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Nat Rev Genet. 2005 Nov;6(11):805-14.

Metagenomics: DNA sequencing of environmental samples.

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Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, 2800 Mitchell Drive, Walnut Creek, California 94598, USA.


Although genomics has classically focused on pure, easy-to-obtain samples, such as microbes that grow readily in culture or large animals and plants, these organisms represent only a fraction of the living or once-living organisms of interest. Many species are difficult to study in isolation because they fail to grow in laboratory culture, depend on other organisms for critical processes, or have become extinct. Methods that are based on DNA sequencing circumvent these obstacles, as DNA can be isolated directly from living or dead cells in various contexts. Such methods have led to the emergence of a new field, which is referred to as metagenomics.

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