PNAS nexus. 2022-11-01; 1.5: pgac239.

Differential network analysis of oral microbiome metatranscriptomes identifies community scale metabolic restructuring in dental caries

Espinoza JL, Torralba M, Leong P, Saffery R, Bockmann M, Kuelbs C, Singh S, Hughes T, Craig JM, Nelson KE, Dupont CL

PMID: 36712365


Dental caries is a microbial disease and the most common chronic health condition, affecting nearly 3.5 billion people worldwide. In this study, we used a multiomics approach to characterize the supragingival plaque microbiome of 91 Australian children, generating 658 bacterial and 189 viral metagenome-assembled genomes with transcriptional profiling and gene-expression network analysis. We developed a reproducible pipeline for clustering sample-specific genomes to integrate metagenomics and metatranscriptomics analyses regardless of biosample overlap. We introduce novel feature engineering and compositionally-aware ensemble network frameworks while demonstrating their utility for investigating regime shifts associated with caries dysbiosis. These methods can be applied when differential abundance modeling does not capture statistical enrichments or the results from such analysis are not adequate for providing deeper insight into disease. We identified which organisms and metabolic pathways were central in a coexpression network as well as how these networks were rewired between caries and caries-free phenotypes. Our findings provide evidence of a core bacterial microbiome that was transcriptionally active in the supragingival plaque of all participants regardless of phenotype, but also show highly diagnostic changes in the ways that organisms interact. Specifically, many organisms exhibit high connectedness with central carbon metabolism to and this shift serves a bridge between phenotypes. Our evidence supports the hypothesis that caries is a multifactorial ecological disease.