Obtaining high-quality samples from wild animals is a major obstacle for genomic studies of many taxa, particularly at the population level, as collection methods for such samples are typically invasive. DNA from feces is easy to obtain noninvasively, but is dominated by bacterial and other non-host DNA. The high proportion of non-host DNA drastically reduces the efficiency of high-throughput sequencing for host animal genomics. To address this issue, we developed an inexpensive capture method for enriching host DNA from noninvasive fecal samples. Our method exploits natural differences in CpG-methylation density between vertebrate and bacterial genomes to preferentially bind and isolate host DNA from majority-bacterial samples. We demonstrate that the enrichment is robust, efficient, and compatible with downstream library preparation methods useful for population studies (e.g., RADseq). Compared to other enrichment strategies, our method is quick and inexpensive, adding only a negligible cost to sample preparation. In combination with downstream methods such as RADseq, our approach allows for cost-effective and customizable genomic-scale genotyping that was previously feasible in practice only with invasive samples. Because feces are widely available and convenient to collect, our method empowers researchers to explore genomic-scale population-level questions in organisms for which invasive sampling is challenging or undesirable.
Chiou, K. L., & Bergey, C. M. (2018). Methylation-based enrichment facilitates low-cost, noninvasive genomic scale sequencing of populations from feces. Scientific Reports, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-20427-9