Metagenomic samples are snapshots of complex ecosystems at work. They comprise hundreds of known and unknown species, contain multiple strain variants and vary greatly within and across environments. Many microbes found in microbial communities are not easily grown in culture making their DNA sequence our only clue into their evolutionary history and biological function. Metagenomic assembly is a computational process aimed at reconstructing genes and genomes from metagenomic mixtures. Current methods have made significant strides in reconstructing DNA segments comprising operons, tandem gene arrays and syntenic blocks. Shorter, higher-throughput sequencing technologies have become the de facto standard in the field. Sequencers are now able to generate billions of short reads in only a few days. Multiple metagenomic assembly strategies, pipelines and assemblers have appeared in recent years. Owing to the inherent complexity of metagenome assembly, regardless of the assembly algorithm and sequencing method, metagenome assemblies contain errors. Recent developments in assembly validation tools have played a pivotal role in improving metagenomics assemblers. Here, we survey recent progress in the field of metagenomic assembly, provide an overview of key approaches for genomic and metagenomic assembly validation and demonstrate the insights that can be derived from assemblies through the use of assembly validation strategies. We also discuss the potential for impact of long-read technologies in metagenomics. We conclude with a discussion of future challenges and opportunities in the field of metagenomic assembly and validation. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press.
Journal: Briefings in bioinformatics