Pldist: Ecological dissimilarities for paired and longitudinal microbiome association analysis

Anna M. Plantinga, Jun Chen, Robert R. Jenq, Michael C. Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Motivation: The human microbiome is notoriously variable across individuals, with a wide range of 'healthy' microbiomes. Paired and longitudinal studies of the microbiome have become increasingly popular as a way to reduce unmeasured confounding and to increase statistical power by reducing large inter-subject variability. Statistical methods for analyzing such datasets are scarce. Results: We introduce a paired UniFrac dissimilarity that summarizes within-individual (or within-pair) shifts in microbiome composition and then compares these compositional shifts across individuals (or pairs). This dissimilarity depends on a novel transformation of relative abundances, which we then extend to more than two time points and incorporate into several phylogenetic and non-phylogenetic dissimilarities. The data transformation and resulting dissimilarities may be used in a wide variety of downstream analyses, including ordination analysis and distance-based hypothesis testing. Simulations demonstrate that tests based on these dissimilarities retain appropriate type 1 error and high power. We apply the method in two real datasets. Availability and implementation: The R package pldist is available on GitHub at Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3567-3575
Number of pages9
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics


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