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1.  Pseudo-nitzschia Challenged with Co-occurring Viral Communities Display Diverse Infection Phenotypes 
Viruses are catalysts of biogeochemical cycling, architects of microbial community structure, and terminators of phytoplankton blooms. Viral lysis of diatoms, a key group of eukaryotic phytoplankton, has the potential to impact carbon export and marine food webs. However, the impact of viruses on diatom abundance and community composition is unknown. Diatom-virus dynamics were explored by sampling every month at two coastal and estuarine locations in Washington state, USA resulting in 41 new isolates of the pennate diatom Pseudo-nitzschia and 20 environmental virus samples. We conducted a total of 820 pair-wise crosses of the Pseudo-nitzschia isolates and viral communities. Viral communities infected Pseudo-nitzschia isolates in 8% of the crosses overall and 16% of crosses when the host and viral communities were isolated from the same sample. Isolates ranged in their permissivity to infection with some isolates not infected by any viral samples and others infected by up to 10 viral communities. Isolates that were infected by the most viral communities also had the highest maximum observed viral titers (as high as 16000 infectious units ml-1). Titers of the viral communities were host dependent, as titers for one viral sample on eight different hosts spanned four orders of magnitude. Sequencing of the Pseudo-nitzschia Internal Transcribed Spacer 1 (ITS1) of the revealed multiple subgroups of hosts with 100% ITS1 identities that were infected by different viral communities. Indeed, we repeatedly isolated groups of isolates with identical ITS1 sequences from the same water sample that displayed different viral infection phenotypes. The interactions between Pseudo-nitzschia and the viral communities highlight the diversity of diatoms and emphasize the complexity and variability of diatom-virus dynamics in the ocean.
PMCID: PMC4837327  PMID: 27148216
diatom; phytoplankton; Pseudo-nitzschia; virus; microdiversity; titer; harmful algal bloom
2.  A Dissolved Oxygen Threshold for Shifts in Bacterial Community Structure in a Seasonally Hypoxic Estuary 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(8):e0135731.
Pelagic ecosystems can become depleted of dissolved oxygen as a result of both natural processes and anthropogenic effects. As dissolved oxygen concentration decreases, energy shifts from macrofauna to microorganisms, which persist in these hypoxic zones. Oxygen-limited regions are rapidly expanding globally; however, patterns of microbial communities associated with dissolved oxygen gradients are not yet well understood. To assess the effects of decreasing dissolved oxygen on bacteria, we examined shifts in bacterial community structure over space and time in Hood Canal, Washington, USA−a glacial fjord-like water body that experiences seasonal low dissolved oxygen levels known to be detrimental to fish and other marine organisms. We found a strong negative association between bacterial richness and dissolved oxygen. Bacterial community composition across all samples was also strongly associated with the dissolved oxygen gradient, and significant changes in bacterial community composition occurred at a dissolved oxygen concentration between 5.18 and 7.12 mg O2 L-1. This threshold value of dissolved oxygen is higher than classic definitions of hypoxia (<2.0 mg O2 L-1), suggesting that changes in bacterial communities may precede the detrimental effects on ecologically and economically important macrofauna. Furthermore, bacterial taxa responsible for driving whole community changes across the oxygen gradient are commonly detected in other oxygen-stressed ecosystems, suggesting that the patterns we uncovered in Hood Canal may be relevant in other low oxygen ecosystems.
PMCID: PMC4535773  PMID: 26270047
3.  Plastid proteome prediction for diatoms and other algae with secondary plastids of the red lineage 
The Plant Journal  2015;81(3):519-528.
The plastids of ecologically and economically important algae from phyla such as stramenopiles, dinoflagellates and cryptophytes were acquired via a secondary endosymbiosis and are surrounded by three or four membranes. Nuclear-encoded plastid-localized proteins contain N-terminal bipartite targeting peptides with the conserved amino acid sequence motif ‘ASAFAP’. Here we identify the plastid proteomes of two diatoms, Thalassiosira pseudonana and Phaeodactylum tricornutum, using a customized prediction tool (ASAFind) that identifies nuclear-encoded plastid proteins in algae with secondary plastids of the red lineage based on the output of SignalP and the identification of conserved ‘ASAFAP’ motifs and transit peptides. We tested ASAFind against a large reference dataset of diatom proteins with experimentally confirmed subcellular localization and found that the tool accurately identified plastid-localized proteins with both high sensitivity and high specificity. To identify nucleus-encoded plastid proteins of T. pseudonana and P. tricornutum we generated optimized sets of gene models for both whole genomes, to increase the percentage of full-length proteins compared with previous assembly model sets. ASAFind applied to these optimized sets revealed that about 8% of the proteins encoded in their nuclear genomes were predicted to be plastid localized and therefore represent the putative plastid proteomes of these algae.
PMCID: PMC4329603  PMID: 25438865
Thalassiosira pseudonana; Phaeodactylum tricornutum; chloroplast; proteome; prediction; technical advance
4.  Genomes of diverse isolates of the marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus  
Scientific Data  2014;1:140034.
The marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus is the numerically dominant photosynthetic organism in the oligotrophic oceans, and a model system in marine microbial ecology. Here we report 27 new whole genome sequences (2 complete and closed; 25 of draft quality) of cultured isolates, representing five major phylogenetic clades of Prochlorococcus. The sequenced strains were isolated from diverse regions of the oceans, facilitating studies of the drivers of microbial diversity—both in the lab and in the field. To improve the utility of these genomes for comparative genomics, we also define pre-computed clusters of orthologous groups of proteins (COGs), indicating how genes are distributed among these and other publicly available Prochlorococcus genomes. These data represent a significant expansion of Prochlorococcus reference genomes that are useful for numerous applications in microbial ecology, evolution and oceanography.
PMCID: PMC4421930  PMID: 25977791
5.  Biogeography of the uncultured marine picoeukaryote MAST-4: temperature-driven distribution patterns 
The ISME Journal  2013;7(8):1531-1543.
The MAST-4 (marine stramenopile group 4) is a widespread uncultured picoeukaryote that makes up an important fraction of marine heterotrophic flagellates. This group has low genetic divergence and is composed of a small number of putative species. We combined ARISA (automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis) and ITS (Internal Transcribed Spacer) clone libraries to study the biogeography of this marine protist, examining both spatial and temporal trends in MAST-4 assemblages and associated environmental factors. The most represented MAST-4 clades appeared adapted to different temperature ranges, and their distributions did not suggest clear geographical barriers for dispersal. Distant samples sharing the same temperature had very similar assemblages, especially in cold temperatures, where only one clade, E1, dominated. The most highly represented clades, A and E1, showed very little differentiation between populations from distant geographical regions. Within a single site, temporal variation also followed patterns governed by temperature. Our results contribute to the general discussion on microbial biogeography by showing strong environmental selection for some picoeukaryotes in the marine environment.
PMCID: PMC3721120  PMID: 23598792
biogeography; ITS1; ARISA; temperature; fixation index; MAST-4
6.  A pangenomic analysis of the Nannochloropsis organellar genomes reveals novel genetic variations in key metabolic genes 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:212.
Microalgae in the genus Nannochloropsis are photosynthetic marine Eustigmatophytes of significant interest to the bioenergy and aquaculture sectors due to their ability to efficiently accumulate biomass and lipids for utilization in renewable transportation fuels, aquaculture feed, and other useful bioproducts. To better understand the genetic complement that drives the metabolic processes of these organisms, we present the assembly and comparative pangenomic analysis of the chloroplast and mitochondrial genomes from Nannochloropsis salina CCMP1776.
The chloroplast and mitochondrial genomes of N. salina are 98.4% and 97% identical to their counterparts in Nannochloropsis gaditana. Comparison of the Nannochloropsis pangenome to other algae within and outside of the same phyla revealed regions of significant genetic divergence in key genes that encode proteins needed for regulation of branched chain amino synthesis (acetohydroxyacid synthase), carbon fixation (RuBisCO activase), energy conservation (ATP synthase), protein synthesis and homeostasis (Clp protease, ribosome).
Many organellar gene modifications in Nannochloropsis are unique and deviate from conserved orthologs found across the tree of life. Implementation of secondary and tertiary structure prediction was crucial to functionally characterize many proteins and therefore should be implemented in automated annotation pipelines. The exceptional similarity of the N. salina and N. gaditana organellar genomes suggests that N. gaditana be reclassified as a strain of N. salina.
PMCID: PMC3999925  PMID: 24646409
Nannochloropsis; Chloroplast; Mitochondria; Genome; Stramenopiles; Genome evolution; Gene divergence
Journal of phycology  2008;44(3):10.1111/j.1529-8817.2008.00518.x.
Pseudo-nitzschia-specific PCR primers (PnAll F/R) were designed to amplify a polymorphic region of the internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) from at least 11 Pseudo-nitzschia species. The primers were used to generate environmental clone libraries from Puget Sound, Washington, and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to confirm that the primers were specific for Pseudo-nitzschia and to determine the extent of ITS1 sequence diversity within individual species. All environmental ITS1 sequences generated with PnAll primers displayed the greatest similarity to known Pseudo-nitzschia ITS1 sequences. The length of cloned ITS1 fragments differed among species but was conserved within a species. Intraspecific genotypes exhibited <3% sequence divergence for seven of the 10 species detected in clone libraries. Several ITS1 genotypes unique to the Pacific Northwest were identified in environmental samples, and other genotypes were more broadly distributed. The Pseudo-nitzschia primers were also used to develop an automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA) to rapidly identify Pseudo-nitzschia species in environmental samples based on species-specific variation in the length of the targeted ITS1 region. The ARISA peaks were then associated with the environmental clone sequences for Pseudo-nitzschia species. Surveying the genetic composition of communities at both the inter- and intraspecific levels will enhance our understanding of Pseudo-nitzschia bloom dynamics.
PMCID: PMC3873754  PMID: 24376283
ARISA; Bacillariophyceae; diatoms; diversity; environmental clone libraries; genotypes; ITS; Pseudo-nitzschia; Puget Sound; Vancouver Island
8.  Diversity and Distribution of Marine Synechococcus: Multiple Gene Phylogenies for Consensus Classification and Development of qPCR Assays for Sensitive Measurement of Clades in the Ocean 
Marine Synechococcus is a globally significant genus of cyanobacteria that is comprised of multiple genetic lineages or clades. These clades are thought to represent ecologically distinct units, or ecotypes. Because multiple clades often co-occur together in the oceans, Synechococcus are ideal microbes to explore how closely related bacterial taxa within the same functional guild of organisms co-exist and partition marine habitats. Here we sequenced multiple gene loci from cultured strains to confirm the congruency of clade classifications between the 16S–23S rDNA internally transcribed spacer (ITS), 16S rDNA, narB, ntcA, and rpoC1 loci commonly used in Synechococcus diversity studies. We designed quantitative PCR (qPCR) assays that target the ITS for 10 Synechococcus clades, including four clades, XV, XVI, CRD1, and CRD2, not covered by previous assays employing other loci. Our new qPCR assays are very sensitive and specific, detecting down to tens of cells per ml. Application of these qPCR assays to field samples from the northwest Atlantic showed clear shifts in Synechococcus community composition across a coastal to open-ocean transect. Consistent with previous studies, clades I and IV dominated cold, coastal Synechococcus communities. Clades II and X were abundant at the two warmer, off-shore stations, and at all stations multiple Synechococcus clades co-occurred. qPCR assays developed here provide valuable tools to further explore the dynamics of microbial community structure and the mechanisms of co-existence.
PMCID: PMC3377940  PMID: 22723796
microbial ecology; cyanobacteria; Synechococcus; microbial diversity; quantitative PCR; multiple gene locus phylogeny; biogeography; ecotype
9.  Chloroplast genome sequencing analysis of Heterosigma akashiwo CCMP452 (West Atlantic) and NIES293 (West Pacific) strains 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:211.
Heterokont algae form a monophyletic group within the stramenopile branch of the tree of life. These organisms display wide morphological diversity, ranging from minute unicells to massive, bladed forms. Surprisingly, chloroplast genome sequences are available only for diatoms, representing two (Coscinodiscophyceae and Bacillariophyceae) of approximately 18 classes of algae that comprise this taxonomic cluster.
A universal challenge to chloroplast genome sequencing studies is the retrieval of highly purified DNA in quantities sufficient for analytical processing. To circumvent this problem, we have developed a simplified method for sequencing chloroplast genomes, using fosmids selected from a total cellular DNA library. The technique has been used to sequence chloroplast DNA of two Heterosigma akashiwo strains. This raphidophyte has served as a model system for studies of stramenopile chloroplast biogenesis and evolution.
H. akashiwo strain CCMP452 (West Atlantic) chloroplast DNA is 160,149 bp in size with a 21,822-bp inverted repeat, whereas NIES293 (West Pacific) chloroplast DNA is 159,370 bp in size and has an inverted repeat of 21,665 bp. The fosmid cloning technique reveals that both strains contain an isomeric chloroplast DNA population resulting from an inversion of their single copy domains. Both strains contain multiple small inverted and tandem repeats, non-randomly distributed within the genomes. Although both CCMP452 and NIES293 chloroplast DNAs contains 197 genes, multiple nucleotide polymorphisms are present in both coding and intergenic regions. Several protein-coding genes contain large, in-frame inserts relative to orthologous genes in other plastids. These inserts are maintained in mRNA products. Two genes of interest in H. akashiwo, not previously reported in any chloroplast genome, include tyrC, a tyrosine recombinase, which we hypothesize may be a result of a lateral gene transfer event, and an unidentified 456 amino acid protein, which we hypothesize serves as a G-protein-coupled receptor. The H. akashiwo chloroplast genomes share little synteny with other algal chloroplast genomes sequenced to date.
The fosmid cloning technique eliminates chloroplast isolation, does not require chloroplast DNA purification, and reduces sequencing processing time. Application of this method has provided new insights into chloroplast genome architecture, gene content and evolution within the stramenopile cluster.
PMCID: PMC2410131  PMID: 18462506
10.  REPK: an analytical web server to select restriction endonucleases for terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;35(Web Server issue):W58-W62.
Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis is a widespread technique for rapidly fingerprinting microbial communities. Users of T-RFLP frequently overlook the resolving power of well-chosen restriction endonucleases and often fail to report how they chose their enzymes. REPK (Restriction Endonuclease Picker) assists in the rational choice of restriction endonucleases for T-RFLP by finding sets of four restriction endonucleases that together uniquely differentiate user-designated sequence groups. With REPK, users can provide their own sequences (of any gene, not just 16S rRNA), specify the taxonomic rank of interest and choose from a number of filtering options to further narrow down the enzyme selection. Bug tracking is provided, and the source code is open and accessible under the GNU Public License v.2, at The web server is available without access restrictions at
PMCID: PMC1933217  PMID: 17631616
11.  Culture Isolation and Culture-Independent Clone Libraries Reveal New Marine Synechococcus Ecotypes with Distinctive Light and N Physiologies▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2006;72(11):7193-7204.
Marine microbial communities often contain multiple closely related phylogenetic clades, but in many cases, it is still unclear what physiological traits differentiate these putative ecotypes. The numerically abundant marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus can be divided into at least 14 clades. In order to better understand ecotype differentiation in this genus, we assessed the diversity of a Synechococcus community from a well-mixed water column in the Sargasso Sea during March 2002, a time of year when this genus typically reaches its annual peak in abundance. Diversity was estimated from water sampled at three depths (approximately 5, 70, and 170 m) using both culture isolation and construction of cyanobacterial 16S-23S rRNA internal transcribed sequence clone libraries. Clonal isolates were obtained by enrichment with ammonium, nitrite, or nitrate as the sole N source, followed by pour plating. Each method sampled the in situ diversity differently. The combined methods revealed a total of seven Synechococcus phylotypes including two new putative ecotypes, labeled XV and XVI. Although most other isolates grow on nitrate, clade XV exhibited a reduced efficiency in nitrate utilization, and both clade XV and XVI are capable of chromatic adaptation, demonstrating that this trait is more widely distributed among Synechococcus strains than previously known. Thus, as in its sister genus Prochlorococcus, light and nitrogen utilization are important factors in ecotype differentiation in the marine Synechococcus lineage.
PMCID: PMC1636174  PMID: 16936060
12.  Whole-Genome Reciprocal BLAST Analysis Reveals that Planctomycetes Do Not Share an Unusually Large Number of Genes with Eukarya and Archaea†  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2006;72(10):6841-6844.
The genome sequences of Rhodopirellula baltica, formerly Pirellula sp. strain 1, Blastopirellula marina, Gemmata obscuriglobus, and Kuenenia stuttgartiensis were used in a series of pairwise reciprocal best-hit analyses to evaluate the contested evolutionary position of Planctomycetes. Contrary to previous reports which suggested that R. baltica had a high percentage of genes with closest matches to Archaea and Eukarya, we show here that these Planctomycetes do not share an unusually large number of genes with the Archaea or Eukarya, compared with other Bacteria. Thus, best-hit analyses may assign phylogenetic affinities incorrectly if close relatives are absent from the sequence database.
PMCID: PMC1610313  PMID: 17021241
13.  Resolution of Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus Ecotypes by Using 16S-23S Ribosomal DNA Internal Transcribed Spacer Sequences 
Cultured isolates of the marine cyanobacteria Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus vary widely in their pigment compositions and growth responses to light and nutrients, yet show greater than 96% identity in their 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) sequences. In order to better define the genetic variation that accompanies their physiological diversity, sequences for the 16S-23S rDNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region were determined in 32 Prochlorococcus isolates and 25 Synechococcus isolates from around the globe. Each strain examined yielded one ITS sequence that contained two tRNA genes. Dramatic variations in the length and G+C content of the spacer were observed among the strains, particularly among Prochlorococcus strains. Secondary-structure models of the ITS were predicted in order to facilitate alignment of the sequences for phylogenetic analyses. The previously observed division of Prochlorococcus into two ecotypes (called high and low-B/A after their differences in chlorophyll content) were supported, as was the subdivision of the high-B/A ecotype into four genetically distinct clades. ITS-based phylogenies partitioned marine cluster A Synechococcus into six clades, three of which can be associated with a particular phenotype (motility, chromatic adaptation, and lack of phycourobilin). The pattern of sequence divergence within and between clades is suggestive of a mode of evolution driven by adaptive sweeps and implies that each clade represents an ecologically distinct population. Furthermore, many of the clades consist of strains isolated from disparate regions of the world's oceans, implying that they are geographically widely distributed. These results provide further evidence that natural populations of Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus consist of multiple coexisting ecotypes, genetically closely related but physiologically distinct, which may vary in relative abundance with changing environmental conditions.
PMCID: PMC123739  PMID: 11872466
14.  Persistence of bacterial and archaeal communities in sea ice through an Arctic winter 
Environmental Microbiology  2010;12(7):1828-1841.
The structure of bacterial communities in first-year spring and summer sea ice differs from that in source seawaters, suggesting selection during ice formation in autumn or taxon-specific mortality in the ice during winter. We tested these hypotheses by weekly sampling (January–March 2004) of first-year winter sea ice (Franklin Bay, Western Arctic) that experienced temperatures from −9°C to −26°C, generating community fingerprints and clone libraries for Bacteria and Archaea. Despite severe conditions and significant decreases in microbial abundance, no significant changes in richness or community structure were detected in the ice. Communities of Bacteria and Archaea in the ice, as in under-ice seawater, were dominated by SAR11 clade Alphaproteobacteria and Marine Group I Crenarchaeota, neither of which is known from later season sea ice. The bacterial ice library contained clones of Gammaproteobacteria from oligotrophic seawater clades (e.g. OM60, OM182) but no clones from gammaproteobacterial genera commonly detected in later season sea ice by similar methods (e.g. Colwellia, Psychrobacter). The only common sea ice bacterial genus detected in winter ice was Polaribacter. Overall, selection during ice formation and mortality during winter appear to play minor roles in the process of microbial succession that leads to distinctive spring and summer sea ice communities.
PMCID: PMC2916213  PMID: 20192970

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