Stabelli O, Huttenhower C, Maixner F, Segata N
2019 - Cell Host Microbe, in press

Highly variable mRNA half-life time within marine bacterial taxa and functional genes.

Messenger RNA can provide valuable insights into the variability of metabolic processes of microorganisms. However, due to uncertainties that include the stability of RNA, its application for activity profiling of environmental samples is questionable. We explored different factors affecting the decay rate of transcripts of three marine bacterial isolates using qPCR and determined mRNA half-life time of specific bacterial taxa and of functional genes by metatranscriptomics of a coastal environmental prokaryotic community. The half-life time of transcripts from 11 genes from bacterial isolates ranged from 1 to 46 min. About 80% of the analysed transcripts exhibited half-live times shorter than 10 min. Significant differences were found in the half-life time between mRNA and rRNA. The half-life time of mRNA obtained from a coastal metatranscriptome ranged from 9 to 400 min. The shortest half-life times of the metatranscriptome corresponded to transcripts from the same clusters of orthologous groups (COGs) in all bacterial classes. The prevalence of short mRNA half-life time in genes related to defence mechanisms and motility indicate a tight connection of RNA decay rate to environmental stressors. The short half-life time of RNA and its high variability needs to be considered when assessing metatranscriptomes especially in environmental samples.

Steiner PA, De Corte D, Geijo J, Mena C, Yokokawa T, Rattei T, Herndl GJ, Sintes E
2019 - Environ. Microbiol., in press