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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Exploring environmental intra-species diversity through non-redundant pangenome assemblies

Puente-Sanchez, Fernando; Hoetzinger, Matthias; Buck, Moritz; Bertilsson, Stefan


At the genome level, microorganisms are highly adaptable both in terms of allele and gene composition. Such heritable traits emerge in response to different environmental niches and can have a profound influence on microbial community dynamics. As a consequence, any individual genome or population will contain merely a fraction of the total genetic diversity of any operationally defined "species", whose ecological potential can thus be only fully understood by studying all of their genomes and the genes therein. This concept, known as the pangenome, is valuable for studying microbial ecology and evolution, as it partitions genomes into core (present in all the genomes from a species, and responsible for housekeeping and species-level niche adaptation among others) and accessory regions (present only in some, and responsible for intra-species differentiation). Here we present SuperPang, an algorithm producing pangenome assemblies from a set of input genomes of varying quality, including metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs). SuperPang runs in linear time and its results are complete, non-redundant, preserve gene ordering and contain both coding and non-coding regions. Our approach provides a modular view of the pangenome, identifying operons and genomic islands, and allowing to track their prevalence in different populations. We illustrate this by analysing intra-species diversity in Polynucleobacter, a bacterial genus ubiquitous in freshwater ecosystems, characterized by their streamlined genomes and their ecological versatility. We show how SuperPang facilitates the simultaneous analysis of allelic and gene content variation under different environmental pressures, allowing us to study the drivers of microbial diversification at unprecedented resolution.


accessory genome; bioinformatics; core genome; metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs); metagenomics; microbial ecology

Published in

Molecular Ecology Resources
2023, Volume: 23, number: 7, pages: 1724-1736
Publisher: WILEY