Amordad

Several technical challenges in metagenomic data analysis, including assembling metagenomic sequence data or identifying operational taxonomic units, are significant and well known. These forms of analysis are increasingly cited as conceptually flawed, given the extreme variation within traditionally defined species and rampant horizontal gene transfer. Recent reports of successful metagenomic data analysis have avoided these difficulties by focusing on frequencies of simple features, such as k length words, in metagenomic sequencing data. We introduce the Amordad database engine for alignment-free, content-based indexing of metagenomic data sets. Amordad places the metagenome comparison problem in a geometric context, and uses an indexing strategy that combines random hashing with a regular nearest neighbor graph. This framework allows refinement of the database over time by continual application of random hash functions, with the effect of each hash function encoded in the nearest neighbor graph. This eliminates the need to explicitly maintain the hash functions in order for query efficiency to benefit from the accumulated randomness. Results on real and simulated data show that Amordad can support logarithmic query time for identifying similar metagenomes even as the database size reaches into the millions. Download the latest Amordad distribution here.