Dataset for "To denoise or to cluster? That is not the question. Optimizing pipelines for COI metabarcoding and metaphylogeography

Published: 06-01-2021| Version 2 | DOI: 10.17632/84zypvmn2b.2


This dataset contains the relevant files for a study optimizing and combining denoising and clustering algorithms for COI metabarcoding. The abstract is: The recent blooming of metabarcoding applications to biodiversity studies comes with some relevant methodological debates. One such issue concerns the treatment of reads by denoising or by clustering methods, which have been wrongly presented as alternatives. It has also been suggested that denoised sequence variants should replace clusters as the basic unit of metabarcoding analyses, missing the fact that sequence clusters are a proxy for species-level entities, the basic unit in biodiversity studies. We argue here that methods developed and tested for ribosomal markers have been uncritically applied to highly variable markers such as cytochrome oxidase I (COI) without conceptual or operational (e.g., parameter setting) adjustment. COI has a naturally high intraspecies variability that should be assessed and reported, as it is a source of highly valuable information. We contend that denoising and clustering are not alternatives. Rather, they are complementary and both should be used together in COI metabarcoding pipelines. Using a typical dataset from benthic marine communities, we compared two denoising procedures (based on the UNOISE3 and the DADA2 algorithms), set suitable parameters for denoising and clustering COI datasets, and compared the outcome of applying these processes in different orders. Our results indicate that denoising based on the UNOISE3 algorithm preserves a higher intra-cluster variability. We suggest and test ways to improve this algorithm taking into account the natural variability of each codon position in coding genes. The order of the steps has little influence on the final outcome. We recommend researchers to consider reporting their results in terms of both denoised sequences (a proxy for haplotypes) and clusters formed (a proxy for species), and to avoid collapsing the sequences of the latter into a single representative. This will allow studies at the cluster (ideally equating species-level diversity) and at the intra-cluster level, and will ease additivity and comparability between studies.