AbstractNatural microbial communities are phylogenetically and metabolically diverse. In addition to underexplored organismal groups1, this diversity encompasses a rich discovery potential for ecologically and biotechnologically relevant enzymes and biochemical compounds2,3. However, studying this diversity to identify genomic pathways for the synthesis of such compounds4 and assigning them to their respective hosts remains challenging. The biosynthetic potential of microorganisms in the open ocean remains largely uncharted owing to limitations in the analysis of genome-resolved data at the global scale. Here we investigated the diversity and novelty of biosynthetic gene clusters in the ocean by integrating around 10,000 microbial genomes from cultivated and single cells with more than 25,000 newly reconstructed draft genomes from more than 1,000 seawater samples. These efforts revealed approximately 40,000 putative mostly new biosynthetic gene clusters, several of which were found in previously unsuspected phylogenetic groups. Among these groups, we identified a lineage rich in biosynthetic gene clusters (‘Candidatus Eudoremicrobiaceae’) that belongs to an uncultivated bacterial phylum and includes some of the most biosynthetically diverse microorganisms in this environment. From these, we characterized the phospeptin and pythonamide pathways, revealing cases of unusual bioactive compound structure and enzymology, respectively. Together, this research demonstrates how microbiomics-driven strategies can enable the investigation of previously undescribed enzymes and natural products in underexplored microbial groups and environments.
AbstractOur intestinal microbiota harbours a diverse bacterial community required for our health, sustenance and wellbeing1,2. Intestinal colonization begins at birth and climaxes with the acquisition of two dominant groups of strict anaerobic bacteria belonging to the Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes phyla2. Culture-independent, genomic approaches have transformed our understanding of the role of the human microbiome in health and many diseases1. However, owing to the prevailing perception that our indigenous bacteria are largely recalcitrant to culture, many of their functions and phenotypes remain unknown3. Here we describe a novel workflow based on targeted phenotypic culturing linked to large-scale whole-genome sequencing, phylogenetic analysis and computational modelling that demonstrates that a substantial proportion of the intestinal bacteria are culturable. Applying this approach to healthy individuals, we isolated 137 bacterial species from characterized and candidate novel families, genera and species that were archived as pure cultures. Whole-genome and metagenomic sequencing, combined with computational and phenotypic analysis, suggests that at least 50–60% of the bacterial genera from the intestinal microbiota of a healthy individual produce resilient spores, specialized for host-to-host transmission. Our approach unlocks the human intestinal microbiota for phenotypic analysis and reveals how a marked proportion of oxygen-sensitive intestinal bacteria can be transmitted between individuals, affecting microbiota heritability.