Novel ITS1 fungal primers for characterization of the mycobiome

Mykhaylo Usyk, Christine P. Zolnik, Hitesh Patel, Michael H. Levi, Robert D. Burk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Studies of the human microbiome frequently omit characterization of fungal communities (the mycobiome), which limits our ability to investigate how fungal communities influence human health. The internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) region of the eukaryotic ribosomal cluster has features allowing for wide taxonomic coverage and has been recognized as a suitable barcode region for species-level identification of fungal organisms. We developed custom ITS1 primer sets using iterative alignment refinement. Primer performance was evaluated using in silico testing and experimental testing of fungal cultures and human samples. Using an expanded novel reference database, SIS (18S-ITS1-5.8S), the newly designed primers showed an average in silico taxonomic coverage of 79.9% ± 7.1% compared to a coverage of 44.6% ± 13.2% using previously published primers (P = 0.05). The newly described primer sets recovered an average of 21,830 ± 225 fungal reads from fungal isolate culture samples, whereas the previously published primers had an average of 3,305 ± 1,621 reads (P = 0.03). Of note was an increase in the taxonomic coverage of the Candida genus, which went from a mean coverage of 59.5% ± 13% to 100.0% ± 0.0% (P = 0.0015) comparing the previously described primers to the new primers, respectively. The newly developed ITS1 primer sets significantly improve general taxonomic coverage of fungal communities infecting humans and increased read depth by an order of magnitude over the best-performing published primer set tested. The overall best-performing primer pair in terms of taxonomic coverage and read recovery, ITS1-30F/ITS1-217R, will aid in advancing research in the area of the human mycobiome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00488-17
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


  • Fungi
  • ITS1
  • Mycobiome
  • Oral
  • Primer design
  • Yeast

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology

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