Guided protocol for fecal microbial characterization by 16S rRNA-amplicon sequencing

Ayelet Di Segni, Tzipi Braun, Marina Benshoshan, Sarit Farage Barhom, Efrat Glick Saar, Karen Cesarkas, James E. Squires, Nathan Keller, Yael Haberman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The human intestinal microbiome plays a central role in protecting cells from injury, in processing energy and nutrients, and in promoting immunity. Deviations from what is considered a healthy microbiota composition (dysbiosis) may impair vital functions leading to pathologic conditions. Recent and ongoing research efforts have been directed toward the characterization of associations between microbial composition and human health and disease. Advances in high-throughput sequencing technologies enable characterization of the gut microbial composition. These methods include 16S rRNA-amplicon sequencing and shotgun sequencing. 16S rRNA-amplicon sequencing is used to profile taxonomical composition, while shotgun sequencing provides additional information about gene predictions and functional annotation. An advantage in using a targeted sequencing method of the 16S rRNA gene variable region is its substantially lower cost compared to shotgun sequencing. Sequence differences in the 16S rRNA gene are used as a microbial fingerprint to identify and quantify different taxa within an individual sample. Major international efforts have enlisted standards for 16S rRNA-amplicon sequencing. However, several studies report a common source of variation caused by batch effect. To minimize this effect, uniformed protocols for sample collection, processing, and sequencing must be implemented. This protocol proposes the integration of broadly used protocols starting from fecal sample collection to data analyses. This protocol includes a column-free, direct-PCR approach that enables simultaneous handling and DNA extraction of large numbers of fecal samples, along with PCR amplification of the V4 region. In addition, the protocol describes the analysis pipeline and provides a script using the latest version of QIIME (QIIME 2 version 2017.7.0 and DADA2). This step-by-step protocol is aimed to guide those interested in initiating the use of 16S rRNA-amplicon sequencing in a robust, reproductive, easy to use, detailed way.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere56845
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number133
StatePublished - 19 Mar 2018


  • 16S rRNA sequencing
  • Biology
  • Fecal samples
  • Issue 133
  • Library preparation
  • Microbiome
  • Next Generation Sequencing
  • V4 variable region


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