Image_2_Akkermansia muciniphila as a Model Case for the Development of an Improved Quantitative RPA Microbiome Assay.PDF

Changes in the population levels of specific bacterial species within the gut microbiome have been linked to a variety of illnesses. Most assays that determine the relative abundance of specific taxa are based on amplification and sequencing of stable phylogenetic gene regions. Such lab-based analysis requires pre-analytical sample preservation and storage that have been shown to introduce biases in the characterization of microbial profiles. Recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA) is an isothermal nucleic acid amplification method that employs commercially available, easy-to-use freeze-dried enzyme pellets that can be used to analyze specimens rapidly in the field or clinic, using a portable fluorometer. Immediate analysis of diverse bacterial communities can lead to a more accurate quantification of relative bacterial abundance. In this study, we discovered that universal bacterial 16S ribosomal DNA primers give false-positive signals in RPA analysis because manufacturing host Escherichia coli DNA is present in the RPA reagents. The manufacturer of RPA reagents advises against developing an RPA assay that detects the presence of E. coli due to the presence of contaminating E. coli DNA in the reaction buffer (www.twistdx.co.uk/). We, therefore, explored four strategies to deplete or fragment extraneous DNA in RPA reagents while preserving enzyme activity: metal-chelate affinity chromatography, sonication, DNA cleavage using methylation-dependent restriction endonucleases, and DNA depletion using anti-DNA antibodies. Removing DNA with anti-DNA antibodies enabled the development of a quantitative RPA microbiome assay capable of determining the relative abundance of the physiologically-important bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila in human feces.