A De Novo Robust Clustering Approach for Amplicon-Based Sequence Data

When analyzing microbial communities, an active and computational challenge concerns the categorization of 16S rRNA gene sequences into operational taxonomic units (OTUs). Established clustering tools use a one pass algorithm in order to tackle high numbers of gene sequences and produce OTUs in reasonable time. However, all of the current tools are based on a crisp clustering approach, where a gene sequence is assigned to one cluster. The weak quality of the output compared to more complex clustering algorithms, forces the user to post-process the obtained OTUs. Providing a membership degree when assigning a gene sequence to an OTU, will help the user during the post-processing task. Moreover it is possible to use this membership degree to automatically evaluate the quality of the obtained OTUs. So the goal of this work is to propose a new clustering approach that takes into account uncertainty when producing OTUs, and improves both the quality and the presentation of the OTUs results.