StrainPanDA: Linked Reconstruction of Strain Composition and Gene Content Profiles via Pangenome-Based Decomposition of Metagenomic Data


Microbial strains of variable functional capacities coexist in microbiomes. Current bioinformatics methods of strain analysis cannot provide the direct linkage between strain composition and their gene contents from metagenomic data. Here we present Strain-level Pangenome Decomposition Analysis (StrainPanDA), a novel method that uses the pangenome coverage profile of multiple metagenomic samples to simultaneously reconstruct the composition and gene content variation of coexisting strains in microbial communities. We systematically validate the accuracy and robustness of StrainPanDA using synthetic data sets. To demonstrate the power of gene-centric strain profiling, we then apply StrainPanDA to analyze the gut microbiome samples of infants, as well as patients treated with fecal microbiota transplantation. We show that the linked reconstruction of strain composition and gene content profiles is critical for understanding the relationship between microbial adaptation and strain-specific functions (e.g., nutrient utilization and pathogenicity). Finally, StrainPanDA has minimal requirements for computing resources and can be scaled to process multiple species in a community in parallel. In short, StrainPanDA can be applied to metagenomic data sets to detect the association between molecular functions and microbial/host phenotypes to formulate testable hypotheses and gain novel biological insights at the strain or subspecies level.