Comparative Analysis of Metagenomics and Metataxonomics for the Characterization of Vermicompost Microbiomes

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Frontiers in microbiology






16S rRNA; ITS; earthworm; grape marc; metagenomics; metataxonomics; microbiome; vermicompost


The study of microbial communities or microbiotas in animals and environments is important because of their impact in a broad range of industrial applications, diseases and ecological roles. High throughput sequencing (HTS) is the best strategy to characterize microbial composition and function. Microbial profiles can be obtained either by shotgun sequencing of genomes, or through amplicon sequencing of target genes (e.g., 16S rRNA for bacteria and ITS for fungi). Here, we compared both HTS approaches at assessing taxonomic and functional diversity of bacterial and fungal communities during vermicomposting of white grape marc. We applied specific HTS workflows to the same 12 microcosms, with and without earthworms, sampled at two distinct phases of the vermicomposting process occurring at 21 and 63 days. Metataxonomic profiles were inferred in DADA2, with bacterial metabolic pathways predicted PICRUSt2. Metagenomic taxonomic profiles were inferred in PathoScope, while bacterial functional profiles were inferred in Humann2. Microbial profiles inferred by metagenomics and metataxonomics showed similarities and differences in composition, structure, and metabolic function at different taxonomic levels. Microbial composition and abundance estimated by both HTS approaches agreed reasonably well at the phylum level, but larger discrepancies were observed at lower taxonomic ranks. Shotgun HTS identified ~1.8 times more bacterial genera than 16S rRNA HTS, while ITS HTS identified two times more fungal genera than shotgun HTS. This is mainly a consequence of the difference in resolution and reference richness between amplicon and genome sequencing approaches and databases, respectively. Our study also revealed great differences and even opposite trends in alpha- and beta-diversity between amplicon and shotgun HTS. Interestingly, amplicon PICRUSt2-imputed functional repertoires overlapped ~50% with shotgun Humann2 profiles. Finally, both approaches indicated that although bacteria and fungi are the main drivers of biochemical decomposition, earthworms also play a key role in plant vermicomposting. In summary, our study highlights the strengths and weaknesses of metagenomics and metataxonomics and provides new insights on the vermicomposting of white grape marc. Since both approaches may target different biological aspects of the communities, combining them will provide a better understanding of the microbiotas under study.


Biostatistics and Bioinformatics