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1.  Adenomatous polyps are driven by microbe-instigated focal inflammation and are controlled by IL-10 producing T-cells 
Cancer research  2013;73(19):5905-5913.
Interleukin-10 (IL-10) is elevated in cancer and is thought to contribute to immune tolerance and tumor growth. Defying these expectations, the adoptive transfer of IL-10 expressing T-cells to mice with polyposis attenuates microbial-induced inflammation and suppresses polyposis. To gain better insights into how IL-10 impacts polyposis, we genetically ablated IL-10 in T-cells in APCΔ468 mice and compared the effects of treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics. We found that T-cells and Tregs were a major cellular source of IL-10 in both the healthy and polyp-bearing colon. Notably, T-cell-specific ablation of IL-10 produced pathologies that were identical to mice with a systemic deficiency in IL-10, in both cases increasing the numbers and growth of colon polyps. Eosinophils were found to densely infiltrate colon polyps, which were enriched similarly for microbiota associated previously with colon cancer. In mice receiving broad-spectrum antibiotics, we observed reductions in microbiota, inflammation, and polyposis. Together our findings establish that colon polyposis is driven by high densities of microbes that accumulate within polyps and trigger local inflammatory responses. Inflammation, local microbe densities, and polyp growth are suppressed by IL-10 derived specifically from T-cells and Tregs.
PMCID: PMC4322779  PMID: 23955389
interleukin-10; polyposis; microbiota; inflammation; colon
2.  Satellite remote sensing data can be used to model marine microbial metabolite turnover 
The ISME Journal  2014;9(1):166-179.
Sampling ecosystems, even at a local scale, at the temporal and spatial resolution necessary to capture natural variability in microbial communities are prohibitively expensive. We extrapolated marine surface microbial community structure and metabolic potential from 72 16S rRNA amplicon and 8 metagenomic observations using remotely sensed environmental parameters to create a system-scale model of marine microbial metabolism for 5904 grid cells (49 km2) in the Western English Chanel, across 3 years of weekly averages. Thirteen environmental variables predicted the relative abundance of 24 bacterial Orders and 1715 unique enzyme-encoding genes that encode turnover of 2893 metabolites. The genes' predicted relative abundance was highly correlated (Pearson Correlation 0.72, P-value <10−6) with their observed relative abundance in sequenced metagenomes. Predictions of the relative turnover (synthesis or consumption) of CO2 were significantly correlated with observed surface CO2 fugacity. The spatial and temporal variation in the predicted relative abundances of genes coding for cyanase, carbon monoxide and malate dehydrogenase were investigated along with the predicted inter-annual variation in relative consumption or production of ∼3000 metabolites forming six significant temporal clusters. These spatiotemporal distributions could possibly be explained by the co-occurrence of anaerobic and aerobic metabolisms associated with localized plankton blooms or sediment resuspension, which facilitate the presence of anaerobic micro-niches. This predictive model provides a general framework for focusing future sampling and experimental design to relate biogeochemical turnover to microbial ecology.
PMCID: PMC4274419  PMID: 25072414
3.  Life in a World without Microbes 
PLoS Biology  2014;12(12):e1002020.
Life in a world without microbes Can a macrorganism survive without commensal microbes in a world of microbes? What would happen if all microbes on earth suddenly disappeared?
PMCID: PMC4267716  PMID: 25513890
4.  DNA extraction protocols cause differences in 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing efficiency but not in community profile composition or structure 
MicrobiologyOpen  2014;3(6):910-921.
The recent development of methods applying next-generation sequencing to microbial community characterization has led to the proliferation of these studies in a wide variety of sample types. Yet, variation in the physical properties of environmental samples demands that optimal DNA extraction techniques be explored for each new environment. The microbiota associated with many species of insects offer an extraction challenge as they are frequently surrounded by an armored exoskeleton, inhibiting disruption of the tissues within. In this study, we examine the efficacy of several commonly used protocols for extracting bacterial DNA from ants. While bacterial community composition recovered using Illumina 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing was not detectably biased by any method, the quantity of bacterial DNA varied drastically, reducing the number of samples that could be amplified and sequenced. These results indicate that the concentration necessary for dependable sequencing is around 10,000 copies of target DNA per microliter. Exoskeletal pulverization and tissue digestion increased the reliability of extractions, suggesting that these steps should be included in any study of insect-associated microorganisms that relies on obtaining microbial DNA from intact body segments. Although laboratory and analysis techniques should be standardized across diverse sample types as much as possible, minimal modifications such as these will increase the number of environments in which bacterial communities can be successfully studied.
PMCID: PMC4263514  PMID: 25257543
16S rRNA; ants; DNA extraction; Earth Microbiome Project; host-associated bacteria; insects; microbiome
5.  Ecological Succession and Viability of Human-Associated Microbiota on Restroom Surfaces 
Human-associated bacteria dominate the built environment (BE). Following decontamination of floors, toilet seats, and soap dispensers in four public restrooms, in situ bacterial communities were characterized hourly, daily, and weekly to determine their successional ecology. The viability of cultivable bacteria, following the removal of dispersal agents (humans), was also assessed hourly. A late-successional community developed within 5 to 8 h on restroom floors and showed remarkable stability over weeks to months. Despite late-successional dominance by skin- and outdoor-associated bacteria, the most ubiquitous organisms were predominantly gut-associated taxa, which persisted following exclusion of humans. Staphylococcus represented the majority of the cultivable community, even after several hours of human exclusion. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)-associated virulence genes were found on floors but were not present in assembled Staphylococcus pan-genomes. Viral abundances, which were predominantly enterophages, human papilloma virus, and herpesviruses, were significantly correlated with bacterial abundances and showed an unexpectedly low virus-to-bacterium ratio in surface-associated samples, suggesting that bacterial hosts are mostly dormant on BE surfaces.
PMCID: PMC4277569  PMID: 25398865
6.  The role of macrobiota in structuring microbial communities along rocky shores 
PeerJ  2014;2:e631.
Rocky shore microbial diversity presents an excellent system to test for microbial habitat specificity or generality, enabling us to decipher how common macrobiota shape microbial community structure. At two coastal locations in the northeast Pacific Ocean, we show that microbial composition was significantly different between inert surfaces, the biogenic surfaces that included rocky shore animals and an alga, and the water column plankton. While all sampled entities had a core of common OTUs, rare OTUs drove differences among biotic and abiotic substrates. For the mussel Mytilus californianus, the shell surface harbored greater alpha diversity compared to internal tissues of the gill and siphon. Strikingly, a 7-year experimental removal of this mussel from tidepools did not significantly alter the microbial community structure of microbes associated with inert surfaces when compared with unmanipulated tidepools. However, bacterial taxa associated with nitrate reduction had greater relative abundance with mussels present, suggesting an impact of increased animal-derived nitrogen on a subset of microbial metabolism. Because the presence of mussels did not affect the structure and diversity of the microbial community on adjacent inert substrates, microbes in this rocky shore environment may be predominantly affected through direct physical association with macrobiota.
PMCID: PMC4203024  PMID: 25337459
16S; Rocky intertidal; Mytilus californianus; Nitrogen cycling; Tatoosh Island; Nitrification; Animal excretion; Tidepool; Ammonium; Host-microbe
7.  Influence of Acidic pH on Hydrogen and Acetate Production by an Electrosynthetic Microbiome 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109935.
Production of hydrogen and organic compounds by an electrosynthetic microbiome using electrodes and carbon dioxide as sole electron donor and carbon source, respectively, was examined after exposure to acidic pH (∼5). Hydrogen production by biocathodes poised at −600 mV vs. SHE increased>100-fold and acetate production ceased at acidic pH, but ∼5–15 mM (catholyte volume)/day acetate and>1,000 mM/day hydrogen were attained at pH ∼6.5 following repeated exposure to acidic pH. Cyclic voltammetry revealed a 250 mV decrease in hydrogen overpotential and a maximum current density of 12.2 mA/cm2 at −765 mV (0.065 mA/cm2 sterile control at −800 mV) by the Acetobacterium-dominated community. Supplying −800 mV to the microbiome after repeated exposure to acidic pH resulted in up to 2.6 kg/m3/day hydrogen (≈2.6 gallons gasoline equivalent), 0.7 kg/m3/day formate, and 3.1 kg/m3/day acetate ( = 4.7 kg CO2 captured).
PMCID: PMC4198145  PMID: 25333313
8.  Development of the preterm infant gut microbiome: a research priority 
Microbiome  2014;2:38.
The very low birth weight (VLBW) infant is at great risk for marked dysbiosis of the gut microbiome due to multiple factors, including physiological immaturity and prenatal/postnatal influences that disrupt the development of a normal gut flora. However, little is known about the developmental succession of the microbiota in preterm infants as they grow and mature. This review provides a synthesis of our understanding of the normal development of the infant gut microbiome and contrasts this with dysbiotic development in the VLBW infant. The role of human milk in normal gut microbial development is emphasized, along with the role of the gut microbiome in immune development and gastroenteric health. Current research provides evidence that the gut microbiome interacts extensively with many physiological systems and metabolic processes in the developing infant. However, to the best of our knowledge, there are currently no studies prospectively mapping the gut microbiome of VLBW infants through early childhood. This knowledge gap must be filled to inform a healthcare system that can provide for the growth, health, and development of VLBW infants. The paper concludes with speculation about how the VLBW infants’ gut microbiome might function through host-microbe interactions to contribute to the sequelae of preterm birth, including its influence on growth, development, and general health of the infant host.
PMCID: PMC4203464  PMID: 25332768
Preterm infants; VLBW; Gut microbiota; Health
9.  Science is innate! 
Genome Biology  2014;15(10):477.
PMCID: PMC4318431  PMID: 25315295
10.  Membership and Behavior of Ultra-Low-Diversity Pathogen Communities Present in the Gut of Humans during Prolonged Critical Illness 
mBio  2014;5(5):e01361-14.
We analyzed the 16S rRNA amplicon composition in fecal samples of selected patients during their prolonged stay in an intensive care unit (ICU) and observed the emergence of ultra-low-diversity communities (1 to 4 bacterial taxa) in 30% of the patients. Bacteria associated with the genera Enterococcus and Staphylococcus and the family Enterobacteriaceae comprised the majority of these communities. The composition of cultured species from stool samples correlated to the 16S rRNA analysis and additionally revealed the emergence of Candida albicans and Candida glabrata in ~75% of cases. Four of 14 ICU patients harbored 2-member pathogen communities consisting of one Candida taxon and one bacterial taxon. Bacterial members displayed a high degree of resistance to multiple antibiotics. The virulence potential of the 2-member communities was examined in C. elegans during nutrient deprivation and exposure to opioids in order to mimic local conditions in the gut during critical illness. Under conditions of nutrient deprivation, the bacterial members attenuated the virulence of fungal members, leading to a “commensal lifestyle.” However, exposure to opioids led to a breakdown in this commensalism in 2 of the ultra-low-diversity communities. Application of a novel antivirulence agent (phosphate-polyethylene glycol [Pi-PEG]) that creates local phosphate abundance prevented opioid-induced virulence among these pathogen communities, thus rescuing the commensal lifestyle. To conclude, the gut microflora in critically ill patients can consist of ultra-low-diversity communities of multidrug-resistant pathogenic microbes. Local environmental conditions in gut may direct pathogen communities to adapt to either a commensal style or a pathogenic style.
During critical illness, the normal gut microbiota becomes disrupted in response to host physiologic stress and antibiotic treatment. Here we demonstrate that the community structure of the gut microbiota during prolonged critical illness is dramatically changed such that in many cases only two-member pathogen communities remain. Most of these ultra-low-membership communities display low virulence when grouped together (i.e., a commensal lifestyle); individually, however, they can express highly harmful behaviors (i.e., a pathogenic lifestyle). The commensal lifestyle of the whole community can be shifted to a pathogenic one in response to host factors such as opioids that are released during physiologic stress and critical illness. This shift can be prevented by using compounds such as Pi-PEG15-20 that interrupt bacterial virulence expression. Taking the data together, this report characterizes the plasticity seen with respect to the choice between a commensal lifestyle and a pathogenic lifestyle among ultra-low-diversity pathogen communities that predominate in the gut during critical illness and offers novel strategies for prevention of sepsis.
PMCID: PMC4173762  PMID: 25249279
11.  Towards effective probiotics for autism and other mental disorders? 
Cell  2013;155(7):1446-1448.
Hsaio and colleagues link gut microbes to autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in a mouse model. They show that ASD symptoms are triggered by compositional and structural shifts of microbes and associated metabolites, but symptoms are relieved by a B. fragilis probiotic. Thus probiotics may provide therapeutic strategies for mental disorders.
PMCID: PMC4166551  PMID: 24360269
12.  Intestinal anastomotic injury alters spatially defined microbiome composition and function 
Microbiome  2014;2:35.
When diseased intestine (i.e., from colon cancer, diverticulitis) requires resection, its reconnection (termed anastomosis) can be complicated by non-healing of the newly joined intestine resulting in spillage of intestinal contents into the abdominal cavity (termed anastomotic leakage). While it is suspected that the intestinal microbiota have the capacity to both accelerate and complicate anastomotic healing, the associated genotypes and functions have not been characterized.
Using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing of samples collected on the day of surgery (postoperative day 0 (POD0)) and the 6th day following surgery (postoperative day 0 (POD6)), we analyzed the changes in luminal versus tissue-associated microbiota at anastomotic sites created in the colon of rats. Results indicated that anastomotic injury induced significant changes in the anastomotic tissue-associated microbiota with minimal differences in the luminal microbiota. The most striking difference was a 500-fold and 200-fold increase in the relative abundance of Enterococcus and Escherichia/Shigella, respectively. Functional profiling predicted the predominance of bacterial virulence-associated pathways in post-anastomotic tissues, including production of hemolysin, cytolethal toxins, fimbriae, invasins, cytotoxic necrotizing factors, and coccolysin.
Taken together, our results suggest that compositional and functional changes accompany anastomotic tissues and may potentially accelerate or complicate anastomotic healing.
PMCID: PMC4171717  PMID: 25250176
Colon anastomosis; 16S rRNA; PiCRUST; Bacterial composition; Predicted function; Anastomotic tissues; Luminal content
13.  The Earth Microbiome project: successes and aspirations 
BMC Biology  2014;12(1):69.
PMCID: PMC4141107  PMID: 25184604
14.  Subsampled open-reference clustering creates consistent, comprehensive OTU definitions and scales to billions of sequences 
PeerJ  2014;2:e545.
We present a performance-optimized algorithm, subsampled open-reference OTU picking, for assigning marker gene (e.g., 16S rRNA) sequences generated on next-generation sequencing platforms to operational taxonomic units (OTUs) for microbial community analysis. This algorithm provides benefits over de novo OTU picking (clustering can be performed largely in parallel, reducing runtime) and closed-reference OTU picking (all reads are clustered, not only those that match a reference database sequence with high similarity). Because more of our algorithm can be run in parallel relative to “classic” open-reference OTU picking, it makes open-reference OTU picking tractable on massive amplicon sequence data sets (though on smaller data sets, “classic” open-reference OTU clustering is often faster). We illustrate that here by applying it to the first 15,000 samples sequenced for the Earth Microbiome Project (1.3 billion V4 16S rRNA amplicons). To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest OTU picking run ever performed, and we estimate that our new algorithm runs in less than 1/5 the time than would be required of “classic” open reference OTU picking. We show that subsampled open-reference OTU picking yields results that are highly correlated with those generated by “classic” open-reference OTU picking through comparisons on three well-studied datasets. An implementation of this algorithm is provided in the popular QIIME software package, which uses uclust for read clustering. All analyses were performed using QIIME’s uclust wrappers, though we provide details (aided by the open-source code in our GitHub repository) that will allow implementation of subsampled open-reference OTU picking independently of QIIME (e.g., in a compiled programming language, where runtimes should be further reduced). Our analyses should generalize to other implementations of these OTU picking algorithms. Finally, we present a comparison of parameter settings in QIIME’s OTU picking workflows and make recommendations on settings for these free parameters to optimize runtime without reducing the quality of the results. These optimized parameters can vastly decrease the runtime of uclust-based OTU picking in QIIME.
PMCID: PMC4145071  PMID: 25177538
OTU picking; Microbial ecology; Microbiome; Qiime; Bioinformatics
15.  Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea: Sequencing a Myriad of Type Strains 
PLoS Biology  2014;12(8):e1001920.
This manuscript calls for an international effort to generate a comprehensive catalog from genome sequences of all the archaeal and bacterial type strains.
Microbes hold the key to life. They hold the secrets to our past (as the descendants of the earliest forms of life) and the prospects for our future (as we mine their genes for solutions to some of the planet's most pressing problems, from global warming to antibiotic resistance). However, the piecemeal approach that has defined efforts to study microbial genetic diversity for over 20 years and in over 30,000 genome projects risks squandering that promise. These efforts have covered less than 20% of the diversity of the cultured archaeal and bacterial species, which represent just 15% of the overall known prokaryotic diversity. Here we call for the funding of a systematic effort to produce a comprehensive genomic catalog of all cultured Bacteria and Archaea by sequencing, where available, the type strain of each species with a validly published name (currently∼11,000). This effort will provide an unprecedented level of coverage of our planet's genetic diversity, allow for the large-scale discovery of novel genes and functions, and lead to an improved understanding of microbial evolution and function in the environment.
PMCID: PMC4122341  PMID: 25093819
16.  Conditionally Rare Taxa Disproportionately Contribute to Temporal Changes in Microbial Diversity 
mBio  2014;5(4):e01371-14.
Microbial communities typically contain many rare taxa that make up the majority of the observed membership, yet the contribution of this microbial “rare biosphere” to community dynamics is unclear. Using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing of 3,237 samples from 42 time series of microbial communities from nine different ecosystems (air; marine; lake; stream; adult human skin, tongue, and gut; infant gut; and brewery wastewater treatment), we introduce a new method to detect typically rare microbial taxa that occasionally become very abundant (conditionally rare taxa [CRT]) and then quantify their contributions to temporal shifts in community structure. We discovered that CRT made up 1.5 to 28% of the community membership, represented a broad diversity of bacterial and archaeal lineages, and explained large amounts of temporal community dissimilarity (i.e., up to 97% of Bray-Curtis dissimilarity). Most of the CRT were detected at multiple time points, though we also identified “one-hit wonder” CRT that were observed at only one time point. Using a case study from a temperate lake, we gained additional insights into the ecology of CRT by comparing routine community time series to large disturbance events. Our results reveal that many rare taxa contribute a greater amount to microbial community dynamics than is apparent from their low proportional abundances. This observation was true across a wide range of ecosystems, indicating that these rare taxa are essential for understanding community changes over time.
Microbial communities and their processes are the foundations of ecosystems. The ecological roles of rare microorganisms are largely unknown, but it is thought that they contribute to community stability by acting as a reservoir that can rapidly respond to environmental changes. We investigated the occurrence of typically rare taxa that very occasionally become more prominent in their communities (“conditionally rare”). We quantified conditionally rare taxa in time series from a wide variety of ecosystems and discovered that not only were conditionally rare taxa present in all of the examples, but they also contributed disproportionately to temporal changes in diversity when they were most abundant. This result indicates an important and general role for rare microbial taxa within their communities.
PMCID: PMC4161262  PMID: 25028427
17.  Metagenomics reveals sediment microbial community response to Deepwater Horizon oil spill 
The ISME Journal  2014;8(7):1464-1475.
The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill in the spring of 2010 resulted in an input of ∼4.1 million barrels of oil to the Gulf of Mexico; >22% of this oil is unaccounted for, with unknown environmental consequences. Here we investigated the impact of oil deposition on microbial communities in surface sediments collected at 64 sites by targeted sequencing of 16S rRNA genes, shotgun metagenomic sequencing of 14 of these samples and mineralization experiments using 14C-labeled model substrates. The 16S rRNA gene data indicated that the most heavily oil-impacted sediments were enriched in an uncultured Gammaproteobacterium and a Colwellia species, both of which were highly similar to sequences in the DWH deep-sea hydrocarbon plume. The primary drivers in structuring the microbial community were nitrogen and hydrocarbons. Annotation of unassembled metagenomic data revealed the most abundant hydrocarbon degradation pathway encoded genes involved in degrading aliphatic and simple aromatics via butane monooxygenase. The activity of key hydrocarbon degradation pathways by sediment microbes was confirmed by determining the mineralization of 14C-labeled model substrates in the following order: propylene glycol, dodecane, toluene and phenanthrene. Further, analysis of metagenomic sequence data revealed an increase in abundance of genes involved in denitrification pathways in samples that exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s benchmarks for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) compared with those that did not. Importantly, these data demonstrate that the indigenous sediment microbiota contributed an important ecosystem service for remediation of oil in the Gulf. However, PAHs were more recalcitrant to degradation, and their persistence could have deleterious impacts on the sediment ecosystem.
PMCID: PMC4069396  PMID: 24451203
DWH oil spill; hydrocarbons; iTag/Metagenomics; microbial community structure; sediments
18.  Communities of microbial eukaryotes in the mammalian gut within the context of environmental eukaryotic diversity 
Eukaryotic microbes (protists) residing in the vertebrate gut influence host health and disease, but their diversity and distribution in healthy hosts is poorly understood. Protists found in the gut are typically considered parasites, but many are commensal and some are beneficial. Further, the hygiene hypothesis predicts that association with our co-evolved microbial symbionts may be important to overall health. It is therefore imperative that we understand the normal diversity of our eukaryotic gut microbiota to test for such effects and avoid eliminating commensal organisms. We assembled a dataset of healthy individuals from two populations, one with traditional, agrarian lifestyles and a second with modern, westernized lifestyles, and characterized the human eukaryotic microbiota via high-throughput sequencing. To place the human gut microbiota within a broader context our dataset also includes gut samples from diverse mammals and samples from other aquatic and terrestrial environments. We curated the SILVA ribosomal database to reflect current knowledge of eukaryotic taxonomy and employ it as a phylogenetic framework to compare eukaryotic diversity across environment. We show that adults from the non-western population harbor a diverse community of protists, and diversity in the human gut is comparable to that in other mammals. However, the eukaryotic microbiota of the western population appears depauperate. The distribution of symbionts found in mammals reflects both host phylogeny and diet. Eukaryotic microbiota in the gut are less diverse and more patchily distributed than bacteria. More broadly, we show that eukaryotic communities in the gut are less diverse than in aquatic and terrestrial habitats, and few taxa are shared across habitat types, and diversity patterns of eukaryotes are correlated with those observed for bacteria. These results outline the distribution and diversity of microbial eukaryotic communities in the mammalian gut and across environments.
PMCID: PMC4063188  PMID: 24995004
protist; microbial ecology; microbial diversity; salinity; host-associated eukaryotes; parasites; intestinal protozoa; human microbiome
19.  Understanding Cultivar-Specificity and Soil Determinants of the Cannabis Microbiome 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99641.
Understanding microbial partnerships with the medicinally and economically important crop Cannabis has the potential to affect agricultural practice by improving plant fitness and production yield. Furthermore, Cannabis presents an interesting model to explore plant-microbiome interactions as it produces numerous secondary metabolic compounds. Here we present the first description of the endorhiza-, rhizosphere-, and bulk soil-associated microbiome of five distinct Cannabis cultivars. Bacterial communities of the endorhiza showed significant cultivar-specificity. When controlling cultivar and soil type the microbial community structure was significantly different between plant cultivars, soil types, and between the endorhiza, rhizosphere and soil. The influence of soil type, plant cultivar and sample type differentiation on the microbial community structure provides support for a previously published two-tier selection model, whereby community composition across sample types is determined mainly by soil type, while community structure within endorhiza samples is determined mainly by host cultivar.
PMCID: PMC4059704  PMID: 24932479
20.  Human and Environmental Impacts on River Sediment Microbial Communities 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e97435.
Sediment microbial communities are responsible for a majority of the metabolic activity in river and stream ecosystems. Understanding the dynamics in community structure and function across freshwater environments will help us to predict how these ecosystems will change in response to human land-use practices. Here we present a spatiotemporal study of sediments in the Tongue River (Montana, USA), comprising six sites along 134 km of river sampled in both spring and fall for two years. Sequencing of 16S rRNA amplicons and shotgun metagenomes revealed that these sediments are the richest (∼65,000 microbial ‘species’ identified) and most novel (93% of OTUs do not match known microbial diversity) ecosystems analyzed by the Earth Microbiome Project to date, and display more functional diversity than was detected in a recent review of global soil metagenomes. Community structure and functional potential have been significantly altered by anthropogenic drivers, including increased pathogenicity and antibiotic metabolism markers near towns and metabolic signatures of coal and coalbed methane extraction byproducts. The core (OTUs shared across all samples) and the overall microbial community exhibited highly similar structure, and phylogeny was weakly coupled with functional potential. Together, these results suggest that microbial community structure is shaped by environmental drivers and niche filtering, though stochastic assembly processes likely play a role as well. These results indicate that sediment microbial communities are highly complex and sensitive to changes in land use practices.
PMCID: PMC4026135  PMID: 24841417
21.  Proceedings of the ASPEN- sponsored workshop: “The Interface Between Nutrition and the Gut Microbiome: Implications and Applications for Human Health” 
The human and earth microbiome are emerging as among the most important biological agents in understanding and preventing disease. Technology is advancing at a fast pace and allowing for high resolution analysis of the composition and function of our microbial partners across regions, space, and time. Bioinformaticists and biostatisticians are developing ever more elegant displays to understand the generated mega-datasets. A virtual cyberinfrastruture of search engines to cross reference the rapidly developing data is emerging in line with technologic advances. Nutritional science will reap the benefits of this new field and its role in preserving the earth and the humans that inhabit it will become evidently clear. In this report we highlight some of the topics of an ASPEN sponsored symposium that took place at the Clinical Nutrition Week in 2013 that address the importance of the human microbiome to human health and disease.
PMCID: PMC3995834  PMID: 24379111
22.  The Gut of Geographically Disparate Ciona intestinalis Harbors a Core Microbiota 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93386.
It is now widely understood that all animals engage in complex interactions with bacteria (or microbes) throughout their various life stages. This ancient exchange can involve cooperation and has resulted in a wide range of evolved host-microbial interdependencies, including those observed in the gut. Ciona intestinalis, a filter-feeding basal chordate and classic developmental model that can be experimentally manipulated, is being employed to help define these relationships. Ciona larvae are first exposed internally to microbes upon the initiation of feeding in metamorphosed individuals; however, whether or not these microbes subsequently colonize the gut and whether or not Ciona forms relationships with specific bacteria in the gut remains unknown. In this report, we show that the Ciona gut not only is colonized by a complex community of bacteria, but also that samples from three geographically isolated populations reveal striking similarity in abundant operational taxonomic units (OTUs) consistent with the selection of a core community by the gut ecosystem.
PMCID: PMC3973685  PMID: 24695540
23.  The microbial nitrogen cycling potential is impacted by polyaromatic hydrocarbon pollution of marine sediments 
During hydrocarbon exposure, the composition and functional dynamics of marine microbial communities are altered, favoring bacteria that can utilize this rich carbon source. Initial exposure of high levels of hydrocarbons in aerobic surface sediments can enrich growth of heterotrophic microorganisms having hydrocarbon degradation capacity. As a result, there can be a localized reduction in oxygen potential within the surface layer of marine sediments causing anaerobic zones. We hypothesized that increasing exposure to elevated hydrocarbon concentrations would positively correlate with an increase in denitrification processes and the net accumulation of dinitrogen. This hypothesis was tested by comparing the relative abundance of genes associated with nitrogen metabolism and nitrogen cycling identified in 6 metagenomes from sediments contaminated by polyaromatic hydrocarbons from the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and 3 metagenomes from sediments associated with natural oil seeps in the Santa Barbara Channel. An additional 8 metagenomes from uncontaminated sediments from the Gulf of Mexico were analyzed for comparison. We predicted relative changes in metabolite turnover as a function of the differential microbial gene abundances, which showed predicted accumulation of metabolites associated with denitrification processes, including anammox, in the contaminated samples compared to uncontaminated sediments, with the magnitude of this change being positively correlated to the hydrocarbon concentration and exposure duration. These data highlight the potential impact of hydrocarbon inputs on N cycling processes in marine sediments and provide information relevant for system scale models of nitrogen metabolism in affected ecosystems.
PMCID: PMC3971162  PMID: 24723913
nitrogen cycling; marine sediments; denitrification; microbial ecology; metagenomics; deepwater horizon oil spill; oil contamination; oil seeps
24.  Report of the 14th Genomic Standards Consortium Meeting, Oxford, UK, September 17-21, 2012. 
Standards in Genomic Sciences  2014;9(3):1236-1250.
This report summarizes the proceedings of the 14th workshop of the Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC) held at the University of Oxford in September 2012. The primary goal of the workshop was to work towards the launch of the Genomic Observatories (GOs) Network under the GSC. For the first time, it brought together potential GOs sites, GSC members, and a range of interested partner organizations. It thus represented the first meeting of the GOs Network (GOs1). Key outcomes include the formation of a core group of “champions” ready to take the GOs Network forward, as well as the formation of working groups. The workshop also served as the first meeting of a wide range of participants in the Ocean Sampling Day (OSD) initiative, a first GOs action. Three projects with complementary interests – COST Action ES1103, MG4U and Micro B3 – organized joint sessions at the workshop. A two-day GSC Hackathon followed the main three days of meetings.
PMCID: PMC4148987
25.  Meeting report: Ocean ‘omics science, technology and cyberinfrastructure: current challenges and future requirements (August 20-23, 2013) 
Standards in Genomic Sciences  2014;9(3):1252-1258.
The National Science Foundation’s EarthCube End User Workshop was held at USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island, California in August 2013. The workshop was designed to explore and characterize the needs and tools available to the community that is focusing on microbial and physical oceanography research with a particular emphasis on ‘omic research. The assembled researchers outlined the existing concerns regarding the vast data resources that are being generated, and how we will deal with these resources as their volume and diversity increases. Particular attention was focused on the tools for handling and analyzing the existing data, on the need for the construction and curation of diverse federated databases, as well as development of shared, interoperable, “big-data capable” analytical tools. The key outputs from this workshop include (i) critical scientific challenges and cyber infrastructure constraints, (ii) the current and future ocean ‘omics science grand challenges and questions, and (iii) data management, analytical and associated and cyber-infrastructure capabilities required to meet critical current and future scientific challenges. The main thrust of the meeting and the outcome of this report is a definition of the ‘omics tools, technologies and infrastructures that facilitate continued advance in ocean science biology, marine biogeochemistry, and biological oceanography.
PMCID: PMC4149014  PMID: 25197495

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