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Food Microbiology
Volume 73, 2018, Pages 49-60

Structure of association networks in food bacterial communities

Eugenio Parentea, Teresa Zottab, Karoline Faustc, Francesca De Filippisd,e, Danilo Ercolinid,e

Dipartimento di Scienze, Università degli Studi della Basilicata, 85100 Potenza, Italy.


The structure of microbial association networks was investigated for seventeen studies on food bacterial communities using the CoNet app. The results were compared with those for host and environmental microbiomes.

Microbial association networks of food bacterial communities shared several properties with those of host microbiomes, although they were less complex and lacked a scale-free, small world structure that is characteristic of environmental microbial communities. This may depend on both the initial contamination pattern, whose main source is the raw material microbiome, and on the copiotrophic nature of food environments, with lack of well defined, specific niches. The selective factors which are characteristic of fermentation and spoilage drastically simplified microbial association networks and showed the emergence of negative hubs. Co-presence and mutual exclusion networks had a radically different structure, with high clustering coefficient in the first and high heterogeneity in the latter. Node properties (degree, positive degree, betweenness centrality, abundance) can be combined in plots, which allow a rapid identification of hub species.

The combined use of three network inference tools (CoNet, SparCC, and SPIEC-EASI) confirmed that microbial association network detection is method specific, but several coherent copresence or mutual exclusion relationships were detected by at least two different methods.

Keywords: 16S DNA profiling, Microbial association networks, Bacterial communities.

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