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Metagenomics for studying unculturable microorganisms: cutting the Gordian knot

Patrick D Schloss and Jo Handelsman*

Author Affiliations

Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA

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Genome Biology 2005, 6:229  doi:10.1186/gb-2005-6-8-229

Published: 1 August 2005

Abstract

More than 99% of prokaryotes in the environment cannot be cultured in the laboratory, a phenomenon that limits our understanding of microbial physiology, genetics, and community ecology. One way around this problem is metagenomics, the culture-independent cloning and analysis of microbial DNA extracted directly from an environmental sample. Recent advances in shotgun sequencing and computational methods for genome assembly have advanced the field of metagenomics to provide glimpses into the life of uncultured microorganisms.