Dancing the Nanopore limbo – Nanopore metagenomics from small DNA quantities for bacterial genome reconstruction

Background: While genome-resolved metagenomics has revolutionized our understanding of microbial and genetic diversity in environmental samples, assemblies of short-reads often result in incomplete and/or highly fragmented metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs), hampering in-depth genomics. Although Nanopore sequencing has increasingly been used in microbial metagenomics as long reads greatly improve the assembly quality of MAGs, the recommended DNA quantity usually exceeds the recoverable amount of DNA of environmental samples. Here, we evaluated lower-than-recommended DNA quantities for Nanopore library preparation by determining sequencing quality, community composition, assembly quality and recovery of MAGs.

Results: We generated 27 Nanopore metagenomes using the commercially available ZYMO mock community and varied the amount of input DNA from 1000 ng (the recommended minimum) down to 1 ng in eight steps. The quality of the generated reads remained stable across all input levels. The read mapping accuracy, which reflects how well the reads match a known reference genome, was consistently high across all libraries. The relative abundance of the species in the metagenomes was stable down to input levels of 50 ng. High-quality MAGs (> 95% completeness, ≤ 5% contamination) could be recovered from metagenomes down to 35 ng of input material. When combined with publicly available Illumina reads for the mock community, Nanopore reads from input quantities as low as 1 ng improved the quality of hybrid assemblies.

Conclusion: Our results show that the recommended DNA amount for Nanopore library preparation can be substantially reduced without any adverse effects to genome recovery and still bolster hybrid assemblies when combined with short-read data. We posit that the results presented herein will enable studies to improve genome recovery from low-biomass environments, enhancing microbiome understanding.


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