Characterization and Demonstration of Mock Communities as Control Reagents for Accurate Human Microbiome Community Measurements

Dieter M. Tourlousse, Koji Narita, Takamasa Miura, Akiko Ohashi, Masami Matsuda, Yoshifumi Ohyama, Mamiko Shimamura, Masataka Furukawa, Ken Kasahara, Keishi Kameyama, Sakae Saito, Maki Goto, Ritsuko Shimizu, Riko Mishima, Jiro Nakayama, Koji Hosomi, Jun Kunisawa, Jun Terauchi, Yuji Sekiguchi, Hiroko Kawasaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Standardization and quality assurance of microbiome community analysis by high-throughput DNA sequencing require widely accessible and well-characterized reference materials. Here, we report on newly developed DNA and whole-cell mock communities to serve as control reagents for human gut microbiota measurements by shotgun metagenomics and 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. The mock communities were formulated as near-even blends of up to 20 bacterial species prevalent in the human gut, span a wide range of genomic guanine-cytosine (GC) contents, and include multiple strains with Gram-positive type cell walls. Through a collaborative study, we carefully characterized the mock communities by shotgun metagenomics, using previously developed standardized protocols for DNA extraction and sequencing library construction. Further, we validated fitness of the mock communities for revealing technically meaningful differences among protocols for DNA extraction and metagenome/16S rRNA gene amplicon library construction. Finally, we used the mock communities to reveal varying performance of metagenome-based taxonomic profilers and the impact of trimming and filtering of sequencing reads on observed species profiles. The latter showed that aggressive preprocessing of reads may result in substantial GC-dependent bias and should thus be carefully evaluated to minimize unintended effects on species abundances. Taken together, the mock communities are expected to support a myriad of applications that rely on well-characterized control reagents, ranging from evaluation and optimization of methods to assessment of reproducibility in interlaboratory studies and routine quality control. IMPORTANCE Application of high-throughput DNA sequencing has greatly accelerated human microbiome research and its translation into new therapeutic and diagnostic capabilities. Microbiome community analyses results can, however, vary considerably across studies or laboratories, and establishment of measurement standards to improve accuracy and reproducibility has become a priority. The here-developed mock communities, which are available from the NITE Biological Resource Center (NBRC) at the National Institute of Technology and Evaluation (NITE, Japan), provide well-characterized control reagents that allow users to judge the accuracy of their measurement results. Widespread and consistent adoption of the mock communities will improve reproducibility and comparability of microbiome community analyses, thereby supporting and accelerating human microbiome research and development.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01915
JournalMicrobiology spectrum
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Ecology
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


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