Microbial metabolism has the potential to impact the evolutionary ecology of a system across various spatial and temporal scales ranging from the scope of a single cell, ecosystem, to the earth as a whole. Understanding how microbial communities function is critical to unraveling how they underpin human health, and predicting global ecosystem dynamics, especially in the context of environmental perturbations like anthropogenic global change. The broad goal of our research is to unravel how (i) fine-scale genomic diversity impacts microbial community structure and function across various environments, (ii) individual microbes function in a community context, and (iii) microbes impact biogeochemical cycling at various spatial and temporal scales.
Evolutionary ecology of microbial sulfur metabolism. Microorganisms control and modulate transformations associated with the element sulfur in natural and engineered systems. Sulfur plays a central role in biochemistry, impacts carbon and nitrogen turnover in various environments, and is critical to maintaining the health of oceans in the future. We use biotic sulfur transformations as a model to study the evolution and ecology of microbial energy metabolism. These processes are abundant across both aerobic (sulfur oxidation) and anaerobic environments (sulfate reduction). We utilize a combination of fieldwork, laboratory experiments, and multi-omics based approaches to investigate the microbiology of sulfureous environments such as deep-sea hydrothermal vents, freshwater ecosystems, and the human gut.
Microbial community interactions. Recent advances in DNA sequencing and bioinformatics approaches have enabled the recovery of thousands of strain-resolved microbial genomes from a single ecosystem thereby providing a window into fine scale microbial interactions and metabolic networks in complex communities. Broadly, we are interested in studying three types of interactions in microbial communities using sulfur transformations as a model – virus-microbe, microbe-microbe, and microbial “metabolic handoffs”. We focus on virus-microbe interactions involving “auxiliary metabolic genes”, which are host-derived genes utilized by viruses in selfishly altering microbial metabolism. We also study microbe-microbe interactions, and “metabolic handoffs” primarily focused on dissimilatory sulfur metabolism. We seek to quantify and predict the impact of such interactions on biogeochemical cycling at cellular, ecosystem, and global scales.
The molecular and ecological factors shaping horizontal gene transfer (HGT) via natural transformation in microbial communities are largely unknown, which is critical for understanding the emergence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. We investigate key factors shaping HGT in a microbial co-culture by quantifying extracellular DNA release, species growth, and HGT efficiency over time. In the co-culture, plasmid release and HGT efficiency are significantly enhanced than in the respective monocultures. The donor is a key determinant of HGT efficiency as plasmids induce the SOS response, enter a multimerized state, and are released in high concentrations, enabling efficient HGT. However, HGT is reduced in response to high donor lysis rates. HGT is independent of the donor viability state as both live and dead cells transfer the plasmid with high efficiency. In sum, plasmid HGT via natural transformation depends on the interplay of plasmid properties, donor stress responses and lysis rates, and interspecies interactions.
When deep-sea hydrothermal fluids mix with cold oxygenated fluids, minerals precipitate out of solution and form hydrothermal deposits. These actively venting deep-sea hydrothermal deposits support a rich diversity of thermophilic microorganisms which are involved in a range of carbon, sulfur, nitrogen, and hydrogen metabolisms. Global patterns of thermophilic microbial diversity in deep-sea hydrothermal ecosystems have illustrated the strong connectivity between geological processes and microbial colonization, but little is known about the genomic diversity and physiological potential of these novel taxa. Here we explore this genomic diversity in 42 metagenomes from four deep-sea hydrothermal vent fields and a deep-sea volcano collected from 2004 to 2018 and document their potential implications in biogeochemical cycles.
The gut microbiome of vertebrates is capable of numerous biotransformations of bile acids, which are responsible for intestinal lipid digestion and function as key nutrient-signaling molecules. The human liver produces bile acids from cholesterol predominantly in the A/B-cis orientation in which the sterol rings are "kinked", as well as small quantities of A/B-trans oriented "flat" stereoisomers known as "primary allo-bile acids". While the complex multi-step bile acid 7α-dehydroxylation pathway has been well-studied for conversion of "kinked" primary bile acids such as cholic acid (CA) and chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) to deoxycholic acid (DCA) and lithocholic acid (LCA), respectively, the enzymatic basis for the formation of "flat" stereoisomers allo-deoxycholic acid (allo-DCA) and allo-lithocholic acid (allo-LCA) by Firmicutes has remained unsolved for three decades. Here, we present a novel mechanism by which Firmicutes generate the "flat" bile acids allo-DCA and allo-LCA. The BaiA1 was shown to catalyze the final reduction from 3-oxo-allo-DCA to allo-DCA and 3-oxo-allo-LCA to allo-LCA. Phylogenetic and metagenomic analyses of human stool samples indicate that BaiP and BaiJ are encoded only in Firmicutes and differ from membrane-associated bile acid 5α-reductases recently reported in Bacteroidetes that indirectly generate allo-LCA from 3-oxo-Δ4-LCA. We further map the distribution of baiP and baiJ among Firmicutes in human metagenomes, demonstrating an increased abundance of the two genes in colorectal cancer (CRC) patients relative to healthy individuals.
Stroke leads to gut bacterial dysbiosis that impacts the post-stroke outcome. The gut microbiome also contains a high abundance of viruses which might play a crucial role in disease progression and recovery by modulating the metabolism of both host and host's gut bacteria. We presently analyzed the virome composition (viruses and phages) by shotgun metagenomics in the fecal samples obtained at 1 day of reperfusion following transient focal ischemia in adult mice. Viral genomes, viral auxiliary metabolic genes, and viral protein networks were compared between stroke and sham conditions (stroke vs sham, exclusive to sham and exclusive to stroke). Following focal ischemia, abundances of 2 viral taxa decreased, and 5 viral taxa increased compared with the sham. Furthermore, the abundance of Clostridia-like phages and Erysipelatoclostridiaceae-like phages were altered in the stroke compared with the sham cohorts. This is the first report to show that the gut virome responds acutely to stroke.
Genome binning has been essential for characterization of bacteria, archaea, and even eukaryotes from metagenomes. Yet, few approaches exist for viruses. We developed vRhyme, a fast and precise software for construction of viral metagenome-assembled genomes (vMAGs). vRhyme utilizes single- or multi-sample coverage effect size comparisons between scaffolds and employs supervised machine learning to identify nucleotide feature similarities, which are compiled into iterations of weighted networks and refined bins. To refine bins, vRhyme utilizes unique features of viral genomes, namely a protein redundancy scoring mechanism based on the observation that viruses seldom encode redundant genes. Using simulated viromes, we displayed superior performance of vRhyme compared to available binning tools in constructing more complete and uncontaminated vMAGs. When applied to 10,601 viral scaffolds from human skin, vRhyme advanced our understanding of resident viruses, highlighted by identification of a Herelleviridae vMAG comprised of 22 scaffolds, and another vMAG encoding a nitrate reductase metabolic gene, representing near-complete genomes post-binning. vRhyme will enable a convention of binning uncultivated viral genomes and has the potential to transform metagenome-based viral ecology.
Recent evidence implicates microbial sulfidogenesis as a potential trigger of colorectal cancer (CRC), highlighting the need for comprehensive knowledge of sulfur metabolism within the human gut. Microbial sulfidogenesis produces genotoxic hydrogen sulfide (HS) in the human colon using inorganic (sulfate) and organic (taurine/cysteine/methionine) substrates; however, the majority of studies have focused on sulfate reduction using dissimilatory sulfite reductases (Dsr).
Temperate phages (prophages) are ubiquitous in nature and persist as dormant components of host cells (lysogenic stage) before activating and lysing the host (lytic stage). Actively replicating prophages contribute to central community processes, such as enabling bacterial virulence, manipulating biogeochemical cycling, and driving microbial community diversification. Recent advances in sequencing technology have allowed for the identification and characterization of diverse phages, yet no approaches currently exist for identifying if a prophage has activated. Here, we present PropagAtE (Prophage Activity Estimator), an automated software tool for estimating if a prophage is in the lytic or lysogenic stage of infection. PropagAtE uses statistical analyses of prophage-to-host read coverage ratios to decipher actively replicating prophages, irrespective of whether prophages were induced or spontaneously activated. We demonstrate that PropagAtE is fast, accurate, and sensitive, regardless of sequencing depth. Application of PropagAtE to prophages from 348 complex metagenomes from human gut, murine gut, and soil environments identified distinct spatial and temporal prophage activation signatures, with the highest proportion of active prophages in murine gut samples. In infants treated with antibiotics or infants without treatment, we identified active prophage populations correlated with specific treatment groups. Within time series samples from the human gut, 11 prophage populations, some encoding the sulfur metabolism gene cysH or a rhuM -like virulence factor, were consistently present over time but not active. Overall, PropagAtE will facilitate accurate representations of viruses in microbiomes by associating prophages with their active roles in shaping microbial communities in nature. IMPORTANCE Viruses that infect bacteria are key components of microbiomes and ecosystems. They can kill and manipulate microorganisms, drive planetary-scale processes and biogeochemical cycling, and influence the structures of entire food networks. Prophages are viruses that can exist in a dormant state within the genome of their host (lysogenic stage) before activating in order to replicate and kill the host (lytic stage). Recent advances have allowed for the identification of diverse viruses in nature, but no approaches exist for characterizing prophages and their stages of infection (prophage activity). We develop and benchmark an automated approach, PropagAtE, to identify the stages of infection of prophages from genomic data. We provide evidence that active prophages vary in identity and abundance across multiple environments and scales. Our approach will enable accurate and unbiased analyses of viruses in microbiomes and ecosystems.
Advances in microbiome science are being driven in large part due to our ability to study and infer microbial ecology from genomes reconstructed from mixed microbial communities using metagenomics and single-cell genomics. Such omics-based techniques allow us to read genomic blueprints of microorganisms, decipher their functional capacities and activities, and reconstruct their roles in biogeochemical processes. Currently available tools for analyses of genomic data can annotate and depict metabolic functions to some extent; however, no standardized approaches are currently available for the comprehensive characterization of metabolic predictions, metabolite exchanges, microbial interactions, and microbial contributions to biogeochemical cycling.
Viruses are diverse biological entities that influence all life. Even with limited genome sizes, viruses can manipulate, drive, steal from, and kill their hosts. The field of virus genomics, using sequencing data to understand viral capabilities, has seen significant innovations in recent years. However, with advancements in metagenomic sequencing and related technologies, the bottleneck to discovering and employing the virosphere has become the analysis of genomes rather than generation. With metagenomics rapidly expanding available data, vital components of virus genomes and features are being overlooked, with the issue compounded by lagging databases and bioinformatics methods. Despite the field moving in a positive direction, there are noteworthy points to keep in mind, from how software-based virus genome predictions are interpreted to what information is overlooked by current standards. In this review, we discuss conventions and ideologies that likely need to be revised while continuing forward in the study of virus genomics.
Polysaccharide utilization loci (PULs) are co-regulated bacterial genes that sense nutrients and enable glycan digestion. Human gut microbiome members, notably Bacteroides, contain numerous PULs that enable glycan utilization and shape ecological dynamics. To investigate the role of PULs on fitness and inter-species interactions, we develop a CRISPR-based genome editing tool to study 23 PULs in Bacteroides uniformis (BU). BU PULs show distinct glycan-degrading functions and transcriptional coordination that enables the population to adapt upon loss of other PULs. Exploiting a BU mutant barcoding strategy, we demonstrate that in vitro fitness and BU colonization in the murine gut are enhanced by deletion of specific PULs and modulated by glycan availability. PULs mediate glycan-dependent interactions with butyrate producers that depend on the degradation mechanism and glycan utilization ability of the butyrate producer. Thus, PULs determine community dynamics and butyrate production and provide a selective advantage or disadvantage depending on the nutritional landscape.
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Viruses are ubiquitous on Earth and are keystone components of environments, ecosystems, and human health. Yet, viruses remain poorly studied because most cannot be isolated in a laboratory. In the field of biogeochemistry, which aims to understand the interactions between biology, geology, and chemistry, there is progress to be made in understanding the different roles played by viruses in nutrient cycling, food webs, and elemental transformations. In this commentary, we outline current microbial ecology frameworks for understanding biogeochemical cycling in aquatic ecosystems. Next, we review some existing experimental and computational techniques that are enabling us to study the role of viruses in biogeochemical cycling, using examples from aquatic environments. Finally, we provide a conceptual model that balances limitations of computational tools when combined with biogeochemistry and ecological data. We envision meeting the grand challenge of understanding how viruses impact biogeochemical cycling by using a multifaceted approach to viral ecology.
Viruses influence the fate of nutrients and human health by killing microorganisms and altering metabolic processes. Organosulfur metabolism and biologically derived hydrogen sulfide play dynamic roles in manifestation of diseases, infrastructure degradation, and essential biological processes. Although microbial organosulfur metabolism is well studied, the role of viruses in organosulfur metabolism is unknown. Here, we report the discovery of 39 gene families involved in organosulfur metabolism encoded by 3,749 viruses from diverse ecosystems, including human microbiomes. The viruses infect organisms from all three domains of life. Six gene families encode for enzymes that degrade organosulfur compounds into sulfide, whereas others manipulate organosulfur compounds and may influence sulfide production. We show that viral metabolic genes encode key enzymatic domains, are translated into protein, and are maintained after recombination, and sulfide provides a fitness advantage to viruses. Our results reveal viruses as drivers of organosulfur metabolism with important implications for human and environmental health.
Microbial sulfur metabolism contributes to biogeochemical cycling on global scales. Sulfur metabolizing microbes are infected by phages that can encode auxiliary metabolic genes (AMGs) to alter sulfur metabolism within host cells but remain poorly characterized. Here we identified 191 phages derived from twelve environments that encoded 227 AMGs for oxidation of sulfur and thiosulfate (dsrA, dsrC/tusE, soxC, soxD and soxYZ). Evidence for retention of AMGs during niche-differentiation of diverse phage populations provided evidence that auxiliary metabolism imparts measurable fitness benefits to phages with ramifications for ecosystem biogeochemistry. Gene abundance and expression profiles of AMGs suggested significant contributions by phages to sulfur and thiosulfate oxidation in freshwater lakes and oceans, and a sensitive response to changing sulfur concentrations in hydrothermal environments. Overall, our study provides fundamental insights on the distribution, diversity, and ecology of phage auxiliary metabolism associated with sulfur and reinforces the necessity of incorporating viral contributions into biogeochemical configurations.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease characterized in seropositive individuals by the presence of anti-cyclic citrullinated protein (CCP) antibodies. RA is linked to the intestinal microbiota, yet the association of microbes with CCP serology and their contribution to RA is unclear. We describe intestinal phage communities of individuals at risk for developing RA, with or without anti-CCP antibodies, whose first-degree relatives have been diagnosed with RA. We show that at-risk individuals harbor intestinal phage compositions that diverge based on CCP serology, are dominated by Streptococcaceae, Bacteroidaceae, and Lachnospiraceae phages, and may originate from disparate ecosystems. These phages encode unique repertoires of auxiliary metabolic genes, which associate with anti-CCP status, suggesting that these phages directly influence the metabolic and immunomodulatory capability of the microbiota. This work sets the stage for the use of phages as preclinical biomarkers and provides insight into a possible microbial-based causation of RA disease development.
Bile acids are detergent molecules that solubilize dietary lipids and lipid-soluble vitamins. Humans synthesize bile acids with α-orientation hydroxyl groups which can be biotransformed by gut microbiota to toxic, hydrophobic bile acids, such as deoxycholic acid (DCA). Gut microbiota can also convert hydroxyl groups from the α-orientation through an oxo-intermediate to the β-orientation, resulting in more hydrophilic, less toxic bile acids. This interconversion is catalyzed by regio- (C-3 vs. C-7) and stereospecific (α vs. β) hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases (HSDHs). So far, genes encoding the urso- (7α-HSDH & 7β-HSDH) and iso- (3α-HSDH & 3β-HSDH) bile acid pathways have been described. Recently, multiple human gut clostridia were reported to encode 12α-HSDH, which interconverts DCA and 12-oxolithocholic acid (12-oxoLCA). 12β-HSDH completes the epi-bile acid pathway by converting 12-oxoLCA to the 12β-bile acid denoted epiDCA; however, a gene(s) encoding this enzyme has yet to be identified. We confirmed 12β-HSDH activity in cultures of Clostridium paraputrificum ATCC 25780. From six candidate C. paraputrificum ATCC 25780 oxidoreductase genes, we discovered the first gene (DR024_RS09610) encoding bile acid 12β-HSDH. Phylogenetic analysis revealed unforeseen diversity for 12β-HSDH, leading to validation of two additional bile acid 12β-HSDHs through a synthetic biology approach. By comparison to a previous phylogenetic analysis of 12α-HSDH, we identified the first potential C-12 epimerizing strains: Collinsella tanakaei YIT 12063 and Collinsella stercoris DSM 13279. A Hidden Markov Model search against human gut metagenomes located putative 12β-HSDH genes in about 30% of subjects within the cohorts analyzed, indicating this gene is relevant in the human gut microbiome.
Lake Tanganyika (LT) is the largest tropical freshwater lake, and the largest body of anoxic freshwater on Earth's surface. LT's mixed oxygenated surface waters float atop a permanently anoxic layer and host rich animal biodiversity. However, little is known about microorganisms inhabiting LT's 1470 meter deep water column and their contributions to nutrient cycling, which affect ecosystem-level function and productivity. Here, we applied genome-resolved metagenomics and environmental analyses to link specific taxa to key biogeochemical processes across a vertical depth gradient in LT. We reconstructed 523 unique metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) from 34 bacterial and archaeal phyla, including many rarely observed in freshwater lakes. We identified sharp contrasts in community composition and metabolic potential with an abundance of typical freshwater taxa in oxygenated mixed upper layers, and Archaea and uncultured Candidate Phyla in deep anoxic waters. Genomic capacity for nitrogen and sulfur cycling was abundant in MAGs recovered from anoxic waters, highlighting microbial contributions to the productive surface layers via recycling of upwelled nutrients, and greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide. Overall, our study provides a blueprint for incorporation of aquatic microbial genomics in the representation of tropical freshwater lakes, especially in the context of ongoing climate change, which is predicted to bring increased stratification and anoxia to freshwater lakes.
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Deep-sea hydrothermal plumes are considered natural laboratories for understanding ecological and biogeochemical interactions. Previous studies focused on interactions between microorganisms and inorganic, reduced hydrothermal inputs including sulfur, hydrogen, iron, and manganese. However, little is known about transformations of organic compounds, especially methylated, sulfur-containing compounds, and petroleum hydrocarbons. Here, we reconstructed nine gammaproteobacterial metagenome-assembled genomes, affiliated with Methylococcales, Methylophaga, and Cycloclasticus, from three hydrothermal ecosystems. We present evidence that these three groups have high transcriptional activities of genes encoding cycling of C-compounds, petroleum hydrocarbons, and organic sulfur in hydrothermal plumes. This includes oxidation of methanethiol, the simplest thermochemically-derived organic sulfur, for energy metabolism in Methylococcales and Cycloclasticus. Together with active transcription of genes for thiosulfate and methane oxidation in Methylococcales, these results suggest an adaptive strategy of versatile and simultaneous use of multiple available electron donors. Meanwhile, the first near-complete MAG of hydrothermal Methylophaga aminisulfidivorans and its transcriptional profile point to active chemotaxis targeting small organic compounds. Petroleum hydrocarbon-degrading Cycloclasticus are abundant and active in plumes of oil spills as well as deep-sea vents, suggesting that they are indigenous and effectively respond to stimulus of hydrocarbons in the deep sea. These findings suggest that these three groups of Gammaproteobacteria transform organic carbon and sulfur compounds via versatile and opportunistic metabolism and modulate biogeochemistry in plumes of hydrothermal systems as well as oil spills, thus contributing broad ecological impact to the deep ocean globally.
Methylmercury is a potent bioaccumulating neurotoxin that is produced by specific microorganisms that methylate inorganic mercury. Methylmercury production in diverse anaerobic bacteria and archaea was recently linked to the hgcAB genes. However, the full phylogenetic and metabolic diversity of mercury-methylating microorganisms has not been fully unraveled due to the limited number of cultured experimentally verified methylators and the limitations of primer-based molecular methods. Here, we describe the phylogenetic diversity and metabolic flexibility of putative mercury-methylating microorganisms by hgcAB identification in publicly available isolate genomes and metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) as well as novel freshwater MAGs. We demonstrate that putative mercury methylators are much more phylogenetically diverse than previously known and that hgcAB distribution among genomes is most likely due to several independent horizontal gene transfer events. The microorganisms we identified possess diverse metabolic capabilities spanning carbon fixation, sulfate reduction, nitrogen fixation, and metal resistance pathways. We identified 111 putative mercury methylators in a set of previously published permafrost metatranscriptomes and demonstrated that different methylating taxa may contribute to hgcA expression at different depths. Overall, we provide a framework for illuminating the microbial basis of mercury methylation using genome-resolved metagenomics and metatranscriptomics to identify putative methylators based upon hgcAB presence and describe their putative functions in the environment. IMPORTANCE Accurately assessing the production of bioaccumulative neurotoxic methylmercury by characterizing the phylogenetic diversity, metabolic functions, and activity of methylators in the environment is crucial for understanding constraints on the mercury cycle. Much of our understanding of methylmercury production is based on cultured anaerobic microorganisms within the Deltaproteobacteria , Firmicutes , and Euryarchaeota. Advances in next-generation sequencing technologies have enabled large-scale cultivation-independent surveys of diverse and poorly characterized microorganisms from numerous ecosystems. We used genome-resolved metagenomics and metatranscriptomics to highlight the vast phylogenetic and metabolic diversity of putative mercury methylators and their depth-discrete activities in thawing permafrost. This work underscores the importance of using genome-resolved metagenomics to survey specific putative methylating populations of a given mercury-impacted ecosystem.
Viruses are central to microbial community structure in all environments. The ability to generate large metagenomic assemblies of mixed microbial and viral sequences provides the opportunity to tease apart complex microbiome dynamics, but these analyses are currently limited by the tools available for analyses of viral genomes and assessing their metabolic impacts on microbiomes.
The assembly of single-amplified genomes (SAGs) and metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) has led to a surge in genome-based discoveries of members affiliated with Archaea and Bacteria, bringing with it a need to develop guidelines for nomenclature of uncultivated microorganisms. The International Code of Nomenclature of Prokaryotes (ICNP) only recognizes cultures as 'type material', thereby preventing the naming of uncultivated organisms. In this Consensus Statement, we propose two potential paths to solve this nomenclatural conundrum. One option is the adoption of previously proposed modifications to the ICNP to recognize DNA sequences as acceptable type material; the other option creates a nomenclatural code for uncultivated Archaea and Bacteria that could eventually be merged with the ICNP in the future. Regardless of the path taken, we believe that action is needed now within the scientific community to develop consistent rules for nomenclature of uncultivated taxa in order to provide clarity and stability, and to effectively communicate microbial diversity.
Proteobacteria constitute one of the most diverse and abundant groups of microbes on Earth. In productive marine environments like deep-sea hydrothermal systems, Proteobacteria are implicated in autotrophy coupled to sulfur, methane, and hydrogen oxidation, sulfate reduction, and denitrification. Beyond chemoautotrophy, little is known about the ecological significance of poorly studied Proteobacteria lineages that are globally distributed and active in hydrothermal systems. Here we apply multi-omics to characterize 51 metagenome-assembled genomes from three hydrothermal vent plumes in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans that are affiliated with nine Proteobacteria lineages. Metabolic analyses revealed these organisms to contain a diverse functional repertoire including chemolithotrophic ability to utilize sulfur and C compounds, and chemoorganotrophic ability to utilize environment-derived fatty acids, aromatics, carbohydrates, and peptides. Comparative genomics with marine and terrestrial microbiomes suggests that lineage-associated functional traits could explain niche specificity. Our results shed light on the ecological functions and metabolic strategies of novel Proteobacteria in hydrothermal systems and beyond, and highlight the relationship between genome diversification and environmental adaptation.
Genomes are an integral component of the biological information about an organism; thus, the more complete the genome, the more informative it is. Historically, bacterial and archaeal genomes were reconstructed from pure (monoclonal) cultures, and the first reported sequences were manually curated to completion. However, the bottleneck imposed by the requirement for isolates precluded genomic insights for the vast majority of microbial life. Shotgun sequencing of microbial communities, referred to initially as community genomics and subsequently as genome-resolved metagenomics, can circumvent this limitation by obtaining metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs); but gaps, local assembly errors, chimeras, and contamination by fragments from other genomes limit the value of these genomes. Here, we discuss genome curation to improve and, in some cases, achieve complete (circularized, no gaps) MAGs (CMAGs). To date, few CMAGs have been generated, although notably some are from very complex systems such as soil and sediment. Through analysis of about 7000 published complete bacterial isolate genomes, we verify the value of cumulative GC skew in combination with other metrics to establish bacterial genome sequence accuracy. The analysis of cumulative GC skew identified potential misassemblies in some reference genomes of isolated bacteria and the repeat sequences that likely gave rise to them. We discuss methods that could be implemented in bioinformatic approaches for curation to ensure that metabolic and evolutionary analyses can be based on very high-quality genomes.
Bacteriophages typically have small genomes and depend on their bacterial hosts for replication. Here we sequenced DNA from diverse ecosystems and found hundreds of phage genomes with lengths of more than 200 kilobases (kb), including a genome of 735 kb, which is-to our knowledge-the largest phage genome to be described to date. Thirty-five genomes were manually curated to completion (circular and no gaps). Expanded genetic repertoires include diverse and previously undescribed CRISPR-Cas systems, transfer RNAs (tRNAs), tRNA synthetases, tRNA-modification enzymes, translation-initiation and elongation factors, and ribosomal proteins. The CRISPR-Cas systems of phages have the capacity to silence host transcription factors and translational genes, potentially as part of a larger interaction network that intercepts translation to redirect biosynthesis to phage-encoded functions. In addition, some phages may repurpose bacterial CRISPR-Cas systems to eliminate competing phages. We phylogenetically define the major clades of huge phages from human and other animal microbiomes, as well as from oceans, lakes, sediments, soils and the built environment. We conclude that the large gene inventories of huge phages reflect a conserved biological strategy, and that the phages are distributed across a broad bacterial host range and across Earth's ecosystems.
Soil microbial activity drives the carbon and nitrogen cycles and is an important determinant of atmospheric trace gas turnover, yet most soils are dominated by microorganisms with unknown metabolic capacities. Even Acidobacteria, among the most abundant bacteria in soil, remain poorly characterized, and functions across groups such as Verrucomicrobia, Gemmatimonadetes, Chloroflexi and Rokubacteria are understudied. Here, we have resolved 60 metagenomic and 20 proteomic data sets from a Mediterranean grassland soil ecosystem and recovered 793 near-complete microbial genomes from 18 phyla, representing around one-third of all microorganisms detected. Importantly, this enabled extensive genomics-based metabolic predictions for these communities. Acidobacteria from multiple previously unstudied classes have genomes that encode large enzyme complements for complex carbohydrate degradation. Alternatively, most microorganisms encode carbohydrate esterases that strip readily accessible methyl and acetyl groups from polymers like pectin and xylan, forming methanol and acetate, the availability of which could explain the high prevalence of C metabolism and acetate utilization in genomes. Microorganism abundances among samples collected at three soil depths and under natural and amended rainfall regimes indicate statistically higher associations of inorganic nitrogen metabolism and carbon degradation in deep and shallow soils, respectively. This partitioning decreased in samples under extended spring rainfall, indicating that long-term climate alteration can affect both carbon and nitrogen cycling. Overall, by leveraging natural and experimental gradients with genome-resolved metabolic profiles, we link microorganisms lacking prior genomic characterization to specific roles in complex carbon, C, nitrate and ammonia transformations, and constrain factors that impact their distributions in soil.
The original version of this Article contained errors in Fig. 4. In panel a, the labels 'F420-reducing NiFe hydrogenase (group 3a)' and 'Group 2 NiFe hydrogenase' were misplaced. These errors have been corrected in both the PDF and HTML versions of the Article.
Blooms of planktonic cyanobacteria have long been of concern in lakes, but more recently, harmful impacts of riverine benthic cyanobacterial mats been recognized. As yet, we know little about how various benthic cyanobacteria are distributed in river networks, or how environmental conditions or other associated microbes in their consortia affect their biosynthetic capacities. We performed metagenomic sequencing for 22 Oscillatoriales-dominated (Cyanobacteria) microbial mats collected across the Eel River network in Northern California and investigated factors associated with anatoxin-a producing cyanobacteria. All microbial communities were dominated by one or two cyanobacterial species, so the key mat metabolisms involve oxygenic photosynthesis and carbon oxidation. Only a few metabolisms fueled the growth of the mat communities, with little evidence for anaerobic metabolic pathways. We genomically defined four cyanobacterial species, all which shared
Bacteriophages (phages) dramatically shape microbial community composition, redistribute nutrients via host lysis and drive evolution through horizontal gene transfer. Despite their importance, much remains to be learned about phages in the human microbiome. We investigated the gut microbiomes of humans from Bangladesh and Tanzania, two African baboon social groups and Danish pigs; many of these microbiomes contain phages belonging to a clade with genomes >540 kilobases in length, the largest yet reported in the human microbiome and close to the maximum size ever reported for phages. We refer to these as Lak phages. CRISPR spacer targeting indicates that Lak phages infect bacteria of the genus Prevotella. We manually curated to completion 15 distinct Lak phage genomes recovered from metagenomes. The genomes display several interesting features, including use of an alternative genetic code, large intergenic regions that are highly expressed and up to 35 putative transfer RNAs, some of which contain enigmatic introns. Different individuals have distinct phage genotypes, and shifts in variant frequencies over consecutive sampling days reflect changes in the relative abundance of phage subpopulations. Recent homologous recombination has resulted in extensive genome admixture of nine baboon Lak phage populations. We infer that Lak phages are widespread in gut communities that contain the Prevotella species, and conclude that megaphages, with fascinating and underexplored biology, may be common but largely overlooked components of human and animal gut microbiomes.
The evolution of aerobic respiration was likely linked to the origins of oxygenic Cyanobacteria. Close phylogenetic neighbors to Cyanobacteria, such as Margulisbacteria (RBX-1 and ZB3), Saganbacteria (WOR-1), Melainabacteria and Sericytochromatia, may constrain the metabolic platform in which aerobic respiration arose. Here, we analyze genomic sequences and predict that sediment-associated Margulisbacteria have a fermentation-based metabolism featuring a variety of hydrogenases, a streamlined nitrogenase, and electron bifurcating complexes involved in cycling of reducing equivalents. The genomes of ocean-associated Margulisbacteria encode an electron transport chain that may support aerobic growth. Some Saganbacteria genomes encode various hydrogenases, and others may be able to use O under certain conditions via a putative novel type of heme copper O reductase. Similarly, Melainabacteria have diverse energy metabolisms and are capable of fermentation and aerobic or anaerobic respiration. The ancestor of all these groups may have been an anaerobe in which fermentation and H metabolism were central metabolic features. The ability to use O as a terminal electron acceptor must have been subsequently acquired by these lineages.
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The subterranean world hosts up to one-fifth of all biomass, including microbial communities that drive transformations central to Earth's biogeochemical cycles. However, little is known about how complex microbial communities in such environments are structured, and how inter-organism interactions shape ecosystem function. Here we apply terabase-scale cultivation-independent metagenomics to aquifer sediments and groundwater, and reconstruct 2,540 draft-quality, near-complete and complete strain-resolved genomes that represent the majority of known bacterial phyla as well as 47 newly discovered phylum-level lineages. Metabolic analyses spanning this vast phylogenetic diversity and representing up to 36% of organisms detected in the system are used to document the distribution of pathways in coexisting organisms. Consistent with prior findings indicating metabolic handoffs in simple consortia, we find that few organisms within the community can conduct multiple sequential redox transformations. As environmental conditions change, different assemblages of organisms are selected for, altering linkages among the major biogeochemical cycles.
The tree of life is one of the most important organizing principles in biology(1). Gene surveys suggest the existence of an enormous number of branches(2), but even an approximation of the full scale of the tree has remained elusive. Recent depictions of the tree of life have focused either on the nature of deep evolutionary relationships(3-5) or on the known, well-classified diversity of life with an emphasis on eukaryotes(6). These approaches overlook the dramatic change in our understanding of life's diversity resulting from genomic sampling of previously unexamined environments. New methods to generate genome sequences illuminate the identity of organisms and their metabolic capacities, placing them in community and ecosystem contexts(7,8). Here, we use new genomic data from over 1,000 uncultivated and little known organisms, together with published sequences, to infer a dramatically expanded version of the tree of life, with Bacteria, Archaea and Eukarya included. The depiction is both a global overview and a snapshot of the diversity within each major lineage. The results reveal the dominance of bacterial diversification and underline the importance of organisms lacking isolated representatives, with substantial evolution concentrated in a major radiation of such organisms. This tree highlights major lineages currently underrepresented in biogeochemical models and identifies radiations that are probably important for future evolutionary analyses.
No abstract available.
Five closely related populations of bacteria from the Candidate Phylum (CP) Peregrinibacteria, part of the bacterial Candidate Phyla Radiation (CPR), were sampled from filtered groundwater obtained from an aquifer adjacent to the Colorado River near the town of Rifle, CO, USA. Here, we present the first complete genome sequences for organisms from this phylum. These bacteria have small genomes and, unlike most organisms from other lineages in the CPR, have the capacity for nucleotide synthesis. They invest significantly in biosynthesis of cell wall and cell envelope components, including peptidoglycan, isoprenoids via the mevalonate pathway, and a variety of amino sugars including perosamine and rhamnose. The genomes encode an intriguing set of large extracellular proteins, some of which are very cysteine-rich and may function in attachment, possibly to other cells. Strain variation in these proteins is an important source of genotypic variety. Overall, the cell envelope features, combined with the lack of biosynthesis capacities for many required cofactors, fatty acids, and most amino acids point to a symbiotic lifestyle. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that these bacteria likely represent a new class within the Peregrinibacteria phylum, although they ultimately may be recognized as members of a separate phylum. We propose the provisional taxonomic assignment as 'Candidatus Peribacter riflensis', Genus Peribacter, Family Peribacteraceae, Order Peribacterales, Class Peribacteria in the phylum Peregrinibacteria.
Current understanding of microorganism-virus interactions, which shape the evolution and functioning of Earth's ecosystems, is based primarily on cultivated organisms. Here we investigate thousands of viral and microbial genomes recovered using a cultivation-independent approach to study the frequency, variety and taxonomic distribution of viral defence mechanisms. CRISPR-Cas systems that confer microorganisms with immunity to viruses are present in only 10% of 1,724 sampled microorganisms, compared with previous reports of 40% occurrence in bacteria and 81% in archaea. We attribute this large difference to the lack of CRISPR-Cas systems across major bacterial lineages that have no cultivated representatives. We correlate absence of CRISPR-Cas with lack of nucleotide biosynthesis capacity and a symbiotic lifestyle. Restriction systems are well represented in these lineages and might provide both non-specific viral defence and access to nucleotides.
Ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RubisCO) is a critical yet severely inefficient enzyme that catalyses the fixation of virtually all of the carbon found on Earth. Here, we report a functional metagenomic selection that recovers physiologically active RubisCO molecules directly from uncultivated and largely unknown members of natural microbial communities. Selection is based on CO2 -dependent growth in a host strain capable of expressing environmental deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), precluding the need for pure cultures or screening of recombinant clones for enzymatic activity. Seventeen functional RubisCO-encoded sequences were selected using DNA extracted from soil and river autotrophic enrichments, a photosynthetic biofilm and a subsurface groundwater aquifer. Notably, three related form II RubisCOs were recovered which share high sequence similarity with metagenomic scaffolds from uncultivated members of the Gallionellaceae family. One of the Gallionellaceae RubisCOs was purified and shown to possess CO2 /O2 specificity typical of form II enzymes. X-ray crystallography determined that this enzyme is a hexamer, only the second form II multimer ever solved and the first RubisCO structure obtained from an uncultivated bacterium. Functional metagenomic selection leverages natural biological diversity and billions of years of evolution inherent in environmental communities, providing a new window into the discovery of CO2 -fixing enzymes not previously characterized.
Microbial processes within deep-sea hydrothermal plumes affect ocean biogeochemistry on global scales. In rising hydrothermal plumes, a combination of microbial metabolism and particle formation processes initiate the transformation of reduced chemicals like hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen, methane, iron, manganese and ammonia that are abundant in hydrothermal vent fluids. Despite the biogeochemical importance of this rising portion of plumes, it is understudied in comparison to neutrally buoyant plumes. Here we use metagenomics and bioenergetic modeling to describe the abundance and genetic potential of microorganisms in relation to available electron donors in five different hydrothermal plumes and three associated background deep-sea waters from the Eastern Lau Spreading Center located in the Western Pacific Ocean. Three hundred and thirty one distinct genomic 'bins' were identified, comprising an estimated 951 genomes of archaea, bacteria, eukarya and viruses. A significant proportion of these genomes is from novel microorganisms and thus reveals insights into the energy metabolism of heretofore unknown microbial groups. Community-wide analyses of genes encoding enzymes that oxidize inorganic energy sources showed that sulfur oxidation was the most abundant and diverse chemolithotrophic microbial metabolism in the community. Genes for sulfur oxidation were commonly present in genomic bins that also contained genes for oxidation of hydrogen and methane, suggesting metabolic versatility in these microbial groups. The relative diversity and abundance of genes encoding hydrogen oxidation was moderate, whereas that of genes for methane and ammonia oxidation was low in comparison to sulfur oxidation. Bioenergetic-thermodynamic modeling supports the metagenomic analyses, showing that oxidation of elemental sulfur with oxygen is the most dominant catabolic reaction in the hydrothermal plumes. We conclude that the energy metabolism of microbial communities inhabiting rising hydrothermal plumes is dictated by the underlying plume chemistry, with a dominant role for sulfur-based chemolithoautotrophy.