Bayesian statistical analysis of bacterial diversity: Dissertation

Jing Tang

Research output: ThesisDissertation

Abstract

Bacteria play an important role in many ecological systems. The molecular characterization of bacteria using either cultivation-dependent or cultivation-independent methods reveals the large scale of bacterial diversity in natural communities, and the vastness of subpopulations within a species or genus. Understanding how bacterial diversity varies across different environments and also within populations should provide insights into many important questions of bacterial evolution and population dynamics.

This thesis presents novel statistical methods for analyzing bacterial diversity using widely employed molecular fingerprinting techniques. The first objective of this thesis was to develop Bayesian clustering models to identify bacterial population structures. Bacterial isolates were identified using multilous sequence typing (MLST), and Bayesian clustering models were used to explore the evolutionary relationships among isolates. Our method involves the inference of genetic population structures via an unsupervised clustering framework where the dependence between loci is represented using graphical models. The population dynamics that generate such a population stratification were investigated using a stochastic model, in which homologous recombination between subpopulations can be quantified within a gene flow network.

The second part of the thesis focuses on cluster analysis of community compositional data produced by two different cultivation-independent analyses: terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis, and fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) analysis. The cluster analysis aims to group bacterial communities that are similar in composition, which is an important step for understanding the overall influences of environmental and ecological perturbations on bacterial diversity. A common feature of T-RFLP and FAME data is zero-inflation, which indicates that the observation of a zero value is much more frequent than would be expected, for example, from a Poisson distribution in the discrete case, or a Gaussian distribution in the continuous case. We provided two strategies for modeling zero-inflation in the clustering framework, which were validated by both synthetic and empirical complex data sets.

We show in the thesis that our model that takes into account dependencies between loci in MLST data can produce better clustering results than those methods which assume independent loci. Furthermore, computer algorithms that are efficient in analyzing large scale data were adopted for meeting the increasing computational need. Our method that detects homologous recombination in subpopulations may provide a theoretical criterion for defining bacterial species. The clustering of bacterial community data include T-RFLP and FAME provides an initial effort for discovering the evolutionary dynamics that structure and maintain bacterial diversity in the natural environment.
Bacteria play an important role in many ecological systems. The molecular characterization of bacteria using either cultivation-dependent or cultivation-independent methods reveals the large scale of bacterial diversity in natural communities, and the vastness of subpopulations within a species or genus. Understanding how bacterial diversity varies across different environments and also within populations should provide insights into many important questions of bacterial evolution and population dynamics.

This thesis presents novel statistical methods for analyzing bacterial diversity using widely employed molecular fingerprinting techniques. The first objective of this thesis was to develop Bayesian clustering models to identify bacterial population structures. Bacterial isolates were identified using multilous sequence typing (MLST), and Bayesian clustering models were used to explore the evolutionary relationships among isolates. Our method involves the inference of genetic population structures via an unsupervised clustering framework where the dependence between loci is represented using graphical models. The population dynamics that generate such a population stratification were investigated using a stochastic model, in which homologous recombination between subpopulations can be quantified within a gene flow network.

The second part of the thesis focuses on cluster analysis of community compositional data produced by two different cultivation-independent analyses: terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis, and fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) analysis. The cluster analysis aims to group bacterial communities that are similar in composition, which is an important step for understanding the overall influences of environmental and ecological perturbations on bacterial diversity. A common feature of T-RFLP and FAME data is zero-inflation, which indicates that the observation of a zero value is much more frequent than would be expected, for example, from a Poisson distribution in the discrete case, or a Gaussian distribution in the continuous case. We provided two strategies for modeling zero-inflation in the clustering framework, which were validated by both synthetic and empirical complex data sets.

We show in the thesis that our model that takes into account dependencies between loci in MLST data can produce better clustering results than those methods which assume independent loci. Furthermore, computer algorithms that are efficient in analyzing large scale data were adopted for meeting the increasing computational need. Our method that detects homologous recombination in subpopulations may provide a theoretical criterion for defining bacterial species. The clustering of bacterial community data include T-RFLP and FAME provides an initial effort for discovering the evolutionary dynamics that structure and maintain bacterial diversity in the natural environment.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor Degree
Awarding Institution
  • University of Helsinki
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Corander, Jukka, Supervisor, External person
  • Arjas, Elja, Supervisor, External person
Award date15 May 2009
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-952-10-5463-1
Electronic ISBNs978-952-10-5464-8
Publication statusPublished - 2009
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Keywords

  • Bacterial diversity
  • Statistical analysis
  • Bayesian model-bqased clustering
  • MLST
  • T-RFLP
  • FAME

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