Ace Lake is a marine-derived, stratified lake in the Vestfold Hills of East Antarctica with an upper oxic and lower anoxic zone. Cyanobacteria are known to reside throughout the water column. A Synechococcus-like species becomes the most abundant member in the upper sunlit waters during summer while persisting annually even in the absence of sunlight and at depth in the anoxic zone. Here, we analysed ~ 300 Gb of Ace Lake metagenome data including 59 Synechococcus-like metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) to determine depth-related variation in cyanobacterial population structure. Metagenome data were also analysed to investigate viruses associated with this cyanobacterium and the host’s capacity to defend against or evade viruses.
A single Synechococcus-like species was found to exist in Ace Lake, Candidatus Regnicoccus frigidus sp. nov., consisting of one phylotype more abundant in the oxic zone and a second phylotype prevalent in the oxic-anoxic interface and surrounding depths. An important aspect of genomic variation pertained to nitrogen utilisation, with the capacity to perform cyanide assimilation and asparagine synthesis reflecting the depth distribution of available sources of nitrogen. Both specialist (host specific) and generalist (broad host range) viruses were identified with a predicted ability to infect Ca. Regnicoccus frigidus. Host-virus interactions were characterised by a depth-dependent distribution of virus type (e.g. highest abundance of specialist viruses in the oxic zone) and host phylotype capacity to defend against (e.g. restriction-modification, retron and BREX systems) and evade viruses (cell surface proteins and cell wall biosynthesis and modification enzymes).
In Ace Lake, specific environmental factors such as the seasonal availability of sunlight affects microbial abundances and the associated processes that the microbial community performs. Here, we find that the population structure for Ca. Regnicoccus frigidus has evolved differently to the other dominant phototroph in the lake, Candidatus Chlorobium antarcticum. The geography (i.e. Antarctica), limnology (e.g. stratification) and abiotic (e.g. sunlight) and biotic (e.g. microbial interactions) factors determine the types of niches that develop in the lake. While the lake community has become increasingly well studied, metagenome-based studies are revealing that niche adaptation can take many paths; these paths need to be determined in order to make reasonable predictions about the consequences of future ecosystem perturbations.
The potential metabolism and ecological roles of many microbial taxa remain unknown because insufficient genomic data are available to assess their functional potential. Two such microbial “dark matter” taxa are the Candidatus bacterial phyla Cloacimonadota and Omnitrophota, both of which have been identified in global anoxic environments, including (but not limited to) organic-carbon-rich lakes. Using 24 metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) obtained from an Antarctic lake (Ace Lake, Vestfold Hills), novel lineages and novel metabolic traits were identified for both phyla. The Cloacimonadota MAGs exhibited a capacity for carbon fixation using the reverse tricarboxylic acid cycle driven by oxidation of hydrogen and sulfur. Certain Cloacimonadota MAGs encoded proteins that possess dockerin and cohesin domains, which is consistent with the assembly of extracellular cellulosome-like structures that are used for degradation of polypeptides and polysaccharides. The Omnitrophota MAGs represented phylogenetically diverse taxa that were predicted to possess a strong biosynthetic capacity for amino acids, nucleosides, fatty acids, and essential cofactors. All of the Omnitrophota were inferred to be obligate fermentative heterotrophs that utilize a relatively narrow range of organic compounds, have an incomplete tricarboxylic acid cycle, and possess a single hydrogenase gene important for achieving redox balance in the cell. We reason that both Cloacimonadota and Omnitrophota form metabolic interactions with hydrogen-consuming partners (methanogens and Desulfobacterota, respectively) and, therefore, occupy specific niches in Ace Lake.