Diverse microbial life has been detected in the cold desert soils of Antarctica once thought to be barren. Here, we provide metagenomic, biogeochemical, and culture-based evidence that Antarctic soil microorganisms are phylogenetically and functionally distinct from those in other soils and adopt various metabolic and ecological strategies. The most abundant community members are metabolically versatile aerobes that use ubiquitous atmospheric trace gases to potentially meet energy, carbon, and, through metabolic water production, hydration needs. Lineages capable of harvesting solar energy, oxidizing edaphic inorganic substrates, or adopting symbiotic lifestyles were also identified. Altogether, these findings provide insights into microbial adaptation to extreme water and energy limitation and will inform ongoing efforts to conserve the unique biodiversity on this continent.
We report on cultivation and characterization of an association between
Nanohalobium constans and its host, the chitinotrophic haloarchaeon
LC1Hm, obtained from a crystallizer pond of marine solar salterns. High-quality nanohaloarchael genome sequence in conjunction with electron- and fluorescence microscopy, growth analysis, and proteomic and metabolomic data revealed mutually beneficial interactions between two archaea, and allowed dissection of the mechanisms for these interactions. Owing to their ubiquity in hypersaline environments, Nanohaloarchaeota may play a role in carbon turnover and ecosystem functioning, yet insights into the nature of this have been lacking. Here, we provide evidence that nanohaloarchaea can expand the range of available substrates for the haloarchaeon, suggesting that the ectosymbiont increases the metabolic capacity of the host.
Cable bacteria of the family Desulfobulbaceae form centimeter-long filaments comprising thousands of cells. They occur worldwide in the surface of aquatic sediments, where they connect sulfide oxidation with oxygen or nitrate reduction via long-distance electron transport. In the absence of pure cultures, we used single-filament genomics and metagenomics to retrieve draft genomes of 3 marine
Electrothrix and 1 freshwater
Electronema species. These genomes contain >50% unknown genes but still share their core genomic makeup with sulfate-reducing and sulfur-disproportionating Desulfobulbaceae, with few core genes lost and 212 unique genes (from 197 gene families) conserved among cable bacteria. Last common ancestor analysis indicates gene divergence and lateral gene transfer as equally important origins of these unique genes. With support from metaproteomics of a
Electronema enrichment, the genomes suggest that cable bacteria oxidize sulfide by reversing the canonical sulfate reduction pathway and fix CO
using the Wood–Ljungdahl pathway. Cable bacteria show limited organotrophic potential, may assimilate smaller organic acids and alcohols, fix N
, and synthesize polyphosphates and polyglucose as storage compounds; several of these traits were confirmed by cell-level experimental analyses. We propose a model for electron flow from sulfide to oxygen that involves periplasmic cytochromes, yet-unidentified conductive periplasmic fibers, and periplasmic oxygen reduction. This model proposes that an active cable bacterium gains energy in the anodic, sulfide-oxidizing cells, whereas cells in the oxic zone flare off electrons through intense cathodic oxygen respiration without energy conservation; this peculiar form of multicellularity seems unparalleled in the microbial world.
Citrus greening disease, also known as huanglongbing (HLB), is the most devastating disease of Citrus worldwide. This incurable disease is caused primarily by the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus and spread by feeding of the Asian Citrus Psyllid, Diaphorina citri. Ca. L. asiaticus cannot be cultured; its growth is restricted to citrus phloem and the psyllid insect. Management of infected trees includes use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, which have disadvantages. Recent work has sought to identify small molecules that inhibit Ca. L. asiaticus transcription regulators, based on a premise that at least some regulators control expression of genes necessary for virulence. We describe a synthetic, high-throughput screening system to identify compounds that inhibit activity of Ca. L. asiaticus transcription activators LdtR, RpoH, and VisNR. Our system uses the closely related model bacterium, Sinorhizobium meliloti, as a heterologous host for expression of a Ca. L. asiaticus transcription activator, the activity of which is detected through expression of an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) gene fused to a target promoter. We used this system to screen more than 120,000 compounds for compounds that inhibited regulator activity, but not growth. Our screen identified several dozen compounds that inhibit regulator activity in our assay. This work shows that, in addition to providing a means of characterizing Ca. L. asiaticus regulators, an S. meliloti host can be used for preliminary identification of candidate inhibitory molecules.
Methanogenic archaea are major contributors to the global carbon cycle and were long thought to belong exclusively to the euryarchaeal phylum. Discovery of the methanogenesis gene cluster methyl-coenzyme M reductase (Mcr) in the Bathyarchaeota, and thereafter the Verstraetearchaeota, led to a paradigm shift, pushing back the evolutionary origin of methanogenesis to predate that of the Euryarchaeota. The methylotrophic methanogenesis found in the non-Euryarchaota distinguished itself from the predominantly hydrogenotrophic methanogens found in euryarchaeal orders as the former do not couple methanogenesis to carbon fixation through the reductive acetyl-CoA [Wood–Ljungdahl pathway (WLP)], which was interpreted as evidence for independent evolution of the two methanogenesis pathways. Here, we report the discovery of a complete and divergent hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis pathway in a thermophilic order of the Verstraetearchaeota, which we have named Candidatus Methanohydrogenales, as well as the presence of the WLP in the crenarchaeal order Desulfurococcales. Our findings support the ancient origin of hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis, suggest that methylotrophic methanogenesis might be a later adaptation of specific orders, and provide insight into how the transition from hydrogenotrophic to methylotrophic methanogenesis might have occurred.
Gastrointestinal symbionts of organisms are important in the breakdown of food for the host, particularly for herbivores requiring exogenous enzymes to digest complex polysaccharides in their diet. However, their role in the digestion of algae in marine piscine herbivores remains unresolved. Here, we show that the diversity of food sources available to herbivorous surgeonfishes is directly linked with the genetic makeup of their enteric microbiota. Importantly, the genomic blueprint of dominant enteric symbionts belonging to diverse
clades differs according to the host diet. Thus, the acquisition of a unique enteric microbiota specialized to their diets likely shapes the nutritional ecology of piscine herbivores, in turn facilitating the coexistence of a high diversity of marine species within coral reefs.
Mealybugs are plant sap-sucking insects with a nested symbiotic arrangement, where one bacterium lives inside another bacterium, which together live inside insect cells. These two bacteria, along with genes transferred from other bacteria to the insect genome, allow the insect to survive on its nutrient-poor diet. Here, we show that the innermost bacterium in this nested symbiosis was replaced several times over evolutionary history. These results show that highly integrated and interdependent symbiotic systems can experience symbiont replacement and suggest that similar dynamics could have occurred in building the mosaic metabolic pathways seen in mitochondria and plastids.
TM7 is one of the most enigmatic bacterial phyla among the uncultivated candidate phyla referred to as “microbial dark matter,” and it has potential pathogenic associations. We revealed molecular insights into its uncultivability and pathogenicity, as well its unique epibiotic and parasitic lifestyle phases. These novel discoveries shed significant light on the biological, ecological, and medical importance of TM7, as well as providing useful information for culturing other TM7 and currently uncultivable bacteria that may evade standard cultivation approaches.
Secondary metabolites are ubiquitous in bacteria, but by definition, they are thought to be nonessential. Highly toxic secondary metabolites such as patellazoles have been isolated from marine tunicates, where their exceptional potency and abundance implies a role in chemical defense, but their biological source is unknown. Here, we describe the association of the tunicate
with a symbiotic α-proteobacterium,
Endolissoclinum faulkneri, and present chemical and biological evidence that the bacterium synthesizes patellazoles. We sequenced and assembled the complete
. E. faulkneri genome, directly from metagenomic DNA obtained from the tunicate, where it accounted for 0.6% of sequence data. We show that the large patellazoles biosynthetic pathway is maintained, whereas the remainder of the genome is undergoing extensive streamlining to eliminate unneeded genes. The preservation of this pathway in streamlined bacteria demonstrates that secondary metabolism is an essential component of the symbiotic interaction.
Metagenomics has provided access to genomes of as yet uncultivated microorganisms in natural environments, yet there are gaps in our knowledge—particularly for Archaea—that occur at relatively low abundance and in extreme environments. Ultrasmall cells (<500 nm in diameter) from lineages without cultivated representatives that branch near the crenarchaeal/euryarchaeal divide have been detected in a variety of acidic ecosystems. We reconstructed composite, near-complete ~1-Mb genomes for three lineages, referred to as ARMAN (archaeal Richmond Mine acidophilic nanoorganisms), from environmental samples and a biofilm filtrate. Genes of two lineages are among the smallest yet described, enabling a 10% higher coding density than found genomes of the same size, and there are noncontiguous genes. No biological function could be inferred for up to 45% of genes and no more than 63% of the predicted proteins could be assigned to a revised set of archaeal clusters of orthologous groups. Some core metabolic genes are more common in
, up to 21% of genes have the highest sequence identity to bacterial genes, and 12 belong to clusters of orthologous groups that were previously exclusive to bacteria. A small subset of 3D cryo-electron tomographic reconstructions clearly show penetration of the ARMAN cell wall and cytoplasmic membranes by protuberances extended from cells of the archaeal order
. Interspecies interactions, the presence of a unique internal tubular organelle [Comolli, et al. (2009)
3:159–167], and many genes previously only affiliated with Crenarchaea or Bacteria indicate extensive unique physiology in organisms that branched close to the time that