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1.  Metagenomic Analysis of the Airborne Environment in Urban Spaces 
Microbial Ecology  2014;69:346-355.
The organisms in aerosol microenvironments, especially densely populated urban areas, are relevant to maintenance of public health and detection of potential epidemic or biothreat agents. To examine aerosolized microorganisms in this environment, we performed sequencing on the material from an urban aerosol surveillance program. Whole metagenome sequencing was applied to DNA extracted from air filters obtained during periods from each of the four seasons. The composition of bacteria, plants, fungi, invertebrates, and viruses demonstrated distinct temporal shifts. Bacillus thuringiensis serovar kurstaki was detected in samples known to be exposed to aerosolized spores, illustrating the potential utility of this approach for identification of intentionally introduced microbial agents. Together, these data demonstrate the temporally dependent metagenomic complexity of urban aerosols and the potential of genomic analytical techniques for biosurveillance and monitoring of threats to public health.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00248-014-0517-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4312561  PMID: 25351142
Aerosol microbiology; Urban air; Airborne bacteria; Metagenomics; Microbiome
2.  Can’t Take the Heat: High Temperature Depletes Bacterial Endosymbionts of Ants 
Microbial ecology  2013;66(3):727-733.
Members of the ant tribe Camponotini have coevolved with Blochmannia, an obligate intracellular bacterial mutualist. This endosymbiont lives within host bacteriocyte cells that line the ant midgut, undergoes maternal transmission from host queens to offspring, and contributes to host nutrition via nitrogen recycling and nutrient biosynthesis. While elevated temperature has been shown to disrupt obligate bacterial mutualists of some insects, its impact on the ant-Blochmannia partnership is less clear. Here, we test the effect of heat on the density of Blochmannia in two related Camponotus species in the lab. Transcriptionally active Blochmannia were quantified using RT-qPCR as the ratio of Blochmannia 16S rRNA to ant host elongation factor 1-α transcripts. Our results showed that 4 weeks of heat treatment depleted active Blochmannia by >99 % in minor workers and unmated queens. However, complete elimination of Blochmannia transcripts rarely occurred, even after 16 weeks of heat treatment. Possible mechanisms of observed thermal sensitivity may include extreme AT-richness and related features of Blochmannia genomes, as well as host stress responses. Broadly, the observed depletion of an essential microbial mutualist in heat-treated ants is analogous to the loss of zooanthellae during coral bleaching. While the ecological relevance of Blochmannia’s thermal sensitivity is uncertain, our results argue that symbiont dynamics should be part of models predicting how ants and other animals will respond and adapt to a warming climate.
PMCID: PMC3905736  PMID: 23872930
3.  Killing of Escherichia coli by Myxococcus xanthus in Aqueous Environments Requires Exopolysaccharide-dependent Physical Contact 
Microbial ecology  2013;66(3):630-638.
Nutrient or niche-based competition among bacteria is a widespread phenomenon in natural environment. Such inter-species interactions are often mediated by secreted soluble factors and/or direct cell–cell contact. As ubiquitous soil bacteria, Myxococcus species are able to produce a variety of bioactive secondary metabolites to inhibit the growth of other competing bacterial species. Meanwhile, Myxococcus sp. also exhibit sophisticated predatory behavior, an extreme form of competition that is often stimulated by close contact with prey cells and largely depends on the availability of solid surfaces. Myxococcus sp. can also be isolated from aquatic environments. However, studies focusing on the interaction between Myxococcus and other bacteria in such environments are still limited. In this study, using the well-studied M. xanthus DK1622 and E. coli as model interspecies interaction pair, we demonstrated that in a aqueous environment, Myxococcus xanthus was able to kill Escherichia coli in a cell contact-dependent manner, and that the observed contact dependent killing required the formation of co-aggregates between M. xanthus and E. coli cells. Further analysis revealed that exopolysaccharide (EPS), type IV pilus (TFP) and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) mutants of M. xanthus displayed various degrees of attenuation in E. coli killing, and it correlated well with the mutants' reduction in EPS production. In addition, M. xanthus showed differential binding ability to different bacteria, and bacterial strains unable to co-aggregate with M. xanthus can escape the killing, suggesting the specific nature of co-aggregation and the targeted killing of interacting bacteria. In conclusion, our results demonstrated EPS mediated, contact-dependent killing of E. coli by M. xanthus, a strategy that might facilitate the survival of this ubiquitous bacterium in aquatic environments.
PMCID: PMC3931608  PMID: 23828520
M. xanthus; contact-dependent interaction; co-aggregation; aqueous environment
4.  A Combined Approach to Assess the Microbial Contamination of the Archimedes Palimpsest 
Microbial Ecology  2014;69:118-134.
A combined approach, using molecular and microscopic techniques, was used to identify the microbiota associated with the Archimedes Palimpsest, an unusual parchment manuscript. SEM analyses revealed the microbial damage to the collagen fibers and the presence of characteristic cell chains typical of filamentous bacteria and fungal spores. Molecular analysis confirmed a homogeneous bacterial community colonizing the manuscript. The phyla Proteobacteria and Actinobacteria were associated with this ancient parchment; the sequences were most related to uncultured clones detected in the human skin microbiome and in ephitelium, and to cultivated species of the genera Acinetobacter and Nocardiopsis. Nevertheless, a great variation was observed among the different sampled areas indicating fungal diversity. Blumeria spp. dominated in the healthy areas of the parchment while degraded areas showed disparate fungal communities, with dominant members of the genera Mucor and Cladosporium. In addition, the quantification of the β-actin gene by real-time PCR analyses (qPCR) revealed a higher fungal abundance on degraded areas than on the healthy ones.
PMCID: PMC4287661  PMID: 25135817
5.  Flowers as islands: spatial distribution of nectar-inhabiting microfungi among plants of Mimulus aurantiacus, a hummingbird-pollinated shrub 
Microbial ecology  2011;63(4):711-718.
Microfungi inhabiting floral nectar offer unique opportunities for the study of microbial distribution and the role that dispersal limitation may play in generating distribution patterns. Flowers are well-replicated habitat islands, among which the microbes disperse via pollinators. This metapopulation system allows for investigation of microbial distribution at multiple spatial scales. We examined the distribution of the yeast, Metschnikowia reukaufii, and other fungal species found in the floral nectar of the sticky monkey flower, Mimulus aurantiacus, a hummingbird-pollinated shrub, at a California site. We found that the frequency of nectar-inhabiting microfungi on a given host plant was not significantly correlated with light availability, nectar volume or the percent cover of M. aurantiacus around the plant, but was significantly correlated with the location of the host plant and loosely correlated with the density of flowers on the plant. These results suggest that dispersal limitation caused by spatially non-random foraging by pollinators may be a primary factor driving the observed distribution pattern.
PMCID: PMC4108428  PMID: 22080257
Dispersal limitation; floral nectar; Metschnikowia reukaufii; microbial distribution; nectar yeast
6.  A Microbial Signature Approach to Identify Fecal Pollution in the Waters Off an Urbanized Coast of Lake Michigan 
Microbial ecology  2013;65(4):1011-1023.
Urban coasts receive watershed drainage from ecosystems that include highly developed lands with sewer and stormwater infrastructure. In these complex ecosystems, coastal waters are often contaminated with fecal pollution, where multiple delivery mechanisms that often contain multiple fecal sources make it difficult to mitigate the pollution. Here, we exploit bacterial community sequencing of the V6 and V6V4 hypervariable regions of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene to identify bacterial distributions that signal the presence of sewer, fecal, and human fecal pollution. The sequences classified to three sewer infrastructure-associated bacterial genera, Acinetobacter, Arcobacter, and Trichococcus, and five fecal-associated bacterial families, Bacteroidaceae, Porphyromonadaceae, Clostridiaceae, Lachnospiraceae, and Ruminococcaceae, served as signatures of sewer and fecal contamination, respectively. The human fecal signature was determined with the Bayesian source estimation program SourceTracker, which we applied to a set of 40 sewage influent samples collected in Milwaukee, WI, USA to identify operational taxonomic units (≥97 % identity) that were most likely of human fecal origin. During periods of dry weather, the magnitudes of all three signatures were relatively low in Milwaukee's urban rivers and harbor and nearly zero in Lake Michigan. However, the relative contribution of the sewer and fecal signature frequently increased to >2 % of the measured surface water communities following sewer overflows. Also during combined sewer overflows, the ratio of the human fecal pollution signature to the fecal pollution signature in surface waters was generally close to that of sewage, but this ratio decreased dramatically during dry weather and rain events, suggesting that nonhuman fecal pollution was the dominant source during these weather-driven scenarios. The qPCR detection of two human fecal indicators, human Bacteroides and Lachno2, confirmed the urban fecal footprint in this ecosystem extends to at least 8 km offshore.
PMCID: PMC4084971  PMID: 23475306
7.  Archaeal Diversity at the Great Salt Plains of Oklahoma Described by Cultivation and Molecular Analyses 
Microbial ecology  2009;58(3):519-528.
The Great Salt Plains of Oklahoma is a natural inland terrestrial hypersaline environment that forms evaporite crusts of mainly NaCl. Previous work described the bacterial community through the characterization of 105 isolates from 46 phylotypes. The current report describes the archaeal community through both microbial isolation and culture-independent techniques. Nineteen distinct archaea were isolated, and ten were characterized phenetically. Included were isolates phylogenetically related to Haloarcula, Haloferax, Halorubrum, Haloterrigena, and Natrinema. The isolates were aerobic, non-motile, Gram-negative organisms and exhibited little capacity for fermentation. All of the isolates were halophilic, with most requiring at least 15% salinity for growth, and all grew at 30% salinity. The isolates were mainly mesothermic and could grow at alkaline pH (8.5). A 16S rRNA gene library was generated by polymerase chain reaction amplification of direct soil DNA extracts, and 200 clones were sequenced and analyzed. At 99% and 94% sequence identity, 36 and 19 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were detected, respectively, while 53 and 22 OTUs were estimated by Chao1, respectively. Coverage was relatively high (100% and 59% at 89% and 99% sequence identity, respectively), and the Shannon Index was 3.01 at 99% sequence identity, comparable to or somewhat lower than hypersaline habitats previously studied. Only sequences from Euryarchaeota in the Halobacteriales were detected, and the strength of matches to known sequences was generally low, most near 90% sequence identity. Large clusters were observed that are related to Haloarcula and Halorubrum. More than two-thirds of the sequences were in clusters that did not have close relatives reported in public databases.
PMCID: PMC4066810  PMID: 19306116
8.  Occurrence of tetracycline resistance genes in aquaculture facilities with varying use of oxytetracycline 
Microbial ecology  2010;59(4):799-807.
The contribution of human activities to environmental reservoirs of antibiotic resistance is poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to determine if oxytetracycline (OTC) use in aquaculture facilities increased the detection frequency (i.e. prevalence) of tetracycline resistance genes relative to facilities with no recent OTC treatment. We used PCR to screen water and sediment from four non-commercial fish farms in northwestern Wisconsin for the presence of ten tetracycline resistance determinants (tetR): tet(A), tet(B), tet(D), tet(E), tet(G), tet(M), tet(O), tet(Q), tet(S) and tet(W). Water from farms with recent OTC use had significantly higher tetR detection frequencies than did water from farms without recent OTC use, with prevalence in raceways and rearing ponds of farms with recent OTC use exceeded by more than two-fold that of farms not using OTC. Effluent from all farms, regardless of treatment regime, had higher tetR detection frequencies than their corresponding influent for all genes, but the specific combinations of tetR genes detected in a sample were not different from their corresponding influent. Although OTC use was associated with the increased occurrence and diversity of tetR genes in water samples, it was not found to relate to tetR gene occurrence in sediment samples. Sediment samples from facilities with no recent OTC use had significantly higher frequencies of tetR gene detection than did samples from facilities with recent OTC use. All of the tetR genes were detected in both the medicated and non-medicated feed samples analyzed in this study. These findings suggest that both OTC treatment in aquaculture facilities, and the farms themselves, may be sources of tetR gene introduction to the environment. To our knowledge, this is the first study to use genotypic and cultivation-independent methods to examine tetR gene occurrence associated with OTC use in aquaculture.
PMCID: PMC4066850  PMID: 20217406
antibiotic resistance; antibiotics; PCR
9.  Viewing Marine Bacteria, Their Activity and Response to Environmental Drivers from Orbit 
Microbial ecology  2014;67(3):489-500.
Satellite-based remote sensing of marine microorganisms has become a useful tool in predicting human health risks associated with these microscopic targets. Early applications were focused on harmful algal blooms, but more recently methods have been developed to interrogate the ocean for bacteria. As satellite-based sensors have become more sophisticated and our ability to interpret information derived from these sensors has advanced, we have progressed from merely making fascinating pictures from space to developing process models with predictive capability. Our understanding of the role of marine microorganisms in primary production and global elemental cycles has been vastly improved as has our ability to use the combination of remote sensing data and models to provide early warning systems for disease outbreaks. This manuscript will discuss current approaches to monitoring cyanobacteria and vibrios, their activity and response to environmental drivers, and will also suggest future directions.
PMCID: PMC4058845  PMID: 24477922
10.  Leaf-Associated Bacterial and Fungal Taxa Shifts in Response to Larvae of the Tree Hole Mosquito, Ochlerotatus triseriatus 
Microbial ecology  2008;55(4):673-684.
Larvae of the eastern tree hole mosquito, Ochlerotatus triseriatus (Say), and related container-breeding species are known to feed upon substrate-associated microorganisms. Although the importance of these microbial resources to larval growth has been established, almost nothing is known about the taxonomic composition and dynamics of these critical microbial food sources. We examined bacterial and fungal community compositional changes on oak leaves tethered in natural tree hole habitats of O. triseriatus. We eliminated larvae experimentally in a subset of the tree holes and examined 16S rDNA gene sequences for bacteria and ergosterol concentrations and 18S rRNA gene sequences for fungi collected from leaf material subsamples. Leaf ergosterol content varied significantly with time, but not treatment. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to compare microbial taxonomic patterns found in leaves incubated with or without larvae present, and we found that larval presence affected both bacterial and fungal groups, either from loosely attached or strongly adherent categories. Bacterial communities generally grouped more tightly when larvae were present, and class level taxa proportions changed when larvae were present, suggesting selection by larval feeding or activities for particular taxa such as members of the Bacteroidetes, Alphaproteobacteria, and Betaproteobacteria classes. Fungal taxa composite scores also separated along PC axes related to the presence of larvae and indicated larval feeding effects on several higher taxonomic groups, including Saccharomycetes, Dothideomycetes, and Chytridiomycota. These results support the hypothesis that larval mosquito feeding and activities altered microbial communities associated with substrate surfaces, potentially leading to decreased food value of the resource and affecting decomposition of particulate matter in the system.
PMCID: PMC4053173  PMID: 17899246
11.  Diversity and Distribution of Freshwater Testate Amoebae (Protozoa) Along Latitudinal and Trophic Gradients in China 
Microbial Ecology  2014;68(4):657-670.
Freshwater microbial diversity is subject to multiple stressors in the Anthropocene epoch. However, the effects of climate changes and human activities on freshwater protozoa remain poorly understood. In this study, the diversity and distribution of testate amoebae from the surface sediments were investigated in 51 Chinese lakes and reservoirs along two gradients, latitude and trophic status. A total of 169 taxa belonging to 24 genera were identified, and the most diverse and dominant genera were Difflugia (78 taxa), Centropyxis (26 taxa) and Arcella (12 taxa). Our analysis revealed that biomass of testate amoebae decreased significantly along the latitudinal gradient, while Shannon-Wiener indices and species richness presented an opposite trend (P < 0.05). The relationship of diversity and latitude is, we suspect, an artifact of the altitudinal distribution of our sites. Furthermore, biomass-based Shannon-Wiener index and species richness of testate amoebae were significantly unimodally related to trophic status (P < 0.05). This is the first large-scale study showing the effects of latitude and trophic status on diversity and distribution of testate amoebae in China. Therefore, our results provide valuable baseline data on testate amoebae and contribute to lake management and our understanding of the large-scale global patterns in microorganism diversity.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00248-014-0442-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4201926  PMID: 24910015
12.  Drug Discovery from Marine Microbes 
Microbial ecology  2012;65(4):800-806.
The marine environment has been a source of more than 20,000 inspirational natural products discovered over the past 50 years. From these efforts, 9 approved drugs and 12 current clinical trial agents have been discovered, either as natural products or molecules inspired from the natural product structure. To a significant degree, these have come from collections of marine invertebrates largely obtained from shallow water tropical ecosystems. However, there is a growing recognition that marine invertebrates are oftentimes populated with enormous quantities of ‘associated’ or symbiotic microorganisms, and that microorganisms are the true metabolic sources of these most valuable of marine natural products. Also, because of the inherently multidisciplinary nature of this field, a high degree of innovation is characteristic of marine natural product drug discovery efforts.
PMCID: PMC3640700  PMID: 23274881
Marine microorganisms; pharmaceuticals; anticancer agents; symbiosis; drug discovery
13.  Complex marine natural products as potential epigenetic and production regulators of antibiotics from a marine Pseudomonas aeruginosa 
Microbial ecology  2013;65(4):1068-1075.
Marine microbes are capable of producing secondary metabolites for defense and competition. Factors exerting an impact on secondary metabolite production of microbial communities included bioactive natural products and co-culturing. These external influences may have practical applications such as increased yields or the generation of new metabolites from otherwise silent genes in addition to reducing or limiting the production of undesirable metabolites. In this paper, we discuss the metabolic profiles of a marine Pseudomonas aeruginosa in the presence of a number of potential chemical epigenetic regulators, adjusting carbon sources and co-culturing with other microbes to induce a competitive response. As a result of these stressors certain groups of antibiotics or antimalarial agents were increased most notably when treating P. aeruginosa with sceptrin and co-culturing with another Pseudomonas sp. An interesting cross-talking event between these two Pseudomonas species when cultured together and exposed to sceptrin was observed.
PMCID: PMC3650628  PMID: 23563743
Quinolone; Rhamnolipid; Phenazine; Modifier; Co-culture
14.  Long-Term Spatiotemporal Stability and Dynamic Changes in the Haemoparasite Community of Bank Voles (Myodes glareolus) in NE Poland 
Microbial Ecology  2014;68(2):196-211.
Long-term field studies on parasite communities are rare but provide a powerful insight into the ecological and evolutionary processes shaping host–parasite interactions. The aim of our study was to identify the principal factors regulating long-term trends in the haemoparasite communities of bank voles, and to this end, we sampled three semi-isolated populations of bank voles (n = 880) in 1999, 2002, 2006 and 2010 in the Mazury lake district region of NE Poland. Overall, 90.8 % of the bank voles harboured at least one of the species of haemoparasites studied. Whilst overall prevalence (all species combined) did not vary significantly between the surveys, different temporal changes were detected among voles in each of the three sites. In voles from Urwitałt, prevalence increased consistently with successive surveys, whereas in Tałty, the peak years were 2002 and 2006, and in Pilchy, prevalence oscillated without a clear pattern. Across the study, bank voles harboured a mean of 1.75 ± 0.034 haemoparasite species, and species richness remained stable with no significant between-year fluctuations or trends. However, each of the five constituent species/genera showed a different pattern of spatio-temporal changes. The overall prevalence of Babesia microti was 4.9 %, but this varied significantly between years peaking in 2006 and declining again by 2010. For Bartonella spp., overall prevalence was 38.7 %, and this varied with year of study, but the temporal pattern of changes differed among the three sites. The overall prevalence of Haemobartonella (Mycoplasma) was 68.3 % with an increase in prevalence with year of study in all three sites. Hepatozoon erhardovae had an overall prevalence of 46.8 % but showed a marked reduction with each successive year of the study, and this was consistent in all three sites. The overall prevalence of Trypanosoma evotomys was 15.4 % varying significantly between sites, but showing temporal stability. While overall prevalence of all haemoparasites combined and species richness remained stable over the period of study, among the five haemoparasites, the pattern of spatiotemporal changes in prevalence and abundance of infections differed depending on parasite species. For some genera, host age was shown to play an important role, but a significant effect of host sex was found only for Haemobartonella spp.
PMCID: PMC4103999  PMID: 24604428
15.  Influence of Shrub Encroachment on the Soil Microbial Community Composition of Remnant Hill Prairies 
Microbial Ecology  2014;67(4):897-906.
Hill prairies are remnant grasslands perched on the bluffs of major river valleys, and because their steep slopes make them unsuitable for traditional row crop agriculture, they have some of the lowest levels of anthropogenic disturbance of any prairie ecosystems in the Midwestern USA. However, many decades of fire suppression have allowed for shrub encroachment from the surrounding forests. While shrub encroachment of grasslands can modify soil respiration rates and nutrient storage, it is not known whether shrubs also alter the community composition of soil microorganisms. We conducted transect sampling of nine different hill prairie remnants showing varying degrees of shrub encroachment, and we used DNA-based community profiling (automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis) to characterize the composition of bacterial and fungal communities in the open prairie habitat, the shrub-encroached border, and the surrounding forest. While both bacterial and fungal communities showed statistically significant variation across these habitats, their predominant patterns were different. Bacterial communities of forest soils were distinct from those of the open prairie and the shrub-encroached areas, while fungal communities of the open prairie were distinct from those of the forest and the shrub-encroached border. Shrub encroachment significantly altered the community composition of soil fungal communities. Furthermore, fungal communities of heavily encroached prairie remnants more closely resembled those of the surrounding forest than those of lightly encroached prairies. Thus, shrub encroachment can cause soil fungi to shift from a “grassland” community to a “woody” community, with potential consequences for soil processes and plant-microbe interactions.
PMCID: PMC3984419  PMID: 24493462
16.  Decomposing predation: Testing for parameters that correlate with predatory performance by a social bacterium 
Microbial ecology  2012;65(2):415-423.
Predator-prey interactions presumably play major roles in shaping the composition and dynamics of microbial communities. However, little is understood about the population biology of such interactions or how predation-related parameters vary or correlate across prey environments. Myxococcus xanthus is a motile soil bacterium that feeds on a broad range of other soil microbes that vary greatly in the degree to which they support M. xanthus growth. In order to decompose predator-prey interactions at the population level, we quantified five predation-related parameters during M. xanthus growth on nine phylogenetically diverse bacterial prey species. The horizontal expansion rate of swarming predator colonies fueled by prey lawns served as our measure of overall predatory performance, as it incorporates both the searching (motility) and handling (killing and consumption of prey) components of predation. Four other parameters – predator population growth rate, maximum predator yield, maximum prey kill, and overall rate of prey death – were measured from homogeneously mixed predator-prey lawns from which predator populations were not allowed to expand horizontally by swarming motility. All prey species fueled predator population growth. For some prey, predator-specific prey death was detected contemporaneously with predator population growth, whereas killing of other prey species was detected only after cessation of predator growth. All four of the alternative parameters were found to correlate significantly with predator swarm expansion rate to varying degrees, suggesting causal inter-relationships among these diverse predation measures. More broadly, our results highlight the importance of examining multiple parameters for thoroughly understanding the population biology of microbial predation.
PMCID: PMC3563865  PMID: 23184156
17.  Response of Sphagnum Peatland Testate Amoebae to a 1-Year Transplantation Experiment Along an Artificial Hydrological Gradient 
Microbial Ecology  2014;67(4):810-818.
Peatland testate amoebae (TA) are well-established bioindicators for depth to water table (DWT), but effects of hydrological changes on TA communities have never been tested experimentally. We tested this in a field experiment by placing Sphagnum carpets (15 cm diameter) collected in hummock, lawn and pool microsites (origin) at three local conditions (dry, moist and wet) using trenches dug in a peatland. One series of samples was seeded with microorganism extract from all microsites. TA community were analysed at T0: 8–2008, T1: 5–2009 and T2: 8–2009. We analysed the data using conditional inference trees, principal response curves (PRC) and DWT inferred from TA communities using a transfer function used for paleoecological reconstruction. Density declined from T0 to T1 and then increased sharply by T2. Species richness, Simpson diversity and Simpson evenness were lower at T2 than at T0 and T1. Seeded communities had higher species richness in pool samples at T0. Pool samples tended to have higher density, lower species richness, Simpson diversity and Simpson Evenness than hummock and/or lawn samples until T1. In the PRC, the effect of origin was significant at T0 and T1, but the effect faded away by T2. Seeding effect was strongest at T1 and lowest vanished by T2. Local condition effect was strong but not in line with the wetness gradient at T1 but started to reflect it by T2. Likewise, TA-inferred DWT started to match the experimental conditions by T2, but more so in hummock and lawn samples than in pool samples. This study confirmed that TA responds to hydrological changes over a 1-year period. However, sensitivity of TA to hydrological fluctuations, and thus the accuracy of inferred DWT changes, was habitat specific, pool TA communities being least responsive to environmental changes. Lawns and hummocks may be thus better suited than pools for paleoecological reconstructions. This, however, contrasts with the higher prediction error and species’ tolerance for DWT with increasing dryness observed in transfer function models.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00248-014-0367-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3984440  PMID: 24481860
18.  16S rDNA Pyrosequencing Analysis of Bacterial Community in Heavy Metals Polluted Soils 
Microbial Ecology  2014;67(3):635-647.
Soil contamination with heavy metals is a widespread problem, especially prominent on grounds lying in the vicinity of mines, smelters, and other industrial facilities. Many such areas are located in Southern Poland; they are polluted mainly with Pb, Zn, Cd, or Cu, and locally also with Cr. As for now, little is known about most bacterial species thriving in such soils and even less about a core bacterial community—a set of taxa common to polluted soils. Therefore, we wanted to answer the question if such a set could be found in samples differing physicochemically and phytosociologically. To answer the question, we analyzed bacterial communities in three soil samples contaminated with Pb and Zn and two contaminated with Cr and lower levels of Pb and Zn. The communities were assessed with 16S rRNA gene fragments pyrosequencing. It was found that the samples differed significantly and Zn decreased both diversity and species richness at species and family levels, while plant species richness did not correlate with bacterial diversity. In spite of the differences between the samples, they shared many operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and it was possible to delineate the core microbiome of our sample set. The core set of OTUs comprised members of such taxa as Sphingomonas, Candidatus Solibacter, or Flexibacter showing that particular genera might be shared among sites ~40 km distant.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00248-013-0344-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3962847  PMID: 24402360
19.  An Affinity–Effect Relationship for Microbial Communities in Plant–Soil Feedback Loops 
Microbial Ecology  2014;67(4):866-876.
Feedback loops involving soil microorganisms can regulate plant populations. Here, we hypothesize that microorganisms are most likely to play a role in plant–soil feedback loops when they possess an affinity for a particular plant and the capacity to consistently affect the growth of that plant for good or ill. We characterized microbial communities using whole-community DNA fingerprinting from multiple "home-and-away" experiments involving giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida L.) and common sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.), and we looked for affinity–effect relationships in these microbial communities. Using canonical ordination and partial least squares regression, we developed indices expressing each microorganism's affinity for ragweed or sunflower and its putative effect on plant biomass, and we used linear regression to analyze the relationship between microbial affinity and effect. Significant linear affinity–effect relationships were found in 75 % of cases. Affinity–effect relationships were stronger for ragweed than for sunflower, and ragweed affinity–effect relationships showed consistent potential for negative feedback loops. The ragweed feedback relationships indicated the potential involvement of multiple microbial taxa, resulting in strong, consistent affinity–effect relationships in spite of large-scale microbial variability between trials. In contrast, sunflower plant–soil feedback may involve just a few key players, making it more sensitive to underlying microbial variation. We propose that affinity–effect relationship can be used to determine key microbial players in plant–soil feedback against a low "signal-to-noise" background of complex microbial datasets.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00248-013-0349-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3984409  PMID: 24402363
20.  Airborne Bacterial Populations Above Desert Soils of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica 
Microbial Ecology  2013;67(1):120-128.
Bacteria are assumed to disperse widely via aerosolized transport due to their small size and resilience. The question of microbial endemicity in isolated populations is directly related to the level of airborne exogenous inputs, yet this has proven hard to identify. The ice-free terrestrial ecosystem of Antarctica, a geographically and climatically isolated continent, was used to interrogate microbial bio-aerosols in relation to the surrounding ecology and climate. High-throughput sequencing of bacterial ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes was combined with analyses of climate patterns during an austral summer. In general terms, the aerosols were dominated by Firmicutes, whereas surrounding soils supported Actinobacteria-dominated communities. The most abundant taxa were also common to aerosols from other continents, suggesting that a distinct bio-aerosol community is widely dispersed. No evidence for significant marine input to bio-aerosols was found at this maritime valley site, instead local influence was largely from nearby volcanic sources. Back trajectory analysis revealed transport of incoming regional air masses across the Antarctic Plateau, and this is envisaged as a strong selective force. It is postulated that local soil microbial dispersal occurs largely via stochastic mobilization of mineral soil particulates.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00248-013-0296-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3907674  PMID: 24121801
21.  Francisella tularensis Subspecies holarctica Occurs in Swedish Mosquitoes, Persists Through the Developmental Stages of Laboratory-Infected Mosquitoes and Is Transmissible During Blood Feeding 
Microbial Ecology  2013;67(1):96-107.
In Sweden, mosquitoes are considered the major vectors of the bacterium Francisella tularensis subsp. holarctica, which causes tularaemia. The aim of this study was to investigate whether mosquitoes acquire the bacterium as aquatic larvae and transmit the disease as adults. Mosquitoes sampled in a Swedish area where tularaemia is endemic (Örebro) were positive for the presence of F. tularensis deoxyribonucleic acid throughout the summer. Presence of the clinically relevant F. tularensis subsp. holarctica was confirmed in 11 out of the 14 mosquito species sampled. Experiments performed using laboratory-reared Aedes aegypti confirmed that F. tularensis subsp. holarctica was transstadially maintained from orally infected larvae to adult mosquitoes and that 25 % of the adults exposed as larvae were positive for the presence of F. tularensis-specific sequences for at least 2 weeks. In addition, we found that F. tularensis subsp. holarctica was transmitted to 58 % of the adult mosquitoes feeding on diseased mice. In a small-scale in vivo transmission experiment with F. tularensis subsp. holarctica-positive adult mosquitoes and susceptible mice, none of the animals developed tularaemia. However, we confirmed that there was transmission of the bacterium to blood vials by mosquitoes that had been exposed to the bacterium in the larval stage. Taken together, these results provide evidence that mosquitoes play a role in disease transmission in part of Sweden where tularaemia recurs.
PMCID: PMC3907667  PMID: 24057273
22.  A Unique Signal Distorts the Perception of Species Richness and Composition in High-Throughput Sequencing Surveys of Microbial Communities: a Case Study of Fungi in Indoor Dust 
Microbial Ecology  2013;66(4):735-741.
Sequence-based surveys of microorganisms in varied environments have found extremely diverse assemblages. A standard practice in current high-throughput sequence (HTS) approaches in microbial ecology is to sequence the composition of many environmental samples at once by pooling amplicon libraries at a common concentration before processing on one run of a sequencing platform. Biomass of the target taxa, however, is not typically determined prior to HTS, and here, we show that when abundances of the samples differ to a large degree, this standard practice can lead to a perceived bias in community richness and composition. Fungal signal in settled dust of five university teaching laboratory classrooms, one of which was used for a mycology course, was surveyed. The fungal richness and composition in the dust of the nonmycology classrooms were remarkably similar to each other, while the mycology classroom was dominated by abundantly sporulating specimen fungi, particularly puffballs, and appeared to have a lower overall richness based on rarefaction curves and richness estimators. The fungal biomass was three to five times higher in the mycology classroom than the other classrooms, indicating that fungi added to the mycology classroom swamped the background fungi present in indoor air. Thus, the high abundance of a few taxa can skew the perception of richness and composition when samples are sequenced to an even depth. Next, we used in silico manipulations of the observed data to confirm that a unique signature can be identified with HTS approaches when the source is abundant, whether or not the taxon identity is distinct. Lastly, aerobiology of indoor fungi is discussed.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00248-013-0266-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3824195  PMID: 23880792
23.  A Microbial Link between Elevated CO2 and Methane Emissions that is Plant Species-Specific 
Microbial Ecology  2013;66(3):621-629.
Rising atmospheric CO2 levels alter the physiology of many plant species, but little is known of changes to root dynamics that may impact soil microbial mediation of greenhouse gas emissions from wetlands. We grew co-occurring wetland plant species that included an invasive reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea L.) and a native woolgrass (Scirpus cyperinus L.) in a controlled greenhouse facility under ambient (380 ppm) and elevated atmospheric CO2 (700 ppm). We hypothesized that elevated atmospheric CO2 would increase the abundance of both archaeal methanogen and bacterial methanotroph populations through stimulation of plant root and shoot biomass. We found that methane levels emitted from S. cyperinus shoots increased 1.5-fold under elevated CO2, while no changes in methane levels were detected from P. arundincea. The increase in methane emissions was not explained by enhanced root or shoot growth of S. cyperinus. Principal components analysis of the total phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) recovered from microbial cell membranes revealed that elevated CO2 levels shifted the composition of the microbial community under S. cyperinus, while no changes were detected under P. arundinacea. More detailed analysis of microbial abundance showed no impact of elevated CO2 on a fatty acid indicative of methanotrophic bacteria (18:2ω6c), and no changes were detected in the terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) relative abundance profiles of acetate-utilizing archaeal methanogens. Plant carbon depleted in 13C was traced into the PLFAs of soil microorganisms as a measure of the plant contribution to microbial PLFA. The relative contribution of plant-derived carbon to PLFA carbon was larger in S. cyperinus compared with P. arundinacea in four PLFAs (i14:0, i15:0, a15:0, and 18:1ω9t). The δ13C isotopic values indicate that the contribution of plant-derived carbon to microbial lipids could differ in rhizospheres of CO2-responsive plant species, such as S. cyperinus in this study. The results from this study show that the CO2–methane link found in S. cyperinus can occur without a corresponding change in methanogen and methanotroph relative abundances, but PLFA analysis indicated shifts in the community profile of bacteria and fungi that were unique to rhizospheres under elevated CO2.
PMCID: PMC3776251  PMID: 23784452
24.  Fidelity Among Sirex Woodwasps and Their Fungal Symbionts 
Microbial Ecology  2013;65(3):753-762.
We report that associations between mutualistic fungi and their economically and ecologically important woodwasp hosts are not always specific as was previously assumed. Woodwasps in the genus Sirex engage in obligate nutritional ectosymbioses with two species of Amylostereum, a homobasid\iomycete genus of white rot fungi. In the present study, the Amylostereum species and genotypes associated with three species of Sirex native to eastern North America and one relatively recent invasive Sirex from Europe were investigated by comparing intergenic spacer regions (IGS). Sirex spp. were sampled over 6 years from 23 sites in six US states, ranging from Maine in the northeast to Louisiana in the southeast, to obtain samples of Amylostereum from mycangia of adult females. Two of the native Sirex species (Sirex nigricornis and Sirex nitidus) were associated with either Amylostereum chailletii or Amylostereum areolatum, refuting the hypothesis of strict species-specific relationships. However, the invasive Sirex noctilio and the native Sirex cyaneus were each collected with only A. areolatum or A. chailletii, respectively, although S. noctilio was associated with two different IGS genotypes of A. areolatum and S. cyaneus occurs sympatrically with the other native Sirex. In Pinus, the preferred host tree of S. nigricornis and S. noctilio, these species co-occurred in 25.9 % of trees sampled, and horizontal transmission of fungal strains from S. noctilio to S. nigricornis was documented, although only in one tree. The extent that further spread and establishment of S. noctilio will alter the composition of symbionts carried by native Sirex is unknown but will depend in part on the degree of flexibility in these host–symbiont associations.
PMCID: PMC3622004  PMID: 23532503
25.  Characterization of the Bacterial Diversity in Indo-West Pacific Loliginid and Sepiolid Squid Light Organs 
Microbial ecology  2012;65(1):214-226.
Loliginid and sepiolid squid light organs are known to host a variety of bacterial species from the family Vibrionaceae, yet little is known about the species diversity and characteristics among different host squids. Here we present a broad-ranging molecular and physiological analysis of the bacteria colonizing light organs in loliginid and sepiolid squids from various field locations of the Indo-West Pacific (Australia and Thailand). Our PCR-RFLP analysis, physiological characterization, carbon utilization profiling, and electron microscopy data indicate that loliginid squid in the Indo-West Pacific carry a consortium of bacterial species from the families Vibrionaceae and Photobacteriaceae. This research also confirms our previous report of the presence of Vibrio harveyi as a member of the bacterial population colonizing light organs in loliginid squid. pyrH sequence data were used to confirm isolate identity, and indicates that Vibrio and Photobacterium comprise most of the light organ colonizers of squids from Australia, confirming previous reports for Australian loliginid and sepiolid squids. In addition, combined phylogenetic analysis of PCR-RFLP and 16S rDNA data from Australian and Thai isolates associated both Photobacterium and Vibrio clades with both loliginid and sepiolid strains, providing support that geographical origin does not correlate with their relatedness. These results indicate that both loliginid and sepiolid squids demonstrate symbiont specificity (Vibrionaceae), but their distribution is more likely due to environmental factors that are present during the infection process. This study adds significantly to the growing evidence for complex and dynamic associations in nature and highlights the importance of exploring symbiotic relationships in which non-virulent strains of pathogenic Vibrio species could establish associations with marine invertebrates.
PMCID: PMC3557516  PMID: 22885637

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