Unlocking the Hidden Diversity of Microbial Proteins in Metagenomes

Unraveling the functional dark matter through global metagenomics

Scientists have discovered an immense variety of proteins encoded within metagenomes, which are collections of genetic material from diverse microorganisms. Traditionally, researchers have compared these proteins to known references, limiting their exploration. However, a new computational approach was developed to identify protein families without relying on reference genomes. Analyzing nearly 27,000 metagenomes, they found 1.17 billion unique protein sequences that had no similarities with existing references. These proteins were grouped into over 106,000 novel sequence clusters, doubling the known protein families. This study reveals a vast unexplored functional diversity in microbial communities, emphasizing the need for further research into this microbial “dark matter.

Pavlopoulos, G.A., Baltoumas, F.A., Liu, S. et al. Unraveling the functional dark matter through global metagenomics. Nature (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-06583-7


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