I have been working with metagenomic data to understand community functioning of microbes since 2008, when we started to analyze the Global Ocean Sampling dataset for detoxification systems. Through my work with metagenomics projects, I have been involved in several software development efforts aiming to better extract and visualize information from the enormous datasets produced (Metaxa, Megraft, TriMetAss, PETKit, FARAO). My current main focus is to use metagenomic sequencing data to analyze different environments for antibiotic resistance genes, and thereby try to uncover which risks for environmental resistance development and dissemination we should be most concerned about.

Metagenomics is intertwined into some aspect of nearly all projects I am involved in. For example, we have used metagenomic sequencing to study bacterial detoxification mechanisms in marine milieus, for deciphering the taxonomic and functional diversity of marine periphyton, for studying antibiotic resistance genes in diverse environments (including a polluted lake, sewage treatment plants, the human gut and artificial laboratory settings), and for charting out the relationships between the gastric microbiome and cancer development. Thus, metagenomics forms an integral part of my research activities, providing the foundation for studies on antibiotic resistance, the ecology of pathogens, microbial taxonomy, ecosystem perturbations, and the dissemination/dispersal of microbes and genes across environments.

Open questions of interest

  1. How can we better derive useful information from shotgun metagenomics?
  2. How to improve metagenomic sequence assembly for highly conserved regions, found in multiple contexts (a common problem for resistance genes)?
  3. How can metagenomics be better used to target specific research questions, moving from being a hypothesis-generating tool to a hypothesis-driven one?

Key publications

  • Bengtsson-Palme J, Alm Rosenblad M, Molin M, Blomberg A: Metagenomics reveals that detoxification systems are underrepresented in marine bacterial communities. BMC Genomics, 15, 749 (2014). doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-15-749 [Paper link]
  • Bengtsson-Palme J, Boulund F, Fick J, Kristiansson E, Larsson DGJ: Shotgun metagenomics reveals a wide array of antibiotic resistance genes and mobile elements in a polluted lake in India. Frontiers in Microbiology, 5, 648 (2014). doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00648 [Paper link]
  • Bengtsson-Palme J, Angelin M, Huss M, Kjellqvist S, Kristiansson E, Palmgren H, Larsson DGJ, Johansson A: The human gut microbiome as a transporter of antibiotic resistance genes between continents. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 59, 10, 6551-6560 (2015). doi: 10.1128/AAC.00933-15 [Paper link]
  • Sanli K, Bengtsson-Palme J, Nilsson RH, Kristiansson E, Alm Rosenblad M, Blanck H, Eriksson KM: Metagenomic sequencing of marine periphyton: Taxonomic and functional insights into biofilm communities. Frontiers in Microbiology, 6, 1192 (2015). doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.01192 [Paper link]