Iron fertilization experiments in high-nutrient, low-chlorophyll areas are known to induce phytoplankton blooms. However, little is known about the response of the microbial community upon iron fertilization. As part of the LOHAFEX experiment in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Bacteria and Archaea were monitored within and outside an induced bloom, dominated by Phaeocystis-like nanoplankton, during the 38 days of the experiment. The microbial production increased 1.6-fold (thymidine uptake) and 2.1-fold (leucine uptake), while total cell numbers increased only slightly over the course of the experiment. 454 tag pyrosequencing of partial 16S rRNA genes and catalyzed reporter deposition fluorescence in situ hybridization (CARD FISH) showed that the composition and abundance of the bacterial and archaeal community in the iron-fertilized water body were remarkably constant without development of typical bloom-related succession patterns. Members of groups usually found in phytoplankton blooms, such as Roseobacter and Gammaproteobacteria, showed no response or only a minor response to the bloom. However, sequence numbers and total cell numbers of the SAR11 and SAR86 clades increased slightly but significantly toward the end of the experiment. It seems that although microbial productivity was enhanced within the fertilized area, a succession-like response of the microbial community upon the algal bloom was averted by highly effective grazing. Only small-celled members like the SAR11 and SAR86 clades could possibly escape the grazing pressure, explaining a net increase of those clades in numbers.
Aerobic gammaproteobacteria affiliated to the OM60/NOR5 clade are widespread in saline environments and of ecological importance in several marine ecosystems, especially the euphotic zone of coastal areas. Within this group a close relationship between aerobic anoxygenic photoheterotrophs and non-phototrophic members has been found.
Several strains of aerobic red-pigmented bacteria affiliated to the OM60/NOR5 clade were obtained from tidal flat sediment samples at the island of Sylt (North Sea, Germany). Two of the novel isolates, Rap1red and Ivo14T, were chosen for an analysis in detail. Strain Rap1red shared a 16S rRNA sequence identity of 99% with the type strain of Congregibacter litoralis and was genome-sequenced to reveal the extent of genetic microheterogeneity among closely related strains within this clade. In addition, a draft genome sequence was obtained from the isolate Ivo14T, which belongs to the environmental important NOR5-1 lineage that contains so far no cultured representative with a comprehensive description. Strain Ivo14T was characterized using a polyphasic approach and compared with other red-pigmented members of the OM60/NOR5 clade, including Congregibacter litoralis DSM 17192T, Haliea rubra DSM 19751T and Chromatocurvus halotolerans DSM 23344T. All analyzed strains contained bacteriochlorophyll a and spirilloxanthin as photosynthetic pigments. Besides a detailed phenotypic characterization including physiological and chemotaxonomic traits, sequence information based on protein-coding genes and a comparison of draft genome data sets were used to identify possible features characteristic for distinct taxa within this clade.
Comparative sequence analyses of the pufLM genes of genome-sequenced representatives of the OM60/NOR5 clade indicated that the photosynthetic apparatus of these species was derived from a common ancestor and not acquired by multiple horizontal gene transfer from phylogenetically distant species. An affiliation of the characterized bacteriochlorophyll a-containing strains to different genera was indicated by significant phenotypic differences and pufLM nucleotide sequence identity values below 82%. The revealed high genotypic and phenotypic diversity of closely related strains within this phylogenetic group reflects a rapid evolution and frequent niche separation in the OM60/NOR5 clade, which is possibly driven by the necessities of an adaptation to oligotrophic marine habitats.
Phylogeny; Aerobic anoxygenic photoheterotroph; Proteorhodopsin; Mixotroph; Picoplankton; Coastal marine environment
Microbial communities play a key role in the marine carbon cycle, processing much of phytoplankton-derived organic matter. The composition of these communities varies by depth, season, and location in the ocean; the functional consequences of these compositional variations for the carbon cycle are only beginning to be explored. We measured the abilities of microbial communities in the large-particle fraction (retained by a 10-μm pore-size cartridge filter) to enzymatically hydrolyze high molecular weight substrates, and therefore initiate carbon remineralization in four distinct oceanic provinces: the boreal polar (BPLR), the Arctic oceanic (ARCT), the North Atlantic drift (NADR), and the North Atlantic subtropical (NAST) provinces. Since we expected the large-particle fraction to include phytoplankton cells, we measured the hydrolysis of polysaccharide substrates (laminarin, fucoidan, xylan, and chondroitin sulfate) expected to be associated with phytoplankton. Hydrolysis rates and patterns clustered into two groups, the BPLR/ARCT and the NADR/NAST. All four substrates were hydrolyzed by the BPLR/ARCT communities; hydrolysis rates of individual substrate varied by factors of ca. 1–4. In contrast, chondroitin was not hydrolyzed in the NADR/NAST, and hydrolytic activity was dominated by laminarinase. Fluorescence in situ hybridization of the large-particle fraction post-incubation showed a substantial contribution (15–26%) of CF319a-positive cells (Bacteroidetes) to total DAPI-stainable cells. Concurrent studies of microbial community composition and of fosmids from these same stations also demonstrated similarities between BPLR and ARCT stations, which were distinct from the NADR/NAST stations. Together, these data support a picture of compositionally as well as functionally distinct communities across these oceanic provinces.
extracellular enzymes; biogeography; particles-associated bacteria; hydrolysis; carbon cycling
Next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies have enabled the application of broad-scale sequencing in microbial biodiversity and metagenome studies. Biodiversity is usually targeted by classifying 16S ribosomal RNA genes, while metagenomic approaches target metabolic genes. However, both approaches remain isolated, as long as the taxonomic and functional information cannot be interrelated. Techniques like self-organizing maps (SOMs) have been applied to cluster metagenomes into taxon-specific bins in order to link biodiversity with functions, but have not been applied to broad-scale NGS-based metagenomics yet. Here, we provide a novel implementation, demonstrate its potential and practicability, and provide a web-based service for public usage. Evaluation with published data sets mimicking varyingly complex habitats resulted into classification specificities and sensitivities of close to 100% to above 90% from phylum to genus level for assemblies exceeding 8 kb for low and medium complexity data. When applied to five real-world metagenomes of medium complexity from direct pyrosequencing of marine subsurface waters, classifications of assemblies above 2.5 kb were in good agreement with fluorescence in situ hybridizations, indicating that biodiversity was mostly retained within the metagenomes, and confirming high classification specificities. This was validated by two protein-based classifications (PBCs) methods. SOMs were able to retrieve the relevant taxa down to the genus level, while surpassing PBCs in resolution. In order to make the approach accessible to a broad audience, we implemented a feature-rich web-based SOM application named TaxSOM, which is freely available at http://www.megx.net/toolbox/taxsom. TaxSOM can classify reads or assemblies exceeding 2.5 kb with high accuracy and thus assists in linking biodiversity and functions in metagenome studies, which is a precondition to study microbial ecology in a holistic fashion.
binning; metagenomics; molecular ecology; self-organizing map (SOM); taxonomic classification; TaxSOM
Members of the bacterial phylum Planctomycetes are reported in marine water samples worldwide, but quantitative information is scarce. Here we investigated the phylogenetic diversity, abundance, and distribution of Planctomycetes in surface waters off the German North Sea island Helgoland during different seasons by 16S rRNA gene analysis and catalyzed reporter deposition fluorescence in situ hybridization (CARD-FISH). Generally Planctomycetes are more abundant in samples collected in summer and autumn than in samples collected in winter and spring. Statistical analysis revealed that Planctomycetes abundance was correlated to the Centrales diatom bloom in spring 2007. The analysis of size-fractionated seawater samples and of macroaggregates showed that ∼90% of the Planctomycetes reside in the >3-μm size fraction. Comparative sequence analysis of 184 almost full-length 16S rRNA genes revealed three dominant clades. The clades, named Planctomyces-related group A, uncultured Planctomycetes group B, and Pirellula-related group D, were monitored by CARD-FISH using newly developed oligonucleotide probes. All three clades showed recurrent abundance patterns during two annual sampling campaigns. Uncultured Planctomycetes group B was most abundant in autumn samples, while Planctomyces-related group A was present in high numbers only during late autumn and winter. The levels of Pirellula-related group D were more constant throughout the year, with elevated counts in summer. Our analyses suggest that the seasonal succession of the Planctomycetes is correlated with algal blooms. We hypothesize that the niche partitioning of the different clades might be caused by their algal substrates.
There is accumulating evidence that in some marine environments aerobic bacteriochlorophyll a-producing bacteria represent a significant part of the microbial population. The interaction of photosynthesis and carbon metabolism in these interesting bacteria is still largely unknown and requires further investigation in order to estimate their contribution to the marine carbon cycle.
Here, we analyzed the structure, composition and regulation of the photosynthetic apparatus in the obligately aerobic marine gammaproteobacterium KT71T. Photoheterotrophically grown cells were characterized by a poorly developed lamellar intracytoplasmic membrane system, a type 1 light-harvesting antenna complex and a photosynthetic reaction center associated with a tetraheme cytochrome c. The only photosynthetic pigments produced were bacteriochlorophyll a and spirilloxanthin. Under semiaerobic conditions KT71T cells expressing a photosynthetic apparatus showed a light-dependent increase of growth yield in the range of 1.3–2.5 fold. The expression level of the photosynthetic apparatus depended largely on the utilized substrate, the intermediary carbon metabolism and oxygen tension. In addition, pigment synthesis was strongly influenced by light, with blue light exerting the most significant effect, implicating that proteins containing a BLUF domain may be involved in regulation of the photosynthetic apparatus. Several phenotypic traits in KT71T could be identified that correlated with the assumed redox state of growing cells and thus could be used to monitor the cellular redox state under various incubation conditions.
In a hypothetical model that explains the regulation of the photosynthetic apparatus in strain KT71T we propose that the expression of photosynthesis genes depends on the cellular redox state and is maximal under conditions that allow a balanced membrane redox state. So far, bacteria capable of an obligately aerobic, photosynthetic metabolism constitute a unique phenotype within the class Gammaproteobacteria, so that it is justified to propose a new genus and species, Congregibacter litoralis gen. nov, sp. nov., represented by the type strain KT71T ( = DSM 17192T = NBRC 104960T).
Recent studies have shown that the anaerobic oxidation of ammonium by anammox bacteria plays an important role in catalyzing the loss of nitrogen from marine oxygen minimum zones (OMZ). However, in situ oxygen concentrations of up to 25 μM and ammonium concentrations close to or below the detection limit in the layer of anammox activity are hard to reconcile with the current knowledge of the physiology of anammox bacteria. We therefore investigated samples from the Namibian OMZ by comparative 16S rRNA gene analysis and fluorescence in situ hybridization. Our results showed that “Candidatus Scalindua” spp., the typical marine anammox bacteria, colonized microscopic particles that were likely the remains of either macroscopic marine snow particles or resuspended particles. These particles were slightly but significantly (P < 0.01) enriched in Gammaproteobacteria (11.8% ± 5.0%) compared to the free-water phase (8.1% ± 1.8%). No preference for the attachment to particles could be observed for members of the Alphaproteobacteria and Bacteroidetes, which were abundant (12 to 17%) in both habitats. The alphaproteobacterial SAR11 clade, the Euryarchaeota, and group I Crenarchaeota, were all significantly depleted in particles compared to their presence in the free-water phase (16.5% ± 3.5% versus 2.6% ± 1.7%, 2.7% ± 1.9% versus <1%, and 14.9% ± 4.6% versus 2.2% ± 1.8%, respectively, all P < 0.001). Sequence analysis of the crenarchaeotal 16S rRNA genes showed a 99% sequence identity to the nitrifying “Nitrosopumilus maritimus.” Even though we could not observe conspicuous consortium-like structures of anammox bacteria with particle-enriched bacterioplankton groups, we hypothesize that members of Gammaproteobacteria, Alphaproteobacteria, and Bacteroidetes play a critical role in extending the anammox reaction to nutrient-depleted suboxic water layers in the Namibian upwelling system by creating anoxic, nutrient-enriched microniches.
Sequencing ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes is currently the method of choice for phylogenetic reconstruction, nucleic acid based detection and quantification of microbial diversity. The ARB software suite with its corresponding rRNA datasets has been accepted by researchers worldwide as a standard tool for large scale rRNA analysis. However, the rapid increase of publicly available rRNA sequence data has recently hampered the maintenance of comprehensive and curated rRNA knowledge databases. A new system, SILVA (from Latin silva, forest), was implemented to provide a central comprehensive web resource for up to date, quality controlled databases of aligned rRNA sequences from the Bacteria, Archaea and Eukarya domains. All sequences are checked for anomalies, carry a rich set of sequence associated contextual information, have multiple taxonomic classifications, and the latest validly described nomenclature. Furthermore, two precompiled sequence datasets compatible with ARB are offered for download on the SILVA website: (i) the reference (Ref) datasets, comprising only high quality, nearly full length sequences suitable for in-depth phylogenetic analysis and probe design and (ii) the comprehensive Parc datasets with all publicly available rRNA sequences longer than 300 nucleotides suitable for biodiversity analyses. The latest publicly available database release 91 (August 2007) hosts 547 521 sequences split into 461 823 small subunit and 85 689 large subunit rRNAs.
We describe an approach to sort cells from coastal North Sea bacterioplankton by flow cytometry after in situ hybridization with rRNA-targeted horseradish peroxidase-labeled oligonucleotide probes and catalyzed fluorescent reporter deposition (CARD-FISH). In a sample from spring 2003 >90% of the cells were detected by CARD-FISH with a bacterial probe (EUB338). Approximately 30% of the microbial assemblage was affiliated with the Cytophaga-Flavobacterium lineage of the Bacteroidetes (CFB group) (probe CF319a), and almost 10% was targeted by a probe for the β-proteobacteria (probe BET42a). A protocol was optimized to detach cells hybridized with EUB338, BET42a, and CF319a from membrane filters (recovery rate, 70%) and to sort the cells by flow cytometry. The purity of sorted cells was >95%. 16S rRNA gene clone libraries were constructed from hybridized and sorted cells (S-EUB, S-BET, and S-CF libraries) and from unhybridized and unsorted cells (UNHYB library). Sequences related to the CFB group were significantly more frequent in the S-CF library (66%) than in the UNHYB library (13%). No enrichment of β-proteobacterial sequence types was found in the S-BET library, but novel sequences related to Nitrosospira were found exclusively in this library. These bacteria, together with members of marine clade OM43, represented >90% of the β-proteobacteria in the water sample, as determined by CARD-FISH with specific probes. This illustrates that a combination of CARD-FISH and flow sorting might be a powerful approach to study the diversity and potentially the activity and the genomes of different bacterial populations in aquatic habitats.
Systematic studies on the hybridization of fluorescently labeled, rRNA-targeted oligonucleotides have shown strong variations in in situ accessibility. Reliable predictions of target site accessibility would contribute to more-rational design of probes for the identification of individual microbial cells in their natural environments. During the past 3 years, numerous studies of the higher-order structure of the ribosome have advanced our understanding of its spatial conformation. These studies range from the identification of rRNA-rRNA interactions based on covariation analyses to physical imaging of the ribosome for the identification of protein-rRNA interactions. Here we reevaluate our Escherichia coli 16S rRNA in situ accessibility data with regard to a tertiary-structure model of the small subunit of the ribosome. We localized target sequences of 176 oligonucleotides on a 3.0-Å-resolution three-dimensional (3D) model of the 30S ribosomal subunit. Little correlation was found between probe hybridization efficiency and the proximity of the probe target region to the surface of the 30S ribosomal subunit model. We attribute this to the fact that fluorescence in situ hybridization is performed on fixed cells containing denatured ribosomes, whereas 3D models of the ribosome are based on its native conformation. The effects of different fixation and hybridization protocols on the fluorescence signals conferred by a set of 10 representative probes were tested. The presence or absence of the strongly denaturing detergent sodium dodecyl sulfate had a much more pronounced effect than a change of fixative from paraformaldehyde to ethanol.
Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) has proven to be most useful for the identification of microorganisms. However, species-specific oligonucleotide probes often fail to give satisfactory results. Among the causes leading to low hybridization signals is the reduced accessibility of the targeted rRNA site to the oligonucleotide, mainly for structural reasons. In this study we used flow cytometry to determine whole-cell fluorescence intensities with a set of 32 Cy3-labeled oligonucleotide probes covering the full length of the D1 and D2 domains in the 26S rRNA of Saccharomyces cerevisiae PYCC 4455T. The brightest signal was obtained with a probe complementary to positions 223 to 240. Almost half of the probes conferred a fluorescence intensity above 60% of the maximum, whereas only one probe could hardly detect the cells. The accessibility map based on the results obtained can be extrapolated to other yeasts, as shown experimentally with 27 additional species (14 ascomycetes and 13 basidiomycetes). This work contributes to a more rational design of species-specific probes for yeast identification and monitoring.
Low accessibility of the rRNA is together with cell wall impermeability and low cellular ribosome content a frequent reason for failure of whole-cell fluorescence hybridization with fluorescently labeled oligonucleotide probes. In this study we compare accessibility data for the 16S rRNA of Escherichia coli (gamma Proteobacteria, Bacteria) with the phylogenetically distantly related organisms Pirellula sp. strain 1 (Planctomycetes, Bacteria) and Metallosphaera sedula (Crenarchaeota, Archaea) and the 18S rRNA accessibility of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Eucarya). For a total of 537 Cy3-labeled probes, the signal intensities of hybridized cells were quantified under standardized conditions by flow cytometry. The relative probe-conferred fluorescence intensities are shown on color-coded small-subunit rRNA secondary-structure models. For Pirellula sp., most of the probes belong to class II and III (72% of the whole data set), whereas most of the probes targeting sites on M. sedula were grouped into class V and VI (46% of the whole data set). For E. coli, 45% of all probes of the data set belong to class III and IV. A consensus model for the accessibility of the small-subunit rRNA to oligonucleotide probes is proposed which uses 60 homolog target sites of the three prokaryotic 16S rRNA molecules. In general, open regions were localized around helices 13 and 14 including target positions 285 to 338, whereas helix 22 (positions 585 to 656) and the 3′ half of helix 47 (positions 1320 to 1345) were generally inaccessible. Finally, the 16S rRNA consensus model was compared to data on the in situ accessibility of the 18S rRNA of S. cerevisiae.
Direct evidence that marine cyanobacteria take up organic nitrogen compounds in situ at high rates is reported. About 33% of the total bacterioplankton turnover of amino acids, determined with a representative [35S]methionine precursor and flow sorting, can be assigned to Prochlorococcus spp. and 3% can be assigned to Synechococcus spp. in the oligotrophic and mesotrophic parts of the Arabian Sea, respectively. This finding may provide a mechanism for Prochlorococcus' competitive dominance over both strictly autotrophic algae and other bacteria in oligotrophic regions sustained by nutrient remineralization via a microbial loop.
A flow-sorting technique was developed to determine unperturbed metabolic activities of phylogenetically characterized bacterioplankton groups with incorporation rates of [35S]methionine tracer. According to fluorescence in situ hybridization with rRNA targeted oligonucleotide probes, a clade of α-proteobacteria, related to Roseobacter spp., and a Cytophaga-Flavobacterium cluster dominated the different groups. Cytometric characterization revealed both these groups to have high DNA (HNA) content, while the α-proteobacteria exhibited high light scatter (hs) and the Cytophaga-Flavobacterium cluster exhibited low light scatter (ls). A third abundant group with low DNA (LNA) content contained cells from a SAR86 cluster of γ-proteobacteria. Cellular specific activities of the HNA-hs group were 4- and 1.7-fold higher than the activities in the HNA-ls and LNA groups, respectively. However, the higher cellular protein synthesis by the HNA-hs could simply be explained by their maintenance of a larger cellular protein biomass. Similar biomass specific activities of the different groups strongly support the main assumption that underlies the determination of bacterial production: different bacteria in a complex community incorporate amino acids at a rate proportional to their protein synthesis. The fact that the highest growth-specific rates were determined for the smallest cells of the LNA group can explain the dominance of this group in nutrient-limited waters. The metabolic activities of the three groups accounted for almost the total bacterioplankton activity, indicating their key biogeochemical role in the planktonic ecosystem of the Celtic Sea.
One of the main causes of failure of fluorescence in situ hybridization with rRNA-targeted oligonucleotides, besides low cellular ribosome content and impermeability of cell walls, is the inaccessibility of probe target sites due to higher-order structure of the ribosome. Analogous to a study on the 16S rRNA (B. M. Fuchs, G. Wallner, W. Beisker, I. Schwippl, W. Ludwig, and R. Amann, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 64:4973–4982, 1998), the accessibility of the 23S rRNA of Escherichia coli DSM 30083T was studied in detail with a set of 184 CY3-labeled oligonucleotide probes. The probe-conferred fluorescence was quantified flow cytometrically. The brightest signal resulted from probe 23S-2018, complementary to positions 2018 to 2035. The distribution of probe-conferred cell fluorescence in six arbitrarily set brightness classes (classes I to VI, 100 to 81%, 80 to 61%, 60 to 41%, 40 to 21%, 20 to 6%, and 5 to 0% of the brightness of 23S-2018, respectively) was as follows: class I, 3%; class II, 21%; class III, 35%; class IV, 18%; class V, 16%; and class VI, 7%. A fine-resolution analysis of selected areas confirmed steep changes in accessibility on the 23S RNA to oligonucleotide probes. This is similar to the situation for the 16S rRNA. Indeed, no significant differences were found between the hybridization of oligonucleotide probes to 16S and 23S rRNA. Interestingly, indications were obtained of an effect of the type of fluorescent dye coupled to a probe on in situ accessibility. The results were translated into an accessibility map for the 23S rRNA of E. coli, which may be extrapolated to other bacteria. Thereby, it may contribute to a better exploitation of the high potential of the 23S rRNA for identification of bacteria in the future.
Target site inaccessibility represents a significant problem for fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) of 16S rRNA with oligonucleotide probes. Here, unlabeled oligonucleotides (helpers) that bind adjacent to the probe target site were evaluated for their potential to increase weak probe hybridization signals in Escherichia coli DSM 30083T. The use of helpers enhanced the fluorescence signal of all six probes examined at least fourfold. In one case, the signal of probe Eco474 was increased 25-fold with the use of a single helper probe, H440-2. In another case, four unlabeled helpers raised the FISH signal of a formerly weak probe, Eco585, to the level of the brightest monolabeled oligonucleotide probes available for E. coli. The temperature of dissociation and the mismatch discrimination of probes were not significantly influenced by the addition of helpers. Therefore, using helpers should not cause labeling of additional nontarget organisms at a defined stringency of hybridization. However, the helper action is based on sequence-specific binding, and there is thus a potential for narrowing the target group which must be considered when designing helpers. We conclude that helpers can open inaccessible rRNA regions for FISH with oligonucleotide probes and will thereby further improve the applicability of this technique for in situ identification of microorganisms.
Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) with rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes was used to investigate the phylogenetic composition of bacterioplankton communities in several freshwater and marine samples. An average of about 50% of the cells were detected by probes for the domains Bacteria and Archaea, and of these, about half could be identified at the subdomain level with a set of group-specific probes. Beta subclass proteobacteria constituted a dominant fraction in freshwater systems, accounting for 16% (range, 3 to 32%) of the cells, although they were essentially absent in the marine samples examined. Members of the Cytophaga-Flavobacterium cluster were the most abundant group detected in the marine systems, accounting for 18% (range, 2 to 72%) of the 4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) counts, and they were also important in freshwater systems (7%, range 0 to 18%). Furthermore, members of the alpha and gamma subclasses of Proteobacteria as well as members of the Planctomycetales were detected in both freshwater and marine water in abundances <7%.
An assay has been developed for measuring protein biomass of marine planktonic bacteria by flow cytometry. The method was calibrated by using five species of Bacteria (an Arcobacter sp., a Cytophaga sp., an Oceanospirillum sp., a Pseudoalteromonas sp., and a Vibrio sp.) recently isolated from seawater samples and grown in culture at different temperatures. The intensity of SYPRO-protein fluorescence of these bacteria strongly correlated with their total protein content, measured by the bicinchoninic acid method to be in the range of 60 to 330 fg of protein cell−1 (r2 = 0.93, n = 34). According to the calibration, the mean biomass of planktonic bacteria from the North Sea in August 1998 was 24 fg of protein cell−1.