• The Fungal Frontier: A Comparative Analysis of Methods Used in the Study of the Human Gut Mycobiome

      Huseyin, Chloe E.; Cabrera-Rubio, Raul; O'Sullivan, Orla; Cotter, Paul D.; Scanlan, Pauline D. (Frontiers, 31/07/2017)
      The human gut is host to a diverse range of fungal species, collectively referred to as the gut “mycobiome”. The gut mycobiome is emerging as an area of considerable research interest due to the potential roles of these fungi in human health and disease. However, there is no consensus as to what the best or most suitable methodologies available are with respect to characterizing the human gut mycobiome. The aim of this study is to provide a comparative analysis of several previously published mycobiome-specific culture-dependent and -independent methodologies, including choice of culture media, incubation conditions (aerobic versus anaerobic), DNA extraction method, primer set and freezing of fecal samples to assess their relative merits and suitability for gut mycobiome analysis. There was no significant effect of media type or aeration on culture-dependent results. However, freezing was found to have a significant effect on fungal viability, with significantly lower fungal numbers recovered from frozen samples. DNA extraction method had a significant effect on DNA yield and quality. However, freezing and extraction method did not have any impact on either α or β diversity. There was also considerable variation in the ability of different fungal-specific primer sets to generate PCR products for subsequent sequence analysis. Through this investigation two DNA extraction methods and one primer set was identified which facilitated the analysis of the mycobiome for all samples in this study. Ultimately, a diverse range of fungal species were recovered using both approaches, with Candida and Saccharomyces identified as the most common fungal species recovered using culture-dependent and culture-independent methods, respectively. As has been apparent from ecological surveys of the bacterial fraction of the gut microbiota, the use of different methodologies can also impact on our understanding of gut mycobiome composition and therefore requires careful consideration. Future research into the gut mycobiome needs to adopt a common strategy to minimize potentially confounding effects of methodological choice and to facilitate comparative analysis of datasets.