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.
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 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 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 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 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 presence and describe their putative functions in the environment. 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 , , and 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 <96% average nucleotide identity with reference Oscillatoriales genomes and are potentially novel species in the genus Microcoleus. One of the Microcoleus species contained the anatoxin-a biosynthesis genes, and we describe the first anatoxin-a gene cluster from the Microcoleus clade within Oscillatoriales. Occurrence of these four Microcoleus species in the watershed was correlated with total dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations, and the species that contains the anatoxin-a gene cluster was found in sites with higher nitrogen concentrations. Microbial assemblages in mat samples with the anatoxin-a gene cluster consistently had a lower abundance of Burkholderiales (Betaproteobacteria) species than did mats without the anatoxin-producing genes. The associations of water nutrient concentrations and certain co-occurring microbes with anatoxin-a producing Microcoleus motivate further exploration for their roles as potential controls on the distributions of toxigenic benthic cyanobacteria in river networks.
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.
Although microbes mediate much of the biogeochemical cycling in freshwater, the categories of carbon and nutrients currently used in models of freshwater biogeochemical cycling are too broad to be relevant on a microbial scale. One way to improve these models is to incorporate microbial data. Here, we analyze both genes and genomes from three metagenomic time series and propose specific roles for microbial taxa in freshwater biogeochemical cycles. Our metagenomic time series span multiple years and originate from a eutrophic lake (Lake Mendota) and a humic lake (Trout Bog Lake) with contrasting water chemistry. Our analysis highlights the role of polyamines in the nitrogen cycle, the diversity of diazotrophs between lake types, the balance of assimilatory vs. dissimilatory sulfate reduction in freshwater, the various associations between types of phototrophy and carbon fixation, and the density and diversity of glycoside hydrolases in freshwater microbes. We also investigated aspects of central metabolism such as hydrogen metabolism, oxidative phosphorylation, methylotrophy, and sugar degradation. Finally, by analyzing the dynamics over time in nitrogen fixation genes and genomes, we show that the potential for nitrogen fixation is linked to specific populations in Lake Mendota. This work represents an important step towards incorporating microbial data into ecosystem models and provides a better understanding of how microbes may participate in freshwater biogeochemical cycling.
Candidate phyla radiation (CPR) bacteria and DPANN (an acronym of the names of the first included phyla) archaea are massive radiations of organisms that are widely distributed across Earth's environments, yet we know little about them. Initial indications are that they are consistently distinct from essentially all other bacteria and archaea owing to their small cell and genome sizes, limited metabolic capacities and often episymbiotic associations with other bacteria and archaea. In this Analysis, we investigate their biology and variations in metabolic capacities by analysis of approximately 1,000 genomes reconstructed from several metagenomics-based studies. We find that they are not monolithic in terms of metabolism but rather harbour a diversity of capacities consistent with a range of lifestyles and degrees of dependence on other organisms. Notably, however, certain CPR and DPANN groups seem to have exceedingly minimal biosynthetic capacities, whereas others could potentially be free living. Understanding of these microorganisms is important from the perspective of evolutionary studies and because their interactions with other organisms are likely to shape natural microbiome function.
A critical step in the biogeochemical cycle of sulfur on Earth is microbial sulfate reduction, yet organisms from relatively few lineages have been implicated in this process. Previous studies using functional marker genes have detected abundant, novel dissimilatory sulfite reductases (DsrAB) that could confer the capacity for microbial sulfite/sulfate reduction but were not affiliated with known organisms. Thus, the identity of a significant fraction of sulfate/sulfite-reducing microbes has remained elusive. Here we report the discovery of the capacity for sulfate/sulfite reduction in the genomes of organisms from 13 bacterial and archaeal phyla, thereby more than doubling the number of microbial phyla associated with this process. Eight of the 13 newly identified groups are candidate phyla that lack isolated representatives, a finding only possible given genomes from metagenomes. Organisms from Verrucomicrobia and two candidate phyla, Candidatus Rokubacteria and Candidatus Hydrothermarchaeota, contain some of the earliest evolved dsrAB genes. The capacity for sulfite reduction has been laterally transferred in multiple events within some phyla, and a key gene potentially capable of modulating sulfur metabolism in associated cells has been acquired by putatively symbiotic bacteria. We conclude that current functional predictions based on phylogeny significantly underestimate the extent of sulfate/sulfite reduction across Earth's ecosystems. Understanding the prevalence of this capacity is integral to interpreting the carbon cycle because sulfate reduction is often coupled to turnover of buried organic carbon. Our findings expand the diversity of microbial groups associated with sulfur transformations in the environment and motivate revision of biogeochemical process models based on microbial community composition.
An enormous diversity of previously unknown bacteria and archaea has been discovered recently, yet their functional capacities and distributions in the terrestrial subsurface remain uncertain. Here, we continually sampled a CO-driven geyser (Colorado Plateau, Utah, USA) over its 5-day eruption cycle to test the hypothesis that stratified, sandstone-hosted aquifers sampled over three phases of the eruption cycle have microbial communities that differ both in membership and function. Genome-resolved metagenomics, single-cell genomics and geochemical analyses confirmed this hypothesis and linked microorganisms to groundwater compositions from different depths. Autotrophic Candidatus "Altiarchaeum sp." and phylogenetically deep-branching nanoarchaea dominate the deepest groundwater. A nanoarchaeon with limited metabolic capacity is inferred to be a potential symbiont of the Ca. "Altiarchaeum". Candidate Phyla Radiation bacteria are also present in the deepest groundwater and they are relatively abundant in water from intermediate depths. During the recovery phase of the geyser, microaerophilic Fe- and S-oxidizers have high in situ genome replication rates. Autotrophic Sulfurimonas sustained by aerobic sulfide oxidation and with the capacity for N fixation dominate the shallow aquifer. Overall, 104 different phylum-level lineages are present in water from these subsurface environments, with uncultivated archaea and bacteria partitioned to the deeper subsurface.
spp. distantly related to thermophilic, sulfate-reducing species are regularly observed in environmental surveys of anoxic marine and freshwater habitats. Here we present a metaproteogenomic analysis of bacterium Nbg-4 as a representative of this clade. Its genome was assembled from replicated metagenomes of rice paddy soil that was used to grow rice in the presence and absence of gypsum (CaSO·2HO). Nbg-4 encoded the full pathway of dissimilatory sulfate reduction and showed expression of this pathway in gypsum-amended anoxic bulk soil as revealed by parallel metaproteomics. In addition, Nbg-4 encoded the full pathway of dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonia (DNRA), with expression of its first step being detected in bulk soil without gypsum amendment. The relative abundances of Nbg-4 were similar under both treatments, indicating that Nbg-4 maintained stable populations while shifting its energy metabolism. Whether Nbg-4 is a strict sulfate reducer or can couple sulfur oxidation to DNRA by operating the pathway of dissimilatory sulfate reduction in reverse could not be resolved. Further genome reconstruction revealed the potential to utilize butyrate, formate, H, or acetate as an electron donor; the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway was expressed under both treatments. Comparison to publicly available genome bins revealed the pathway for dissimilatory sulfate reduction also in related recovered from groundwater. Subsequent phylogenomics showed that such microorganisms form a novel genus within the , with Nbg-4 as a representative species. Based on the widespread occurrence of this novel genus, we propose for Nbg-4 the name " Sulfobium mesophilum," gen. nov., sp. nov. Rice paddies are indispensable for the food supply but are a major source of the greenhouse gas methane. If it were not counterbalanced by cryptic sulfur cycling, methane emission from rice paddy fields would be even higher. However, the microorganisms involved in this sulfur cycling are little understood. By using an environmental systems biology approach with Italian rice paddy soil, we could retrieve the population genome of a novel member of the phylum This microorganism encoded the full pathway of dissimilatory sulfate reduction and expressed it in anoxic paddy soil under sulfate-enriched conditions. Phylogenomics and comparison to the results of environmental surveys showed that such microorganisms are actually widespread in freshwater and marine environments. At the same time, they represent an undiscovered genus within the little-explored phylum Our results will be important for the design of enrichment strategies and postgenomic studies to further understanding of the contribution of these novel spp. to the global sulfur cycle.
We report the 4.55-Mbp genome of " Fluviicola riflensis" () that was manually curated to completion from Illumina data. " Fluviicola riflensis" is a facultative anaerobe. Its ability to grow over a range of O levels may favor its proliferation in an aquifer adjacent to the Colorado River in the United States.
Geological sequestration in deep underground repositories is the prevailing proposed route for radioactive waste disposal. After the disposal of radioactive waste in the subsurface, H may be produced by corrosion of steel and, ultimately, radionuclides will be exposed to the surrounding environment. To evaluate the potential for microbial activities to impact disposal systems, we explored the microbial community structure and metabolic functions of a sediment-hosted ecosystem at the Horonobe Underground Research Laboratory, Hokkaido, Japan. Overall, we found that the ecosystem hosted organisms from diverse lineages, including many from the phyla that lack isolated representatives. The majority of organisms can metabolize H, often via oxidative [NiFe] hydrogenases or electron-bifurcating [FeFe] hydrogenases that enable ferredoxin-based pathways, including the ion motive Rnf complex. Many organisms implicated in H metabolism are also predicted to catalyze carbon, nitrogen, iron and sulfur transformations. Notably, iron-based metabolism is predicted in a novel lineage of Actinobacteria and in a putative methane-oxidizing ANME-2d archaeon. We infer an ecological model that links microorganisms to sediment-derived resources and predict potential impacts of microbial activity on H consumption and retardation of radionuclide migration.
Remediation of industrial wastewater is important for preventing environmental contamination and enabling water reuse. Biological treatment for one industrial contaminant, thiocyanate (SCN), relies upon microbial hydrolysis, but this process is sensitive to high loadings. To examine the activity and stability of a microbial community over increasing SCN loadings, we established and operated a continuous-flow bioreactor fed increasing loadings of SCN. A second reactor was fed ammonium sulfate to mimic breakdown products of SCN. Biomass was sampled from both reactors for metagenomics and metaproteomics, yielding a set of genomes for 144 bacteria and one rotifer that constituted the abundant community in both reactors. We analyzed the metabolic potential and temporal dynamics of these organisms across the increasing loadings. In the SCN reactor, Thiobacillus strains capable of SCN degradation were highly abundant, whereas the ammonium sulfate reactor contained nitrifiers and heterotrophs capable of nitrate reduction. Key organisms in the SCN reactor expressed proteins involved in SCN degradation, sulfur oxidation, carbon fixation, and nitrogen removal. Lower performance at higher loadings was linked to changes in microbial community composition. This work provides an example of how meta-omics can increase our understanding of industrial wastewater treatment and inform iterative process design and development.
The origin and cellular complexity of eukaryotes represent a major enigma in biology. Current data support scenarios in which an archaeal host cell and an alphaproteobacterial (mitochondrial) endosymbiont merged together, resulting in the first eukaryotic cell. The host cell is related to Lokiarchaeota, an archaeal phylum with many eukaryotic features. The emergence of the structural complexity that characterizes eukaryotic cells remains unclear. Here we describe the 'Asgard' superphylum, a group of uncultivated archaea that, as well as Lokiarchaeota, includes Thor-, Odin- and Heimdallarchaeota. Asgard archaea affiliate with eukaryotes in phylogenomic analyses, and their genomes are enriched for proteins formerly considered specific to eukaryotes. Notably, thorarchaeal genomes encode several homologues of eukaryotic membrane-trafficking machinery components, including Sec23/24 and TRAPP domains. Furthermore, we identify thorarchaeal proteins with similar features to eukaryotic coat proteins involved in vesicle biogenesis. Our results expand the known repertoire of 'eukaryote-specific' proteins in Archaea, indicating that the archaeal host cell already contained many key components that govern eukaryotic cellular complexity.
CRISPR-Cas systems provide microbes with adaptive immunity by employing short DNA sequences, termed spacers, that guide Cas proteins to cleave foreign DNA. Class 2 CRISPR-Cas systems are streamlined versions, in which a single RNA-bound Cas protein recognizes and cleaves target sequences. The programmable nature of these minimal systems has enabled researchers to repurpose them into a versatile technology that is broadly revolutionizing biological and clinical research. However, current CRISPR-Cas technologies are based solely on systems from isolated bacteria, leaving the vast majority of enzymes from organisms that have not been cultured untapped. Metagenomics, the sequencing of DNA extracted directly from natural microbial communities, provides access to the genetic material of a huge array of uncultivated organisms. Here, using genome-resolved metagenomics, we identify a number of CRISPR-Cas systems, including the first reported Cas9 in the archaeal domain of life, to our knowledge. This divergent Cas9 protein was found in little-studied nanoarchaea as part of an active CRISPR-Cas system. In bacteria, we discovered two previously unknown systems, CRISPR-CasX and CRISPR-CasY, which are among the most compact systems yet discovered. Notably, all required functional components were identified by metagenomics, enabling validation of robust in vivo RNA-guided DNA interference activity in Escherichia coli. Interrogation of environmental microbial communities combined with in vivo experiments allows us to access an unprecedented diversity of genomes, the content of which will expand the repertoire of microbe-based biotechnologies.
Manganese (Mn) oxides are highly reactive minerals that influence the speciation, mobility, bioavailability and toxicity of a wide variety of organic and inorganic compounds. Although Mn(II)-oxidizing bacteria are known to catalyze the formation of Mn oxides, little is known about the organisms responsible for Mn oxidation in situ, especially in engineered environments. Mn(II)-oxidizing bacteria are important in drinking water systems, including in biofiltration and water distribution systems. Here, we used cultivation dependent and independent approaches to investigate Mn(II)-oxidizing bacteria in drinking water sources, a treatment plant and associated distribution system. We isolated 29 strains of Mn(II)-oxidizing bacteria and found that highly similar 16S rRNA gene sequences were present in all culture-independent datasets and dominant in the studied drinking water treatment plant. These results highlight a potentially important role for Mn(II)-oxidizing bacteria in drinking water systems, where biogenic Mn oxides may affect water quality in terms of aesthetic appearance, speciation of metals and oxidation of organic and inorganic compounds. Deciphering the ecology of these organisms and the factors that regulate their Mn(II)-oxidizing activity could yield important insights into how microbial communities influence the quality of drinking water.
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.
As in many deep underground environments, the microbial communities in subsurface high-CO ecosystems remain relatively unexplored. Recent investigations based on single-gene assays revealed a remarkable variety of organisms from little studied phyla in Crystal Geyser (Utah, USA), a site where deeply sourced CO -saturated fluids are erupted at the surface. To provide genomic resolution of the metabolisms of these organisms, we used a novel metagenomic approach to recover 227 high-quality genomes from 150 microbial species affiliated with 46 different phylum-level lineages. Bacteria from two novel phylum-level lineages have the capacity for CO fixation. Analyses of carbon fixation pathways in all studied organisms revealed that the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway and the Calvin-Benson-Bassham Cycle occurred with the highest frequency, whereas the reverse TCA cycle was little used. We infer that this, and selection for form II RuBisCOs, are adaptions to high CO -concentrations. However, many autotrophs can also grow mixotrophically, a strategy that confers metabolic versatility. The assignment of 156 hydrogenases to 90 different organisms suggests that H is an important inter-species energy currency even under gaseous CO -saturation. Overall, metabolic analyses at the organism level provided insight into the biochemical cycles that support subsurface life under the extreme condition of CO saturation.
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.