Planktonic microbial activity and community structure is dynamic, and can change dramatically on time scales of hours to days. Yet for logistical reasons, this temporal scale is typically under-sampled in the marine environment. In order to facilitate higher-resolution, long-term observation of microbial diversity and activity, we developed a protocol for automated collection and fixation of marine microbes using the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) platform. The protocol applies a preservative (RNALater) to cells collected on filters, for long-term storage and preservation of total cellular RNA. Microbial samples preserved using this protocol yielded high-quality RNA after 30 days of storage at room temperature, or onboard the ESP at in situ temperatures. Pyrosequencing of complementary DNA libraries generated from ESP-collected and preserved samples yielded transcript abundance profiles nearly indistinguishable from those derived from conventionally treated replicate samples. To demonstrate the utility of the method, we used a moored ESP to remotely and autonomously collect Monterey Bay seawater for metatranscriptomic analysis. Community RNA was extracted and pyrosequenced from samples collected at four time points over the course of a single day. In all four samples, the oxygenic photoautotrophs were predominantly eukaryotic, while the bacterial community was dominated by Polaribacter-like Flavobacteria and a Rhodobacterales bacterium sharing high similarity with Rhodobacterales sp. HTCC2255. However, each time point was associated with distinct species abundance and gene transcript profiles. These laboratory and field tests confirmed that autonomous collection and preservation is a feasible and useful approach for characterizing the expressed genes and environmental responses of marine microbial communities.
metatranscriptomics; gene expression; automated sampling; marine bacterioplankton; RNA preservation; Monterey Bay
Proteorhodopsin (PR) is a photoprotein that functions as a light-driven proton pump in diverse marine Bacteria and Archaea. Recent studies have suggested that PR may enhance both growth rate and yield in some flavobacteria when grown under nutrient-limiting conditions in the light. The direct involvement of PR, and the metabolic details enabling light-stimulated growth, however, remain uncertain. Here, we surveyed transcriptional and growth responses of a PR-containing marine flavobacterium during carbon-limited growth in the light and the dark. As previously reported (Gómez-Consarnau et al., 2007), Dokdonia strain MED134 exhibited light-enhanced growth rates and cell yields under low carbon growth conditions. Inhibition of retinal biosynthesis abolished the light-stimulated growth response, supporting a direct role for retinal-bound PR in light-enhanced growth. Among protein-coding transcripts, both PR and retinal biosynthetic enzymes showed significant upregulation in the light. Other light-associated proteins, including bacterial cryptochrome and DNA photolyase, were also expressed at significantly higher levels in the light. Membrane transporters for Na+/phosphate and Na+/alanine symporters, and the Na+-translocating NADH-quinone oxidoreductase (NQR) linked electron transport chain, were also significantly upregulated in the light. Culture experiments using a specific inhibitor of Na+-translocating NQR indicated that sodium pumping via NQR is a critical metabolic process in the light-stimulated growth of MED134. In total, the results suggested the importance of both the PR-enabled, light-driven proton gradient, as well as the generation of a Na+ ion gradient, as essential components for light-enhanced growth in these flavobacteria.
flavobacteria; marine; photoheterotrophy; proteorhodopsin; transcriptomics
As part of an ongoing survey of microbial community gene expression in the ocean, we sequenced and compared ∼38 Mbp of community transcriptomes and ∼157 Mbp of community genomes from four bacterioplankton samples, along a defined depth profile at Station ALOHA in North Pacific subtropical gyre (NPSG). Taxonomic analysis suggested that the samples were dominated by three taxa: Prochlorales, Consistiales and Cenarchaeales, which comprised 36–69% and 29–63% of the annotated sequences in the four DNA and four cDNA libraries, respectively. The relative abundance of these taxonomic groups was sometimes very different in the DNA and cDNA libraries, suggesting differential relative transcriptional activities per cell. For example, the 125 m sample genomic library was dominated by Pelagibacter (∼36% of sequence reads), which contributed fewer sequences to the community transcriptome (∼11%). Functional characterization of highly expressed genes suggested taxon-specific contributions to specific biogeochemical processes. Examples included Roseobacter relatives involved in aerobic anoxygenic phototrophy at 75 m, and an unexpected contribution of low abundance Crenarchaea to ammonia oxidation at 125 m. Read recruitment using reference microbial genomes indicated depth-specific partitioning of coexisting microbial populations, highlighted by a transcriptionally active high-light-like Prochlorococcus population in the bottom of the photic zone. Additionally, nutrient-uptake genes dominated Pelagibacter transcripts, with apparent enrichment for certain transporter types (for example, the C4-dicarboxylate transport system) over others (for example, phosphate transporters). In total, the data support the utility of coupled DNA and cDNA analyses for describing taxonomic and functional attributes of microbial communities in their natural habitats.
metatranscriptomics; metagenomics; bacterioplankton; microbial gene expression/regulation; biogeochemical processes
Thioautotrophic endosymbionts in the Domain Bacteria mediate key sulfur transformations in marine reducing environments. However, the molecular pathways underlying symbiont metabolism and the extent to which these pathways are expressed in situ are poorly characterized for almost all symbioses. This is largely due to the difficulty of culturing symbionts apart from their hosts. Here, we use pyrosequencing of community RNA transcripts (i.e., the metatranscriptome) to characterize enzymes of dissimilatory sulfur metabolism in the model symbiosis between the coastal bivalve Solemya velum and its intracellular thioautotrophic symbionts. High-throughput sequencing of total RNA from the symbiont-containing gill of a single host individual generated 1.6 million sequence reads (500 Mbp). Of these, 43,735 matched Bacteria protein-coding genes in BLASTX searches of the NCBI database. The taxonomic identities of the matched genes indicated relatedness to diverse species of sulfur-oxidizing Gammaproteobacteria, including other thioautotrophic symbionts and the purple sulfur bacterium Allochromatium vinosum. Manual querying of these data identified 28 genes from diverse pathways of sulfur energy metabolism, including the dissimilatory sulfite reductase (Dsr) pathway for sulfur oxidation to sulfite, the APS pathway for sulfite oxidation, and the Sox pathway for thiosulfate oxidation. In total, reads matching sulfur energy metabolism genes represented 7% of the Bacteria mRNA pool. Together, these data highlight the dominance of thioautotrophy in the context of symbiont community metabolism, identify the likely pathways mediating sulfur oxidation, and illustrate the utility of metatranscriptome sequencing for characterizing community gene transcription of uncultured symbionts.
chemosynthesis; endosymbiosis; sulfide; thiosulfate; gene expression
An unusual uncultivated nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium lacks many of the signature features of typical cyanobacteria.
Population metagenomics reveals the reduced metabolic capacities of a marine nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium that lacks many of the signature features of typical cyanobacteria.
Combined metagenomic and metatranscriptomic datasets make it possible to study the molecular evolution of diverse microbial species recovered from their native habitats. The link between gene expression level and sequence conservation was examined using shotgun pyrosequencing of microbial community DNA and RNA from diverse marine environments, and from forest soil.
Across all samples, expressed genes with transcripts in the RNA sample were significantly more conserved than non-expressed gene sets relative to best matches in reference databases. This discrepancy, observed for many diverse individual genomes and across entire communities, coincided with a shift in amino acid usage between these gene fractions. Expressed genes trended toward GC-enriched amino acids, consistent with a hypothesis of higher levels of functional constraint in this gene pool. Highly expressed genes were significantly more likely to fall within an orthologous gene set shared between closely related taxa (core genes). However, non-core genes, when expressed above the level of detection, were, on average, significantly more highly expressed than core genes based on transcript abundance normalized to gene abundance. Finally, expressed genes showed broad similarities in function across samples, being relatively enriched in genes of energy metabolism and underrepresented by genes of cell growth.
These patterns support the hypothesis, predicated on studies of model organisms, that gene expression level is a primary correlate of evolutionary rate across diverse microbial taxa from natural environments. Despite their complexity, meta-omic datasets can reveal broad evolutionary patterns across taxonomically, functionally, and environmentally diverse communities.
This report summarizes the proceedings of the first day of the Metagenomics, Metadata and MetaAnalysis (M3) workshop held at the Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology 2010 conference. The second day, which was dedicated to the inaugural meeting of the BioSharing initiative is presented in a separate report. The Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC) hosted the first day of this Special Interest Group (SIG) at ISMB to continue exploring the bottlenecks and emerging solutions for obtaining biological insights through large-scale comparative analysis of metagenomic datasets. The M3 SIG included invited and selected talks and a panel discussion at the end of the day involving the plenary speakers. Further information about the GSC and its range of activities can be found at http://gensc.org. Information about the newly established BioSharing effort can be found at http://biosharing.org/.
This report summarizes the proceedings of the one day BioSharing meeting held at the Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) 2010 conference in Boston, MA, USA This inaugural BioSharing event was hosted by the Genomic Standards Consortium as part of its M3 & BioSharing special interest group (SIG) workshop. The BioSharing event included invited talks from a range of community leaders and a panel discussion at the end of the day. The panel session led to the formal agreement among community leaders to join together to promote cross-community knowledge exchange and collaborations. A key focus of the newly formed Biosharing community will be linking up resources to promote real-world data sharing (virtuous cycle of data) and supporting compliance with data policies through the creation of a one-stop-portal of information. Further information about the newly established BioSharing effort can be found at http://biosharing.org.
Recently, it has been discovered that many microorganisms previously thought to be light-independent actually make use of sunlight for growth and survival. Newly reported work suggests some of the specific mechanisms involved.
The deep sea (water depth of >2,000 m) represents the largest biome on Earth. Yet relatively little is known about its microbial community's structure, function, and adaptation to the cold and deep biosphere. To provide further genomic insights into deep-sea planktonic microbes, we sequenced a total of ∼200 Mbp of a random whole-genome shotgun (WGS) library from a microbial community residing at a depth of 4,000 m at Station ALOHA in the Pacific Ocean and compared it to other available WGS sequence data from surface and deep waters. Our analyses indicated that the deep-sea lifestyle is likely facilitated by a collection of very subtle adaptations, as opposed to dramatic alterations of gene content or structure. These adaptations appear to include higher metabolic versatility and genomic plasticity to cope with the sparse and sporadic energy resources available, a preference for hydrophobic and smaller-volume amino acids in protein sequences, unique proteins not found in surface-dwelling species, and adaptations at the gene expression level. The deep-sea community is also characterized by a larger average genome size and a higher content of “selfish” genetic elements, such as transposases and prophages, whose propagation is apparently favored by more relaxed purifying (negative) selection in deeper waters.
Six environmental fosmid clones from Antarctic coastal water bacterioplankton were completely sequenced. The genome fragments harbored small-subunit rRNA genes that were between 85 and 91% similar to those of their nearest cultivated relatives. The six fragments span four phyla, including the Gemmatimonadetes, Proteobacteria (α and γ), Bacteroidetes, and high-G+C gram-positive bacteria. Gene-finding and annotation analyses identified 244 total open reading frames. Amino acid comparisons of 123 and 113 Antarctic bacterial amino acid sequences to mesophilic homologs from G+C-specific and SwissProt/UniProt databases, respectively, revealed widespread adaptation to the cold. The most significant changes in these Antarctic bacterial protein sequences included a reduction in salt-bridge-forming residues such as arginine, glutamic acid, and aspartic acid, reduced proline contents, and a reduction in stabilizing hydrophobic clusters. Stretches of disordered amino acids were significantly longer in the Antarctic sequences than in the mesophilic sequences. These characteristics were not specific to any one phylum, COG role category, or G+C content and imply that underlying genotypic and biochemical adaptations to the cold are inherent to life in the permanently subzero Antarctic waters.
Crenarchaeota represent an abundant component of oceanic microbiota with potential to significantly influence biogeochemical cycling in marine ecosystems. Prior studies using specific archaeal lipid biomarkers and isotopic analyses indicated that planktonic
Crenarchaeota have the capacity for autotrophic growth, and more recent cultivation studies support an ammonia-based chemolithoautotrophic energy metabolism. We report here analysis of fosmid sequences derived from the uncultivated marine crenarchaeote,
Cenarchaeum symbiosum, focused on the reconstruction of carbon and energy metabolism. Genes predicted to encode multiple components of a modified 3-hydroxypropionate cycle of autotrophic carbon assimilation were identified, consistent with utilization of carbon dioxide as a carbon source. Additionally, genes predicted to encode a near complete oxidative tricarboxylic acid cycle were also identified, consistent with the consumption of organic carbon and in the production of intermediates for amino acid and cofactor biosynthesis. Therefore,
C. symbiosum has the potential to function either as a strict autotroph, or as a mixotroph utilizing both carbon dioxide and organic material as carbon sources. From the standpoint of energy metabolism, genes predicted to encode ammonia monooxygenase subunits, ammonia permease, urease, and urea transporters were identified, consistent with the use of reduced nitrogen compounds as energy sources fueling autotrophic metabolism. Homologues of these genes, recovered from ocean waters worldwide, demonstrate the conservation and ubiquity of crenarchaeal pathways for carbon assimilation and ammonia oxidation. These findings further substantiate the likely global metabolic importance of
Crenarchaeota with respect to key steps in the biogeochemical transformation of carbon and nitrogen in marine ecosystems.
Sequence data reveal the presence of key genes from pathways for carbon assimilation and ammonia oxidation in marine microbiota, supporting their importance in regulating the biogeochemistry of marine ecosystems.
Sponge-associated bacteria are thought to produce many novel bioactive compounds, including polyketides. PCR amplification of ketosynthase domains of type I modular polyketide synthases (PKS) from the microbial community of the marine sponge Discodermia dissoluta revealed great diversity and a novel group of sponge-specific PKS ketosynthase domains. Metagenomic libraries totaling more than four gigabases of bacterial genomes associated with this sponge were screened for type I modular PKS gene clusters. More than 90% of the clones in total sponge DNA libraries represented bacterial DNA inserts, and 0.7% harbored PKS genes. The majority of the PKS hybridizing clones carried small PKS clusters of one to three modules, although some clones encoded large multimodular PKSs (more than five modules). The most abundant large modular PKS appeared to be encoded by a bacterial symbiont that made up <1% of the sponge community. Sequencing of this PKS revealed 14 modules that, if expressed and active, is predicted to produce a multimethyl-branched fatty acid reminiscent of mycobacterial lipid components. Metagenomic libraries made from fractions enriched for unicellular or filamentous bacteria differed significantly, with the latter containing numerous nonribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS) and mixed NRPS-PKS gene clusters. The filamentous bacterial community of D. dissoluta consists mainly of Entotheonella spp., an unculturable sponge-specific taxon previously implicated in the biosynthesis of bioactive peptides.
Archaeal histone-encoding genes have been identified in marine Crenarchaea. The protein encoded by a representative of these genes, synthesized in vitro and expressed in Escherichia coli, binds DNA and forms complexes with properties typical of an archaeal histone. The discovery of histones in Crenarchaea supports the argument that histones evolved before the divergence of Archaea and Eukarya.