Metagenomics yields enormous numbers of microbial sequences that can be assigned a metabolic function. Using such data to infer community-level metabolic divergence is hindered by the lack of a suitable statistical framework. Here, we describe a novel hierarchical Bayesian model, called BiomeNet (Bayesian inference of metabolic networks), for inferring differential prevalence of metabolic networks among microbial communities. To infer the structure of community-level metabolic interactions, BiomeNet applies a mixed-membership modelling framework to enzyme abundance information. The basic idea is that the mixture components of the model (metabolic reactions, subnetworks, and networks) are shared across all groups (microbiome samples), but the mixture proportions vary from group to group. Through this framework, the model can capture nested structures within the data. BiomeNet is unique in modeling each metagenome sample as a mixture of complex metabolic systems (metabosystems).
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