We compared the phylogenetic compositions of marine planktonic archaeal populations in different marine provinces. Samples from eight different environments were collected at two depths (surface and aphotic zone), and 16 genetic libraries of PCR-amplified archaeal 16S rRNA genes were constructed. The libraries were analyzed by using a three-step hierarchical approach. Membrane hybridization experiments revealed that most of the archaeal clones were affiliated with one of the two groups of marine archaea described previously, crenarchaeotal group I and euryarchaeotal group II. One of the 2,328 ribosomal DNA clones analyzed was related to a different euryarchaeal lineage, which was recently recovered from deep-water marine plankton. In temperate regions (Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Mediterranean Sea) both major groups were found at the two depths investigated; group II predominated at the surface, and group I predominated at depth. In Antarctic and subantarctic waters group II was practically absent. The clonal compositions of archaeal libraries were investigated by performing a restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis with two tetrameric restriction enzymes, which defined discrete operational taxonomic units (OTUs). The OTUs defined in this way were phylogenetically consistent; clones belonging to the same OTU were closely related. The clonal diversity as determined by the RFLP analysis was low, and most libraries were dominated by only one or two OTUs. Some OTUs were found in samples obtained from very distant places, indicating that some phylotypes were ubiquitous. A tree containing one example of each OTU detected was constructed, and this tree revealed that there were several clusters within archaeal group I and group II. The members of some of these clusters had different depth distributions.
One potential approach for characterizing uncultivated prokaryotes from natural assemblages involves genomic analysis of DNA fragments retrieved directly from naturally occurring microbial biomass. In this study, we sought to isolate large genomic fragments from a widely distributed and relatively abundant but as yet uncultivated group of prokaryotes, the planktonic marine Archaea. A fosmid DNA library was prepared from a marine picoplankton assemblage collected at a depth of 200 m in the eastern North Pacific. We identified a 38.5-kbp recombinant fosmid clone which contained an archaeal small subunit ribosomal DNA gene. Phylogenetic analyses of the small subunit rRNA sequence demonstrated it close relationship to that of previously described planktonic archaea, which form a coherent group rooted deeply within the Crenarchaeota branch of the domain Archaea. Random shotgun sequencing of subcloned fragments of the archaeal fosmid clone revealed several genes which bore highest similarity to archaeal homologs, including large subunit ribosomal DNA and translation elongation factor 2 (EF2). Analyses of the inferred amino acid sequence of archaeoplankton EF2 supported its affiliation with the Crenarchaeote subdivision of Archaea. Two gene fragments encoding proteins not previously found in Archaea were also identified: RNA helicase, responsible for the ATP-dependent alteration of RNA secondary structure, and glutamate semialdehyde aminotransferase, an enzyme involved in initial steps of heme biosynthesis. In total, our results indicate that genomic analysis of large DNA fragments retrieved from mixed microbial assemblages can provide useful perspective on the physiological potential of abundant but as yet uncultivated prokaryotes.
A previous report of high levels of members of the domain Archaea in Antarctic coastal waters prompted us to investigate the ecology of Antarctic planktonic prokaryotes. rRNA hybridization techniques and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis of the bacterial V3 region were used to study variation in Antarctic picoplankton assemblages. In Anvers Island nearshore waters during late winter to early spring, the amounts of archaeal rRNA ranged from 17.1 to 3.6% of the total picoplankton rRNA in 1996 and from 16.0 to 1.0% of the total rRNA in 1995. Offshore in the Palmer Basin, the levels of archaeal rRNA throughout the water column were higher (average, 24% of the total rRNA) during the same period in 1996. The archaeal rRNA levels in nearshore waters followed a highly seasonal pattern and markedly decreased during the austral summer at two stations. There was a significant negative correlation between archaeal rRNA levels and phytoplankton levels (as inferred from chlorophyll a concentrations) in nearshore surface waters during the early spring of 1995 and during an 8-month period in 1996 and 1997. In situ hybridization experiments revealed that 5 to 14% of DAPI (4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole)-stained cells were archaeal, corresponding to 0.9 × 104 to 2.7 × 104 archaeal cells per ml, in late winter 1996 samples. Analysis of bacterial ribosomal DNA fragments by DGGE revealed that the assemblage composition may reflect changes in water column stability, depth, or season. The data indicate that changes in Antarctic seasons are accompanied by significant shifts in the species composition of bacterioplankton assemblages and by large decreases in the relative proportion of archaeal rRNA in the nearshore water column.
Crenarchaeota represent an abundant component of oceanic microbiota with potential to significantly influence biogeochemical cycling in marine ecosystems. Prior studies using specific archaeal lipid biomarkers and isotopic analyses indicated that planktonic
Crenarchaeota have the capacity for autotrophic growth, and more recent cultivation studies support an ammonia-based chemolithoautotrophic energy metabolism. We report here analysis of fosmid sequences derived from the uncultivated marine crenarchaeote,
Cenarchaeum symbiosum, focused on the reconstruction of carbon and energy metabolism. Genes predicted to encode multiple components of a modified 3-hydroxypropionate cycle of autotrophic carbon assimilation were identified, consistent with utilization of carbon dioxide as a carbon source. Additionally, genes predicted to encode a near complete oxidative tricarboxylic acid cycle were also identified, consistent with the consumption of organic carbon and in the production of intermediates for amino acid and cofactor biosynthesis. Therefore,
C. symbiosum has the potential to function either as a strict autotroph, or as a mixotroph utilizing both carbon dioxide and organic material as carbon sources. From the standpoint of energy metabolism, genes predicted to encode ammonia monooxygenase subunits, ammonia permease, urease, and urea transporters were identified, consistent with the use of reduced nitrogen compounds as energy sources fueling autotrophic metabolism. Homologues of these genes, recovered from ocean waters worldwide, demonstrate the conservation and ubiquity of crenarchaeal pathways for carbon assimilation and ammonia oxidation. These findings further substantiate the likely global metabolic importance of
Crenarchaeota with respect to key steps in the biogeochemical transformation of carbon and nitrogen in marine ecosystems.
Sequence data reveal the presence of key genes from pathways for carbon assimilation and ammonia oxidation in marine microbiota, supporting their importance in regulating the biogeochemistry of marine ecosystems.
The domain Archaea has historically been divided into two phyla, the Crenarchaeota and Euryarchaeota. Although regarded as members of the Crenarchaeota based on small subunit rRNA phylogeny, environmental genomics and efforts for cultivation have recently revealed two novel phyla/divisions in the Archaea; the ‘Thaumarchaeota’ and ‘Korarchaeota’. Here, we show the genome sequence of Candidatus ‘Caldiarchaeum subterraneum’ that represents an uncultivated crenarchaeotic group. A composite genome was reconstructed from a metagenomic library previously prepared from a microbial mat at a geothermal water stream of a sub-surface gold mine. The genome was found to be clearly distinct from those of the known phyla/divisions, Crenarchaeota (hyperthermophiles), Euryarchaeota, Thaumarchaeota and Korarchaeota. The unique traits suggest that this crenarchaeotic group can be considered as a novel archaeal phylum/division. Moreover, C. subterraneum harbors an ubiquitin-like protein modifier system consisting of Ub, E1, E2 and small Zn RING finger family protein with structural motifs specific to eukaryotic system proteins, a system clearly distinct from the prokaryote-type system recently identified in Haloferax and Mycobacterium. The presence of such a eukaryote-type system is unprecedented in prokaryotes, and indicates that a prototype of the eukaryotic protein modifier system is present in the Archaea.
Cenarchaeum symbiosum, an archaeon which lives in specific association with a marine sponge, belongs to a recently recognized nonthermophilic crenarchaeotal group that inhabits diverse cold and temperate environments. Nonthermophilic crenarchaeotes have not yet been obtained in laboratory culture, and so their phenotypic characteristics have been inferred solely from their ecological distribution. Here we report on the first protein to be characterized from one of these organisms. The DNA polymerase gene of C. symbiosum was identified in the vicinity of the rRNA operon on a large genomic contig. Its deduced amino acid sequence is highly similar to those of the archaeal family B (alpha-type) DNA polymerases. It shared highest overall sequence similarity with the crenarchaeal DNA polymerases from the extreme thermophiles Sulfolobus acidocaldarius and Pyrodictium occultum (54% and 53%, respectively). The conserved motifs of B (alpha-)-type DNA polymerases and 3'-5' exonuclease were identified in the 845-amino-acid sequence. The 96-kDa protein was expressed in Escherichia coli and purified with affinity tags. It exhibited its highest specific activity with gapped-duplex (activated) DNA as the substrate. Single-strand- and double-strand-dependent 3'-5' exonuclease activity was detected, as was a marginal 5'-3' exonuclease activity. The enzyme was rapidly inactivated at temperatures higher than 40 degrees C, with a half-life of 10 min at 46 degrees C. It was found to be less thermostable than polymerase I of E. coli and is substantially more heat labile than its most closely related homologs from thermophilic and hyperthermophilic crenarchaeotes. Although phylogenetic studies suggest a thermophilic ancestry for C. symbiosum and its relatives, our biochemical analysis of the DNA polymerase is consistent with the postulated nonthermophilic phenotype of these crenarchaeotes, to date inferred solely from their ecological distribution.
Molecular phylogenetic surveys have recently revealed an ecologically widespread crenarchaeal group that inhabits cold and temperate terrestrial and marine environments. To date these organisms have resisted isolation in pure culture, and so their phenotypic and genotypic characteristics remain largely unknown. To characterize these archaea, and to extend methodological approaches for characterizing uncultivated microorganisms, we initiated genomic analyses of the nonthermophilic crenarchaeote Cenarchaeum symbiosum found living in association with a marine sponge, Axinella mexicana. Complex DNA libraries derived from the host-symbiont population yielded several large clones containing the ribosomal operon from C. symbiosum. Unexpectedly, cloning and sequence analysis revealed the presence of two closely related variants that were consistently found in the majority of host individuals analyzed. Homologous regions from the two variants were sequenced and compared in detail. The variants exhibit >99.2% sequence identity in both small- and large-subunit rRNA genes and they contain homologous protein-encoding genes in identical order and orientation over a 28-kbp overlapping region. Our study not only indicates the potential for characterizing uncultivated prokaryotes by genome sequencing but also identifies the primary complication inherent in the approach: the widespread genomic microheterogeneity in naturally occurring prokaryotic populations.
Archaea assemblages from the Arctic Ocean and Antarctic waters were compared by PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis of 16S rRNA genes amplified using the Archaea-specific primers 344f and 517r. Inspection of the DGGE fingerprints of 33 samples from the Arctic Ocean (from SCICEX submarine cruises in 1995, 1996, and 1997) and 7 Antarctic samples from Gerlache Strait and Dallman Bay revealed that the richness of Archaea assemblages was greater in samples from deep water than in those from the upper water column in both polar oceans. DGGE banding patterns suggested that most of the Archaea ribotypes were common to both the Arctic Ocean and the Antarctic Ocean. However, some of the Euryarchaeota ribotypes were unique to each system. Cluster analysis of DGGE fingerprints revealed no seasonal variation but supported depth-related differences in the composition of the Arctic Ocean Archaea assemblage. The phylogenetic composition of the Archaea assemblage was determined by cloning and then sequencing amplicons obtained from the Archaea-specific primers 21f and 958r. Sequences of 198 clones from nine samples covering three seasons and all depths grouped with marine group I Crenarchaeota (111 clones), marine group II Euryarchaeota (86 clones), and group IV Euryarchaeota (1 clone). A sequence obtained only from a DGGE band was similar to those of the marine group III Euryarchaeota.
Marine bacterioplanktons are thought to play a vital role in Southern Ocean ecology and ecosystem function, as they do in other ocean systems. However, our understanding of phylogenetic diversity, genome-enabled capabilities and specific adaptations to this persistently cold environment is limited. Bacterioplankton community composition shifts significantly over the annual cycle as sea ice melts and phytoplankton bloom. Microbial diversity in sea ice is better known than that of the plankton, where culture collections do not appear to represent organisms detected with molecular surveys. Broad phylogenetic groupings of Antarctic bacterioplankton such as the marine group I Crenarchaeota, α-Proteobacteria (Roseobacter-related and SAR-11 clusters), γ-Proteobacteria (both cultivated and uncultivated groups) and Bacteriodetes-affiliated organisms in Southern Ocean waters are in common with other ocean systems. Antarctic SSU rRNA gene phylotypes are typically affiliated with other polar sequences. Some species such as Polaribacter irgensii and currently uncultivated γ-Proteobacteria (Ant4D3 and Ant10A4) may flourish in Antarctic waters, though further studies are needed to address diversity on a larger scale. Insights from initial genomics studies on both cultivated organisms and genomes accessed through shotgun cloning of environmental samples suggest that there are many unique features of these organisms that facilitate survival in high-latitude, persistently cold environments.
Antarctic bacterioplankton; marine bacteria; marine microbial genomics; bacterioplankton diversity; Southern Ocean
We examined the spatial distributions of picoplankton, nanoplankton, and microplankton biomass and physiological state relative to the hydrography of the Southern Ocean along 90° W longitude and across the Drake Passage in the late austral winter. The eastern South Pacific Ocean showed some large-scale biogeographical differences and size class variability. Microbial ATP biomass was greatest in euphotic surface waters. The horizontal distributions of microbial biomass and physiological state (adenylate energy charge ratio) coincided with internal currents (fronts) of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. In the Drake Passage, the biological scales in the euphotic and aphotic zones were complex, and ATP, total adenylate, and adenylate energy charge ratio isopleths were compressed due to the extension of the sea ice from Antarctica and constriction of the Circumpolar Current through the narrow passage. The physiological state of microbial assemblages and biomass were much higher in the Drake Passage than in the eastern South Pacific Ocean. The temperature of Antarctic waters, not dissolved organic carbon, was the major variable controlling picoplankton growth. Estimates of picoplankton production based on ATP increments with time suggest that production under reduced predation pressure was 1 to 10 μg of carbon per liter per day. Our results demonstrate the influence of large-scale hydrographic processes on the distribution and structure of microplankton, nanoplankton, and picoplankton across the Southern Ocean.
Intact core tetraether membrane lipids of marine planktonic Crenarchaeota were quantified in water column-suspended particulate matter obtained from four depth intervals (∼70, 500, 1,000 and 1,500 m) at seven stations in the northwestern Arabian Sea to investigate the distribution of the organisms at various depths. Maximum concentrations generally occurred at 500 m, near the top of the oxygen minimum zone, and the concentrations at this depth were, in most cases, slightly higher than those in surface waters. In contrast, lipids derived from eukaryotes (cholesterol) and from eukaryotes and bacteria (fatty acids) were at their highest concentrations in surface waters. This indicates that these crenarchaeotes are not restricted to the photic zone of the ocean, which is consistent with the results of recent molecular biological studies. Since the Arabian Sea has a strong oxygen minimum zone between 100 and 1,000 m, with minimum oxygen levels of <1 μM, the abundance of crenarchaeotal membrane lipids at 500 m suggests that planktonic Crenarchaeota are probably facultative anaerobes. The cell numbers we calculated from the concentrations of membrane lipids are similar to those reported for the Central Pacific Ocean, supporting the recent estimation of M. B. Karner, E. F. DeLong, and D. M. Karl (Nature 409:507-510, 2001) that the world's oceans contain ca. 1028 cells of planktonic Crenarchaeota.
Six environmental fosmid clones from Antarctic coastal water bacterioplankton were completely sequenced. The genome fragments harbored small-subunit rRNA genes that were between 85 and 91% similar to those of their nearest cultivated relatives. The six fragments span four phyla, including the Gemmatimonadetes, Proteobacteria (α and γ), Bacteroidetes, and high-G+C gram-positive bacteria. Gene-finding and annotation analyses identified 244 total open reading frames. Amino acid comparisons of 123 and 113 Antarctic bacterial amino acid sequences to mesophilic homologs from G+C-specific and SwissProt/UniProt databases, respectively, revealed widespread adaptation to the cold. The most significant changes in these Antarctic bacterial protein sequences included a reduction in salt-bridge-forming residues such as arginine, glutamic acid, and aspartic acid, reduced proline contents, and a reduction in stabilizing hydrophobic clusters. Stretches of disordered amino acids were significantly longer in the Antarctic sequences than in the mesophilic sequences. These characteristics were not specific to any one phylum, COG role category, or G+C content and imply that underlying genotypic and biochemical adaptations to the cold are inherent to life in the permanently subzero Antarctic waters.
We report several novel environmental sequences of archaea from the kingdom Crenarchaeota, recovered from anaerobic freshwater-lake sediments in Michigan. A nested PCR approach with Archaea- and Crenar-chaeota-specific primers was used to amplify partial Small-subunit ribosomal DNAs. Phylogenetic analysis of seven sequences shows that these DNAs represent a monophyletic lineage diverging prior to all recently identified crenarchaeotal phylotypes isolated from temperate environments. Including our lineage, all uncultured crenarchaeotal sequences recovered from moderate or cold environments form a distinct, monophyletic group separate from the "genuine" thermophilic crenarchaeota. Our finding extends the emerging picture that crenarchaeota, thought until recently to be solely extreme thermophiles, have radiated into an unexpectedly large variety of ecologically important, temperate environments.
Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) in combination with polynucleotide probes revealed that the two major groups of planktonic Archaea (Crenarchaeota and Euryarchaeota) exhibit a different distribution pattern in the water column of the Pacific subtropical gyre and in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current system. While Euryarchaeota were found to be more dominant in nearsurface waters, Crenarchaeota were relatively more abundant in the mesopelagic and bathypelagic waters. We determined the abundance of archaea in the mesopelagic and bathypelagic North Atlantic along a south-north transect of more than 4,000 km. Using an improved catalyzed reporter deposition-FISH (CARD-FISH) method and specific oligonucleotide probes, we found that archaea were consistently more abundant than bacteria below a 100-m depth. Combining microautoradiography with CARD-FISH revealed a high fraction of metabolically active cells in the deep ocean. Even at a 3,000-m depth, about 16% of the bacteria were taking up leucine. The percentage of Euryarchaeota and Crenarchaeaota taking up leucine did not follow a specific trend, with depths ranging from 6 to 35% and 3 to 18%, respectively. The fraction of Crenarchaeota taking up inorganic carbon increased with depth, while Euryarchaeota taking up inorganic carbon decreased from 200 m to 3,000 m in depth. The ability of archaea to take up inorganic carbon was used as a proxy to estimate archaeal cell production and to compare this archaeal production with total prokaryotic production measured via leucine incorporation. We estimate that archaeal production in the mesopelagic and bathypelagic North Atlantic contributes between 13 to 27% to the total prokaryotic production in the oxygen minimum layer and 41 to 84% in the Labrador Sea Water, declining to 10 to 20% in the North Atlantic Deep Water. Thus, planktonic archaea are actively growing in the dark ocean although at lower growth rates than bacteria and might play a significant role in the oceanic carbon cycle.
The marine ecosystem of the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) extends from the Bellingshausen Sea to the northern tip of the peninsula and from the mostly glaciated coast across the continental shelf to the shelf break in the west. The glacially sculpted coastline along the peninsula is highly convoluted and characterized by deep embayments that are often interconnected by channels that facilitate transport of heat and nutrients into the shelf domain. The ecosystem is divided into three subregions, the continental slope, shelf and coastal regions, each with unique ocean dynamics, water mass and biological distributions. The WAP shelf lies within the Antarctic Sea Ice Zone (SIZ) and like other SIZs, the WAP system is very productive, supporting large stocks of marine mammals, birds and the Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba. Ecosystem dynamics is dominated by the seasonal and interannual variation in sea ice extent and retreat. The Antarctic Peninsula is one among the most rapidly warming regions on Earth, having experienced a 2°C increase in the annual mean temperature and a 6°C rise in the mean winter temperature since 1950. Delivery of heat from the Antarctic Circumpolar Current has increased significantly in the past decade, sufficient to drive to a 0.6°C warming of the upper 300 m of shelf water. In the past 50 years and continuing in the twenty-first century, the warm, moist maritime climate of the northern WAP has been migrating south, displacing the once dominant cold, dry continental Antarctic climate and causing multi-level responses in the marine ecosystem. Ecosystem responses to the regional warming include increased heat transport, decreased sea ice extent and duration, local declines in ice-dependent Adélie penguins, increase in ice-tolerant gentoo and chinstrap penguins, alterations in phytoplankton and zooplankton community composition and changes in krill recruitment, abundance and availability to predators. The climate/ecological gradients extending along the WAP and the presence of monitoring systems, field stations and long-term research programmes make the region an invaluable observatory of climate change and marine ecosystem response.
Palmer Station; LTER; climate change; Adélie penguin; Antarctic krill; Antarctic Circumpolar Current
The Antarctic Peninsula is experiencing one of the fastest rates of regional climate change on Earth, resulting in the collapse of ice shelves, the retreat of glaciers and the exposure of new terrestrial habitat. In the nearby oceanic system, winter sea ice in the Bellingshausen and Amundsen seas has decreased in extent by 10% per decade, and shortened in seasonal duration. Surface waters have warmed by more than 1 K since the 1950s, and the Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current has also warmed. Of the changes observed in the marine ecosystem of the western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) region to date, alterations in winter sea ice dynamics are the most likely to have had a direct impact on the marine fauna, principally through shifts in the extent and timing of habitat for ice-associated biota. Warming of seawater at depths below ca 100 m has yet to reach the levels that are biologically significant. Continued warming, or a change in the frequency of the flooding of CDW onto the WAP continental shelf may, however, induce sublethal effects that influence ecological interactions and hence food-web operation. The best evidence for recent changes in the ecosystem may come from organisms which record aspects of their population dynamics in their skeleton (such as molluscs or brachiopods) or where ecological interactions are preserved (such as in encrusting biota of hard substrata). In addition, a southwards shift of marine isotherms may induce a parallel migration of some taxa similar to that observed on land. The complexity of the Southern Ocean food web and the nonlinear nature of many interactions mean that predictions based on short-term studies of a small number of species are likely to be misleading.
food web; ice; krill; oceanography; physiology; temperature
Metagenomic samples from oceans around the globe were used to examine the biogeography of the dominant marine heterotrophic bacterial clade, SAR11. Analysis uncovers evidence of adaptive radiation in response to environmental parameters, particularly temperature.
By generating 37 new Antarctic metagenomes and analysing the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions of the SAR11 clade in a total of 128 surface marine metagenomes, we identified phylotype distributions that strongly correlated with temperature and latitude.By assembling SAR11 genomes from Antarctic metagenome data, we identified specific genes, biases in gene functions and signatures of positive selection in the genomes of the polar SAR11—genomic signatures of adaptive radiation.Our data demonstrate the importance of adaptive radiation in an organism's ability to proliferate throughout the world's oceans, and describe genomic traits characteristic of different phylotypes in specific marine biomes.These bacteria are important marine heterotrophs and have a fundamental role in oceanic nutrient cycling. These findings, therefore, have important implications for our ability to predict how changes in ocean temperature may affect bacterial ecology.
The ubiquitous SAR11 bacterial clade is the most abundant type of organism in the world's oceans, but the reasons for its success are not fully elucidated. We analysed 128 surface marine metagenomes, including 37 new Antarctic metagenomes. The large size of the data set enabled internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions to be obtained from the Southern polar region, enabling the first global characterization of the distribution of SAR11, from waters spanning temperatures −2 to 30°C. Our data show a stable co-occurrence of phylotypes within both ‘tropical' (>20°C) and ‘polar' (<10°C) biomes, highlighting ecological niche differentiation between major SAR11 subgroups. All phylotypes display transitions in abundance that are strongly correlated with temperature and latitude. By assembling SAR11 genomes from Antarctic metagenome data, we identified specific genes, biases in gene functions and signatures of positive selection in the genomes of the polar SAR11—genomic signatures of adaptive radiation. Our data demonstrate the importance of adaptive radiation in the organism's ability to proliferate throughout the world's oceans, and describe genomic traits characteristic of different phylotypes in specific marine biomes.
adaptive radiation; Antarctica; metagenome; Pelagibacter; phylotype distribution
Archaeal 16S rRNA was extracted from samples of deep marine subsurface sediments from Peru Margin site 1227, Ocean Drilling Program leg 201. The amounts of archaeal 16S rRNA in each extract were quantified by serial dilution and reverse transcription (RT)-PCR. The results indicated a 1,000-fold variation in rRNA content with depth in the sediment, with the highest concentrations found near the sediment surface and in the sulfate-methane transition zone (SMTZ). The phylogenetic composition of the active archaeal population revealed by cloning and sequencing of RT-PCR products changed with depth. Several phylotypes affiliated with marine benthic group B (MBGB) dominated clone libraries from the upper part of the SMTZ and were detected only in this layer. Members of the miscellaneous crenarchaeotal group (MCG) dominated clone libraries from the other layers. These results demonstrate that archaeal communities change in activity and community composition over short distances in geochemically distinct zones of deep subseafloor sediments and that these changes are traceable in the rRNA pool. It was shown for the first time that members of both the MCG and MBGB Archaea are more active in the SMTZ than in layers above and below. This indicates that they benefit either directly or indirectly from the anaerobic oxidation of methane. They also appear to be ecophysiologically flexible, as they have been retrieved from a wide range of marine sediments of various geochemical properties.
The Scotia Sea ecosystem is a major component of the circumpolar Southern Ocean system, where productivity and predator demand for prey are high. The eastward-flowing Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) and waters from the Weddell–Scotia Confluence dominate the physics of the Scotia Sea, leading to a strong advective flow, intense eddy activity and mixing. There is also strong seasonality, manifest by the changing irradiance and sea ice cover, which leads to shorter summers in the south. Summer phytoplankton blooms, which at times can cover an area of more than 0.5 million km2, probably result from the mixing of micronutrients into surface waters through the flow of the ACC over the Scotia Arc. This production is consumed by a range of species including Antarctic krill, which are the major prey item of large seabird and marine mammal populations. The flow of the ACC is steered north by the Scotia Arc, pushing polar water to lower latitudes, carrying with it krill during spring and summer, which subsidize food webs around South Georgia and the northern Scotia Arc. There is also marked interannual variability in winter sea ice distribution and sea surface temperatures that is linked to southern hemisphere-scale climate processes such as the El Niño–Southern Oscillation. This variation affects regional primary and secondary production and influences biogeochemical cycles. It also affects krill population dynamics and dispersal, which in turn impacts higher trophic level predator foraging, breeding performance and population dynamics. The ecosystem has also been highly perturbed as a result of harvesting over the last two centuries and significant ecological changes have also occurred in response to rapid regional warming during the second half of the twentieth century. This combination of historical perturbation and rapid regional change highlights that the Scotia Sea ecosystem is likely to show significant change over the next two to three decades, which may result in major ecological shifts.
Scotia Sea; ecosystem; advection; Antarctic krill; heterogeneity; interannual variability
The Planococcaceae are extreme survivors, having been cultured from environments such as deep sea sediments, marine solar salterns, glaciers, permafrost, Antarctic deserts, and sea ice brine. The family contains both sporulating and nonsporulating genera. Here we present the unclosed, draft genome sequence of Planococcus donghaensis strain MPA1U2, a nonsporulating psychrotrophic bacterium isolated from surface coastal water of the Pacific Ocean.
Metagenomics is emerging as a powerful method to study the function and physiology of the unexplored microbial biosphere, and is causing us to re-evaluate basic precepts of microbial ecology and evolution. Most marine metagenomic analyses have been nearly exclusively devoted to photic waters.
We constructed a metagenomic fosmid library from 3,000 m-deep Mediterranean plankton, which is much warmer (∼14°C) than waters of similar depth in open oceans (∼2°C). We analyzed the library both by phylogenetic screening based on 16S rRNA gene amplification from clone pools and by sequencing both insert extremities of ca. 5,000 fosmids. Genome recruitment strategies showed that the majority of high scoring pairs corresponded to genomes from Rhizobiales within the Alphaproteobacteria, Cenarchaeum symbiosum, Planctomycetes, Acidobacteria, Chloroflexi and Gammaproteobacteria. We have found a community structure similar to that found in the aphotic zone of the Pacific. However, the similarities were significantly higher to the mesopelagic (500–700 m deep) in the Pacific than to the single 4000 m deep sample studied at this location. Metabolic genes were mostly related to catabolism, transport and degradation of complex organic molecules, in agreement with a prevalent heterotrophic lifestyle for deep-sea microbes. However, we observed a high percentage of genes encoding dehydrogenases and, among them, cox genes, suggesting that aerobic carbon monoxide oxidation may be important in the deep ocean as an additional energy source.
The comparison of metagenomic libraries from the deep Mediterranean and the Pacific ALOHA water column showed that bathypelagic Mediterranean communities resemble more mesopelagic communities in the Pacific, and suggests that, in the absence of light, temperature is a major stratifying factor in the oceanic water column, overriding pressure at least over 4000 m deep. Several chemolithotrophic metabolic pathways could supplement organic matter degradation in this most depleted habitat.
Viruses have a profound influence on both the ecology and evolution of marine plankton, but the genetic diversity of viral assemblages, particularly those in deeper ocean waters, remains poorly described. Here we report on the construction and analysis of a viral metagenome prepared from below the euphotic zone in a temperate, eutrophic bay of coastal California.
We purified viruses from approximately one cubic meter of seawater collected from 200m depth in Monterey Bay, CA. DNA was extracted from the virus fraction, sheared, and cloned with no prior amplification into a plasmid vector and propagated in E. coli to produce the MBv200m library. Random clones were sequenced by the Sanger method. Sequences were assembled then compared to sequences in GenBank and to other viral metagenomic libraries using BLAST analyses.
Only 26% of the 881 sequences remaining after assembly had significant (E ≤ 0.001) BLAST hits to sequences in the GenBank nr database, with most being matches to bacteria (15%) and viruses (8%). When BLAST analysis included environmental sequences, 74% of sequences in the MBv200m library had a significant match. Most of these hits (70%) were to microbial metagenome sequences and only 0.7% were to sequences from viral metagenomes. Of the 121 sequences with a significant hit to a known virus, 94% matched bacteriophages (Families Podo-, Sipho-, and Myoviridae) and 6% matched viruses of eukaryotes in the Family Phycodnaviridae (5 sequences) or the Mimivirus (2 sequences). The largest percentages of hits to viral genes of known function were to those involved in DNA modification (25%) or structural genes (17%). Based on reciprocal BLAST analyses, the MBv200m library appeared to be most similar to viral metagenomes from two other bays and least similar to a viral metagenome from the Arctic Ocean.
Direct cloning of DNA from diverse marine viruses was feasible and resulted in a distribution of virus types and functional genes at depth that differed in detail, but were broadly similar to those found in surface marine waters. Targeted viral analyses are useful for identifying those components of the greater marine metagenome that circulate in the subcellular size fraction.
Very small eukaryotic organisms (picoeukaryotes) are fundamental components of marine planktonic systems, often accounting for a significant fraction of the biomass and activity in a system. Their identity, however, has remained elusive, since the small cells lack morphological features for identification. We determined the diversity of marine picoeukaryotes by sequencing cloned 18S rRNA genes in five genetic libraries from North Atlantic, Southern Ocean, and Mediterranean Sea surface waters. Picoplankton were obtained by filter size fractionation, a step that excluded most large eukaryotes and recovered most picoeukaryotes. Genetic libraries of eukaryotic ribosomal DNA were screened by restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis, and at least one clone of each operational taxonomic unit (OTU) was partially sequenced. In general, the phylogenetic diversity in each library was rather great, and each library included many different OTUs and members of very distantly related phylogenetic groups. Of 225 eukaryotic clones, 126 were affiliated with algal classes, especially the Prasinophyceae, the Prymnesiophyceae, the Bacillariophyceae, and the Dinophyceae. A minor fraction (27 clones) was affiliated with clearly heterotrophic organisms, such as ciliates, the chrysomonad Paraphysomonas, cercomonads, and fungi. There were two relatively abundant novel lineages, novel stramenopiles (53 clones) and novel alveolates (19 clones). These lineages are very different from any organism that has been isolated, suggesting that there are previously unknown picoeukaryotes. Prasinophytes and novel stramenopile clones were very abundant in all of the libraries analyzed. These findings underscore the importance of attempts to grow the small eukaryotic plankton in pure culture.
Knowledge of abundance, trends and distribution of cetacean populations is needed to inform marine conservation efforts, ecosystem models and spatial planning. We compiled a geo-spatial database of published data on cetacean abundance from dedicated visual line-transect surveys and encoded >1100 abundance estimates for 47 species from 430 surveys conducted worldwide from 1975–2005. Our subsequent analyses revealed large spatial, temporal and taxonomic variability and gaps in survey coverage. With the exception of Antarctic waters, survey coverage was biased toward the northern hemisphere, especially US and northern European waters. Overall, <25% of the world's ocean surface was surveyed and only 6% had been covered frequently enough (≥5 times) to allow trend estimation. Almost half the global survey effort, defined as total area (km2) covered by all survey study areas across time, was concentrated in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP). Neither the number of surveys conducted nor the survey effort had increased in recent years. Across species, an average of 10% of a species' predicted range had been covered by at least one survey, but there was considerable variation among species. With the exception of three delphinid species, <1% of all species' ranges had been covered frequently enough for trend analysis. Sperm whales emerged from our analyses as a relatively data-rich species. This is a notoriously difficult species to survey visually, and we use this as an example to illustrate the challenges of using available data from line-transect surveys for the detection of trends or for spatial planning. We propose field and analytical methods to fill in data gaps to improve cetacean conservation efforts.
Antarctic krill Euphausia superba is a predominant species in the Southern Ocean, it is very sensitive to climate change, and it supports large stocks of fishes, seabirds, seals and whales in Antarctic marine ecosystems. Modern krill stocks have been estimated directly by net hauls and acoustic surveys; the historical krill density especially the long-term one in the Southern Ocean, however, is unknown. Here we inferred the relative krill population changes along the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) over the 20th century from the trophic level change of Antarctic fur seal Arctocephalus gazella using stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotopes of archival seal hairs. Since Antarctic fur seals feed preferentially on krill, the variation of δ15N in seal hair indicates a change in the proportion of krill in the seal's diets and thus the krill availability in local seawater. For the past century, enriching fur seal δ15N values indicated decreasing krill availability. This is agreement with direct observation for the past ∼30 years and suggests that the recently documented decline in krill populations began in the early parts of the 20th century. This novel method makes it possible to infer past krill population changes from ancient tissues of krill predators.