Profiling of bacterial and fungal microbial communities in cystic fibrosis sputum using RNA

Nora Grahl, Emily L. Dolben, Laura M. Filkins, Alex W. Crocker, Sven D. Willger, Hilary G. Morrison, Mitchell L. Sogin, Alix Ashare, Alex H. Gifford, Nicholas J. Jacobs, Joseph D. Schwartzman, Deborah A. Hogan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Here, we report an approach to detect diverse bacterial and fungal taxa in complex samples by direct analysis of community RNA in one step using Nano- String probe sets. We designed rRNA-targeting probe sets to detect 42 bacterial and fungal genera or species common in cystic fibrosis (CF) sputum and demonstrated the taxon specificity of these probes, as well as a linear response over more than 3 logs of input RNA. Culture-based analyses correlated qualitatively with relative abundance data on bacterial and fungal taxa obtained by NanoString, and the analysis of serial samples demonstrated the use of this method to simultaneously detect bacteria and fungi and to detect microbes at low abundance without an amplification step. Compared at the genus level, the relative abundances of bacterial taxa detected by analysis of RNA correlated with the relative abundances of the same taxa as measured by sequencing of the V4V5 region of the 16S rRNA gene amplified from community DNA from the same sample. We propose that this method may complement other methods designed to understand dynamic microbial communities, may provide information on bacteria and fungi in the same sample with a single assay, and with further development, may provide quick and easily interpreted diagnostic information on diverse bacteria and fungi at the genus or species level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00292-18
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacteria
  • Clinical microbiology
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Fungi
  • Microbial communities
  • NanoString

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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