Recent advances in sequencing technology promoted the blowout discovery of super tiny microbes in the
(DPANN) superphylum. However, the unculturable properties of the majority of microbes impeded our investigation of their behavior and symbiotic lifestyle in the corresponding community.
Background: ‘Ca. Aenigmarchaeota’ represents an evolutionary branch within the DPANN superphylum. However, their ecological roles and potential host-symbiont interactions are poorly understood.Results: Here, we analyze eight metagenomic-assembled genomes from hot spring habitats and reveal their functional potentials. Although they have limited metabolic capacities, they harbor substantial carbohydrate metabolizing abilities. Further investigation suggests that horizontal gene transfer might be the main driver that endows these abilities to ‘Ca. Aenigmarchaeota’, including enzymes involved in glycolysis. Additionally, members from the TACK superphylum and Euryarchaeota contribute substantially to the niche expansion of ‘Ca. Aenigmarchaeota’, especially genes related to carbohydrate metabolism and stress responses. Based on co-occurrence network analysis, we conjecture that ‘Ca. Aenigmarchaeota’ may be symbionts associated with TACK archaea and Euryarchaeota, though host-specificity might be wide and variable across different ‘Ca. Aenigmarchaeota’ genomes. Conclusion: This study provides significant insights into possible host-symbiont interactions and ecological roles of ‘Ca. Aenigmarchaeota’.
Several recent studies have shown the presence of genes for the key enzyme associated with archaeal methane/alkane metabolism, methyl-coenzyme M reductase (Mcr), in metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) divergent to existing archaeal lineages. Here, we study the mcr-containing archaeal MAGs from several hot springs, which reveal further expansion in the diversity of archaeal organisms performing methane/alkane metabolism. Significantly, an MAG basal to organisms from the phylum Thaumarchaeota that contains mcr genes, but not those for ammonia oxidation or aerobic metabolism, is identified. Together, our phylogenetic analyses and ancestral state reconstructions suggest a mostly vertical evolution of mcrABG genes among methanogens and methanotrophs, along with frequent horizontal gene transfer of mcr genes between alkanotrophs. Analysis of all mcr-containing archaeal MAGs/genomes suggests a hydrothermal origin for these microorganisms based on optimal growth temperature predictions. These results also suggest methane/alkane oxidation or methanogenesis at high temperature likely existed in a common archaeal ancestor.