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1.  Patterns of Transcript Abundance of Eukaryotic Biogeochemically-Relevant Genes in the Amazon River Plume 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(9):e0160929.
The Amazon River has the largest discharge of all rivers on Earth, and its complex plume system fuels a wide array of biogeochemical processes, across a large area of the western tropical North Atlantic. The plume thus stimulates microbial processes affecting carbon sequestration and nutrient cycles at a global scale. Chromosomal gene expression patterns of the 2.0 to 156 μm size-fraction eukaryotic microbial community were investigated in the Amazon River Plume, generating a robust dataset (more than 100 million mRNA sequences) that depicts the metabolic capabilities and interactions among the eukaryotic microbes. Combining classical oceanographic field measurements with metatranscriptomics yielded characterization of the hydrographic conditions simultaneous with a quantification of transcriptional activity and identity of the community. We highlight the patterns of eukaryotic gene expression for 31 biogeochemically significant gene targets hypothesized to be valuable within forecasting models. An advantage to this targeted approach is that the database of reference sequences used to identify the target genes was selectively constructed and highly curated optimizing taxonomic coverage, throughput, and the accuracy of annotations. A coastal diatom bloom highly expressed nitrate transporters and carbonic anhydrase presumably to support high growth rates and enhance uptake of low levels of dissolved nitrate and CO2. Diatom-diazotroph association (DDA: diatoms with nitrogen fixing symbionts) blooms were common when surface salinity was mesohaline and dissolved nitrate concentrations were below detection, and hence did not show evidence of nitrate utilization, suggesting they relied on ammonium transporters to aquire recently fixed nitrogen. These DDA blooms in the outer plume had rapid turnover of the photosystem D1 protein presumably caused by photodegradation under increased light penetration in clearer waters, and increased expression of silicon transporters as silicon became limiting. Expression of these genes, including carbonic anhydrase and transporters for nitrate and phosphate, were found to reflect the physiological status and biogeochemistry of river plume environments. These relatively stable patterns of eukaryotic transcript abundance occurred over modest spatiotemporal scales, with similarity observed in sample duplicates collected up to 2.45 km in space and 120 minutes in time. These results confirm the use of metatranscriptomics as a valuable tool to understand and predict microbial community function.
PMCID: PMC5012681  PMID: 27598790
2.  The Amazon continuum dataset: quantitative metagenomic and metatranscriptomic inventories of the Amazon River plume, June 2010 
Microbiome  2014;2:17.
The Amazon River is by far the world’s largest in terms of volume and area, generating a fluvial export that accounts for about a fifth of riverine input into the world’s oceans. Marine microbial communities of the Western Tropical North Atlantic Ocean are strongly affected by the terrestrial materials carried by the Amazon plume, including dissolved (DOC) and particulate organic carbon (POC) and inorganic nutrients, with impacts on primary productivity and carbon sequestration.
We inventoried genes and transcripts at six stations in the Amazon River plume during June 2010. At each station, internal standard-spiked metagenomes, non-selective metatranscriptomes, and poly(A)-selective metatranscriptomes were obtained in duplicate for two discrete size fractions (0.2 to 2.0 μm and 2.0 to 156 μm) using 150 × 150 paired-end Illumina sequencing. Following quality control, the dataset contained 360 million reads of approximately 200 bp average size from Bacteria, Archaea, Eukarya, and viruses. Bacterial metagenomes and metatranscriptomes were dominated by Synechococcus, Prochlorococcus, SAR11, SAR116, and SAR86, with high contributions from SAR324 and Verrucomicrobia at some stations. Diatoms, green picophytoplankton, dinoflagellates, haptophytes, and copepods dominated the eukaryotic genes and transcripts. Gene expression ratios differed by station, size fraction, and microbial group, with transcription levels varying over three orders of magnitude across taxa and environments.
This first comprehensive inventory of microbial genes and transcripts, benchmarked with internal standards for full quantitation, is generating novel insights into biogeochemical processes of the Amazon plume and improving prediction of climate change impacts on the marine biosphere.
PMCID: PMC4039049  PMID: 24883185
Amazon River plume; Metagenomics; Metatranscriptomics; Internal standard; Marine microbial communities
3.  Environmental Factors Influencing Gene Transfer Agent (GTA) Mediated Transduction in the Subtropical Ocean 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43506.
Microbial genomic sequence analyses have indicated widespread horizontal gene transfer (HGT). However, an adequate mechanism accounting for the ubiquity of HGT has been lacking. Recently, high frequencies of interspecific gene transfer have been documented, catalyzed by Gene Transfer Agents (GTAs) of marine α-Proteobacteria. It has been proposed that the presence of bacterial genes in highly purified viral metagenomes may be due to GTAs. However, factors influencing GTA-mediated gene transfer in the environment have not yet been determined. Several genomically sequenced strains containing complete GTA sequences similar to Rhodobacter capsulatus (RcGTA, type strain) were screened to ascertain if they produced putative GTAs, and at what abundance. Five of nine marine strains screened to date spontaneously produced virus-like particles (VLP's) in stationary phase. Three of these strains have demonstrated gene transfer activity, two of which were documented by this lab. These two strains Roseovarius nubinhibens ISM and Nitratireductor 44B9s, were utilized to produce GTAs designated RnGTA and NrGTA and gene transfer activity was verified in culture. Cell-free preparations of purified RnGTA and NrGTA particles from marked donor strains were incubated with natural microbial assemblages to determine the level of GTA-mediated gene transfer. In conjunction, several ambient environmental parameters were measured including lysogeny indicated by prophage induction. GTA production in culture systems indicated that approximately half of the strains produced GTA-like particles and maximal GTA counts ranged from 10–30% of host abundance. Modeling of GTA-mediated gene transfer frequencies in natural samples, along with other measured environmental variables, indicated a strong relationship between GTA mediated gene transfer and the combined factors of salinity, multiplicity of infection (MOI) and ambient bacterial abundance. These results indicate that GTA-mediated HGT in the marine environment with the strains examined is favored during times of elevated bacterial and GTA abundance as well as in areas of higher salinity.
PMCID: PMC3419701  PMID: 22905268
4.  Functional Prokaryotic RubisCO from an Oceanic Metagenomic Library▿  
Culture-independent studies have indicated that there is significant diversity in the ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RubisCO) enzymes used by marine, freshwater, and terrestrial autotrophic bacteria. Surprisingly, little is known about the catalytic properties of many environmentally significant RubisCO enzymes. Because one of the goals of RubisCO research is to somehow modify or select for RubisCO molecules with improved kinetic properties, a facile means to isolate functional and novel RubisCO molecules directly from the environment was developed. In this report, we describe the first example of functional RubisCO proteins obtained from genes cloned and characterized from metagenomic libraries derived from DNA isolated from environmental samples. Two form IA marine RubisCO genes were cloned, and each gene supported both photoheterotrophic and photoautotrophic growth of a RubisCO deletion strain of Rhodobacter capsulatus, strain SBI/II−, indicating that catalytically active recombinant RubisCO was synthesized. The catalytic properties of the metagenomic RubisCO molecules were further characterized. These experiments demonstrated the feasibility of studying the functional diversity and enzymatic properties of RubisCO enzymes without first cultivating the host organisms. Further, this “proof of concept” experiment opens the way for development of a simple functional screen to examine the properties of diverse RubisCO genes isolated from any environment, and subsequent further bioselection may be possible if the growth conditions of complemented R. capsulatus strain SBI/II− are varied.
PMCID: PMC2863466  PMID: 20228113
5.  Quantification of Human Polyomaviruses JC Virus and BK Virus by TaqMan Quantitative PCR and Comparison to Other Water Quality Indicators in Water and Fecal Samples▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2009;75(11):3379-3388.
In the United States, total maximum daily load standards for bodies of water that do not meet bacterial water quality standards are set by each state. The presence of human polyomaviruses (HPyVs) can be used as an indicator of human-associated sewage pollution in these waters. We have developed and optimized a TaqMan quantitative PCR (QPCR) assay based on the conserved T antigen to both quantify and simultaneously detect two HPyVs; JC virus and BK virus. The QPCR assay was able to consistently quantify ≥10 gene copies per reaction and is linear over 5 orders of magnitude. HPyVs were consistently detected in human waste samples (57 of 64) and environmental waters with known human fecal contamination (5 of 5) and were not amplified in DNA extracted from 127 animal waste samples from 14 species. HPyV concentrations in sewage decreased 81.2 and 84.2% over 28 days incubation at 25 and 35°C, respectively. HPyVs results were compared to Escherichia coli, fecal coliform, and enterococci concentrations and the presence of three other human-associated microbes: Bacteroidetes, Methanobrevibacter smithii, and adenovirus. HPyVs were the most frequently detected of these in human and contaminated environmental samples and were more human specific than the Bacteroidetes (HF183) or M. smithii. HPyVs and M. smithii more closely mimicked the persistence of adenovirus in sewage than the other microbes. The use of this rapid and quantitative assay in water quality research could help regulatory agencies to identify sources of water pollution for improved remediation of contaminated waters and ultimately protect humans from exposure to pathogens.
PMCID: PMC2687276  PMID: 19346361
6.  Specificity of Cellular DNA-Binding Sites of Microbial Populations in a Florida Reservoir 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  1989;55(11):2798-2801.
The substrate specificity of the DNA-binding mechanism(s) of bacteria in a Florida reservoir was investigated in short- and long-term uptake studies with radiolabeled DNA and unlabeled competitors. Thymine oligonucleotides ranging in size from 2 base pairs to 19 to 24 base pairs inhibited DNA binding in 20-min incubations by 43 to 77%. Deoxynucleoside monophosphates, thymidine, and thymine had little effect on short-term DNA binding, although several of these compounds inhibited the uptake of the radiolabel from DNA in 4-h incubations. Inorganic phosphate and glucose-1-phosphate inhibited neither short- nor long-term binding of [3H]- or [32P]DNA, indicating that DNA was not utilized as a phosphorous source in this reservoir. RNA inhibited both short- and long-term radiolabeled DNA uptake as effectively as unlabeled DNA. Collectively these results indicate that aquatic bacteria possess a generalized nucleic acid uptake/binding mechanism specific for compounds containing phosphodiester bonds and capable of recognizing oligonucleotides as short as dinucleotides. This binding site is distinct from nucleoside-, nucleotide-, phosphomonoester-, and inorganic phosphate-binding sites. Such a nucleic acid-binding mechanism may have evolved for the utilization of extracellular DNA (and perhaps RNA), which is abundant in many marine and freshwater environments.
PMCID: PMC203171  PMID: 16348044
7.  Underestimation of DNA Synthesis by [3H]Thymidine Incorporation in Marine Bacteria 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  1988;54(12):3165-3168.
A direct comparison of [3H]thymidine incorporation with DNA synthesis was made by using an exponentially growing estuarine bacterial isolate and the naturally occurring bacterial populations in a eutrophic subtropical estuary and in oligotrophic offshore waters. Simultaneous measurements of [3H]thymidine incorporation into DNA, fluorometrically determined DNA content, and direct counts were made over time. DNA synthesis estimated from thymidine incorporation values was compared with fluorometrically determined changes in DNA content. Even after isotope dilution, nonspecific macromolecular labeling, and efficiency of DNA recovery were accounted for, [3H]thymidine incorporation consistently underestimated DNA synthesized by six- to eightfold. These results indicate that although the relationship of [3H]thymidine incorporation to DNA synthesis appears consistent, there are significant sources of thymine bases incorporated into DNA which cannot be accounted for by standard [3H]thymidine incorporation and isotope dilution assays.
PMCID: PMC204444  PMID: 16347806
8.  Evidence for Separate Adhesion Mechanisms for Hydrophilic and Hydrophobic Surfaces in Vibrio proteolytica 
The proteolytic enzymes pronase, trypsin, and chymotrypsin and the surfactant Triton X-100 inhibited attachment of Vibrio proteolytica to the hydrophobic substratum polystyrene by >97%. These treatments had no effect on attachment to hydrophilic substrata such as glass or tissue culture dishes. Both pronase and Triton X-100 effected the removal of previously attached cells from polystyrene but not from hydrophilic surfaces. Removal of cells from polystyrene by pronase left material (which we have termed footprints) that stained with the protein-specific stain Hoechst 2495 but not with the DNA-specific stain Hoechst 33342. Pronase treatment also caused a significant decrease in cell surface hydrophobicity as determined by phase partitioning in hexane or petroleum ether. Collectively, these results imply the existence of separate mechanisms for the adhesion of V. proteolytica to hydrophilic and hydrophobic substrata and suggest a role for protein in the latter mechanism.
PMCID: PMC238638  PMID: 16346861
9.  Improved Microfouling Assay Employing a DNA-Specific Fluorochrome and Polystyrene as Substratum 
With a direct count assay, 10 fouling bacterial isolates have been characterized for their ability to adhere to glass cover slips and polystyrene dishes. Although most adhered in greater numbers to polystyrene, the preference was statistically significant for only seven isolates at the 95% confidence level, due in part to the greater variability in cell attachment to glass (coefficient of variation, 32.3% for glass compared with 10.0% for polystyrene). Employing polystyrene dishes, a novel microfouling assay was developed, based on the extraction and fluorometric determination of DNA. The assay was rapid, enabled the detection of as little as 0.15 μg of DNA per dish (∼5,000 cells per mm2), and showed good agreement with the direct count assay. The DNA method resulted in less variability among three replicates (average coefficient of variation, 7.06%) and allowed for estimation of bacterial density over a larger surface area per sample (1.89 × 103 mm2) than was feasible with epifluorescence microscopy (0.06 to 0.1 mm2).
PMCID: PMC239383  PMID: 16346359
10.  Use of Hoechst Dyes 33258 and 33342 for Enumeration of Attached and Planktonic Bacteria 
The DNA-specific fluorochromes Hoechst 33258 and 33342 were used to enumerate aquatic bacteria by epifluorescent direct counts. Cultures of estuarine bacteria gave identical counts when stained with Hoechst 33258 or acridine orange, whereas natural populations of aquatic bacteria gave 92 to 98.5% of the acridine orange counts. The technique had distinct advantages over acridine orange when enumerating bacteria on surfaces which bind acridine orange, such as polystyrene.
PMCID: PMC241943  PMID: 16345997
11.  The Temperate Marine Phage ΦHAP-1 of Halomonas aquamarina Possesses a Linear Plasmid-Like Prophage Genome ▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(13):6618-6630.
A myovirus-like temperate phage, ΦHAP-1, was induced with mitomycin C from a Halomonas aquamarina strain isolated from surface waters in the Gulf of Mexico. The induced cultures produced significantly more virus-like particles (VLPs) (3.73 × 1010 VLP ml−1) than control cultures (3.83 × 107 VLP ml−1) when observed with epifluorescence microscopy. The induced phage was sequenced by using linker-amplified shotgun libraries and contained a genome 39,245 nucleotides in length with a G+C content of 59%. The ΦHAP-1 genome contained 46 putative open reading frames (ORFs), with 76% sharing significant similarity (E value of <10−3) at the protein level with other sequences in GenBank. Putative functional gene assignments included small and large terminase subunits, capsid and tail genes, an N6-DNA adenine methyltransferase, and lysogeny-related genes. Although no integrase was found, the ΦHAP-1 genome contained ORFs similar to protelomerase and parA genes found in linear plasmid-like phages with telomeric ends. Southern probing and PCR analysis of host genomic, plasmid, and ΦHAP-1 DNA indicated a lack of integration of the prophage with the host chromosome and a difference in genome arrangement between the prophage and virion forms. The linear plasmid prophage form of ΦHAP-1 begins with the protelomerase gene, presumably due to the activity of the protelomerase, while the induced phage particle has a circularly permuted genome that begins with the terminase genes. The ΦHAP-1 genome shares synteny and gene similarity with coliphage N15 and vibriophages VP882 and VHML, suggesting an evolutionary heritage from an N15-like linear plasmid prophage ancestor.
PMCID: PMC2447096  PMID: 18448537
12.  Metagenomic Analysis of Lysogeny in Tampa Bay: Implications for Prophage Gene Expression 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(9):e3263.
Phage integrase genes often play a role in the establishment of lysogeny in temperate phage by catalyzing the integration of the phage into one of the host's replicons. To investigate temperate phage gene expression, an induced viral metagenome from Tampa Bay was sequenced by 454/Pyrosequencing. The sequencing yielded 294,068 reads with 6.6% identifiable. One hundred-three sequences had significant similarity to integrases by BLASTX analysis (e≤0.001). Four sequences with strongest amino-acid level similarity to integrases were selected and real-time PCR primers and probes were designed. Initial testing with microbial fraction DNA from Tampa Bay revealed 1.9×107, and 1300 gene copies of Vibrio-like integrase and Oceanicola-like integrase L−1 respectively. The other two integrases were not detected. The integrase assay was then tested on microbial fraction RNA extracted from 200 ml of Tampa Bay water sampled biweekly over a 12 month time series. Vibrio-like integrase gene expression was detected in three samples, with estimated copy numbers of 2.4-1280 L−1. Clostridium-like integrase gene expression was detected in 6 samples, with estimated copy numbers of 37 to 265 L−1. In all cases, detection of integrase gene expression corresponded to the occurrence of lysogeny as detected by prophage induction. Investigation of the environmental distribution of the two expressed integrases in the Global Ocean Survey Database found the Vibrio-like integrase was present in genome equivalents of 3.14% of microbial libraries and all four viral metagenomes. There were two similar genes in the library from British Columbia and one similar gene was detected in both the Gulf of Mexico and Sargasso Sea libraries. In contrast, in the Arctic library eleven similar genes were observed. The Clostridium-like integrase was less prevalent, being found in 0.58% of the microbial and none of the viral libraries. These results underscore the value of metagenomic data in discovering signature genes that play important roles in the environment through their expression, as demonstrated by integrases in lysogeny.
PMCID: PMC2533394  PMID: 18810270
13.  The Genome of Deep-Sea Vent Chemolithoautotroph Thiomicrospira crunogena XCL-2 
PLoS Biology  2006;4(12):e383.
Presented here is the complete genome sequence of Thiomicrospira crunogena XCL-2, representative of ubiquitous chemolithoautotrophic sulfur-oxidizing bacteria isolated from deep-sea hydrothermal vents. This gammaproteobacterium has a single chromosome (2,427,734 base pairs), and its genome illustrates many of the adaptations that have enabled it to thrive at vents globally. It has 14 methyl-accepting chemotaxis protein genes, including four that may assist in positioning it in the redoxcline. A relative abundance of coding sequences (CDSs) encoding regulatory proteins likely control the expression of genes encoding carboxysomes, multiple dissolved inorganic nitrogen and phosphate transporters, as well as a phosphonate operon, which provide this species with a variety of options for acquiring these substrates from the environment. Thiom. crunogena XCL-2 is unusual among obligate sulfur-oxidizing bacteria in relying on the Sox system for the oxidation of reduced sulfur compounds. The genome has characteristics consistent with an obligately chemolithoautotrophic lifestyle, including few transporters predicted to have organic allocrits, and Calvin-Benson-Bassham cycle CDSs scattered throughout the genome.
Secrets of the deep are revealed from the genome sequence ofThiomicrospira crunogena XCL-2, a chemolithoautotrophic sulfur-oxidizing gammaproteobacterium isolated from deep-sea hydrothermal vents.
PMCID: PMC1635747  PMID: 17105352
14.  Complete Genome Sequence of φHSIC, a Pseudotemperate Marine Phage of Listonella pelagia 
The genome for the marine pseudotemperate member of the Siphoviridae φHSIC has been sequenced using a combination of linker amplification library construction, restriction digest library construction, and primer walking. φHSIC enters into a pseudolysogenic relationship with its host, Listonella pelagia, characterized by sigmoidal growth curves producing >109 cells/ml and >1011 phage/ml. The genome (37,966 bp; G+C content, 44%) contained 47 putative open reading frames (ORFs), 17 of which had significant BLASTP hits in GenBank, including a β subunit of DNA polymerase III, a helicase, a helicase-like subunit of a resolvasome complex, a terminase, a tail tape measure protein, several phage-like structural proteins, and 1 ORF that may assist in host pathogenicity (an ADP ribosyltransferase). The genome was circularly permuted, with no physical ends detected by sequencing or restriction enzyme digestion analysis, and lacked a cos site. This evidence is consistent with a headful packaging mechanism similar to that of Salmonella phage P22 and Shigella phage Sf6. Because none of the phage-like ORFs were closely related to any existing phage sequences in GenBank (i.e., none more than 62% identical and most <25% identical at the amino acid level), φHSIC is unique among phages that have been sequenced to date. These results further emphasize the need to sequence phages from the marine environment, perhaps the largest reservoir of untapped genetic information.
PMCID: PMC1151857  PMID: 15933034
15.  Geochemical Rate-RNA Integration Study: Ribulose-1,5-Bisphosphate Carboxylase/Oxygenase Gene Transcription and Photosynthetic Capacity of Planktonic Photoautotrophs 
A pilot field experiment to assess the relationship between traditional biogeochemical rate measurements and transcriptional activity of microbial populations was carried out at the LEO 15 site off Tuckerton, N.J. Here, we report the relationship between photosynthetic capacity of autotrophic plankton and transcriptional activity of the large subunit gene (rbcL) for ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RubisCO), the enzyme responsible for primary carbon fixation during photosynthesis. Similar diel patterns of carbon fixation and rbcL gene expression were observed in three of four time series, with maxima for photosynthetic capacity (Pmax) and rbcL mRNA occurring between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.. The lowest Pmax and rbcL levels were detected between 6 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.. A significant correlation was found between Pmax and form ID rbcL mRNA (R2 = 0.56) and forms IA and IB (R2 = 0.41 and 0.47, respectively). The correlation between the abundance of “diatom” rbcL and Pmax mRNA was modest (R2 = 0.49; n = 12) but improved dramatically (R2 = 0.97; n = 10) upon removal of two outliers which represented afternoon samples with high Pmax but lower mRNA levels. Clone libraries from reverse transcription-PCR-amplified rbcL mRNA indicated the presence of several chromophytic algae (diatoms, prymnesiophytes, and chrysophytes) and some eukaryotic green flagellates. Analogous results were obtained from amplified small rRNA sequences and secondary pigment analysis. These results suggest that diatoms were a major contributor to carbon fixation at LEO 15 at the time of sampling and that photosynthetic carbon fixation was partially controlled by transcriptional regulation of the RubisCO gene.
PMCID: PMC520902  PMID: 15345433
16.  Detection and Quantification of the Red Tide Dinoflagellate Karenia brevis by Real-Time Nucleic Acid Sequence-Based Amplification 
Nucleic acid sequence-based amplification (NASBA) is an isothermal method of RNA amplification that has been previously used in clinical diagnostic testing. A real-time NASBA assay has been developed for the detection of rbcL mRNA from the red tide dinoflagellate Karenia brevis. This assay is sensitive to one K. brevis cell and 1.0 fg of in vitro transcript, with occasional detection of lower concentrations of transcript. The assay did not detect rbcL mRNA from a wide range of nontarget organisms and environmental clones, while 10 strains (all tested) of K. brevis were detected. By the use of standard curves based on time to positivity, concentrations of K. brevis in environmental samples were predicted by NASBA and classified into different levels of blooms per the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) system. NASBA classification matched FWC classification (based on cell counts) 72% of the time. Those samples that did not match were off by only one class. NASBA is sensitive, rapid, and effective and may be used as an additional or alternative method to detect and quantify K. brevis in the marine environment.
PMCID: PMC492458  PMID: 15294808
17.  Pathogenic Human Viruses in Coastal Waters 
Clinical Microbiology Reviews  2003;16(1):129-143.
This review addresses both historical and recent investigations into viral contamination of marine waters. With the relatively recent emergence of molecular biology-based assays, a number of investigations have shown that pathogenic viruses are prevalent in marine waters being impacted by sewage. Research has shown that this group of fecal-oral viral pathogens (enteroviruses, hepatitis A viruses, Norwalk viruses, reoviruses, adenoviruses, rotaviruses, etc.) can cause a broad range of asymptomatic to severe gastrointestinal, respiratory, and eye, nose, ear, and skin infections in people exposed through recreational use of the water. The viruses and the nucleic acid signature survive for an extended period in the marine environment. One of the primary concerns of public health officials is the relationship between the presence of pathogens and the recreational risk to human health in polluted marine environments. While a number of studies have attempted to address this issue, the relationship is still poorly understood. A contributing factor to our lack of progress in the field has been the lack of sensitive methods to detect the broad range of both bacterial and viral pathogens. The application of new and advanced molecular methods will continue to contribute to our current state of knowledge in this emerging and important field.
PMCID: PMC145303  PMID: 12525429
19.  Detection of Viral Pathogens by Reverse Transcriptase PCR and of Microbial Indicators by Standard Methods in the Canals of the Florida Keys 
In order to assess the microbial water quality in canal waters throughout the Florida Keys, a survey was conducted to determine the concentration of microbial fecal indicators and the presence of human pathogenic microorganisms. A total of 19 sites, including 17 canal sites and 2 nearshore water sites, were assayed for total coliforms, fecal coliforms, Escherichia coli, Clostridium perfringens, enterococci, coliphages, F-specific (F+) RNA coliphages, Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium parvum, and human enteric viruses (polioviruses, coxsackie A and B viruses, echoviruses, hepatitis A viruses, Norwalk viruses, and small round-structured viruses). Numbers of coliforms ranged from <1 to 1,410, E. coli organisms from <1 to 130, Clostridium spp. from <1 to 520, and enterococci from <1 to 800 CFU/100 ml of sample. Two sites were positive for coliphages, but no F+ phages were identified. The sites were ranked according to microbial water quality and compared to various water quality standards and guidelines. Seventy-nine percent of the sites were positive for the presence of enteroviruses by reverse transcriptase PCR (polioviruses, coxsackie A and B viruses, and echoviruses). Sixty-three percent of the sites were positive for the presence of hepatitis A viruses. Ten percent of the sites were positive for the presence of Norwalk viruses. Ninety-five percent of the sites were positive for at least one of the virus groups. These results indicate that the canals and nearshore waters throughout the Florida Keys are being impacted by human fecal material carrying human enteric viruses through current wastewater treatment strategies such as septic tanks. Exposure to canal waters through recreation and work may be contributing to human health risks.
PMCID: PMC99749  PMID: 10473424
20.  Gene Transfer by Transduction in the Marine Environment 
To determine the potential for bacteriophage-mediated gene transfer in the marine environment, we established transduction systems by using marine phage host isolates. Plasmid pQSR50, which contains transposon Tn5 and encodes kanamycin and streptomycin resistance, was used in plasmid transduction assays. Both marine bacterial isolates and concentrated natural bacterial communities were used as recipients in transduction studies. Transductants were detected by a gene probe complementary to the neomycin phosphotransferase (nptII) gene in Tn5. The transduction frequencies ranged from 1.33 × 10−7 to 5.13 × 10−9 transductants/PFU in studies performed with the bacterial isolates. With the mixed bacterial communities, putative transductants were detected in two of the six experiments performed. These putative transductants were confirmed and separated from indigenous antibiotic-resistant bacteria by colony hybridization probed with the nptII probe and by PCR amplification performed with two sets of primers specific for pQSR50. The frequencies of plasmid transduction in the mixed bacterial communities ranged from 1.58 × 10−8 to 3.7 × 10−8 transductants/PFU. Estimates of the transduction rate obtained by using a numerical model suggested that up to 1.3 × 1014 transduction events per year could occur in the Tampa Bay Estuary. The results of this study suggest that transduction could be an important mechanism for horizontal gene transfer in the marine environment.
PMCID: PMC106772  PMID: 9687430
21.  Seasonal Abundance of Lysogenic Bacteria in a Subtropical Estuary 
Seasonal changes in the abundance of inducible lysogenic bacteria in a eutrophic estuarine environment were investigated over a 13-month period. Biweekly water samples were collected from Tampa Bay, Fla., and examined for prophage induction by mitomycin C treatment. At the conclusion of the study, we determined that 52.2% of the samples displayed prophage induction, as indicated by significant increases in viral direct counts compared with uninduced controls. Samples that displayed prophage induction occurred during the warmer months (February through October), when surface water temperatures were above 19°C, and no induction was observed in November, December, or January. This study presents clear evidence that there is seasonal variation in the number of inducible lysogenic bacteria in an estuarine environment.
PMCID: PMC106322  PMID: 9603858
22.  Characterization of Marine Temperate Phage-Host Systems Isolated from Mamala Bay, Oahu, Hawaii 
To understand the ecological and genetic role of viruses in the marine environment, it is critical to know the infectivity of viruses and the types of interactions that occur between marine viruses and their hosts. We isolated four marine phages from turbid plaques by using four indigenous bacterial hosts obtained from concentrated water samples from Mamala Bay, Oahu, Hawaii. Two of the rod-shaped bacterial hosts were identified as Sphingomonas paucimobilis and Flavobacterium sp. All of the phage isolates were tailed phages and contained double-stranded DNA. Two of the phage isolates had morphologies typical of the family Siphoviridae, while the other two belonged to the families Myoviridae and Podoviridae. The head diameters of these viruses ranged from 47 to 70.7 nm, and the tail lengths ranged from 12 to 146 nm. The burst sizes ranged from 7.8 to 240 phage/bacterial cell, and the genome sizes, as determined by restriction digestion, ranged from 36 to 112 kb. The members of the Siphoviridae, T-φHSIC, and T-φD0, and the member of the Myoviridae, T-φD1B, were found to form lysogenic associations with their bacterial hosts, which were isolated from the same water samples. Hybridization of phage T-φHSIC probe with lysogenic host genomic DNA was observed in dot blot hybridization experiments, indicating that prophage T-φHSIC was integrated within the host genome. These phage-host systems are available for use in studies of marine lysogeny and transduction.
PMCID: PMC106079  PMID: 9464390
23.  Detection of Gene Expression in Genetically Engineered Microorganisms and Natural Phytoplankton Populations in the Marine Environment by mRNA Analysis 
A simple method that combines guanidinium isothiocyanate RNA extraction and probing with antisense and sense RNA probes is described for analysis of microbial gene expression in planktonic populations. Probing of RNA sample extracts with sense-strand RNA probes was used as a control for nonspecific hybridization or contamination of mRNA with target DNA. This method enabled detection of expression of a plasmid-encoded neomycin phosphotransferase gene (nptII) in as few as 104Vibrio cells per ml in 100 ml of seawater. We have used this method to detect expression of the ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase large-subunit gene (rbcL) in Synechococcus cultures and natural phytoplankton populations in the Dry Tortugas, Florida. During a 36-h diel study, rbcL expression of the indigenous phytoplankton was greatest in the day, least at night (1100, 0300, and 0100 h), and variable at dawn or dusk (0700 and 1900 h). These results are the first report of gene expression in natural populations by mRNA isolation and probing. This methodology should be useful for the study of gene expression in microorganisms released into the environment for agricultural or bioremediation purposes and indigenous populations containing highly conserved target gene sequences.
PMCID: PMC183458  PMID: 16348507
24.  Gene Transfer in Marine Water Column and Sediment Microcosms by Natural Plasmid Transformation 
We investigated the possibility for natural transformation in the marine environment by using broad-host-range plasmid multimers and a high-frequency-of-transformation (HFT) Vibrio strain as the recipient. Water and sediment samples were taken from Tampa Bay, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Shelf near Miami, and the Bahamas Bank. In water column microcosms, transformation frequencies ranged from 1.7 × 10-6 to 2.7 × 10-10 transformants per recipient, with highest frequencies occurring when low levels of nutrients (peptone and yeast extract) were added. The presence of the ambient community either reduced transformation frequency by an order of magnitude or had no effect. In sterile sediments, nutrient additions had no consistent effect on transformation, with transfer frequencies similar to those observed in the water column. Transformation was not observed in any sediment experiment when the ambient microbial community was present. These findings are the first report of natural plasmid transformation in seawater and in the presence of the ambient microbial community. This process may be a mechanism for the acquisition of small, nonconjugative plasmids, which are commonly found in aquatic bacteria. Our data also suggest that natural transformation may be more likely to occur in the water column than in native marine sediments, contradicting prior conclusions based on studies with sterile sediments.
PMCID: PMC182977  PMID: 16348491
25.  Turnover of Extracellular DNA in Eutrophic and Oligotrophic Freshwater Environments of Southwest Florida 
The turnover of extracellular DNA was investigated in oligotrophic springs of the Crystal River and the eutrophic Medard Reservoir of southwest Florida. The Medard Reservoir possessed large populations of bacterioplankton and phytoplankton (6.8 × 109 cells per liter and 28.6 μg of chlorophyll a per liter, respectively), while the Crystal River springs only contained a fraction of the microbial biomass found in the Medard Reservoir. Although dissolved DNA values were greater in the Medard Reservoir, higher rates of DNA removal resulted in similar extracellular DNA turnover times in both environments (9.62 ± 3.6 h in the Crystal River and 10.5 ± 2.1 h in the Medard Reservoir). These results indicate that regardless of trophic status or microbial standing stock, extracellular DNA turns over rapidly in subtropical planktonic freshwater environments. Therefore, recombinant DNA sequences from released genetically engineered microorganisms might not be expected to survive for long periods of time in freshwater planktonic environments.
PMCID: PMC202957  PMID: 16347976

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