Metagenomics: Genomic Analysis of Microbial Communities

Annual Review of Genetics

Vol. 38:525-552 (Volume publication date December 2004)
First published online as a Review in Advance on July 14, 2004


▪ Abstract Uncultured microorganisms comprise the majority of the planet's biological diversity. Microorganisms represent two of the three domains of life and contain vast diversity that is the product of an estimated 3.8 billion years of evolution. In many environments, as many as 99% of the microorganisms cannot be cultured by standard techniques, and the uncultured fraction includes diverse organisms that are only distantly related to the cultured ones. Therefore, culture-independent methods are essential to understand the genetic diversity, population structure, and ecological roles of the majority of microorganisms. Metagenomics, or the culture-independent genomic analysis of an assemblage of microorganisms, has potential to answer fundamental questions in microbial ecology. This review describes progress toward understanding the biology of uncultured Bacteria, Archaea, and viruses through metagenomic analyses.