Selected key publications. See google scholar for a full list.

Introduction and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 in Denmark

Michaelsen TY, Bennedbæk M, Christiansen LE, Jørgensen MSF, Møller CH, Sørensen EA, Knutsson S, Brandt J, Jensen TBN, Chiche-Lapierre C, Collados EF, Sørensen T, Petersen C, Le-Quy VSereika M, Hansen FT, Rasmussen M, Fonager J, Karst SM, Marvig RL, Stegger M, Sieber RN, Skov R, Legarth R, Krause TG, Fomsgaard A, The Danish Covid-19 Genome Consortium (DCGC), Albertsen M. medRxiv 2021.

Abstract: In early 2021, the SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7 became dominant across large parts of the world. In Denmark, comprehensive and real-time test, contact-tracing, and sequencing efforts were applied to sustain epidemic control. Here, we use these data to investigate the transmissibility, introduction, and onward transmission of B.1.1.7 in Denmark. In a period with stable restrictions, we estimated an increased B.1.1.7 transmissibility of 58% (95% CI: [56%,60%]) relative to other lineages. Epidemiological and phylogenetic analyses revealed that 37% of B.1.1.7 cases were related to the initial introduction in November 2020. Continuous introductions contributed substantially to case numbers, highlighting the benefit of balanced travel restrictions and self-isolation procedures coupled with comprehensive surveillance efforts, to sustain epidemic control in the face of emerging variants.

Connecting structure to function with the recovery of over 1000 high-quality activated sludge metagenome-assembled genomes encoding full-length rRNA genes using long-read sequencing

Singleton CM, Petriglieri F, Kristensen JM, Kirkegaard RH, Michaelsen TY, Andersen MH, Kondrotaite Z, Karst SM, Dueholm MS, Nielsen PH, Albertsen M. Nature Communications 2021.

Abstract: Microorganisms play crucial roles in water recycling, pollution removal and resource recovery in the wastewater industry. The structure of these microbial communities is increasingly understood based on 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing data. However, such data cannot be linked to functional potential in the absence of high-quality metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) for nearly all species. Here, we use long-read and short-read sequencing to recover 1083 high-quality MAGs, including 57 closed circular genomes, from 23 Danish full-scale wastewater treatment plants. The MAGs account for ~30% of the community based on relative abundance, and meet the stringent MIMAG high-quality draft requirements including full-length rRNA genes. We use the information provided by these MAGs in combination with >13 years of 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing data, as well as Raman microspectroscopy and fluorescence in situ hybridisation, to uncover abundant undescribed lineages belonging to important functional groups.

High-accuracy long-read amplicon sequences using unique molecular identifiers with Nanopore or PacBio sequencing

Karst SM, Ziels RM, Kirkegaard RH, Sørensen EA, McDonald D, Zhu Q, Knight R, Albertsen M. Nature Methods 2021.

Abstract: High-throughput amplicon sequencing of large genomic regions remains challenging for short-read technologies. Here, we report a high-throughput amplicon sequencing approach combining unique molecular identifiers (UMIs) with Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) or Pacific Biosciences circular consensus sequencing, yielding high-accuracy single-molecule consensus sequences of large genomic regions. We applied our approach to sequence ribosomal RNA operon amplicons (~4,500 bp) and genomic sequences (>10,000 bp) of reference microbial communities in which we observed a chimera rate <0.02%. To reach a mean UMI consensus error rate <0.01%, a UMI read coverage of 15× (ONT R10.3), 25× (ONT R9.4.1) and 3× (Pacific Biosciences circular consensus sequencing) is needed, which provides a mean error rate of 0.0042%, 0.0041% and 0.0007%, respectively.

Retrieval of a million high-quality, full-length microbial 16S and 18S rRNA gene sequences without primer bias

Karst SM, Dueholm SM, McIlroy SJ, Kirkegaard RH, Nielsen PH & Albertsen M. Nature Biotechnology, 2018.

Abstract: Small subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU rRNA) genes, 16S in bacteria and 18S in eukaryotes, have been the standard phylogenetic markers used to characterize microbial diversity and evolution for decades. However, the reference databases of full-length SSU rRNA gene sequences are skewed to well-studied ecosystems and subject to primer bias and chimerism, which results in an incomplete view of the diversity present in a sample. We combine poly(A)-tailing and reverse transcription of SSU rRNA molecules with synthetic long-read sequencing to generate high-quality, full-length SSU rRNA sequences, without primer bias, at high throughput. We apply our approach to samples from seven different ecosystems and obtain more than a million SSU rRNA sequences from all domains of life, with an estimated raw error rate of 0.17%. We observe a large proportion of novel diversity, including several deeply branching phylum-level lineages putatively related to the Asgard Archaea. Our approach will enable expansion of the SSU rRNA reference databases by orders of magnitude, and contribute to a comprehensive census of the tree of life.

Complete nitrification by Nitrospira bacteria

Daims H, Lebedeva EV, Pjevac P, Han P, Herbold C, Albertsen M, Jehmlich N, Palatinszky M, Vierheilig J, Bulaev A, Kirkegaard RH, von Bergen M, Rattei T, Bendinger B, Nielsen PH and Wagner M. Nature 2015.

Abstract: Nitrification, the oxidation of ammonia via nitrite to nitrate, has always been considered to be a two-step process catalysed by chemolithoautotrophic microorganisms oxidizing either ammonia or nitrite. No known nitrifier carries out both steps, although complete nitrification should be energetically advantageous. This functional separation has puzzled microbiologists for a century. Here we report on the discovery and cultivation of a completely nitrifying bacterium from the genus Nitrospira, a globally distributed group of nitrite oxidizers. The genome of this chemolithoautotrophic organism encodes the pathways both for ammonia and nitrite oxidation, which are concomitantly activated during growth by ammonia oxidation to nitrate. Genes affiliated with the phylogenetically distinct ammonia monooxygenase and hydroxylamine dehydrogenase genes of Nitrospira are present in many environments and were retrieved on Nitrospira-contigs in new metagenomes from engineered systems. These findings fundamentally change our picture of nitrification and point to completely nitrifying Nitrospira as key components of nitrogen-cycling microbial communities.

Complete nitrification by a single microorganism

van Kessel MAHJ, Speth DR, Albertsen M, Nielsen PH, Op den Camp HJM, Kartal B, Jetten MSM and Lücker S. Nature 2015.

Abstract: Nitrification is a two-step process where ammonia is first oxidized to nitrite by ammonia-oxidizing bacteria and/or archaea, and subsequently to nitrate by nitrite-oxidizing bacteria. Already described by Winogradsky in 1890, this division of labour between the two functional groups is a generally accepted characteristic of the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle. Complete oxidation of ammonia to nitrate in one organism (complete ammonia oxidation; comammox) is energetically feasible, and it was postulated that this process could occur under conditions selecting for species with lower growth rates but higher growth yields than canonical ammonia-oxidizing microorganisms. Still, organisms catalysing this process have not yet been discovered. Here we report the enrichment and initial characterization of two Nitrospira species that encode all the enzymes necessary for ammonia oxidation via nitrite to nitrate in their genomes, and indeed completely oxidize ammonium to nitrate to conserve energy. Their ammonia monooxygenase (AMO) enzymes are phylogenetically distinct from currently identified AMOs, rendering recent acquisition by horizontal gene transfer from known ammonia-oxidizing microorganisms unlikely. We also found highly similar amoA sequences (encoding the AMO subunit A) in public sequence databases, which were apparently misclassified as methane monooxygenases. This recognition of a novel amoA sequence group will lead to an improved understanding of the environmental abundance and distribution of ammonia-oxidizing microorganisms. Furthermore, the discovery of the long-sought-after comammox process will change our perception of the nitrogen cycle.

Genome sequences of rare, uncultured bacteria obtained by differential coverage binning of multiple metagenomes

M Albertsen, Hugenholtz P, Skarshewski A, Nielsen KL, Tyson GW & Nielsen PH. Nature Biotechnology 2013.

Abstract: Reference genomes are required to understand the diverse roles of microorganisms in ecology, evolution, human and animal health, but most species remain uncultured. Here we present a sequence composition–independent approach to recover high-quality microbial genomes from deeply sequenced metagenomes. Multiple metagenomes of the same community, which differ in relative population abundances, were used to assemble 31 bacterial genomes, including rare (<1% relative abundance) species, from an activated sludge bioreactor. Twelve genomes were assembled into complete or near-complete chromosomes. Four belong to the candidate bacterial phylum TM7 and represent the most complete genomes for this phylum to date (relative abundances, 0.06–1.58%). Reanalysis of published metagenomes reveals that differential coverage binning facilitates recovery of more complete and higher fidelity genome bins than other currently used methods, which are primarily based on sequence composition. This approach will be an important addition to the standard metagenome toolbox and greatly improve access to genomes of uncultured microorganisms.