Computational prediction of CRISPR cassettes in gut metagenome samples from Chinese type-2 diabetic patients and healthy controls

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Background: CRISPR has been becoming a hot topic as a powerful technique for genome editing for human and other higher organisms. The original CRISPR-Cas (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats coupled with CRISPR-associated proteins) is an important adaptive defence system for prokaryotes that provides resistance against invading elements such as viruses and plasmids. A CRISPR cassette contains short nucleotide sequences called spacers. These unique regions retain a history of the interactions between prokaryotes and their invaders in individual strains and ecosystems. One important ecosystem in the human body is the human gut, a rich habitat populated by a great diversity of microorganisms. Gut microbiomes are important for human physiology and health. Metagenome sequencing has been widely applied for studying the gut microbiomes. Most efforts in metagenome study has been focused on profiling taxa compositions and gene catalogues and identifying their associations with human health. Less attention has been paid to the analysis of the ecosystems of microbiomes themselves especially their CRISPR composition. Results: We conducted a preliminary analysis of CRISPR sequences in a human gut metagenomic data set of Chinese individuals of type-2 diabetes patients and healthy controls. Applying an available CRISPR-identification algorithm, PILER-CR, we identified 3169 CRISPR cassettes in the data, from which we constructed a set of 1302 unique repeat sequences and 36,709 spacers. A more extensive analysis was made for the CRISPR repeats: these repeats were submitted to a more comprehensive clustering and classification using the web server tool CRISPRmap. All repeats were compared with known CRISPRs in the database CRISPRdb. A total of 784 repeats had matches in the database, and the remaining 518 repeats from our set are potentially novel ones. Conclusions: The computational analysis of CRISPR composition based contigs of metagenome sequencing data is feasible. It provides an efficient approach for finding potential novel CRISPR arrays and for analysing the ecosystem and history of human microbiomes.

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Mangericao, T. C., Peng, Z., & Zhang, X. (2016). Computational prediction of CRISPR cassettes in gut metagenome samples from Chinese type-2 diabetic patients and healthy controls. BMC Systems Biology, 10(1).

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