PCR amplification plays an integral role in the measurement of mixed microbial communities via high-throughput DNA sequencing of the 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene. Yet PCR is also known to introduce multiple forms of bias in 16S rRNA studies. Here we present a paired modeling and experimental approach to characterize and mitigate PCR NPM-bias (PCR bias from non-primer-mismatch sources) in microbiota surveys. We use experimental data from mock bacterial communities to validate our approach and human gut microbiota samples to characterize PCR NPM-bias under real-world conditions. Our results suggest that PCR NPM-bias can skew estimates of microbial relative abundances by a factor of 4 or more, but that this bias can be mitigated using log-ratio linear models.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Modeling and Simulation
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Computational Theory and Mathematics