Publication Details

Midgley, D. J., Greenfiled, P., Shaw, J. M., Oytam, Y., Li, D., Kerr, C., Hendry, P. (2012). Reanalysis and simulation suggest the phylogenetic microarray does not accurately profile microbial communities. PLoS One, 7 (3), 1-7.


The second generation (G2) PhyloChip is designed to detect over 8700 bacteria and archaeal and has been used over 50 publications and conference presentations. Many of those publications reveal that the PhyloChip measures of species richness greatly exceed statistical estimates of richness based on other methods. An examination of probes downloaded from Greengenes suggested that the system may have the potential to distort the observed community structure. This may be due to the sharing of probes by taxa; more than 21% of the taxa in that downloaded data have no unique probes. In-silico simulations using these data showed that a population of 64 taxa representing a typical anaerobic subterranean community returned 96 different taxa, including 15 families incorrectly called present and 19 families incorrectly called absent. A study of nasal and oropharyngeal microbial communities by Lemon et al (2010) found some 1325 taxa using the G2 PhyloChip, however, about 950 of these taxa have, in the downloaded data, no unique probes and cannot be definitively called present. Finally, data from Brodie et al (2007), when re-examined, indicate that the abundance of the majority of detected taxa, are highly correlated with one another, suggesting that many probe sets do not act independently. Based on our analyses of downloaded data, we conclude that outputs from the G2 PhyloChip should be treated with some caution, and that the presence of taxa represented solely by non-unique probes be independently verified.



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