Bayesian Nonparametric Ordination for the Analysis of Microbial Communities.

10 April 2017

Human microbiome studies use sequencing technologies to measure the abundance of bacterial species or Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) in samples of biological material. Typically the data are organized in contingency tables with OTU counts across heterogeneous biological samples. In the microbial ecology community, ordination methods are frequently used to investigate latent factors or clusters that capture and describe variations of OTU counts across biological samples. It remains important to evaluate how uncertainty in estimates of each biological sample's microbial distribution propagates to ordination analyses, including visualization of clusters and projections of biological samples on low dimensional spaces. We propose a Bayesian analysis for dependent distributions to endow frequently used ordinations with estimates of uncertainty. A Bayesian nonparametric prior for dependent normalized random measures is constructed, which is marginally equivalent to the normalized generalized Gamma process, a well-known prior for nonparametric analyses. In our prior, the dependence and similarity between microbial distributions is represented by latent factors that concentrate in a low dimensional space. We use a shrinkage prior to tune the dimensionality of the latent factors. The resulting posterior samples of model parameters can be used to evaluate uncertainty in analyses routinely applied in microbiome studies. Specifically, by combining them with multivariate data analysis techniques we can visualize credible regions in ecological ordination plots. The characteristics of the proposed model are illustrated through a simulation study and applications in two microbiome datasets.