16S rRNA sequencing is an amplicon sequencing technique to identify and classify prokaryotes in a given sample through high-throughput sequencing technologies, such as next-generation sequencing (NGS), which is a widely established method for comparing sample phylogeny and taxonomy from complex microbiomes or environments. It mainly focuses on the most commonly targeted region of the prokaryotic 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene, which is ~1500 bp long, containing conserved and variable regions, which are known as the hypervariable regions or variable regions (typically V1 to V9).
- Microbial Community Analysis: To study the composition and diversity of microbial communities in different environments. It helps identify the types of prokaryotes present in a sample and understand their relative abundances.
- Taxonomic Classification: By comparing the sequences obtained from 16S sequencing to reference databases, researchers can determine the taxonomic identity of the microorganisms present in a sample. This information helps in identifying and classifying prokaryotes.
- Disease Diagnosis: To identify bacterial pathogens that might be causing infections. By comparing the 16S sequences from patient samples to a database, healthcare professionals can determine the causative agents and guide appropriate treatment.
- Environmental Microbiology: To study microbial communities in various environments, such as soil, water, and air. This information aids the understanding of microorganisms' roles in ecosystem functioning, nutrient cycling, and bioremediation processes.
- Gut Microbiome Analysis: The human gut harbours a complex microbial community crucial to health and disease. It allows researchers to analyse the composition and diversity of the gut microbiome and study its associations with various physiological and pathological conditions.
- Food and Beverage Industry: To monitor and assess microbial communities in food and beverage production, which assists in quality control, detecting spoilage organisms, and ensuring food safety.
- Evolutionary Studies: By analysing the evolutionary relationships between different prokaryotic species based on their 16S rRNA gene sequences, researchers can study microbial evolution, divergence, and phylogenetic relationships.
- Biotechnology and Bioprospecting: Employed in the discovery and screening of novel microorganisms for potential applications in biotechnology, such as enzyme production, biofuel production, and pharmaceutical development.