staff

Laure Apothéloz-Perret-Gentil

Postdoctoral fellow in Molecular Systematics & Environmental Genomics

  • T: +41 22 379 30 84
  • office 4061B (Sciences III)
  • Ecosystems monitoring powered by environmental genomics: a review of current strategies with an implementation roadmap. Mol. Ecol. 2020 May;():. 10.1111/mec.15472.

    abstract

    A decade after environmental scientists integrated high-throughput sequencing technologies in their toolbox, the genomics-based monitoring of anthropogenic impacts on the biodiversity and functioning of ecosystems is yet to be implemented by regulatory frameworks. Despite the broadly acknowledged potential of environmental genomics to this end, technical limitations and conceptual issues still stand in the way of its broad application by end-users. In addition, the multiplicity of potential implementation strategies may contribute to a perception that the routine application of this methodology is premature or "in development", hence restraining regulators from binding these tools into legal frameworks. Here, we review recent implementations of environmental genomics-based methods, applied to the biomonitoring of ecosystems. By taking a general overview, without narrowing our perspective to particular habitats or groups of organisms, this paper aims to compare, review and discuss the strengths and limitations of four general implementation strategies of environmental genomics for monitoring: (A) Taxonomy-based analyses focused on identification of known bioindicators or described taxa; (B) De novo bioindicator analyses; (C) Structural community metrics including inferred ecological networks; and (D) Functional community metrics (metagenomics or metatranscriptomics). We emphasise the utility of the three latter strategies to integrate meiofauna and microorganisms that are not traditionally utilised in biomonitoring because of difficult taxonomic identification. Finally, we propose a roadmap for the implementation of environmental genomics into routine monitoring programs that leverage recent analytical advancements, while pointing out current limitations and future research needs.

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  • High-throughput DNA barcoding of oligochaetes for abundance-based indices to assess the biological quality of sediments in streams and lakes. Sci Rep 2020 Feb;10(1):2041. 10.1038/s41598-020-58703-2. 10.1038/s41598-020-58703-2.

    abstract

    Aquatic oligochaete communities are valuable indicators of the biological quality of sediments in streams and lakes, but identification of specimens to the species level based on morphological features requires solid expertise in taxonomy and is possible only for a fraction of specimens present in a sample. The identification of aquatic oligochaetes using DNA barcodes would facilitate their use in biomonitoring and allow a wider use of this taxonomic group for ecological diagnoses. Previous approaches based on DNA metabarcoding of samples composed of total sediments or pools of specimens have been proposed for assessing the biological quality of ecosystems, but such methods do not provide precise information on species abundance, which limits the value of resulting ecological diagnoses. Here, we tested how a DNA barcoding approach based on high-throughput sequencing of sorted and genetically tagged specimens performed to assess oligochaete species diversity and abundance and the biological quality of sediments in streams and lakes. We applied both molecular and morphological approaches at 13 sites in Swiss streams and at 7 sites in Lake Geneva. We genetically identified 33 or 66 specimens per site. For both approaches, we used the same index calculations. We found that the ecological diagnoses derived from the genetic approach matched well with those of the morphological approach and that the genetic identification of only 33 specimens per site provided enough ecological information for correctly estimating the biological quality of sediments in streams and lakes.

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  • Multi-marker eDNA metabarcoding survey to assess the environmental impact of three offshore gas platforms in the North Adriatic Sea (Italy). Mar. Environ. Res. 2019 Apr;146():24-34. S0141-1136(18)30678-0. 10.1016/j.marenvres.2018.12.009.

    abstract

    The environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding represents a new promising tool for biomonitoring and environmental impact assessment. One of the main advantages of eDNA metabarcoding, compared to the traditional morphotaxonomy-based methods, is to provide a more holistic biodiversity information that includes inconspicuous morphologically non-identifiable taxa. Here, we use eDNA metabarcoding to survey marine biodiversity in the vicinity of the three offshore gas platforms in North Adriatic Sea (Italy). We isolated eDNA from 576 water and sediment samples collected at 32 sampling sites situated along four axes at increasing distances from the gas platforms. We obtained about 46 million eDNA sequences for 5 markers from nuclear 18S V1V2, 18S V4, 18S 37F and mitochondrial 16S and COI genes that cover a wide diversity of benthic and planktonic eukaryotes. Our results showed some impact of platform activities on benthic and pelagic communities at very close distance (<50 m), while communities for intermediate (125 m, 250 m, 500 m) and reference (1000 m, 2000 m) sites did not show any particular biodiversity changes that could be related to platforms activities. The most significant community change along the distance gradient was obtained with the 18S V1V2 marker targeting benthic eukaryotes, even though other markers showed similar trends, but to a lesser extent. These results were congruent with the AMBI index inferred from the eDNA sequences assigned to benthic macrofauna. We finally explored the relation between various physicochemical parameters, including hydrocarbons, on benthic community in the case of one of the platforms. Our results showed that these communities were not significantly impacted by most of hydrocarbons, but rather by macro-elements and sediment texture.

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  • SLIM: a flexible web application for the reproducible processing of environmental DNA metabarcoding data. BMC Bioinformatics 2019 Feb;20(1):88. 10.1186/s12859-019-2663-2. 10.1186/s12859-019-2663-2.

    abstract

    High-throughput amplicon sequencing of environmental DNA (eDNA metabarcoding) has become a routine tool for biodiversity survey and ecological studies. By including sample-specific tags in the primers prior PCR amplification, it is possible to multiplex hundreds of samples in a single sequencing run. The analysis of millions of sequences spread into hundreds to thousands of samples prompts for efficient, automated yet flexible analysis pipelines. Various algorithms and software have been developed to perform one or multiple processing steps, such as paired-end reads assembly, chimera filtering, Operational Taxonomic Unit (OTU) clustering and taxonomic assignment. Some of these software are now well established and widely used by scientists as part of their workflow. Wrappers that are capable to process metabarcoding data from raw sequencing data to annotated OTU-to-sample matrix were also developed to facilitate the analysis for non-specialist users. Yet, most of them require basic bioinformatic or command-line knowledge, which can limit the accessibility to such integrative toolkits. Furthermore, for flexibility reasons, these tools have adopted a step-by-step approach, which can prevent an easy automation of the workflow, and hence hamper the analysis reproducibility.

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  • Embracing Environmental Genomics and Machine Learning for Routine Biomonitoring. Trends Microbiol. 2018 Nov;():. S0966-842X(18)30238-5. 10.1016/j.tim.2018.10.012.

    abstract

    Genomics is fast becoming a routine tool in medical diagnostics and cutting-edge biotechnologies. Yet, its use for environmental biomonitoring is still considered a futuristic ideal. Until now, environmental genomics was mainly used as a replacement of the burdensome morphological identification, to screen known morphologically distinguishable bioindicator taxa. While prokaryotic and eukaryotic microbial diversity is of key importance in ecosystem functioning, its implementation in biomonitoring programs is still largely unappreciated, mainly because of difficulties in identifying microbes and limited knowledge of their ecological functions. Here, we argue that the combination of massive environmental genomics microbial data with machine learning algorithms can be extremely powerful for biomonitoring programs and pave the way to fill important gaps in our understanding of microbial ecology.

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  • The future of biotic indices in the ecogenomic era: Integrating (e)DNA metabarcoding in biological assessment of aquatic ecosystems. Sci. Total Environ. 2018 May;637-638():1295-1310. S0048-9697(18)31632-2. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.05.002.

    abstract

    The bioassessment of aquatic ecosystems is currently based on various biotic indices that use the occurrence and/or abundance of selected taxonomic groups to define ecological status. These conventional indices have some limitations, often related to difficulties in morphological identification of bioindicator taxa. Recent development of DNA barcoding and metabarcoding could potentially alleviate some of these limitations, by using DNA sequences instead of morphology to identify organisms and to characterize a given ecosystem. In this paper, we review the structure of conventional biotic indices, and we present the results of pilot metabarcoding studies using environmental DNA to infer biotic indices. We discuss the main advantages and pitfalls of metabarcoding approaches to assess parameters such as richness, abundance, taxonomic composition and species ecological values, to be used for calculation of biotic indices. We present some future developments to fully exploit the potential of metabarcoding data and improve the accuracy and precision of their analysis. We also propose some recommendations for the future integration of DNA metabarcoding to routine biomonitoring programs.

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  • Development and implementation of eco-genomic tools for aquatic ecosystem biomonitoring: the SYNAQUA French-Swiss program. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int 2018 May;():. 10.1007/s11356-018-2172-2. 10.1007/s11356-018-2172-2.

    abstract

    The effectiveness of environmental protection measures is based on the early identification and diagnosis of anthropogenic pressures. Similarly, restoration actions require precise monitoring of changes in the ecological quality of ecosystems, in order to highlight their effectiveness. Monitoring the ecological quality relies on bioindicators, which are organisms revealing the pressures exerted on the environment through the composition of their communities. Their implementation, based on the morphological identification of species, is expensive because it requires time and experts in taxonomy. Recent genomic tools should provide access to reliable and high-throughput environmental monitoring by directly inferring the composition of bioindicators' communities from their DNA (metabarcoding). The French-Swiss program SYNAQUA (INTERREG France-Switzerland 2017-2019) proposes to use and validate the tools of environmental genomic for biomonitoring and aims ultimately at their implementation in the regulatory bio-surveillance. SYNAQUA will test the metabarcoding approach focusing on two bioindicators, diatoms, and aquatic oligochaetes, which are used in freshwater biomonitoring in France and Switzerland. To go towards the renewal of current biomonitoring practices, SYNAQUA will (1) bring together different actors: scientists, environmental managers, consulting firms, and biotechnological companies, (2) apply this approach on a large scale to demonstrate its relevance, (3) propose robust and reliable tools, and (4) raise public awareness and train the various actors likely to use these new tools. Biomonitoring approaches based on such environmental genomic tools should address the European need for reliable, higher-throughput monitoring to improve the protection of aquatic environments under multiple pressures, guide their restoration, and follow their evolution.

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  • Taxonomic revision of freshwater foraminifera with the description of two new agglutinated species and genera. Eur. J. Protistol. 2017 May;60():28-44. S0932-4739(17)30078-0. 10.1016/j.ejop.2017.05.006.

    abstract

    Most foraminifera inhabit marine habitats, but some species of monothalamids have been described from freshwater environments, mainly from Swiss water bodies over 100 years ago. Recent environmental DNA surveys revealed the presence of four major phylogenetic clades of freshwater foraminifera. However, until now only one of them (clade 2) has been associated to a morphologically described taxon-the family Reticulomyxidae. Here, we present morphological and molecular data for the genera representing the three remaining clades. We describe two new agglutinated freshwater genera from China and the Netherlands, Lacogromia and Limnogromia, which represent clades 3 and 4, respectively. We also report the first ribosomal DNA sequences of the genus Lieberkuehnia, which place this genus within clade 1. Our study provides the first morphotaxonomic documentation of molecular clades of freshwater foraminifera, showing that the environmental DNA sequences correspond to the agglutinated monothalamous species, morphologically similar to those described 100 years ago.

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  • Taxonomy-free molecular diatom index for high-throughput eDNA biomonitoring. Mol Ecol Resour 2017 Mar;():. 10.1111/1755-0998.12668.

    abstract

    Current biodiversity assessment and biomonitoring are largely based on the morphological identification of selected bioindicator taxa. Recently, several attempts have been made to use eDNA metabarcoding as an alternative tool. However, until now, most applied metabarcoding studies have been based on the taxonomic assignment of sequences that provides reference to morphospecies ecology. Usually, only a small portion of metabarcoding data can be used due to a limited reference database and a lack of phylogenetic resolution. Here, we investigate the possibility to overcome these limitations by using a taxonomy-free approach that allows the computing of a molecular index directly from eDNA data without any reference to morphotaxonomy. As a case study, we use the benthic diatoms index, commonly used for monitoring the biological quality of rivers and streams. We analysed 87 epilithic samples from Swiss rivers, the ecological status of which was established based on the microscopic identification of diatom species. We compared the diatom index derived from eDNA data obtained with or without taxonomic assignment. Our taxonomy-free approach yields promising results by providing a correct assessment for 77% of examined sites. The main advantage of this method is that almost 95% of OTUs could be used for index calculation, compared to 35% in the case of the taxonomic assignment approach. Its main limitations are under-sampling and the need to calibrate the index based on the microscopic assessment of diatoms communities. However, once calibrated, the taxonomy-free molecular index can be easily standardized and applied in routine biomonitoring, as a complementary tool allowing fast and cost-effective assessment of the biological quality of watercourses. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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  • Protist metabarcoding and environmental biomonitoring: Time for change. Eur. J. Protistol. 2016 Aug;55(Pt A):12-25. S0932-4739(16)30003-7. 10.1016/j.ejop.2016.02.003.

    abstract

    High-throughput amplicon sequencing of environmental DNA and/or RNA proved to be a powerful tool to describe protist diversity. This new approach called also the metabarcoding has totally transformed our view of protist diversity, revealing a large number of novel lineages and expanding the range of protist phylogenetic diversity at almost every taxonomic level. However, until now the objectives of the vast majority of metabarcoding studies were purely academic. Practical applications of protist metabarcoding are surprisingly scarce, despite the fact that several groups of protists are commonly used as bioindicators of environmental impacts in freshwater or marine ecosystems. Here, we are reviewing studies that examine the ecological applications of metabarcoding for two groups of well-known protist bioindicators: diatoms and foraminifera. The results of these studies show that despite some biological and technical biases, molecular data quite faithfully reflect the morphology-based biotic indices and provide a similar assessment of ecosystem status. In view of these results, protist metabarcoding appears as a rapid and accurate tool for the evaluation of the quality of aquatic ecosystems. Hence, we plead for integration of protist metabarcoding in future biomonitoring projects as a complement of traditional methods and a source of new biosensors for environmental impact assessment.

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  • Environmental Monitoring: Inferring the Diatom Index from Next-Generation Sequencing Data. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2015 Jul;49(13):7597-605. 10.1021/es506158m.

    abstract

    Diatoms are widely used as bioindicators for the assessment of water quality in rivers and streams. Classically, the diatom biotic indices are based on the relative abundance of morphologically identified species weighted by their autoecological value. Obtaining such indices is time-consuming, costly, and requires excellent taxonomic expertise, which is not always available. Here we tested the possibility to overcome these limitations using a next-generation sequencing (NGS) approach to identify and quantify diatoms found in environmental DNA and RNA samples. We analyzed 27 river sites in the Geneva area (Switzerland), in order to compare the values of the Swiss Diatom Index (DI-CH) computed either by microscopic quantification of diatom species or directly from NGS data. Despite gaps in the reference database and variations in relative abundance of analyzed species, the diatom index shows a significant correlation between morphological and molecular data indicating similar biological quality status for the majority of sites. This proof-of-concept study demonstrates the potential of the NGS approach for identification and quantification of diatoms in environmental samples, opening new avenues toward the routine application of genetic tools for bioassessment and biomonitoring of aquatic ecosystems.

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  • Molecular Phylogeny and Morphology of Leannia veloxifera n. gen. et sp. Unveils a New Lineage of Monothalamous Foraminifera. J. Eukaryot. Microbiol. ;62(3):353-61. 10.1111/jeu.12190.

    abstract

    Monothalamous (single-chambered) foraminifera have long been considered as the "poor cousins" of multichambered species, which calcareous and agglutinated tests dominate in the fossil record. This view is currently changing with environmental DNA surveys showing that the monothalamids may be as diverse as hard-shelled foraminifera. Yet, the majority of numerous molecular lineages revealed by eDNA studies remain anonymous. Here, we describe a new monothalamous species and genus isolated from the sample of sea grass collected in Gulf of Eilat (Red Sea). This new species, named Leannia veloxifera, is characterized by a tiny ovoid theca (about 50-100 μm) composed of thin organic wall, with two opposite apertures. The examined individuals are multinucleated and show very active reticulopodial movement. Phylogenetic analyses of SSU rDNA, actin, and beta-tubulin (ß-tubulin) show that the species represents a novel lineage branching separately from other monothalamous foraminifera. Interestingly, the SSU rDNA sequence of the new species is very similar to an environmental foraminiferal sequence from Bahamas, suggesting that the novel lineage may represent a group of shallow-water tropical allogromiids, poorly studied until now.

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  • Molecular evidence for Lessepsian invasion of soritids (larger symbiont bearing benthic foraminifera). PLoS ONE 2013 ;8(10):e77725. 10.1371/journal.pone.0077725. PONE-D-13-03809. PMC3812231.

    abstract

    The Mediterranean Sea is considered as one of the hotspots of marine bioinvasions, largely due to the influx of tropical species migrating through the Suez Canal, so-called Lessepsian migrants. Several cases of Lessepsian migration have been documented recently, however, little is known about the ecological characteristics of the migrating species and their aptitude to colonize the new areas. This study focused on Red Sea soritids, larger symbiont-bearing benthic foraminifera (LBF) that are indicative of tropical and subtropical environments and were recently found in the Israeli coast of the Eastern Mediterranean. We combined molecular phylogenetic analyses of soritids and their algal symbionts as well as network analysis of Sorites orbiculus Forskål to compare populations from the Gulf of Elat (northern Red Sea) and from a known hotspot in Shikmona (northern Israel) that consists of a single population of S. orbiculus. Our phylogenetic analyses show that all specimens found in Shikmona are genetically identical to a population of S. orbiculus living on a similar shallow water pebbles habitat in the Gulf of Elat. Our analyses also show that the symbionts found in Shikmona and Elat soritids belong to the Symbiodinium clade F5, which is common in the Red Sea and also present in the Indian Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Our study therefore provides the first genetic and ecological evidences that indicate that modern population of soritids found on the Mediterranean coast of Israel is probably Lessepsian, and is less likely the descendant of a native ancient Mediterranean species.

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  • Arnoldiellina fluorescens gen. et sp. nov.--a new green autofluorescent foraminifer from the Gulf of Eilat (Israel). Eur. J. Protistol. 2013 May;49(2):210-6. S0932-4739(12)00061-2. 10.1016/j.ejop.2012.08.005.

    abstract

    A new monothalamous (single-chambered) soft-walled foraminiferal species, Arnoldiellina fluorescens gen. et sp. nov., was isolated from samples collected in the Gulf of Eilat, Israel. The species is characterized by a small elongate organic theca with a single aperture of allogromiids. It is characterized by the emission of green autofluorescence (GAF) that has so far not been reported from foraminifera. Phylogenetic analysis of a fragment of the 18S rDNA indicates that the species is related to a group of monothalamous foraminiferans classified as clade I. Although the morphology of the new species is very different compared to the other members of this clade, a specific helix in 18S rRNA secondary structure strongly supports this position.

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