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1.  The human gut and groundwater harbor non-photosynthetic bacteria belonging to a new candidate phylum sibling to Cyanobacteria 
eLife  2013;2:e01102.
Cyanobacteria were responsible for the oxygenation of the ancient atmosphere; however, the evolution of this phylum is enigmatic, as relatives have not been characterized. Here we use whole genome reconstruction of human fecal and subsurface aquifer metagenomic samples to obtain complete genomes for members of a new candidate phylum sibling to Cyanobacteria, for which we propose the designation ‘Melainabacteria’. Metabolic analysis suggests that the ancestors to both lineages were non-photosynthetic, anaerobic, motile, and obligately fermentative. Cyanobacterial light sensing may have been facilitated by regulators present in the ancestor of these lineages. The subsurface organism has the capacity for nitrogen fixation using a nitrogenase distinct from that in Cyanobacteria, suggesting nitrogen fixation evolved separately in the two lineages. We hypothesize that Cyanobacteria split from Melainabacteria prior or due to the acquisition of oxygenic photosynthesis. Melainabacteria remained in anoxic zones and differentiated by niche adaptation, including for symbiosis in the mammalian gut.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.01102.001
eLife digest
Microbes are ubiquitous in the world and exist in complex communities called microbiomes that have colonized many environments, including the human gut. Until modern techniques for sequencing nucleic acids became available, many of the organisms found in these microbiomes could not be studied because they could not be cultured in the laboratory. However, advances in sequencing technology have made it possible to study the evolution and properties of these microbes, including their impact on human health.
Bacteria belonging to the phylum Cyanobacteria had a significant effect on the prehistoric Earth because they were the first organisms to produce gaseous oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis, and thus shaped the Earth’s oxygen-rich atmosphere. Early plants took up these bacteria in a symbiotic relationship, and plastids—the organelles in plant cells that perform photosynthesis and produce oxygen–are the descendants of Cyanobacteria.
Organisms evolutionarily related to Cyanobacteria have been found in the human gut and in various aquatic sources, but these bacteria have not been studied because it has not been possible to isolate or culture them. Now, Di Rienzi, Sharon et al. have used modern sequencing techniques to obtain complete genomes for some of these bacteria, which they assign to a new phylum called Melainabacteria.
By analyzing these genomes, Di Rienzi, Sharon et al. were able to make predictions about the cell structure and metabolic abilities of Melainabacteria. Like Cyanobacteria, they have two membranes surrounding the bacterial cell; unlike Cyanobacteria, however, they have flagella that propel them through liquid or across surfaces. Most interestingly, Melainabacteria are not able to perform photosynthesis, but instead produce energy through fermentation and release hydrogen gas that can be consumed by other microorganisms.
The genome of the bacteria isolated from water reveals that it has the capacity to fix nitrogen. Cyanobacteria can also fix atmospheric nitrogen, but the protein complexes used by the two phyla are not related, which suggests that nitrogen fixation evolved after the evolutionary divergence of Cyanobacteria and Melainabacteria.
By exploring previously published datasets of bacterial communities, Di Rienzi, Sharon et al. found that Melainabacteria are common in aquatic habitats. They are also prevalent in the guts of herbivorous mammals and humans with a predominantly vegetarian diet. Melainabacteria from the human gut also synthesize several B and K vitamins, which suggests that these bacteria are beneficial to their host because in addition to aiding with the digestion of plant fibers, they are also a source of vitamins.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.01102.002
doi:10.7554/eLife.01102
PMCID: PMC3787301  PMID: 24137540
Cyanobacteria; Melainabacteria; photosynthesis; nitrogen fixation; human gut; subsurface; Human; Other
2.  Small Genomes and Sparse Metabolisms of Sediment-Associated Bacteria from Four Candidate Phyla 
mBio  2013;4(5):e00708-13.
ABSTRACT
Cultivation-independent surveys of microbial diversity have revealed many bacterial phyla that lack cultured representatives. These lineages, referred to as candidate phyla, have been detected across many environments. Here, we deeply sequenced microbial communities from acetate-stimulated aquifer sediment to recover the complete and essentially complete genomes of single representatives of the candidate phyla SR1, WWE3, TM7, and OD1. All four of these genomes are very small, 0.7 to 1.2 Mbp, and have large inventories of novel proteins. Additionally, all lack identifiable biosynthetic pathways for several key metabolites. The SR1 genome uses the UGA codon to encode glycine, and the same codon is very rare in the OD1 genome, suggesting that the OD1 organism could also transition to alternate coding. Interestingly, the relative abundance of the members of SR1 increased with the appearance of sulfide in groundwater, a pattern mirrored by a member of the phylum Tenericutes. All four genomes encode type IV pili, which may be involved in interorganism interaction. On the basis of these results and other recently published research, metabolic dependence on other organisms may be widely distributed across multiple bacterial candidate phyla.
IMPORTANCE
Few or no genomic sequences exist for members of the numerous bacterial phyla lacking cultivated representatives, making it difficult to assess their roles in the environment. This paper presents three complete and one essentially complete genomes of members of four candidate phyla, documents consistently small genome size, and predicts metabolic capabilities on the basis of gene content. These metagenomic analyses expand our view of a lifestyle apparently common across these candidate phyla.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00708-13
PMCID: PMC3812714  PMID: 24149512
3.  Heterotrophic Archaea Contribute to Carbon Cycling in Low-pH, Suboxic Biofilm Communities 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(23):8321-8330.
Archaea are widely distributed and yet are most often not the most abundant members of microbial communities. Here, we document a transition from Bacteria- to Archaea-dominated communities in microbial biofilms sampled from the Richmond Mine acid mine drainage (AMD) system (∼pH 1.0, ∼38°C) and in laboratory-cultivated biofilms. This transition occurs when chemoautotrophic microbial communities that develop at the air-solution interface sink to the sediment-solution interface and degrade under microaerobic and anaerobic conditions. The archaea identified in these sunken biofilms are from the class Thermoplasmata, and in some cases, the highly divergent ARMAN nanoarchaeal lineage. In several of the sunken biofilms, nanoarchaea comprise 10 to 25% of the community, based on fluorescent in situ hybridization and metagenomic analyses. Comparative community proteomic analyses show a persistence of bacterial proteins in sunken biofilms, but there is clear evidence for amino acid modifications due to acid hydrolysis. Given the low representation of bacterial cells in sunken biofilms based on microscopy, we infer that hydrolysis reflects proteins derived from lysed cells. For archaea, we detected ∼2,400 distinct proteins, including a subset involved in proteolysis and peptide uptake. Laboratory cultivation experiments using complex carbon substrates demonstrated anaerobic enrichment of Ferroplasma and Aplasma coupled to the reduction of ferric iron. These findings indicate dominance of acidophilic archaea in degrading biofilms and suggest that they play roles in anaerobic nutrient cycling at low pH.
doi:10.1128/AEM.01938-12
PMCID: PMC3497393  PMID: 23001646
4.  Metabolites Associated with Adaptation of Microorganisms to an Acidophilic, Metal-Rich Environment Identified by Stable-Isotope-Enabled Metabolomics 
mBio  2013;4(2):e00484-12.
ABSTRACT
Microorganisms grow under a remarkable range of extreme conditions. Environmental transcriptomic and proteomic studies have highlighted metabolic pathways active in extremophilic communities. However, metabolites directly linked to their physiology are less well defined because metabolomics methods lag behind other omics technologies due to a wide range of experimental complexities often associated with the environmental matrix. We identified key metabolites associated with acidophilic and metal-tolerant microorganisms using stable isotope labeling coupled with untargeted, high-resolution mass spectrometry. We observed >3,500 metabolic features in biofilms growing in pH ~0.9 acid mine drainage solutions containing millimolar concentrations of iron, sulfate, zinc, copper, and arsenic. Stable isotope labeling improved chemical formula prediction by >50% for larger metabolites (>250 atomic mass units), many of which were unrepresented in metabolic databases and may represent novel compounds. Taurine and hydroxyectoine were identified and likely provide protection from osmotic stress in the biofilms. Community genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic data implicate fungi in taurine metabolism. Leptospirillum group II bacteria decrease production of ectoine and hydroxyectoine as biofilms mature, suggesting that biofilm structure provides some resistance to high metal and proton concentrations. The combination of taurine, ectoine, and hydroxyectoine may also constitute a sulfur, nitrogen, and carbon currency in the communities.
IMPORTANCE
Microbial communities are central to many critical global processes and yet remain enigmatic largely due to their complex and distributed metabolic interactions. Metabolomics has the possibility of providing mechanistic insights into the function and ecology of microbial communities. However, our limited knowledge of microbial metabolites, the difficulty of identifying metabolites from complex samples, and the inability to link metabolites directly to community members have proven to be major limitations in developing advances in systems interactions. Here, we show that combining stable-isotope-enabled metabolomics with genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics can illuminate the ecology of microorganisms at the community scale.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00484-12
PMCID: PMC3604775  PMID: 23481603
5.  Metabolome-Proteome Differentiation Coupled to Microbial Divergence 
mBio  2010;1(5):e00246-10.
Tandem high-throughput proteomics and metabolomics were employed to functionally characterize natural microbial biofilm communities. Distinct molecular signatures exist for each analyzed sample. Deconvolution of the high-resolution molecular data demonstrates that identified proteins and detected metabolites exhibit organism-specific correlation patterns. These patterns are reflective of the functional differentiation of two bacterial species that share the same genus and that co-occur in the sampled microbial communities. Our analyses indicate that the two species have similar niche breadths and are not in strong competition with one another.
IMPORTANCE
Natural microbial assemblages represent dynamic consortia that exhibit extensive complexity at all levels. In the present study, we demonstrate that correlations between protein and metabolite abundances allow the deconvolution of complex molecular data sets into shared and organism-specific contingents. We demonstrate that evolutionary divergence is associated with the restructuring of cellular metabolic networks, which in turn allows bacterial species to occupy distinct ecological niches. The apparent lack of interspecific competition may explain the extensive population-level genetic heterogeneity observed extensively within microbial communities. The reported findings have broad implications for the in-depth investigation of the ecology and evolution of distinct microbial community members and for leveraging the solution of cryptic metabolic processes in the future.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00246-10
PMCID: PMC2962434  PMID: 20978538
6.  The dynamic genetic repertoire of microbial communities 
Fems Microbiology Reviews  2008;33(1):109-132.
Community genomic data have revealed multiple levels of variation between and within microbial consortia. This variation includes large-scale differences in gene content between ecosystems as well as within-population sequence heterogeneity. In the present review, we focus specifically on how fine-scale variation within microbial and viral populations is apparent from community genomic data. A major unresolved question is how much of the observed variation is due to neutral vs. adaptive processes. Limited experimental data hint that some of this fine-scale variation may be in part functionally relevant, whereas sequence-based and modeling analyses suggest that much of it may be neutral. While methods for interpreting population genomic data are still in their infancy, we discuss current interpretations of existing datasets in the light of evolutionary processes and models. Finally, we highlight the importance of virus–host dynamics in generating and shaping within-population diversity.
doi:10.1111/j.1574-6976.2008.00144.x
PMCID: PMC2704941  PMID: 19054116
community genomics; CRISPR; genetic heterogeneity; metagenomics; population genomics; virus–host dynamics
7.  Recoding of the stop codon UGA to glycine by a BD1-5/SN-2 bacterium and niche partitioning between Alpha- and Gammaproteobacteria in a tidal sediment microbial community naturally selected in a laboratory chemostat 
Sandy coastal sediments are global hotspots for microbial mineralization of organic matter and denitrification. These sediments are characterized by advective porewater flow, tidal cycling and an active and complex microbial community. Metagenomic sequencing of microbial communities sampled from such sediments showed that potential sulfur oxidizing Gammaproteobacteria and members of the enigmatic BD1-5/SN-2 candidate phylum were abundant in situ (>10% and ~2% respectively). By mimicking the dynamic oxic/anoxic environmental conditions of the sediment in a laboratory chemostat, a simplified microbial community was selected from the more complex inoculum. Metagenomics, proteomics and fluorescence in situ hybridization showed that this simplified community contained both a potential sulfur oxidizing Gammaproteobacteria (at 24 ± 2% abundance) and a member of the BD1-5/SN-2 candidate phylum (at 7 ± 6% abundance). Despite the abundant supply of organic substrates to the chemostat, proteomic analysis suggested that the selected gammaproteobacterium grew partially autotrophically and performed hydrogen/formate oxidation. The enrichment of a member of the BD1-5/SN-2 candidate phylum enabled, for the first time, direct microscopic observation by fluorescent in situ hybridization and the experimental validation of the previously predicted translation of the stop codon UGA into glycine.
doi:10.3389/fmicb.2014.00231
PMCID: PMC4032931  PMID: 24904545
continuous culture; enrichment; chemostat; Roseobacter; Maritimibacter; stop codon
8.  New Approaches Indicate Constant Viral Diversity despite Shifts in Assemblage Structure in an Australian Hypersaline Lake 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(21):6755-6764.
It is widely stated that viruses represent the most significant source of biodiversity on Earth, yet characterizing the diversity of viral assemblages in natural systems remains difficult. Viral diversity studies are challenging because viruses lack universally present, phylogenetically informative genes. Here, we developed an approach to estimate viral diversity using a series of functional and novel conserved genes. This approach provides direct estimates of viral assemblage diversity while retaining resolution at the level of individual viral populations in a natural system. We characterized viral assemblages in eight samples from hypersaline Lake Tyrrell (LT), Victoria, Australia, using 39,636 viral contigs. We defined viral operational taxonomic units (OTUs) in two ways. First, we used genes with three different functional predictions that were abundantly represented in the data set. Second, we clustered proteins of unknown function based on sequence similarity, and we chose genes represented by three clusters with numerous members to define OTUs. In combination, diversity metrics indicated between 412 and 735 sampled populations, and the number of populations remained relatively constant across samples. We determined the relative representation of each viral OTU in each sample and found that viral assemblage structures correlate with salinity and solution chemistry. LT viral assemblages were near-replicates from the same site sampled a few days apart but differed significantly on other spatial and temporal scales. The OTU definition approach proposed here paves the way for metagenomics-based analyses of viral assemblages using ecological models previously applied to bacteria and archaea.
doi:10.1128/AEM.01946-13
PMCID: PMC3811486  PMID: 23995931
9.  Biostimulation induces syntrophic interactions that impact C, S and N cycling in a sediment microbial community 
The ISME Journal  2012;7(4):800-816.
Stimulation of subsurface microorganisms to induce reductive immobilization of metals is a promising approach for bioremediation, yet the overall microbial community response is typically poorly understood. Here we used proteogenomics to test the hypothesis that excess input of acetate activates complex community functioning and syntrophic interactions among autotrophs and heterotrophs. A flow-through sediment column was incubated in a groundwater well of an acetate-amended aquifer and recovered during microbial sulfate reduction. De novo reconstruction of community sequences yielded near-complete genomes of Desulfobacter (Deltaproteobacteria), Sulfurovum- and Sulfurimonas-like Epsilonproteobacteria and Bacteroidetes. Partial genomes were obtained for Clostridiales (Firmicutes) and Desulfuromonadales-like Deltaproteobacteria. The majority of proteins identified by mass spectrometry corresponded to Desulfobacter-like species, and demonstrate the role of this organism in sulfate reduction (Dsr and APS), nitrogen fixation and acetate oxidation to CO2 during amendment. Results indicate less abundant Desulfuromonadales, and possibly Bacteroidetes, also actively contributed to CO2 production via the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. Proteomic data indicate that sulfide was partially re-oxidized by Epsilonproteobacteria through nitrate-dependent sulfide oxidation (using Nap, Nir, Nos, SQR and Sox), with CO2 fixed using the reverse TCA cycle. We infer that high acetate concentrations, aimed at stimulating anaerobic heterotrophy, led to the co-enrichment of, and carbon fixation in Epsilonproteobacteria. Results give an insight into ecosystem behavior following addition of simple organic carbon to the subsurface, and demonstrate a range of biological processes and community interactions were stimulated.
doi:10.1038/ismej.2012.148
PMCID: PMC3603403  PMID: 23190730
autotroph; metagenomics; proteomics; sediment; subsurface; syntrophy
10.  Iron-reducing bacteria accumulate ferric oxyhydroxide nanoparticle aggregates that may support planktonic growth 
The ISME Journal  2012;7(2):338-350.
Iron-reducing bacteria (FeRB) play key roles in anaerobic metal and carbon cycling and carry out biogeochemical transformations that can be harnessed for environmental bioremediation. A subset of FeRB require direct contact with Fe(III)-bearing minerals for dissimilatory growth, yet these bacteria must move between mineral particles. Furthermore, they proliferate in planktonic consortia during biostimulation experiments. Thus, a key question is how such organisms can sustain growth under these conditions. Here we characterized planktonic microbial communities sampled from an aquifer in Rifle, Colorado, USA, close to the peak of iron reduction following in situ acetate amendment. Samples were cryo-plunged on site and subsequently examined using correlated two- and three-dimensional cryogenic transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM) and scanning transmission X-ray microscopy (STXM). The outer membranes of most cells were decorated with aggregates up to 150 nm in diameter composed of ∼3 nm wide amorphous, Fe-rich nanoparticles. Fluorescent in situ hybridization of lineage-specific probes applied to rRNA of cells subsequently imaged via cryo-TEM identified Geobacter spp., a well-studied group of FeRB. STXM results at the Fe L2,3 absorption edges indicate that nanoparticle aggregates contain a variable mixture of Fe(II)–Fe(III), and are generally enriched in Fe(III). Geobacter bemidjiensis cultivated anaerobically in the laboratory on acetate and hydrous ferric oxyhydroxides also accumulated mixed-valence nanoparticle aggregates. In field-collected samples, FeRB with a wide variety of morphologies were associated with nano-aggregates, indicating that cell surface Fe(III) accumulation may be a general mechanism by which FeRB can grow while in planktonic suspension.
doi:10.1038/ismej.2012.103
PMCID: PMC3554402  PMID: 23038172
iron-reducing bacteria; biomineralization; correlative microscopy; cryo-transmission electron microscopy; STXM; X-ray absorption spectroscopy
11.  Genome resolved analysis of a premature infant gut microbial community reveals a Varibaculum cambriense genome and a shift towards fermentation-based metabolism during the third week of life 
Microbiome  2013;1:30.
Background
The premature infant gut has low individual but high inter-individual microbial diversity compared with adults. Based on prior 16S rRNA gene surveys, many species from this environment are expected to be similar to those previously detected in the human microbiota. However, the level of genomic novelty and metabolic variation of strains found in the infant gut remains relatively unexplored.
Results
To study the stability and function of early microbial colonizers of the premature infant gut, nine stool samples were taken during the third week of life of a premature male infant delivered via Caesarean section. Metagenomic sequences were assembled and binned into near-complete and partial genomes, enabling strain-level genomic analysis of the microbial community.
We reconstructed eleven near-complete and six partial bacterial genomes representative of the key members of the microbial community. Twelve of these genomes share >90% putative ortholog amino acid identity with reference genomes. Manual curation of the assembly of one particularly novel genome resulted in the first essentially complete genome sequence (in three pieces, the order of which could not be determined due to a repeat) for Varibaculum cambriense (strain Dora), a medically relevant species that has been implicated in abscess formation.
During the period studied, the microbial community undergoes a compositional shift, in which obligate anaerobes (fermenters) overtake Escherichia coli as the most abundant species. Other species remain stable, probably due to their ability to either respire anaerobically or grow by fermentation, and their capacity to tolerate fluctuating levels of oxygen. Metabolic predictions for V. cambriense suggest that, like other members of the microbial community, this organism is able to process various sugar substrates and make use of multiple different electron acceptors during anaerobic respiration. Genome comparisons within the family Actinomycetaceae reveal important differences related to respiratory metabolism and motility.
Conclusions
Genome-based analysis provided direct insight into strain-specific potential for anaerobic respiration and yielded the first genome for the genus Varibaculum. Importantly, comparison of these de novo assembled genomes with closely related isolate genomes supported the accuracy of the metagenomic methodology. Over a one-week period, the early gut microbial community transitioned to a community with a higher representation of obligate anaerobes, emphasizing both taxonomic and metabolic instability during colonization.
doi:10.1186/2049-2618-1-30
PMCID: PMC4177395  PMID: 24451181
Binning; Community genomics; Genome reconstruction; Human gut; Metagenomics; Microbial dynamics; Premature infant; Varibaculum cambriense; Time series binning
12.  Architecture and Gene Repertoire of the Flexible Genome of the Extreme Acidophile Acidithiobacillus caldus 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e78237.
Background
Acidithiobacillus caldus is a sulfur oxidizing extreme acidophile and the only known mesothermophile within the Acidithiobacillales. As such, it is one of the preferred microbes for mineral bioprocessing at moderately high temperatures. In this study, we explore the genomic diversity of A. caldus strains using a combination of bioinformatic and experimental techniques, thus contributing first insights into the elucidation of the species pangenome.
Principal Findings
Comparative sequence analysis of A. caldus ATCC 51756 and SM-1 indicate that, despite sharing a conserved and highly syntenic genomic core, both strains have unique gene complements encompassing nearly 20% of their respective genomes. The differential gene complement of each strain is distributed between the chromosomal compartment, one megaplasmid and a variable number of smaller plasmids, and is directly associated to a diverse pool of mobile genetic elements (MGE). These include integrative conjugative and mobilizable elements, genomic islands and insertion sequences. Some of the accessory functions associated to these MGEs have been linked previously to the flexible gene pool in microorganisms inhabiting completely different econiches. Yet, others had not been unambiguously mapped to the flexible gene pool prior to this report and clearly reflect strain-specific adaption to local environmental conditions.
Significance
For many years, and because of DNA instability at low pH and recurrent failure to genetically transform acidophilic bacteria, gene transfer in acidic environments was considered negligible. Findings presented herein imply that a more or less conserved pool of actively excising MGEs occurs in the A. caldus population and point to a greater frequency of gene exchange in this econiche than previously recognized. Also, the data suggest that these elements endow the species with capacities to withstand the diverse abiotic and biotic stresses of natural environments, in particular those associated with its extreme econiche.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078237
PMCID: PMC3826726  PMID: 24250794
13.  New Group in the Leptospirillum Clade: Cultivation-Independent Community Genomics, Proteomics, and Transcriptomics of the New Species “Leptospirillum Group IV UBA BS” 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(17):5384-5393.
Leptospirillum spp. are widespread members of acidophilic microbial communities that catalyze ferrous iron oxidation, thereby increasing sulfide mineral dissolution rates. These bacteria play important roles in environmental acidification and are harnessed for bioleaching-based metal recovery. Known members of the Leptospirillum clade of the Nitrospira phylum are Leptospirillum ferrooxidans (group I), Leptospirillum ferriphilum and “Leptospirillum rubarum” (group II), and Leptospirillum ferrodiazotrophum (group III). In the Richmond Mine acid mine drainage (AMD) system, biofilm formation is initiated by L. rubarum; L. ferrodiazotrophum appears in later developmental stages. Here we used community metagenomic data from unusual, thick floating biofilms to identify distinguishing metabolic traits in a rare and uncultivated community member, the new species “Leptospirillum group IV UBA BS.” These biofilms typically also contain a variety of Archaea, Actinobacteria, and a few other Leptospirillum spp. The Leptospirillum group IV UBA BS species shares 98% 16S rRNA sequence identity and 70% average amino acid identity between orthologs with its closest relative, L. ferrodiazotrophum. The presence of nitrogen fixation and reverse tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle proteins suggest an autotrophic metabolism similar to that of L. ferrodiazotrophum, while hydrogenase proteins suggest anaerobic metabolism. Community transcriptomic and proteomic analyses demonstrate expression of a multicopper oxidase unique to this species, as well as hydrogenases and core metabolic genes. Results suggest that the Leptospirillum group IV UBA BS species might play important roles in carbon fixation, nitrogen fixation, hydrogen metabolism, and iron oxidation in some acidic environments.
doi:10.1128/AEM.00202-13
PMCID: PMC3753937  PMID: 23645189
14.  Community genomic analyses constrain the distribution of metabolic traits across the Chloroflexi phylum and indicate roles in sediment carbon cycling 
Microbiome  2013;1:22.
Background
Sediments are massive reservoirs of carbon compounds and host a large fraction of microbial life. Microorganisms within terrestrial aquifer sediments control buried organic carbon turnover, degrade organic contaminants, and impact drinking water quality. Recent 16S rRNA gene profiling indicates that members of the bacterial phylum Chloroflexi are common in sediment. Only the role of the class Dehalococcoidia, which degrade halogenated solvents, is well understood. Genomic sampling is available for only six of the approximate 30 Chloroflexi classes, so little is known about the phylogenetic distribution of reductive dehalogenation or about the broader metabolic characteristics of Chloroflexi in sediment.
Results
We used metagenomics to directly evaluate the metabolic potential and diversity of Chloroflexi in aquifer sediments. We sampled genomic sequence from 86 Chloroflexi representing 15 distinct lineages, including members of eight classes previously characterized only by 16S rRNA sequences. Unlike in the Dehalococcoidia, genes for organohalide respiration are rare within the Chloroflexi genomes sampled here. Near-complete genomes were reconstructed for three Chloroflexi. One, a member of an unsequenced lineage in the Anaerolinea, is an aerobe with the potential for respiring diverse carbon compounds. The others represent two genomically unsampled classes sibling to the Dehalococcoidia, and are anaerobes likely involved in sugar and plant-derived-compound degradation to acetate. Both fix CO2 via the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway, a pathway not previously documented in Chloroflexi. The genomes each encode unique traits apparently acquired from Archaea, including mechanisms of motility and ATP synthesis.
Conclusions
Chloroflexi in the aquifer sediments are abundant and highly diverse. Genomic analyses provide new evolutionary boundaries for obligate organohalide respiration. We expand the potential roles of Chloroflexi in sediment carbon cycling beyond organohalide respiration to include respiration of sugars, fermentation, CO2 fixation, and acetogenesis with ATP formation by substrate-level phosphorylation.
doi:10.1186/2049-2618-1-22
PMCID: PMC3971608  PMID: 24450983
Chloroflexi; Metagenome; GIF9; Anaerolinea; Sediment; Dehalococcoides; Wood-Ljungdahl; Acetogenesis
15.  Comparative genomics in acid mine drainage biofilm communities reveals metabolic and structural differentiation of co-occurring archaea 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:485.
Background
Metal sulfide mineral dissolution during bioleaching and acid mine drainage (AMD) formation creates an environment that is inhospitable to most life. Despite dominance by a small number of bacteria, AMD microbial biofilm communities contain a notable variety of coexisting and closely related Euryarchaea, most of which have defied cultivation efforts. For this reason, we used metagenomics to analyze variation in gene content that may contribute to niche differentiation among co-occurring AMD archaea. Our analyses targeted members of the Thermoplasmatales and related archaea. These results greatly expand genomic information available for this archaeal order.
Results
We reconstructed near-complete genomes for uncultivated, relatively low abundance organisms A-, E-, and Gplasma, members of Thermoplasmatales order, and for a novel organism, Iplasma. Genomic analyses of these organisms, as well as Ferroplasma type I and II, reveal that all are facultative aerobic heterotrophs with the ability to use many of the same carbon substrates, including methanol. Most of the genomes share genes for toxic metal resistance and surface-layer production. Only Aplasma and Eplasma have a full suite of flagellar genes whereas all but the Ferroplasma spp. have genes for pili production. Cryogenic-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and tomography (cryo-ET) strengthen these metagenomics-based ultrastructural predictions. Notably, only Aplasma, Gplasma and the Ferroplasma spp. have predicted iron oxidation genes and Eplasma and Iplasma lack most genes for cobalamin, valine, (iso)leucine and histidine synthesis.
Conclusion
The Thermoplasmatales AMD archaea share a large number of metabolic capabilities. All of the uncultivated organisms studied here (A-, E-, G-, and Iplasma) are metabolically very similar to characterized Ferroplasma spp., differentiating themselves mainly in their genetic capabilities for biosynthesis, motility, and possibly iron oxidation. These results indicate that subtle, but important genomic differences, coupled with unknown differences in gene expression, distinguish these organisms enough to allow for co-existence. Overall this study reveals shared features of organisms from the Thermoplasmatales lineage and provides new insights into the functioning of AMD communities.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-485
PMCID: PMC3750248  PMID: 23865623
Metagenomics; Acid mine drainage; Thermoplasmatales; Ferroplasma; Iron oxidation; Comparative genomics
16.  Virus-Host and CRISPR Dynamics in Archaea-Dominated Hypersaline Lake Tyrrell, Victoria, Australia 
Archaea  2013;2013:370871.
The study of natural archaeal assemblages requires community context, namely, a concurrent assessment of the dynamics of archaeal, bacterial, and viral populations. Here, we use filter size-resolved metagenomic analyses to report the dynamics of 101 archaeal and bacterial OTUs and 140 viral populations across 17 samples collected over different timescales from 2007–2010 from Australian hypersaline Lake Tyrrell (LT). All samples were dominated by Archaea (75–95%). Archaeal, bacterial, and viral populations were found to be dynamic on timescales of months to years, and different viral assemblages were present in planktonic, relative to host-associated (active and provirus) size fractions. Analyses of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) regions indicate that both rare and abundant viruses were targeted, primarily by lower abundance hosts. Although very few spacers had hits to the NCBI nr database or to the 140 LT viral populations, 21% had hits to unassembled LT viral concentrate reads. This suggests local adaptation to LT-specific viruses and/or undersampling of haloviral assemblages in public databases, along with successful CRISPR-mediated maintenance of viral populations at abundances low enough to preclude genomic assembly. This is the first metagenomic report evaluating widespread archaeal dynamics at the population level on short timescales in a hypersaline system.
doi:10.1155/2013/370871
PMCID: PMC3703381  PMID: 23853523
17.  Effect of Rainfall-Induced Soil Geochemistry Dynamics on Grassland Soil Microbial Communities 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(21):7587-7595.
In Mediterranean-type grassland ecosystems, the timing of rainfall events controls biogeochemical cycles, as well as the phenology and productivity of plants and animals. Here, we investigate the effect of short-term (days) soil environmental conditions on microbial community structure and composition during a natural wetting and drying cycle. Soil samples were collected from a meadow in Northern California at four time points after the first two rainfall events of the rainy season. We used 16S rRNA microarrays (PhyloChip) to track changes in bacterial and archaeal community composition. Microbial communities at time points 1 and 3 were significantly different than communities at time points 2 and 4. Based on ordination analysis, the available carbon, soil moisture, and temperature explained most of the variation in community structure. For the first time, a complementary and more comprehensive approach using linear regression and generalized logical networks were used to identify linear and nonlinear associations among environmental variables and with the relative abundance of subfamilies. Changes in soil moisture and available carbon were correlated with the relative abundance of many phyla. Only the phylum Actinobacteria showed a lineage-specific relationship to soil moisture but not to carbon or nitrogen. The results indicate that the use of a high taxonomic rank in correlations with nutritional indicators might obscure divergent subfamily-level responses to environmental parameters. An important implication of this research is that there is short-term variation in microbial community composition driven in part by rainfall fluctuation that may not be evident in long-term studies with coarser time resolution.
doi:10.1128/AEM.00203-12
PMCID: PMC3485702  PMID: 22904056
18.  Assembly-Driven Community Genomics of a Hypersaline Microbial Ecosystem 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61692.
Microbial populations inhabiting a natural hypersaline lake ecosystem in Lake Tyrrell, Victoria, Australia, have been characterized using deep metagenomic sampling, iterative de novo assembly, and multidimensional phylogenetic binning. Composite genomes representing habitat-specific microbial populations were reconstructed for eleven different archaea and one bacterium, comprising between 0.6 and 14.1% of the planktonic community. Eight of the eleven archaeal genomes were from microbial species without previously cultured representatives. These new genomes provide habitat-specific reference sequences enabling detailed, lineage-specific compartmentalization of predicted functional capabilities and cellular properties associated with both dominant and less abundant community members, including organisms previously known only by their 16S rRNA sequences. Together, these data provide a comprehensive, culture-independent genomic blueprint for ecosystem-wide analysis of protein functions, population structure, and lifestyles of co-existing, co-evolving microbial groups within the same natural habitat. The “assembly-driven” community genomic approach demonstrated in this study advances our ability to push beyond single gene investigations, and promotes genome-scale reconstructions as a tangible goal in the quest to define the metabolic, ecological, and evolutionary dynamics that underpin environmental microbial diversity.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061692
PMCID: PMC3630111  PMID: 23637883
19.  Quantifying Heavy Metals Sequestration by Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria in an Acid Mine Drainage-Contaminated Natural Wetland 
Bioremediation strategies that depend on bacterial sulfate reduction for heavy metals remediation harness the reactivity of these metals with biogenic aqueous sulfide. Quantitative knowledge of the degree to which specific toxic metals are partitioned into various sulfide, oxide, or other phases is important for predicting the long-term mobility of these metals under environmental conditions. Here we report the quantitative partitioning into sedimentary biogenic sulfides of a suite of metals and metalloids associated with acid mine drainage contamination of a natural estuarine wetland for over a century.
doi:10.3389/fmicb.2013.00043
PMCID: PMC3594707  PMID: 23487496
acid mine drainage; heavy metals; metal-sulfides; wetlands; bioremediation; electron microprobe; bacterial sulfate reduction; sulfate-reducing bacteria
20.  Fluctuations in Species-Level Protein Expression Occur during Element and Nutrient Cycling in the Subsurface 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e57819.
While microbial activities in environmental systems play a key role in the utilization and cycling of essential elements and compounds, microbial activity and growth frequently fluctuates in response to environmental stimuli and perturbations. To investigate these fluctuations within a saturated aquifer system, we monitored a carbon-stimulated in situ Geobacter population while iron reduction was occurring, using 16S rRNA abundances and high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry proteome measurements. Following carbon amendment, 16S rRNA analysis of temporally separated samples revealed the rapid enrichment of Geobacter-like environmental strains with strong similarity to G. bemidjiensis. Tandem mass spectrometry proteomics measurements suggest high carbon flux through Geobacter respiratory pathways, and the synthesis of anapleurotic four carbon compounds from acetyl-CoA via pyruvate ferredoxin oxidoreductase activity. Across a 40-day period where Fe(III) reduction was occurring, fluctuations in protein expression reflected changes in anabolic versus catabolic reactions, with increased levels of biosynthesis occurring soon after acetate arrival in the aquifer. In addition, localized shifts in nutrient limitation were inferred based on expression of nitrogenase enzymes and phosphate uptake proteins. These temporal data offer the first example of differing microbial protein expression associated with changing geochemical conditions in a subsurface environment.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057819
PMCID: PMC3589452  PMID: 23472107
21.  Dynamic Viral Populations in Hypersaline Systems as Revealed by Metagenomic Assembly 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(17):6309-6320.
Viruses of the Bacteria and Archaea play important roles in microbial evolution and ecology, and yet viral dynamics in natural systems remain poorly understood. Here, we created de novo assemblies from 6.4 Gbp of metagenomic sequence from eight community viral concentrate samples, collected from 12 h to 3 years apart from hypersaline Lake Tyrrell (LT), Victoria, Australia. Through extensive manual assembly curation, we reconstructed 7 complete and 28 partial novel genomes of viruses and virus-like entities (VLEs, which could be viruses or plasmids). We tracked these 35 populations across the eight samples and found that they are generally stable on the timescale of days and transient on the timescale of years, with some exceptions. Cross-detection of the 35 LT populations in three previously described haloviral metagenomes was limited to a few genes, and most previously sequenced haloviruses were not detected in our samples, though 3 were detected upon reducing our detection threshold from 90% to 75% nucleotide identity. Similar results were obtained when we applied our methods to haloviral metagenomic data previously reported from San Diego, CA: 10 contigs that we assembled from that system exhibited a variety of detection patterns on a timescale of weeks to 1 month but were generally not detected in LT. Our results suggest that most haloviral populations have a limited or, possibly, a temporally variable global distribution. This study provides high-resolution insight into viral biogeography and dynamics and it places “snapshot” viral metagenomes, collected at a single time and location, in context.
doi:10.1128/AEM.01212-12
PMCID: PMC3416638  PMID: 22773627
22.  Short-Read Assembly of Full-Length 16S Amplicons Reveals Bacterial Diversity in Subsurface Sediments 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56018.
In microbial ecology, a fundamental question relates to how community diversity and composition change in response to perturbation. Most studies have had limited ability to deeply sample community structure (e.g. Sanger-sequenced 16S rRNA libraries), or have had limited taxonomic resolution (e.g. studies based on 16S rRNA hypervariable region sequencing). Here, we combine the higher taxonomic resolution of near-full-length 16S rRNA gene amplicons with the economics and sensitivity of short-read sequencing to assay the abundance and identity of organisms that represent as little as 0.01% of sediment bacterial communities. We used a new version of EMIRGE optimized for large data size to reconstruct near-full-length 16S rRNA genes from amplicons sheared and sequenced with Illumina technology. The approach allowed us to differentiate the community composition among samples acquired before perturbation, after acetate amendment shifted the predominant metabolism to iron reduction, and once sulfate reduction began. Results were highly reproducible across technical replicates, and identified specific taxa that responded to the perturbation. All samples contain very high alpha diversity and abundant organisms from phyla without cultivated representatives. Surprisingly, at the time points measured, there was no strong loss of evenness, despite the selective pressure of acetate amendment and change in the terminal electron accepting process. However, community membership was altered significantly. The method allows for sensitive, accurate profiling of the “long tail” of low abundance organisms that exist in many microbial communities, and can resolve population dynamics in response to environmental change.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056018
PMCID: PMC3566076  PMID: 23405248
23.  De novo metagenomic assembly reveals abundant novel major lineage of Archaea in hypersaline microbial communities 
The ISME Journal  2011;6(1):81-93.
This study describes reconstruction of two highly unusual archaeal genomes by de novo metagenomic assembly of multiple, deeply sequenced libraries from surface waters of Lake Tyrrell (LT), a hypersaline lake in NW Victoria, Australia. Lineage-specific probes were designed using the assembled genomes to visualize these novel archaea, which were highly abundant in the 0.1–0.8 μm size fraction of lake water samples. Gene content and inferred metabolic capabilities were highly dissimilar to all previously identified hypersaline microbial species. Distinctive characteristics included unique amino acid composition, absence of Gvp gas vesicle proteins, atypical archaeal metabolic pathways and unusually small cell size (approximately 0.6 μm diameter). Multi-locus phylogenetic analyses demonstrated that these organisms belong to a new major euryarchaeal lineage, distantly related to halophilic archaea of class Halobacteria. Consistent with these findings, we propose creation of a new archaeal class, provisionally named ‘Nanohaloarchaea'. In addition to their high abundance in LT surface waters, we report the prevalence of Nanohaloarchaea in other hypersaline environments worldwide. The simultaneous discovery and genome sequencing of a novel yet ubiquitous lineage of uncultivated microorganisms demonstrates that even historically well-characterized environments can reveal unexpected diversity when analyzed by metagenomics, and advances our understanding of the ecology of hypersaline environments and the evolutionary history of the archaea.
doi:10.1038/ismej.2011.78
PMCID: PMC3246234  PMID: 21716304
assembly; halophile; hypersaline; metagenome; Nanohaloarchaea
24.  X-ray structure of the fourth type of archaeal tRNA splicing endonuclease: insights into the evolution of a novel three-unit composition and a unique loop involved in broad substrate specificity 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(20):10554-10566.
Cleavage of introns from precursor transfer RNAs (tRNAs) by tRNA splicing endonuclease (EndA) is essential for tRNA maturation in Archaea and Eukarya. In the past, archaeal EndAs were classified into three types (α′2, α4 and α2β2) according to subunit composition. Recently, we have identified a fourth type of archaeal EndA from an uncultivated archaeon Candidatus Micrarchaeum acidiphilum, referred to as ARMAN-2, which is deeply branched within Euryarchaea. The ARMAN-2 EndA forms an ε2 homodimer and has broad substrate specificity like the α2β2 type EndAs found in Crenarchaea and Nanoarchaea. However, the precise architecture of ARMAN-2 EndA was unknown. Here, we report the crystal structure of the ε2 homodimer of ARMAN-2 EndA. The structure reveals that the ε protomer is separated into three novel units (αN, α and βC) fused by two distinct linkers, although the overall structure of ARMAN-2 EndA is similar to those of the other three types of archaeal EndAs. Structural comparison and mutational analyses reveal that an ARMAN-2 type-specific loop (ASL) is involved in the broad substrate specificity and that K161 in the ASL functions as the RNA recognition site. These findings suggest that the broad substrate specificities of ε2 and α2β2 EndAs were separately acquired through different evolutionary processes.
doi:10.1093/nar/gks826
PMCID: PMC3488258  PMID: 22941657
25.  Quantitative proteomic analyses of the response of acidophilic microbial communities to different pH conditions 
The ISME Journal  2011;5(7):1152-1161.
Extensive genomic characterization of multi-species acid mine drainage microbial consortia combined with laboratory cultivation has enabled the application of quantitative proteomic analyses at the community level. In this study, quantitative proteomic comparisons were used to functionally characterize laboratory-cultivated acidophilic communities sustained in pH 1.45 or 0.85 conditions. The distributions of all proteins identified for individual organisms indicated biases for either high or low pH, and suggests pH-specific niche partitioning for low abundance bacteria and archaea. Although the proteome of the dominant bacterium, Leptospirillum group II, was largely unaffected by pH treatments, analysis of functional categories indicated proteins involved in amino acid and nucleotide metabolism, as well as cell membrane/envelope biogenesis were overrepresented at high pH. Comparison of specific protein abundances indicates higher pH conditions favor Leptospirillum group III, whereas low pH conditions promote the growth of certain archaea. Thus, quantitative proteomic comparisons revealed distinct differences in community composition and metabolic function of individual organisms during different pH treatments. Proteomic analysis revealed other aspects of community function. Different numbers of phage proteins were identified across biological replicates, indicating stochastic spatial heterogeneity of phage outbreaks. Additionally, proteomic data were used to identify a previously unknown genotypic variant of Leptospirillum group II, an indication of selection for a specific Leptospirillum group II population in laboratory communities. Our results confirm the importance of pH and related geochemical factors in fine-tuning acidophilic microbial community structure and function at the species and strain level, and demonstrate the broad utility of proteomics in laboratory community studies.
doi:10.1038/ismej.2010.200
PMCID: PMC3146278  PMID: 21228889
acid mine drainage; communities; genotyping; perturbation; proteomics

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