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1.  Comparative Genomic Analysis of Archaeal Genotypic Variants in a Single Population and in Two Different Oceanic Provinces 
Planktonic crenarchaeotes are present in high abundance in Antarctic winter surface waters, and they also make up a large proportion of total cell numbers throughout deep ocean waters. To better characterize these uncultivated marine crenarchaeotes, we analyzed large genome fragments from individuals recovered from a single Antarctic picoplankton population and compared them to those from a representative obtained from deeper waters of the temperate North Pacific. Sequencing and analysis of the entire DNA insert from one Antarctic marine archaeon (fosmid 74A4) revealed differences in genome structure and content between Antarctic surface water and temperate deepwater archaea. Analysis of the predicted gene products encoded by the 74A4 sequence and those derived from a temperate, deepwater planktonic crenarchaeote (fosmid 4B7) revealed many typical archaeal proteins but also several proteins that so far have not been detected in archaea. The unique fraction of marine archaeal genes included, among others, those for a predicted RNA-binding protein of the bacterial cold shock family and a eukaryote-type Zn finger protein. Comparison of closely related archaea originating from a single population revealed significant genomic divergence that was not evident from 16S rRNA sequence variation. The data suggest that considerable functional diversity may exist within single populations of coexisting microbial strains, even those with identical 16S rRNA sequences. Our results also demonstrate that genomic approaches can provide high-resolution information relevant to microbial population genetics, ecology, and evolution, even for microbes that have not yet been cultivated.
PMCID: PMC126555  PMID: 11772643
2.  Quantitative Analysis of Small-Subunit rRNA Genes in Mixed Microbial Populations via 5′-Nuclease Assays 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2000;66(11):4605-4614.
Few techniques are currently available for quantifying specific prokaryotic taxa in environmental samples. Quantification of specific genotypes has relied mainly on oligonucleotide hybridization to extracted rRNA or intact rRNA in whole cells. However, low abundance and cellular rRNA content limit the application of these techniques in aquatic environments. In this study, we applied a newly developed quantitative PCR assay (5′-nuclease assay, also known as TaqMan) to quantify specific small-subunit (SSU) rRNA genes (rDNAs) from uncultivated planktonic prokaryotes in Monterey Bay. Primer and probe combinations for quantification of SSU rDNAs at the domain and group levels were developed and tested for specificity and quantitative reliability. We examined the spatial and temporal variations of SSU rDNAs from Synechococcus plus Prochlorococcus and marine Archaea and compared the results of the quantitative PCR assays to those obtained by alternative methods. The 5′-nuclease assays reliably quantified rDNAs over at least 4 orders of magnitude and accurately measured the proportions of genes in artificial mixtures. The spatial and temporal distributions of planktonic microbial groups measured by the 5′-nuclease assays were similar to the distributions estimated by quantitative oligonucleotide probe hybridization, whole-cell hybridization assays, and flow cytometry.
PMCID: PMC92356  PMID: 11055900
3.  Visualization and Enumeration of Marine Planktonic Archaea and Bacteria by Using Polyribonucleotide Probes and Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  1999;65(12):5554-5563.
Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) using rRNA-specific oligonucleotide probes has emerged as a popular technique for identifying individual microbial cells. In natural samples, however, the signal derived from fluor-labeled oligonucleotide probes often is undetectable above background fluorescence in many cells. To circumvent this difficulty, we applied fluorochrome-labeled polyribonucleotide probes to identify and enumerate marine planktonic archaea and bacteria. The approach greatly enhanced the sensitivity and applicability of FISH with seawater samples, allowing confident identification and enumeration of planktonic cells to ocean depths of 3,400 m. Quantitative whole-cell hybridization experiments using these probes accounted for 90 to 100% of the total 4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI)-stained cells in most samples. As predicted in a previous study (R. Massana, A. E. Murray, C. M. Preston, and E. F. DeLong, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 63:50–56, 1997), group I and II marine archaea predominate in different zones in the water column, with maximal cell densities of 105/ml. The high cell densities of archaea, extending from surface waters to abyssal depths, suggest that they represent a large and significant fraction of the total picoplankton biomass in coastal ocean waters. The data also show that the vast majority of planktonic prokaryotes contain significant numbers of ribosomes, rendering them easily detectable with polyribonucleotide probes. These results imply that the majority of planktonic cells visualized by DAPI do not represent lysed cells or “ghosts,” as was suggested in a previous report.
PMCID: PMC91757  PMID: 10584017
4.  Nitrospira-Like Bacteria Associated with Nitrite Oxidation in Freshwater Aquaria 
Oxidation of nitrite to nitrate in aquaria is typically attributed to bacteria belonging to the genus Nitrobacter which are members of the α subdivision of the class Proteobacteria. In order to identify bacteria responsible for nitrite oxidation in aquaria, clone libraries of rRNA genes were developed from biofilms of several freshwater aquaria. Analysis of the rDNA libraries, along with results from denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) on frequently sampled biofilms, indicated the presence of putative nitrite-oxidizing bacteria closely related to other members of the genus Nitrospira. Nucleic acid hybridization experiments with rRNA from biofilms of freshwater aquaria demonstrated that Nitrospira-like rRNA comprised nearly 5% of the rRNA extracted from the biofilms during the establishment of nitrification. Nitrite-oxidizing bacteria belonging to the α subdivision of the class Proteobacteria (e.g., Nitrobacter spp.) were not detected in these samples. Aquaria which received a commercial preparation containing Nitrobacter species did not show evidence of Nitrobacter growth and development but did develop substantial populations of Nitrospira-like species. Time series analysis of rDNA phylotypes on aquaria biofilms by DGGE, combined with nitrite and nitrate analysis, showed a correspondence between the appearance of Nitrospira-like bacterial ribosomal DNA and the initiation of nitrite oxidation. In total, the data suggest that Nitrobacter winogradskyi and close relatives were not the dominant nitrite-oxidizing bacteria in freshwater aquaria. Instead, nitrite oxidation in freshwater aquaria appeared to be mediated by bacteria closely related to Nitrospira moscoviensis and Nitrospira marina.
PMCID: PMC124703  PMID: 16349486

Results 1-4 (4)