Eukaryotic marine microbes play pivotal roles in biogeochemical nutrient cycling and ecosystem function, but studies that focus on the protistan biogeography and genetic diversity lag-behind studies of other microbes. 18S rRNA PCR amplification and clone library sequencing are commonly used to assess diversity that is culture independent. However, molecular methods are not without potential biases and artifacts. In this study, we compare the community composition of clone libraries generated from the same water sample collected at the San Pedro Ocean Time Series (SPOTs) station in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Community composition was assessed using different cell lysis methods (chemical and mechanical) and the extraction of different nucleic acids (DNA and RNA reverse transcribed to cDNA) to build Sanger ABI clone libraries. We describe specific biases for ecologically important phylogenetic groups resulting from differences in nucleic acid extraction methods that will inform future designs of eukaryotic diversity studies, regardless of the target sequencing platform planned.
Microbes play an essential role in ecosystem functions, including carrying out biogeochemical cycles, but are currently considered a black box in predictive models and all global biodiversity debates. This is due to (i) perceived temporal and spatial variations in microbial communities and (ii) lack of ecological theory explaining how microbes regulate ecosystem functions. Providing evidence of the microbial regulation of biogeochemical cycles is key for predicting ecosystem functions, including greenhouse gas fluxes, under current and future climate scenarios. Using functional measures, stable-isotope probing, and molecular methods, we show that microbial (community diversity and function) response to land use change is stable over time. We investigated the change in net methane flux and associated microbial communities due to afforestation of bog, grassland, and moorland. Afforestation resulted in the stable and consistent enhancement in sink of atmospheric methane at all sites. This change in function was linked to a niche-specific separation of microbial communities (methanotrophs). The results suggest that ecological theories developed for macroecology may explain the microbial regulation of the methane cycle. Our findings provide support for the explicit consideration of microbial data in ecosystem/climate models to improve predictions of biogeochemical cycles.
Ocean viruses are ubiquitous and abundant and play important roles in global biogeochemical cycles by means of their mortality, horizontal gene transfer, and manipulation of host metabolism. However, the obstacles involved in linking viruses to their hosts in a high-throughput manner bottlenecks our ability to understand virus-host interactions in complex communities. We have developed a method called viral tagging (VT), which combines mixtures of host cells and fluorescent viruses with flow cytometry. We investigated multiple viruses which infect each of two model marine bacteria that represent the slow-growing, photoautotrophic genus Synechococcus (Cyanobacteria) and the fast-growing, heterotrophic genus Pseudoalteromonas (Gammaproteobacteria). Overall, viral tagging results for viral infection were consistent with plaque and liquid infection assays for cyanobacterial myo-, podo- and siphoviruses and some (myo- and podoviruses) but not all (four siphoviruses) heterotrophic bacterial viruses. Virus-tagged Pseudoalteromonas organisms were proportional to the added viruses under varied infection conditions (virus-bacterium ratios), while no more than 50% of the Synechococcus organisms were virus tagged even at viral abundances that exceeded (5 to 10×) that of their hosts. Further, we found that host growth phase minimally impacts the fraction of virus-tagged Synechococcus organisms while greatly affecting phage adsorption to Pseudoalteromonas. Together these findings suggest that at least two contrasting viral life strategies exist in the oceans and that they likely reflect adaptation to their host microbes. Looking forward to the point at which the virus-tagging signature is well understood (e.g., for Synechococcus), application to natural communities should begin to provide population genomic data at the proper scale for predictively modeling two of the most abundant biological entities on Earth.
Viral study suffers from an inability to link viruses to hosts en masse, and yet delineating “who infects whom” is fundamental to viral ecology and predictive modeling. This article describes viral tagging—a high-throughput method to investigate virus-host interactions by combining the fluorescent labeling of viruses for “tagging” host cells that can be analyzed and sorted using flow cytometry. Two cultivated hosts (the cyanobacterium Synechococcus and the gammaproteobacterium Pseudoalteromonas) and their viruses (podo-, myo-, and siphoviruses) were investigated to validate the method. These lab-based experiments indicate that for most virus-host pairings, VT (viral tagging) adsorption is equivalent to traditional infection by liquid and plaque assays, with the exceptions being confined to promiscuous adsorption by Pseudoalteromonas siphoviruses. These experiments also reveal variability in life strategies across these oceanic virus-host systems with respect to infection conditions and host growth status, which highlights the need for further model system characterization to break open this virus-host interaction “black box.”
Over the last 30 years, extensive studies have revealed the crucial roles played by microbes in aquatic ecosystems. It has been shown that bacteria, viruses and protozoan grazers are dominant in terms of abundance and biomass. The frequent interactions between these microbiological compartments are responsible for strong trophic links from dissolved organic matter to higher trophic levels, via heterotrophic bacteria, which form the basis for the important biogeochemical roles of microbial food webs in aquatic ecosystems. To gain a better understanding of the interactions between bacteria, viruses and flagellates in lacustrine ecosystems, we investigated the effect of protistan bacterivory on bacterial abundance, production and structure [determined by 16S rRNA PCR-DGGE], and viral abundance and activity of two lakes of contrasting trophic status. Four experiments were conducted in the oligotrophic Lake Annecy and the mesotrophic Lake Bourget over two seasons (early spring vs. summer) using a fractionation approach. In situ dark vs. light incubations were performed to consider the effects of the different treatments in the presence and absence of phototrophic activity.
The presence of grazers (i.e. < 5-μm small eukaryotes) affected viral production positively in all experiments, and the stimulation of viral production (compared to the treatment with no eukaryotic predators) was more variable between lakes than between seasons, with the highest value having been recorded in the mesotrophic lake (+30%). Viral lysis and grazing activities acted additively to sustain high bacterial production in all experiments. Nevertheless, the stimulation of bacterial production was more variable between seasons than between lakes, with the highest values obtained in summer (+33.5% and +37.5% in Lakes Bourget and Annecy, respectively). The presence of both predators (nanoflagellates and viruses) did not seem to have a clear influence upon bacterial community structure according to the four experiments.
Our results highlight the importance of a synergistic effect, i.e. the positive influence of grazers on viral activities in sustaining (directly and indirectly) bacterial production and affecting composition, in both oligotrophic and mesotrophic lakes.
Lakes; microcosm; spring-summer variations; bacterial production; viral production; bacterial community structure; grazers
Global climate change has the potential to seriously and adversely affect marine ecosystem functioning. Numerous experimental and modeling studies have demonstrated how predicted ocean acidification and increased ultraviolet radiation (UVR) can affect marine microbes. However, researchers have largely ignored interactions between ocean acidification, increased UVR and anthropogenic pollutants in marine environments. Such interactions can alter chemical speciation and the bioavailability of several organic and inorganic pollutants with potentially deleterious effects, such as modifying microbial-mediated detoxification processes. Microbes mediate major biogeochemical cycles, providing fundamental ecosystems services such as environmental detoxification and recovery. It is, therefore, important that we understand how predicted changes to oceanic pH, UVR, and temperature will affect microbial pollutant detoxification processes in marine ecosystems. The intrinsic characteristics of microbes, such as their short generation time, small size, and functional role in biogeochemical cycles combined with recent advances in molecular techniques (e.g., metagenomics and metatranscriptomics) make microbes excellent models to evaluate the consequences of various climate change scenarios on detoxification processes in marine ecosystems. In this review, we highlight the importance of microbial microcosm experiments, coupled with high-resolution molecular biology techniques, to provide a critical experimental framework to start understanding how climate change, anthropogenic pollution, and microbiological interactions may affect marine ecosystems in the future.
Climate change; interactive effects; pollution; microbial communities; molecular biology
Microbes have central roles in ocean food webs and global biogeochemical processes, yet specific ecological relationships among these taxa are largely unknown. This is in part due to the dilute, microscopic nature of the planktonic microbial community, which prevents direct observation of their interactions. Here, we use a holistic (that is, microbial system-wide) approach to investigate time-dependent variations among taxa from all three domains of life in a marine microbial community. We investigated the community composition of bacteria, archaea and protists through cultivation-independent methods, along with total bacterial and viral abundance, and physico-chemical observations. Samples and observations were collected monthly over 3 years at a well-described ocean time-series site of southern California. To find associations among these organisms, we calculated time-dependent rank correlations (that is, local similarity correlations) among relative abundances of bacteria, archaea, protists, total abundance of bacteria and viruses and physico-chemical parameters. We used a network generated from these statistical correlations to visualize and identify time-dependent associations among ecologically important taxa, for example, the SAR11 cluster, stramenopiles, alveolates, cyanobacteria and ammonia-oxidizing archaea. Negative correlations, perhaps suggesting competition or predation, were also common. The analysis revealed a progression of microbial communities through time, and also a group of unknown eukaryotes that were highly correlated with dinoflagellates, indicating possible symbioses or parasitism. Possible ‘keystone' species were evident. The network has statistical features similar to previously described ecological networks, and in network parlance has non-random, small world properties (that is, highly interconnected nodes). This approach provides new insights into the natural history of microbes.
co-occurrence patterns; stramenopiles; dinoflagellates; SAR11; cyanobacteria; time series
Nitrification, the aerobic oxidation of ammonia to nitrate via nitrite, has been suggested to have been a central part of the global biogeochemical nitrogen cycle since the oxygenation of Earth. The cultivation of several ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) as well as the discovery that archaeal ammonia monooxygenase (amo)-like gene sequences are nearly ubiquitously distributed in the environment and outnumber their bacterial counterparts in many habitats fundamentally revised our understanding of nitrification. Surprising insights into the physiological distinctiveness of AOA are mirrored by the recognition of the phylogenetic uniqueness of these microbes, which fall within a novel archaeal phylum now known as Thaumarchaeota. The relative importance of AOA in nitrification, compared to ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB), is still under debate. This minireview provides a synopsis of our current knowledge of the diversity and physiology of AOA, the factors controlling their ecology, and their role in carbon cycling as well as their potential involvement in the production of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. It emphasizes the importance of activity-based analyses in AOA studies and formulates priorities for future research.
The vast marine deep biosphere consists of microbial habitats within sediment, pore waters, upper basaltic crust and the fluids that circulate throughout it. A wide range of temperature, pressure, pH, and electron donor and acceptor conditions exists—all of which can combine to affect carbon and nutrient cycling and result in gradients on spatial scales ranging from millimeters to kilometers. Diverse and mostly uncharacterized microorganisms live in these habitats, and potentially play a role in mediating global scale biogeochemical processes. Quantifying the rates at which microbial activity in the subsurface occurs is a challenging endeavor, yet developing an understanding of these rates is essential to determine the impact of subsurface life on Earth's global biogeochemical cycles, and for understanding how microorganisms in these “extreme” environments survive (or even thrive). Here, we synthesize recent advances and discoveries pertaining to microbial activity in the marine deep subsurface, and we highlight topics about which there is still little understanding and suggest potential paths forward to address them. This publication is the result of a workshop held in August 2012 by the NSF-funded Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) “theme team” on microbial activity (www.darkenergybiosphere.org).
deep biosphere; IODP; biogeochemistry; sediment; oceanic crust; C-DEBI; subsurface microbiology
Summary: The majority of life on Earth—notably, microbial life—occurs in places that do not receive sunlight, with the habitats of the oceans being the largest of these reservoirs. Sunlight penetrates only a few tens to hundreds of meters into the ocean, resulting in large-scale microbial ecosystems that function in the dark. Our knowledge of microbial processes in the dark ocean—the aphotic pelagic ocean, sediments, oceanic crust, hydrothermal vents, etc.—has increased substantially in recent decades. Studies that try to decipher the activity of microorganisms in the dark ocean, where we cannot easily observe them, are yielding paradigm-shifting discoveries that are fundamentally changing our understanding of the role of the dark ocean in the global Earth system and its biogeochemical cycles. New generations of researchers and experimental tools have emerged, in the last decade in particular, owing to dedicated research programs to explore the dark ocean biosphere. This review focuses on our current understanding of microbiology in the dark ocean, outlining salient features of various habitats and discussing known and still unexplored types of microbial metabolism and their consequences in global biogeochemical cycling. We also focus on patterns of microbial diversity in the dark ocean and on processes and communities that are characteristic of the different habitats.
Viruses are the most abundant biological entities on our planet. Interactions between viruses and their hosts impact several important biological processes in the world's oceans such as horizontal gene transfer, microbial diversity and biogeochemical cycling. Interrogation of microbial metagenomic sequence data collected as part of the Sorcerer II Global Ocean Expedition (GOS) revealed a high abundance of viral sequences, representing approximately 3% of the total predicted proteins. Cluster analyses of the viral sequences revealed hundreds to thousands of viral genes encoding various metabolic and cellular functions. Quantitative analyses of viral genes of host origin performed on the viral fraction of aquatic samples confirmed the viral nature of these sequences and suggested that significant portions of aquatic viral communities behave as reservoirs of such genetic material. Distributional and phylogenetic analyses of these host-derived viral sequences also suggested that viral acquisition of environmentally relevant genes of host origin is a more abundant and widespread phenomenon than previously appreciated. The predominant viral sequences identified within microbial fractions originated from tailed bacteriophages and exhibited varying global distributions according to viral family. Recruitment of GOS viral sequence fragments against 27 complete aquatic viral genomes revealed that only one reference bacteriophage genome was highly abundant and was closely related, but not identical, to the cyanomyovirus P-SSM4. The co-distribution across all sampling sites of P-SSM4-like sequences with the dominant ecotype of its host, Prochlorococcus supports the classification of the viral sequences as P-SSM4-like and suggests that this virus may influence the abundance, distribution and diversity of one of the most dominant components of picophytoplankton in oligotrophic oceans. In summary, the abundance and broad geographical distribution of viral sequences within microbial fractions, the prevalence of genes among viral sequences that encode microbial physiological function and their distinct phylogenetic distribution lend strong support to the notion that viral-mediated gene acquisition is a common and ongoing mechanism for generating microbial diversity in the marine environment.
Microbial populations within hypersaline lakes often exhibit high activities of photosynthesis, dissimilatory sulphate reduction and other processes and, thus, can have profound impacts on biogeochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen, sulphur and other important elements within arid lands. To further understand these types of ecosystems, the physicochemical and biological properties of Sidi Ameur and Himalatt Salt Lakes in the Algerian Sahara were examined and compared. Both lakes were relatively neutral in pH (7.2 to 7.4) and high in salt, at 12% and 20 % (w/v) salinity for Himalatt and Sidi Ameur Lakes, respectively, with dominant ions of sodium and chloride. The community compositions of microbes from all three domains (Bacteria, Archaea and Eukarya) were surveyed through the use of 16S and 18S ribosomal gene amplification and clone library clustering using amplified ribosomal DNA restriction analysis (ARDRA) in conjunction with DNA sequencing and analysis. A high level of microbial diversity, particularly among the bacteria of the Himalatt Salt Lake and archaea of Sidi Ameur Lake, was found within these environments. Representatives from all known halophilic bacterial phyla as well as 6 different genera of halophilic archaea were identified. Moreover, several apparently novel phylotypes among both archaea and bacteria were revealed.
molecular biology; microbial diversity; halophiles; haloarchaea; hypersaline
Rhodopsin-containing marine microbes such as those in the class Flavobacteriia play a pivotal role in the biogeochemical cycle of the euphotic zone (Fuhrman JA, Schwalbach MS, Stingl U. 2008. Proteorhodopsins: an array of physiological roles? Nat Rev Microbiol. 6:488–494). Deciphering the genome information of flavobacteria and accessing the diversity and ecological impact of microbial rhodopsins are important in understanding and preserving the global ecosystems. The genome sequence of the orange-pigmented marine flavobacterium Nonlabens dokdonensis (basonym: Donghaeana dokdonensis) DSW-6 was determined. As a marine photoheterotroph, DSW-6 has written in its genome physiological features that allow survival in the oligotrophic environments. The sequence analysis also uncovered a gene encoding an unexpected type of microbial rhodopsin containing a unique motif in addition to a proteorhodopsin gene and a number of photolyase or cryptochrome genes. Homologs of the novel rhodopsin gene were found in other flavobacteria, alphaproteobacteria, a species of Cytophagia, a deinococcus, and even a eukaryote diatom. They all contain the characteristic NQ motif and form a phylogenetically distinct group. Expression analysis of this rhodopsin gene in DSW-6 indicated that it is induced at high NaCl concentrations, as well as in the presence of light and the absence of nutrients. Genomic and metagenomic surveys demonstrate the diversity of the NQ rhodopsins in nature and the prevalent occurrence of the encoding genes among microbial communities inhabiting hypersaline niches, suggesting its involvement in sodium metabolism and the sodium-adapted lifestyle.
heterotrophic picoplankton; Bacteroidetes; bacteriorhodopsin; xanthorhodopsin; sodium pump; metagenome
Carbon cycling in Southern Ocean is a major issue in climate change, hence the need to understand the role of biota in the regulation of carbon fixation and cycling. Southern Ocean is a heterogeneous system, characterized by a strong seasonality, due to long dark winter. Yet, currently little is known about biogeochemical dynamics during this season, particularly in the deeper part of the ocean. We studied bacterial communities and processes in summer and winter cruises in the southern Drake Passage. Here we show that in winter, when the primary production is greatly reduced, Bacteria and Archaea become the major producers of biogenic particles, at the expense of dissolved organic carbon drawdown. Heterotrophic production and chemoautotrophic CO2 fixation rates were substantial, also in deep water, and bacterial populations were controlled by protists and viruses. A dynamic food web is also consistent with the observed temporal and spatial variations in archaeal and bacterial communities that might exploit various niches. Thus, Southern Ocean microbial loop may substantially maintain a wintertime food web and system respiration at the expense of summer produced DOC as well as regenerate nutrients and iron. Our findings have important implications for Southern Ocean ecosystem functioning and carbon cycle and its manipulation by iron enrichment to achieve net sequestration of atmospheric CO2.
Microbial communities are at the very basis of life on earth, catalyzing biogeochemical reactions driving global nutrient cycles. However, unlike for plants and animals, microbial diversity is not on the biodiversity–conservation agenda. The latter, however, would imply that microbial diversity is not under any threat by anthropogenic disturbance or climate change. This maybe a misconception caused by the rudimentary knowledge we have concerning microbial diversity and its role in ecosystem functioning. This perspective paper identifies major areas with knowledge gaps within the field of environmental microbiology that preclude a comprehension of microbial ecosystems on the level we have for plants and animals. Opportunities and challenges are pointed out to open the microbial black box and to go from descriptive to predictive microbial ecology.
microbial diversity; biodiversity–ecosystem functioning; resistance; resilience; redundancy
The discovery of an abundant and diverse virus community in oceans and lakes has profoundly reshaped ideas about global carbon and nutrient fluxes, food web dynamics, and maintenance of microbial biodiversity. These roles are exerted through massive viral impact on the population dynamics of heterotrophic bacterioplankton and primary producers. We took advantage of a shallow wetland system with contrasting microhabitats in close proximity to demonstrate that in marked contrast to pelagic systems, viral infection, determined directly by transmission electron microscopy, and consequently mortality of prokaryotes were surprisingly low in benthic habitats in all seasons. This was true even though free viruses were abundant throughout the year and bacterial infection and mortality rates were high in surrounding water. The habitats in which we found this pattern include sediment, decomposing plant litter, and biofilms on aquatic vegetation. Overall, we detected viruses in only 4 of a total of ∼15,000 bacterial cells inspected in these three habitats; for comparison, nearly 300 of ∼5,000 cells suspended in the water column were infected. The strikingly low incidence of impact of phages in the benthos may have important implications, since a major portion of microbial biodiversity and global carbon and nutrient turnover are associated with surfaces. Therefore, if failure to infect benthic bacteria is a widespread phenomenon, then the global role of viruses in controlling microbial diversity, food web dynamics, and biogeochemical cycles would be greatly diminished compared to predictions based on data from planktonic environments.
Agricultural fertilization may change processes of elemental biogeochemical cycles and alter the ecological function. Ecoenzymatic stoichiometric feature plays a critical role in global soil carbon (C) metabolism, driving element cycles, and mediating atmospheric composition in response to agricultural nutrient management. Despite the importance on crop growth, the role of phosphorous (P) in compliance with eco-stoichiometry on soil C and nitrogen (N) sequestration in the paddy field remains poorly understood in the context of climate change. Here, we collected soil samples from a field experiment after 6 years of chemical P application at a gradient of 0 (P-0), 30 (P-30), 60 (P-60), and 90 (P-90) kg ha−1 in order to evaluate the role of P on stoichiometric properties in terms of soil chemical, microbial biomass, and eco-enzyme activities as well as greenhouse gas (GHG: CO2, N2O and CH4) emissions. Continuous P input increased soil total organic C and N by 1.3–9.2% and 3%–13%, respectively. P input induced C and N limitations as indicated by the decreased ratio of C:P and N:P in the soil and microbial biomass. A synergistic mechanism among the ecoenzymatic stoichiometry, which regulated the ecological function of microbial C and N acquisition and were stoichiometrically related to P input, stimulated soil C and N sequestration in the paddy field. The lower emissions of N2O and CH4 under the higher P application (P-60 and P-90) in July and the insignificant difference in N2O emission in August compared to P-30; however, continuous P input enhanced CO2 fluxes for both samplings. There is a technical conflict for simultaneously regulating three types of GHGs in terms of the eco-stoichiometry mechanism under P fertilization. Thus, it is recommended that the P input in paddy fields not exceed 60 kg ha−1 may maximize soil C sequestration, minimize P export, and guarantee grain yields.
Fishes can play important functional roles in the nutrient dynamics of freshwater systems. Aggregating fishes have the potential to generate areas of increased biogeochemical activity, or hotspots, in streams and rivers. Many of the studies documenting the functional role of fishes in nutrient dynamics have focused on native fish species; however, introduced fishes may restructure nutrient storage and cycling freshwater systems as they can attain high population densities in novel environments. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of a non-native catfish (Loricariidae: Pterygoplichthys) on nitrogen and phosphorus remineralization and estimate whether large aggregations of these fish generate measurable biogeochemical hotspots within nutrient-limited ecosystems. Loricariids formed large aggregations during daylight hours and dispersed throughout the stream during evening hours to graze benthic habitats. Excretion rates of phosphorus were twice as great during nighttime hours when fishes were actively feeding; however, there was no diel pattern in nitrogen excretion rates. Our results indicate that spatially heterogeneous aggregations of loricariids can significantly elevate dissolved nutrient concentrations via excretion relative to ambient nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations during daylight hours, creating biogeochemical hotspots and potentially altering nutrient dynamics in invaded systems.
The pH of the surface ocean is changing as a result of increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), and there are concerns about potential impacts of lower pH and associated alterations in seawater carbonate chemistry on the biogeochemical processes in the ocean. However, it is important to place these changes within the context of pH in the present-day ocean, which is not constant; it varies systematically with season, depth and along productivity gradients. Yet this natural variability in pH has rarely been considered in assessments of the effect of ocean acidification on marine microbes. Surface pH can change as a consequence of microbial utilization and production of carbon dioxide, and to a lesser extent other microbially mediated processes such as nitrification. Useful comparisons can be made with microbes in other aquatic environments that readily accommodate very large and rapid pH change. For example, in many freshwater lakes, pH changes that are orders of magnitude greater than those projected for the twenty second century oceans can occur over periods of hours. Marine and freshwater assemblages have always experienced variable pH conditions. Therefore, an appropriate null hypothesis may be, until evidence is obtained to the contrary, that major biogeochemical processes in the oceans other than calcification will not be fundamentally different under future higher CO2/lower pH conditions.
ocean acidification; rapid pH change; biogeochemical processes
Viruses are ubiquitous in the oceans and critical components of marine microbial communities, regulating nutrient transfer to higher trophic levels or to the dissolved organic pool through lysis of host cells. Hydrothermal vent systems are oases of biological activity in the deep oceans, for which knowledge of biodiversity and its impact on global ocean biogeochemical cycling is still in its infancy. In order to gain biological insight into viral communities present in hydrothermal vent systems, we developed a method based on deep-sequencing of pulsed field gel electrophoretic bands representing key viral fractions present in seawater within and surrounding a hydrothermal plume derived from Loki's Castle vent field at the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge. The reduction in virus community complexity afforded by this novel approach enabled the near-complete reconstruction of a lambda-like phage genome from the virus fraction of the plume. Phylogenetic examination of distinct gene regions in this lambdoid phage genome unveiled diversity at loci encoding superinfection exclusion- and integrase-like proteins. This suggests the importance of fine-tuning lyosgenic conversion as a viral survival strategy, and provides insights into the nature of host-virus and virus-virus interactions, within hydrothermal plumes. By reducing the complexity of the viral community through targeted sequencing of prominent dsDNA viral fractions, this method has selectively mimicked virus dominance approaching that hitherto achieved only through culturing, thus enabling bioinformatic analysis to locate a lambdoid viral “needle" within the greater viral community “haystack". Such targeted analyses have great potential for accelerating the extraction of biological knowledge from diverse and poorly understood environmental viral communities.
The direct “metagenomic” sequencing of genomic material from complex assemblages of bacteria, archaea, viruses and microeukaryotes has yielded new insights into the structure of microbial communities. For example, analysis of metagenomic data has revealed the existence of previously unknown microbial taxa whose spatial distributions are limited by environmental conditions, ecological competition, and dispersal mechanisms. However, differences in genotypes that might lead biologists to designate two microbes as taxonomically distinct need not necessarily imply differences in ecological function. Hence, there is a growing need for large-scale analysis of the distribution of microbial function across habitats. Here, we present a framework for investigating the biogeography of microbial function by analyzing the distribution of protein families inferred from environmental sequence data across a global collection of sites. We map over 6,000,000 protein sequences from unassembled reads from the Global Ocean Survey dataset to protein families, generating a protein family relative abundance matrix that describes the distribution of each protein family across sites. We then use non-negative matrix factorization (NMF) to approximate these protein family profiles as linear combinations of a small number of ecological components. Each component has a characteristic functional profile and site profile. Our approach identifies common functional signatures within several of the components. We use our method as a filter to estimate functional distance between sites, and find that an NMF-filtered measure of functional distance is more strongly correlated with environmental distance than a comparable PCA-filtered measure. We also find that functional distance is more strongly correlated with environmental distance than with geographic distance, in agreement with prior studies. We identify similar protein functions in several components and suggest that functional co-occurrence across metagenomic samples could lead to future methods for de-novo functional prediction. We conclude by discussing how NMF, and other dimension reduction methods, can help enable a macroscopic functional description of marine ecosystems.
The development of culture-independent strategies to study microbial diversity and function has led to a revolution in microbial ecology, enabling us to address fundamental questions about the distribution of microbes and their influence on Earth’s biogeochemical cycles. This article discusses some of the progress that scientists have made with the use of so-called “omic” techniques (metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, and metaproteomics) and the limitations and major challenges these approaches are currently facing. These ‘omic methods have been used to describe the taxonomic structure of microbial communities in different environments and to discover new genes and enzymes of industrial and medical interest. However, microbial community structure varies in different spatial and temporal scales and none of the ‘omic techniques are individually able to elucidate the complex aspects of microbial communities and ecosystems. In this article we highlight the importance of a spatiotemporal sampling design, together with a multilevel ‘omic approach and a community analysis strategy (association networks and modeling) to examine and predict interacting microbial communities and their impact on the environment.
Spatiotemporal sampling; Next generation sequencing; Metagenomics; ‘Omic approach; Community dynamics; Microbial community analysis
In addition to control by major nutrient elements (nitrogen, phosphorus, and silicon) the productivity and species composition of marine phytoplankton communities are also regulated by a number of trace metal nutrients (iron, zinc, cobalt, manganese, copper, and cadmium). Of these, iron is most limiting to phytoplankton growth and has the greatest effect on algal species diversity. It also plays an important role in limiting di-nitrogen (N2) fixation rates, and thus is important in controlling ocean inventories of fixed nitrogen. Because of these effects, iron is thought to play a key role in regulating biological cycles of carbon and nitrogen in the ocean, including the biological transfer of carbon to the deep sea, the so-called biological CO2 pump, which helps regulate atmospheric CO2 and CO2-linked global warming. Other trace metal nutrients (zinc, cobalt, copper, and manganese) have lesser effects on productivity; but may exert an important influence on the species composition of algal communities because of large differences in metal requirements among species. The interactions between trace metals and ocean plankton are reciprocal: not only do the metals control the plankton, but the plankton regulate the distributions, chemical speciation, and cycling of these metals through cellular uptake and recycling processes, downward flux of biogenic particles, biological release of organic chelators, and mediation of redox reactions. This two way interaction has influenced not only the biology and chemistry of the modern ocean, but has had a profound influence on biogeochemistry of the ocean and earth system as a whole, and on the evolution of marine and terrestrial biology over geologic history.
Phytoplankton; trace metal nutrients; iron; zinc; cobalt; manganese; cadmium; trace metal chemistry
Ammonia oxidation—the microbial oxidation of ammonia to nitrite and the first step in nitrification—plays a central role in nitrogen cycling in coastal and estuarine systems. Nevertheless, questions remain regarding the connection between this biogeochemical process and the diversity and abundance of the mediating microbial community. In this study, we measured nutrient fluxes and rates of sediment nitrification in conjunction with the diversity and abundance of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) and ammonia-oxidizing betaproteobacteria (β-AOB). Sediments were examined from four sites in Elkhorn Slough, a small agriculturally impacted coastal California estuary that opens into Monterey Bay. Using an intact sediment core flowthrough incubation system, we observed significant correlations among NO3−, NO2−, NH4+, and PO43+ fluxes, indicating a tight coupling of sediment biogeochemical processes. 15N-based measurements of nitrification rates revealed higher rates at the less impacted, lower-nutrient sites than at the more heavily impacted, nutrient-rich sites. Quantitative PCR analyses revealed that β-AOB amoA (encoding ammonia monooxygenase subunit A) gene copies outnumbered AOA amoA gene copies by factors ranging from 2- to 236-fold across the four sites. Sites with high nitrification rates primarily contained marine/estuarine Nitrosospira-like bacterial amoA sequences and phylogenetically diverse archaeal amoA sequences. Sites with low nitrification rates were dominated by estuarine Nitrosomonas-like amoA sequences and archaeal amoA sequences similar to those previously described in soils. This is the first report measuring AOA and β-AOB amoA abundance in conjunction with 15N-based nitrification rates in estuary sediments.
Ryan Lake, a 1.6-hectare basin lake near the periphery of the tree blowdown area in the blast zone 19 km north of Mount St. Helens, was studied from August to October 1980 to determine the microbial and chemical response of the lake to the eruption. Nutrient enrichment through the addition of fresh volcanic material and the organic debris from the surrounding conifer forest stimulated intense microbial activity. Concentrations of such nutrients as phosphorus, sulfur, manganese, iron, and dissolved organic carbon were markedly elevated. Nitrogen cycle activity was especially important to the lake ecosystem in regulating biogeochemical cycling owing to the limiting abundance of nitrogen compounds. Nitrogen fixation, both aerobic and anaerobic, was active from aerobic benthic and planktonic cyanobacteria with rates up to 210 nmol of N2 cm−1 h−1 and 667 nmol of N2 liter−1 h−1, respectively, and from anaerobic bacteria with rates reaching 220 nmol of N2 liter−1 h−1. Nitrification was limited to the aerobic epilimnion and littoral zones where rates were 43 and 261 nmol of NO2 liter−1 day−1, respectively. Potential denitrification rates were as high as 30 μmol of N2O liter−1 day−1 in the anaerobic hypolimnion. Total bacterial numbers ranged from 1 × 106 to 3 × 108 ml−1 with the number of viable sulfur-metal-oxidizing bacteria reaching 2 × 106 ml−1 in the hypolimnion. A general scenario for the microbial cycling of nitrogen, carbon, sulfur, and metals is presented for volcanically impacted lakes. The important role of nitrogen as these lakes recover from the cataclysmic eruption and proceed back towards their prior status as oligotrophic alpine lakes is emphasized.
Extracellular enzymes represent a public good for microbial communities, as they break down complex molecules into simple molecules that microbes can take up. These communities are vulnerable to cheating by microbes that do not produce enzymes, but benefit from those produced by others. However, extracellular enzymes are ubiquitous and play an important role in the depolymerization of nutrients. We developed a multi-genotype, multi-nutrient model of a community of exoenzyme-producing microbes, in order to investigate the relationship between diversity, social interactions, and nutrient depolymerization. We focused on coalitions between complementary types of microbes and their implications for spatial pattern formation and nutrient depolymerization. The model included polymers containing carbon, nitrogen, or phosphorus, and eight genotypes of bacteria, which produced different subsets of the three enzymes responsible for hydrolyzing these polymers. We allowed social dynamics to emerge from a mechanistic model of enzyme production, action, and diffusion. We found that diversity was maximized at high rates of either diffusion or enzyme production (but not both). Conditions favoring cheating also favored the emergence of coalitions. We characterized the spatial patterns formed by different interactions, showing that same-type cooperation leads to aggregation, but between-type cooperation leads to an interwoven, filamentous pattern. Contrary to expectations based on niche complementarity, we found that nutrient depolymerization declined with increasing diversity due to a negative competitive effect of coalitions on generalist producers, leading to less overall enzyme production. This decline in depolymerization was stronger for non-limiting nutrients in the system. This study shows that social interactions among microbes foraging for complementary resources can influence microbial diversity, microbial spatial distributions, and rates of nutrient depolymerization.
nutrient depolymerization; cooperation; spatial model; density-dependence; extracellular enzymes; facilitation; microbe; decomposition