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In BMC bioinformatics

BACKGROUND : The European Community has adopted very restrictive policies regarding the dissemination and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In fact, a maximum threshold of 0.9% of contaminating GMOs is tolerated for a "GMO-free" label. In recent years, imports of undescribed GMOs have been detected. Their sequences are not described and therefore not detectable by conventional approaches, such as PCR.

RESULTS : We developed DUGMO, a bioinformatics pipeline for the detection of genetically modified (GM) bacteria, including unknown GM bacteria, based on Illumina paired-end sequencing data. The method is currently focused on the detection of GM bacteria with - possibly partial - transgenes in pure bacterial samples. In the preliminary steps, coding sequences (CDSs) are aligned through two successive BLASTN against the host pangenome with relevant tuned parameters to discriminate CDSs belonging to the wild type genome (wgCDS) from potential GM coding sequences (pgmCDSs). Then, Bray-Curtis distances are calculated between the wgCDS and each pgmCDS, based on the difference of genomic vocabulary. Finally, two machine learning methods, namely the Random Forest and Generalized Linear Model, are carried out to target true GM CDS(s), based on six variables including Bray-Curtis distances and GC content. Tests carried out on a GM Bacillus subtilis showed 25 positive CDSs corresponding to the chloramphenicol resistance gene and CDSs of the inserted plasmids. On a wild type B. subtilis, no false positive sequences were detected.

CONCLUSION : DUGMO detects exogenous CDS, truncated, fused or highly mutated wild CDSs in high-throughput sequencing data, and was shown to be efficient at detecting GM sequences, but it might also be employed for the identification of recent horizontal gene transfers.

Hurel Julie, Schbath Sophie, Bougeard St├ęphanie, Rolland Mathieu, Petrillo Mauro, Touzain Fabrice


Bacteria, Detection, Illumina sequencing data, Machine learning, Unknown GMO