DAMe:a toolkit for the initial processing of datasets with PCR replicates of double-tagged amplicons for DNA metabarcoding analyses (English)

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Background: DNA metabarcoding is an approach for identifying multiple taxa in an environmental sample using specific genetic loci and taxa-specific primers. When combined with high-throughput sequencing it enables the taxonomic characterization of large numbers of samples in a relatively time- and cost-efficient manner. One recent laboratory development is the addition of 5′-nucleotide tags to both primers producing double-tagged amplicons and the use of multiple PCR replicates to filter erroneous sequences. However, there is currently no available toolkit for the straightforward analysis of datasets produced in this way. Results: We present DAMe, a toolkit for the processing of datasets generated by double-tagged amplicons from multiple PCR replicates derived from an unlimited number of samples. Specifically, DAMe can be used to (i) sort amplicons by tag combination, (ii) evaluate PCR replicates dissimilarity, and (iii) filter sequences derived from sequencing/PCR errors, chimeras, and contamination. This is attained by calculating the following parameters: (i) sequence content similarity between the PCR replicates from each sample, (ii) reproducibility of each unique sequence across the PCR replicates, and (iii) copy number of the unique sequences in each PCR replicate. We showcase the insights that can be obtained using DAMe prior to taxonomic assignment, by applying it to two real datasets that vary in their complexity regarding number of samples, sequencing libraries, PCR replicates, and used tag combinations. Finally, we use a third mock dataset to demonstrate the impact and importance of filtering the sequences with DAMe. Conclusions: DAMe allows the user-friendly manipulation of amplicons derived from multiple samples with PCR replicates built in a single or multiple sequencing libraries. It allows the user to: (i) collapse amplicons into unique sequences and sort them by tag combination while retaining the sample identifier and copy number information, (ii) identify sequences carrying unused tag combinations, (iii) evaluate the comparability of PCR replicates of the same sample, and (iv) filter tagged amplicons from a number of PCR replicates using parameters of minimum length, copy number, and reproducibility across the PCR replicates. This enables an efficient analysis of complex datasets, and ultimately increases the ease of handling datasets from large-scale studies.