Publications in peer reviewed journals

36 Publications found
  • Genomic and kinetic analysis of novel Nitrospinae enriched by cell sorting

    Mueller AJ, Jung MY, Strachan CR, Herbold CW, Kirkegaard RH, Wagner M, Daims H
    2020 - ISME J., in press


    Chemolithoautotrophic nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) are key players in global nitrogen and carbon cycling. Members of the phylum Nitrospinae are the most abundant, known NOB in the oceans. To date, only two closely affiliated Nitrospinae species have been isolated, which are only distantly related to the environmentally abundant uncultured Nitrospinae clades. Here, we applied live cell sorting, activity screening, and subcultivation on marine nitrite-oxidizing enrichments to obtain novel marine Nitrospinae. Two binary cultures were obtained, each containing one Nitrospinae strain and one alphaproteobacterial heterotroph. The Nitrospinae strains represent two new genera, and one strain is more closely related to environmentally abundant Nitrospinae than previously cultured NOB. With an apparent half-saturation constant of 8.7±2.5 µM, this strain has the highest affinity for nitrite among characterized marine NOB, while the other strain (16.2±1.6 µM) and Nitrospina gracilis (20.1±2.1 µM) displayed slightly lower nitrite affinities. The new strains and N. gracilis share core metabolic pathways for nitrite oxidation and CO2 fixation but differ remarkably in their genomic repertoires of terminal oxidases, use of organic N sources, alternative energy metabolisms, osmotic stress and phage defense. The new strains, tentatively named “Candidatus Nitrohelix vancouverensis” and “Candidatus Nitronauta litoralis”, shed light on the niche differentiation and potential ecological roles of Nitrospinae.

  • Anaerobic bacterial degradation of protein and lipid macromolecules in subarctic marine sediment

    Pelikan C, Wasmund K, Glombitza C, Hausmann H, Herbold CW, Flieder M, Loy A
    2020 - ISME J, In press


    Microorganisms in marine sediments play major roles in marine biogeochemical cycles by mineralizing substantial quantities of organic matter from decaying cells. Proteins and lipids are abundant components of necromass, yet the taxonomic identities of microorganisms that actively degrade them remain poorly resolved. Here, we revealed identities, trophic interactions and genomic features of bacteria that degraded 13C-labelled proteins and lipids in cold anoxic microcosms containing sulfidic subarctic marine sediment. Supplemented proteins and lipids were rapidly fermented to various volatile fatty acids within five days. DNA-stable isotope probing (SIP) suggested Psychrilyobacter atlanticus was an important primary degrader of proteins, and Psychromonas members were important primary degraders of both proteins and lipids. Closely related Psychromonas populations, as represented by distinct 16S rRNA gene variants, differentially utilized either proteins or lipids. DNA-SIP also showed 13C-labeling of various Deltaproteobacteria within ten days, indicating trophic transfer of carbon to putative sulfate-reducers. Metagenome-assembled genomes revealed the primary hydrolyzers encoded secreted peptidases or lipases, and enzymes for catabolism of protein or lipid degradation products. Psychromonas species are prevalent in diverse marine sediments, suggesting they are important players in organic carbon processing in situ. Together, this study provides new insights into the identities, functions and genomes of bacteria that actively degrade abundant necromass macromolecules in the seafloor.

  • Acidobacteria are active and abundant members of diverse atmospheric H2-oxidizing communities detected in temperate soils

    Giguere AT, Eichorst SA, Meier D, Herbold CW, Richter A, Greening C, Woebken D
    2020 - ISME J, in press


    Significant rates of atmospheric H2 consumption have been observed in temperate soils due to the activity of high-affinity enzymes, such as the group 1h [NiFe]-hydrogenase. We designed broadly inclusive primers targeting the large subunit gene (hhyL) of group 1h [NiFe]-hydrogenases for long-read sequencing to explore its taxonomic distribution across soils. This approach revealed a diverse collection of microorganisms harboring hhyL, including previously unknown groups and taxonomically not assignable sequences. Acidobacterial group 1h [NiFe]-hydrogenases genes were abundant and expressed in temperate soils. To support the participation of acidobacteria in H2 consumption, we studied two representative mesophilic soil acidobacteria, which expressed group 1h [NiFe]-hydrogenases and consumed atmospheric H2 during carbon starvation. This is the first time mesophilic acidobacteria, which are abundant in ubiquitous temperate soils, have been shown to oxidize H2 down to below atmospheric concentrations. As this physiology allows bacteria to survive periods of carbon starvation, it could explain the success of soil acidobacteria. With our long-read sequencing approach of group 1h [NiFe]-hydrogenases genes, we show that the ability to oxidize atmospheric levels of His more widely distributed among soil bacteria than previously recognized and could represent a common mechanism enabling bacteria to persist during periods of carbon deprivation.

  • Rational design of a microbial consortium of mucosal sugar utilizers reduces Clostridiodes difficile colonization.

    Pereira FC, Wasmund K, Cobankovic I, Jehmlich N, Herbold CW, Lee KS, Sziranyi B, Vesely C, Decker T, Stocker R, Warth B, von Bergen M, Wagner M, Berry D
    2020 - Nat Commun, 1: 5104


    Many intestinal pathogens, including Clostridioides difficile, use mucus-derived sugars as crucial nutrients in the gut. Commensals that compete with pathogens for such nutrients are therefore ecological gatekeepers in healthy guts, and are attractive candidates for therapeutic interventions. Nevertheless, there is a poor understanding of which commensals use mucin-derived sugars in situ as well as their potential to impede pathogen colonization. Here, we identify mouse gut commensals that utilize mucus-derived monosaccharides within complex communities using single-cell stable isotope probing, Raman-activated cell sorting and mini-metagenomics. Sequencing of cell-sorted fractions reveals members of the underexplored family Muribaculaceae as major mucin monosaccharide foragers, followed by members of Lachnospiraceae, Rikenellaceae, and Bacteroidaceae families. Using this information, we assembled a five-member consortium of sialic acid and N-acetylglucosamine utilizers that impedes C. difficile's access to these mucosal sugars and impairs pathogen colonization in antibiotic-treated mice. Our findings underscore the value of targeted approaches to identify organisms utilizing key nutrients and to rationally design effective probiotic mixtures.

  • Composition and activity of nitrifier communities in soil are unresponsive to elevated temperature and CO, but strongly affected by drought.

    Séneca J, Pjevac P, Canarini A, Herbold CW, Zioutis C, Dietrich M, Simon E, Prommer J, Bahn M, Pötsch EM, Wagner M, Wanek W, Richter A
    2020 - ISME J, in press
    soil nitrifier response to climate change


    Nitrification is a fundamental process in terrestrial nitrogen cycling. However, detailed information on how climate change affects the structure of nitrifier communities is lacking, specifically from experiments in which multiple climate change factors are manipulated simultaneously. Consequently, our ability to predict how soil nitrogen (N) cycling will change in a future climate is limited. We conducted a field experiment in a managed grassland and simultaneously tested the effects of elevated atmospheric CO, temperature, and drought on the abundance of active ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and archaea (AOA), comammox (CMX) Nitrospira, and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB), and on gross mineralization and nitrification rates. We found that N transformation processes, as well as gene and transcript abundances, and nitrifier community composition were remarkably resistant to individual and interactive effects of elevated CO and temperature. During drought however, process rates were increased or at least maintained. At the same time, the abundance of active AOB increased probably due to higher NH availability. Both, AOA and comammox Nitrospira decreased in response to drought and the active community composition of AOA and NOB was also significantly affected. In summary, our findings suggest that warming and elevated CO have only minor effects on nitrifier communities and soil biogeochemical variables in managed grasslands, whereas drought favors AOB and increases nitrification rates. This highlights the overriding importance of drought as a global change driver impacting on soil microbial community structure and its consequences for N cycling.

  • Exploring the upper pH limits of nitrite oxidation: diversity, ecophysiology, and adaptive traits of haloalkalitolerant Nitrospira

    Daebeler A, Kitzinger K, Koch H, Herbold CW, Steinberger M, Schwarz J, Zechmeister T, Karst S, Albertsen M, Nielsen PH, Wagner M, Daims H
    2020 - ISME J, in press
    Ca. N. alkalitolerans


    Nitrite-oxidizing bacteria of the genus Nitrospira are key players of the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle. However, little is known about their occurrence and survival strategies in extreme pH environments. Here, we report on the discovery of physiologically versatile, haloalkalitolerant Nitrospira that drive nitrite oxidation at exceptionally high pH. Nitrospiradistribution, diversity, and ecophysiology were studied in hypo- and subsaline (1.3-12.8 g salt/l), highly alkaline (pH 8.9-10.3) lakes by amplicon sequencing, metagenomics, and cultivation-based approaches. Surprisingly, not only were Nitrospira populations detected, but they were also considerably diverse with presence of members of Nitrospira lineages I, II and IV. Furthermore, the ability of Nitrospira enrichment cultures to oxidize nitrite at neutral to highly alkaline pH of 10.5 was demonstrated. Metagenomic analysis of a newly enriched Nitrospira lineage IV species, “Candidatus Nitrospira alkalitolerans”, revealed numerous adaptive features of this organism to its extreme environment. Among them were a sodium-dependent N-type ATPase and NADH:quinone oxidoreductase next to the proton-driven forms usually found in Nitrospira. Other functions aid in pH and cation homeostasis and osmotic stress defense. “Ca. Nitrospira alkalitolerans” also possesses group 2a and 3b [NiFe] hydrogenases, suggesting it can use hydrogen as alternative energy source. These results reveal how Nitrospira cope with strongly fluctuating pH and salinity conditions and expand our knowledge of nitrogen cycling in extreme habitats.

  • Activity and metabolic versatility of complete ammonia oxidizers in full-scale wastewater treatment systems.

    Yang Y, Daims H, Liu Y, Herbold CW, Pjevac P, Lin JG, Li M, Gu JD
    2020 - mBio, 11: e03175-19


    The recent discovery of complete ammonia oxidizers (comammox) contradicts the paradigm that chemolithoautotrophic nitrification is always catalyzed by two different microorganisms. However, our knowledge of the survival strategies of comammox in complex ecosystems, such as full-scale wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), remains limited. Analyses of genomes and transcriptomes of four comammox organisms from two full-scale WWTPs revealed that comammox were active and showed a surprisingly high metabolic versatility. A gene cluster for the utilization of urea and a gene encoding cyanase suggest that comammox may use diverse organic nitrogen compounds in addition to free ammonia as the substrates. The comammox organisms also encoded the genomic potential for multiple alternative energy metabolisms, including respiration with hydrogen, formate, and sulfite as electron donors. Pathways for the biosynthesis and degradation of polyphosphate, glycogen, and polyhydroxyalkanoates as intracellular storage compounds likely help comammox survive unfavorable conditions and facilitate switches between lifestyles in fluctuating environments. One of the comammox strains acquired from the anaerobic tank encoded and transcribed genes involved in homoacetate fermentation or in the utilization of exogenous acetate, both pathways being unexpected in a nitrifying bacterium. Surprisingly, this strain also encoded a respiratory nitrate reductase which has not yet been found in any other genome and might confer a selective advantage to this strain over other strains in anoxic conditions. The discovery of comammox in the genus changes our perception of nitrification. However, genomes of comammox organisms have not been acquired from full-scale WWTPs, and very little is known about their survival strategies and potential metabolisms in complex wastewater treatment systems. Here, four comammox metagenome-assembled genomes and metatranscriptomic data sets were retrieved from two full-scale WWTPs. Their impressive and-among nitrifiers-unsurpassed ecophysiological versatility could make comammox an interesting target for optimizing nitrification in current and future bioreactor configurations.

  • Single cell analyses reveal contrasting life strategies of the two main nitrifiers in the ocean.

    Kitzinger K, Marchant HK, Bristow LA, Herbold CW, Padilla CC, Kidane AT, Littmann S, Daims H, Pjevac P, Stewart FJ, Wagner M, Kuypers MMM
    2020 - Nat Commun, 1: 767
    Nitrospina AOA in situ growth rates


    Nitrification, the oxidation of ammonia via nitrite to nitrate, is a key process in marine nitrogen (N) cycling. Although oceanic ammonia and nitrite oxidation are balanced, ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) vastly outnumber the main nitrite oxidizers, the bacterial Nitrospinae. The ecophysiological reasons for this discrepancy in abundance are unclear. Here, we compare substrate utilization and growth of Nitrospinae to AOA in the Gulf of Mexico. Based on our results, more than half of the Nitrospinae cellular N-demand is met by the organic-N compounds urea and cyanate, while AOA mainly assimilate ammonium. Nitrospinae have, under in situ conditions, around four-times higher biomass yield and five-times higher growth rates than AOA, despite their ten-fold lower abundance. Our combined results indicate that differences in mortality between Nitrospinae and AOA, rather than thermodynamics, biomass yield and cell size, determine the abundances of these main marine nitrifiers. Furthermore, there is no need to invoke yet undiscovered, abundant nitrite oxidizers to explain nitrification rates in the ocean.

  • Hair eruption initiates and commensal skin microbiota aggravate adverse events of anti-EGFR therapy

    Klufa J, Bauer T, Hanson B, Herbold CW, Starkl P, Lichtenberger B, Srutkova D, Schulz D, Vujic I, Mohr T, Rappersberger K, Bodenmiller B, Kozakova H, Knapp S, Loy A, Sibilia M
    2019 - Sci Transl Med, 11: eaax2693


    Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)–targeted anticancer therapy induces stigmatizing skin toxicities affecting patients’ quality of life and therapy adherence. The lack of mechanistic details underlying these adverse events hampers their management. We found that EGFR/ERK signaling is required in LRIG1-positive stem cells during de novo hair eruption to secure barrier integrity and prevent the invasion of commensal microbiota and inflammatory skin disease. EGFR-deficient epidermis is permissive for microbiota outgrowth and displays an atopic-like TH2-dominated signature. The opening of the follicular ostia during hair eruption allows invasion of commensal microbiota into the hair follicle, initiating an additional TH1 and TH17 response culminating in chronic folliculitis. Restoration of epidermal ERK signaling via prophylactic FGF7 treatment or transgenic SOS expression rescues the barrier defect in the absence of EGFR, highlighting a therapeutic anchor point. These data reveal that commensal skin microbiota provoke atopic-like inflammatory skin diseases by invading into the follicular opening of erupting hair.

  • Glacial runoff promotes deep burial of sulfur cycling-associated microorganisms in marine sediments

    Pelikan C, Jaussi M, Wasmund K, Seidenkrantz MS, Pearce C, Kuzyk ZZA, Herbold CW, Røy H, Kjeldsen KU, Loy A
    2019 - Front Microbiol, 10: 2558


    Marine fjords with active glacier outlets are hot spots for organic matter burial in the sediments and subsequent microbial mineralization. Here, we investigated controls on microbial community assembly in sub-arctic glacier-influenced (GI) and non-glacier-influenced (NGI) marine sediments in the Godthåbsfjord region, south-western Greenland. We used a correlative approach integrating 16S rRNA gene and dissimilatory sulfite reductase (dsrB) amplicon sequence data over six meters of depth with biogeochemistry, sulfur-cycling activities, and sediment ages. GI sediments were characterized by comparably high sedimentation rates and had ‘young’ sediment ages of <500 years even at 6 m sediment depth. In contrast, NGI stations reached ages of approximately 10,000 years at these depths. Sediment age-depth relationships, sulfate reduction rates, and C/N ratios were strongly correlated with differences in microbial community composition between GI and NGI sediments, indicating that age and diagenetic state were key drivers of microbial community assembly in subsurface sediments. Similar bacterial and archaeal communities were present in the surface sediments of all stations, whereas only in GI sediments were many surface taxa also abundant through the whole sediment core. The relative abundance of these taxa, including diverse Desulfobacteraceae members, correlated positively with sulfate reduction rates, indicating their active contributions to sulfur-cycling processes. In contrast, other surface community members, such as Desulfatiglans, Atribacteria and Chloroflexi, survived the slow sediment burial at NGI stations and dominated in the deepest sediment layers. These taxa are typical for the energy-limited marine deep biosphere and their relative abundances correlated positively with sediment age. In conclusion, our data suggests that high rates of sediment accumulation caused by glacier runoff and associated changes in biogeochemistry, promote persistence of sulfur-cycling activity and burial of a larger fraction of the surface microbial community into the deep subsurface.

  • A Bioinformatics Guide to Plant Microbiome Analysis.

    Lucaciu R, Pelikan C, Gerner SM, Zioutis C, Köstlbacher S, Marx H, Herbold CW, Schmidt H, Rattei T
    2019 - Front Plant Sci, 1313


    Recent evidence for intimate relationship of plants with their microbiota shows that plants host individual and diverse microbial communities that are essential for their survival. Understanding their relatedness using genome-based and high-throughput techniques remains a hot topic in microbiome research. Molecular analysis of the plant holobiont necessitates the application of specific sampling and preparatory steps that also consider sources of unwanted information, such as soil, co-amplified plant organelles, human DNA, and other contaminations. Here, we review state-of-the-art and present practical guidelines regarding experimental and computational aspects to be considered in molecular plant-microbiome studies. We discuss sequencing and "omics" techniques with a focus on the requirements needed to adapt these methods to individual research approaches. The choice of primers and sequence databases is of utmost importance for amplicon sequencing, while the assembly and binning of shotgun metagenomic sequences is crucial to obtain quality data. We discuss specific bioinformatic workflows to overcome the limitation of genome database resources and for covering large eukaryotic genomes such as fungi. In transcriptomics, it is necessary to account for the separation of host mRNA or dual-RNAseq data. Metaproteomics approaches provide a snapshot of the protein abundances within a plant tissue which requires the knowledge of complete and well-annotated plant genomes, as well as microbial genomes. Metabolomics offers a powerful tool to detect and quantify small molecules and molecular changes at the plant-bacteria interface if the necessary requirements with regard to (secondary) metabolite databases are considered. We highlight data integration and complementarity which should help to widen our understanding of the interactions among individual players of the plant holobiont in the future.

  • Soil multifunctionality is affected by the soil environment and by microbial community composition and diversity.

    Zheng Q, Hu Y, Zhang S, Noll L, Böckle T, Dietrich M, Herbold CW, Eichorst SA, Woebken D, Richter A, Wanek W
    2019 - Soil Biol. Biochem., 107521


    Microorganisms are critical in mediating carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling processes in soils. Yet, it has long been debated whether the processes underlying biogeochemical cycles are affected by the composition and diversity of the soil microbial community or not. The composition and diversity of soil microbial communities can be influenced by various environmental factors, which in turn are known to impact biogeochemical processes. The objectives of this study were to test effects of multiple edaphic drivers individually and represented as the multivariate soil environment interacting with microbial community composition and diversity, and concomitantly on multiple soil functions (i.e. soil enzyme activities, soil C and N processes). We employed high-throughput sequencing (Illumina MiSeq) to analyze bacterial/archaeal and fungal community composition by targeting the 16S rRNA gene and the ITS1 region of soils collected from three land uses (cropland, grassland and forest) deriving from two bedrock forms (silicate and limestone). Based on this data set we explored single and combined effects of edaphic variables on soil microbial community structure and diversity, as well as on soil enzyme activities and several soil C and N processes. We found that both bacterial/archaeal and fungal communities were shaped by the same edaphic factors, with most single edaphic variables and the combined soil environment representation exerting stronger effects on bacterial/archaeal communities than on fungal communities, as demonstrated by (partial) Mantel tests. We also found similar edaphic controls on the bacterial/archaeal/fungal richness and diversity. Soil C processes were only directly affected by the soil environment but not affected by microbial community composition. In contrast, soil N processes were significantly related to bacterial/archaeal community composition and bacterial/archaeal/fungal richness/diversity but not directly affected by the soil environment. This indicates direct control of the soil environment on soil C processes and indirect control of the soil environment on soil N processes by structuring the microbial communities. The study further highlights the importance of edaphic drivers and microbial communities (i.e. composition and diversity) on important soil C and N processes.

  • A fiber-deprived diet disturbs the fine-scale spatial architecture of the murine colon microbiome.

    Riva A, Kuzyk O, Forsberg E, Siuzdak G, Pfann C, Herbold CW, Daims H, Loy A, Warth B, Berry D
    2019 - Nat Commun, 1: 4366


    Compartmentalization of the gut microbiota is thought to be important to system function, but the extent of spatial organization in the gut ecosystem remains poorly understood. Here, we profile the murine colonic microbiota along longitudinal and lateral axes using laser capture microdissection. We found fine-scale spatial structuring of the microbiota marked by gradients in composition and diversity along the length of the colon. Privation of fiber reduces the diversity of the microbiota and disrupts longitudinal and lateral gradients in microbiota composition. Both mucus-adjacent and luminal communities are influenced by the absence of dietary fiber, with the loss of a characteristic distal colon microbiota and a reduction in the mucosa-adjacent community, concomitant with depletion of the mucus layer. These results indicate that diet has not only global but also local effects on the composition of the gut microbiota, which may affect function and resilience differently depending on location.

  • Expansion of Thaumarchaeota habitat range is correlated with horizontal transfer of ATPase operons.

    Wang B, Qin W, Ren Y, Zhou X, Jung MY, Han P, Eloe-Fadrosh EA, Li M, Zheng Y, Lu L, Yan X, Ji J, Liu Y, Liu L, Heiner C, Hall R, Martens-Habbena W, Herbold CW, Rhee SK, Bartlett DH, Huang L, Ingalls AE, Wagner M, Stahl DA, Jia Z
    2019 - ISME J, 12: 3067-3079
    Phylogenetic ATPase tree of Thaumarchaeota


    Thaumarchaeota are responsible for a significant fraction of ammonia oxidation in the oceans and in soils that range from alkaline to acidic. However, the adaptive mechanisms underpinning their habitat expansion remain poorly understood. Here we show that expansion into acidic soils and the high pressures of the hadopelagic zone of the oceans is tightly linked to the acquisition of a variant of the energy-yielding ATPases via horizontal transfer. Whereas the ATPase genealogy of neutrophilic Thaumarchaeota is congruent with their organismal genealogy inferred from concatenated conserved proteins, a common clade of V-type ATPases unites phylogenetically distinct clades of acidophilic/acid-tolerant and piezophilic/piezotolerant species. A presumptive function of pumping cytoplasmic protons at low pH is consistent with the experimentally observed increased expression of the V-ATPase in an acid-tolerant thaumarchaeote at low pH. Consistently, heterologous expression of the thaumarchaeotal V-ATPase significantly increased the growth rate of E. coli at low pH. Its adaptive significance to growth in ocean trenches may relate to pressure-related changes in membrane structure in which this complex molecular machine must function. Together, our findings reveal that the habitat expansion of Thaumarchaeota is tightly correlated with extensive horizontal transfer of atp operons.

  • Membrane Lipid Composition of the Moderately Thermophilic Ammonia-Oxidizing Archaeon " Nitrosotenuis uzonensis" at Different Growth Temperatures.

    Bale NJ, Palatinszky M, Rijpstra WIC, Herbold CW, Wagner M, Sinninghe Damsté JS
    2019 - Appl. Environ. Microbiol., 20: 1–17
    AOA N. uzonensis lipids


    " Nitrosotenuis uzonensis" is the only cultured moderately thermophilic member of the thaumarchaeotal order (NP) that contains many mesophilic marine strains. We examined its membrane lipid composition at different growth temperatures (37°C, 46°C, and 50°C). Its lipids were all membrane-spanning glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs), with 0 to 4 cyclopentane moieties. Crenarchaeol (cren), the characteristic thaumarchaeotal GDGT, and its isomer (cren') were present in high abundance (30 to 70%). The GDGT polar headgroups were mono-, di-, and trihexoses and hexose/phosphohexose. The ratio of glycolipid to phospholipid GDGTs was highest in the cultures grown at 50°C. With increasing growth temperatures, the relative contributions of cren and cren' increased, while those of GDGT-0 to GDGT-4 (including isomers) decreased. TEX (tetraether index of tetraethers consisting of 86 carbons)-derived temperatures were much lower than the actual growth temperatures, further demonstrating that TEX does not accurately reflect the membrane lipid adaptation of thermophilic As the temperature increased, specific GDGTs changed relative to their isomers, possibly representing temperature adaption-induced changes in cyclopentane ring stereochemistry. Comparison of a wide range of thaumarchaeotal core lipid compositions revealed that the " Nitrosotenuis uzonensis" cultures clustered separately from other members of the NP order and the (NS) order. While phylogeny generally seems to have a strong influence on GDGT distribution, our analysis of " Nitrosotenuis uzonensis" demonstrates that its terrestrial, higher-temperature niche has led to a lipid composition that clearly differentiates it from other NP members and that this difference is mostly driven by its high cren' content. For , the ratio of their glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraether (GDGT) lipids depends on growth temperature, a premise that forms the basis of the widely applied TEX paleotemperature proxy. A thorough understanding of which GDGTs are produced by which and what the effect of temperature is on their GDGT composition is essential for constraining the TEX proxy. " Nitrosotenuis uzonensis" is a moderately thermophilic thaumarchaeote enriched from a thermal spring, setting it apart in its environmental niche from the other marine mesophilic members of its order. Indeed, we found that the GDGT composition of " Nitrosotenuis uzonensis" cultures was distinct from those of other members of its order and was more similar to those of other thermophilic, terrestrial This suggests that while phylogeny has a strong influence on GDGT distribution, the environmental niche that a thaumarchaeote inhabits also shapes its GDGT composition.

  • Diversity decoupled from sulfur isotope fractionation in a sulfate reducing microbial community

    Colangelo J, Pelikan C, Herbold CW, Altshuler I, Loy A, Whyte LG, Wing BA
    2019 - Geobiology, 17: 660-67


    The extent of fractionation of sulfur isotopes by sulfate-reducing microbes is dictated by genomic and environmental factors. A greater understanding of species-specific fractionations may better inform interpretation of sulfur isotopes preserved in the rock record. To examine whether gene diversity influences net isotopic fractionation in situ, we assessed environmental chemistry, sulfate reduction rates, diversity of putative sulfur-metabolizing organisms by 16S rRNA and dissimilatory sulfite reductase (dsrB) gene amplicon sequencing, and net fractionation of sulfur isotopes along a sediment transect of a hypersaline Arctic spring. In situ sulfate reduction rates yielded minimum cell-specific sulfate reduction rates < 0.3 × 10-15 moles cell-1  day-1 . Neither 16S rRNA nor dsrB diversity indices correlated with relatively constant (38‰-45‰) net isotope fractionation (ε34 Ssulfide-sulfate ). Measured ε34 S values could be reproduced in a mechanistic fractionation model if 1%-2% of the microbial community (10%-60% of Deltaproteobacteria) were engaged in sulfate respiration, indicating heterogeneous respiratory activity within sulfate-reducing populations. This model indicated enzymatic kinetic diversity of Apr was more likely to correlate with sulfur fractionation than DsrB. We propose that, above a threshold Shannon diversity value of 0.8 for dsrB, the influence of the specific composition of the microbial community responsible for generating an isotope signal is overprinted by the control exerted by environmental variables on microbial physiology.

  • Characterization of a thaumarchaeal symbiont that drives incomplete nitrification in the tropical sponge Ianthella basta.

    Moeller FU, Webster NS, Herbold CW, Behnam F, Domman D, Albertsen M, Mooshammer M, Markert S, Turaev D, Becher D, Rattei T, Schweder T, Richter A, Watzka M, Nielsen PH, Wagner M
    2019 - Environ. Microbiol., 10: 3831-3854
    Metabolic scheme of the AOA symbiont in I. basta


    Marine sponges represent one of the few eukaryotic groups that frequently harbour symbiotic members of the Thaumarchaeota, which are important chemoautotrophic ammonia-oxidizers in many environments. However, in most studies, direct demonstration of ammonia-oxidation by these archaea within sponges is lacking, and little is known about sponge-specific adaptations of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA). Here, we characterized the thaumarchaeal symbiont of the marine sponge Ianthella basta using metaproteogenomics, fluorescence in situ hybridization, qPCR and isotope-based functional assays. 'Candidatus Nitrosospongia ianthellae' is only distantly related to cultured AOA. It is an abundant symbiont that is solely responsible for nitrite formation from ammonia in I. basta that surprisingly does not harbour nitrite-oxidizing microbes. Furthermore, this AOA is equipped with an expanded set of extracellular subtilisin-like proteases, a metalloprotease unique among archaea, as well as a putative branched-chain amino acid ABC transporter. This repertoire is strongly indicative of a mixotrophic lifestyle and is (with slight variations) also found in other sponge-associated, but not in free-living AOA. We predict that this feature as well as an expanded and unique set of secreted serpins (protease inhibitors), a unique array of eukaryotic-like proteins, and a DNA-phosporothioation system, represent important adaptations of AOA to life within these ancient filter-feeding animals.

  • Indications for enzymatic denitrification to N2O at low pH in an ammonia-oxidizing archaeon.

    Jung MY, Gwak JH, Rohe L, Giesemann A, Kim JG, Well R, Madsen EL, Herbold CW, Wagner M, Rhee SK
    2019 - ISME J, 13: 2633-2638
    P450 NOR in AOA


    Nitrous oxide (NO) is a key climate change gas and nitrifying microbes living in terrestrial ecosystems contribute significantly to its formation. Many soils are acidic and global change will cause acidification of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, but the effect of decreasing pH on NO formation by nitrifiers is poorly understood. Here, we used isotope-ratio mass spectrometry to investigate the effect of acidification on production of NO by pure cultures of two ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA; Nitrosocosmicus oleophilus and Nitrosotenuis chungbukensis) and an ammonia-oxidizing bacterium (AOB; Nitrosomonas europaea). For all three strains acidification led to increased emission of NO. However, changes of N site preference (SP) values within the NO molecule (as indicators of pathways for NO formation), caused by decreasing pH, were highly different between the tested AOA and AOB. While acidification decreased the SP value in the AOB strain, SP values increased to a maximum value of 29‰ in N. oleophilus. In addition, N-nitrite tracer experiments showed that acidification boosted nitrite transformation into NO in all strains, but the incorporation rate was different for each ammonia oxidizer. Unexpectedly, for N. oleophilus more than 50% of the NO produced at pH 5.5 had both nitrogen atoms from nitrite and we demonstrated that under these conditions expression of a putative cytochrome P450 NO reductase is strongly upregulated. Collectively, our results indicate that N. oleophilus might be able to enzymatically denitrify nitrite to NO at low pH.

  • The cooling tower water microbiota: Seasonal dynamics and co-occurrence of bacterial and protist phylotypes.

    Tsao HF, Scheikl U, Herbold CW, Indra A, Walochnik J, Horn M
    2019 - Water Res., 464-479


    Cooling towers for heating, ventilation and air conditioning are ubiquitous in the built environment. Often located on rooftops, their semi-open water basins provide a suitable environment for microbial growth. They are recognized as a potential source of bacterial pathogens and have been associated with disease outbreaks such as Legionnaires' disease. While measures to minimize public health risks are in place, the general microbial and protist community structure and dynamics in these systems remain largely elusive. In this study, we analysed the microbiome of the bulk water from the basins of three cooling towers by 16S and 18S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing over the course of one year. Bacterial diversity in all three towers was broadly comparable to other freshwater systems, yet less diverse than natural environments; the most abundant taxa are also frequently found in freshwater or drinking water. While each cooling tower had a pronounced site-specific microbial community, taxa shared among all locations mainly included groups generally associated with biofilm formation. We also detected several groups related to known opportunistic pathogens, such as Legionella, Mycobacterium, and Pseudomonas species, albeit at generally low abundance. Although cooling towers represent a rather stable environment, microbial community composition was highly dynamic and subject to seasonal change. Protists are important members of the cooling tower water microbiome and known reservoirs for bacterial pathogens. Co-occurrence analysis of bacteria and protist taxa successfully captured known interactions between amoeba-associated bacteria and their hosts, and predicted a large number of additional relationships involving ciliates and other protists. Together, this study provides an unbiased and comprehensive overview of microbial diversity of cooling tower water basins, establishing a framework for investigating and assessing public health risks associated with these man-made freshwater environments.

  • Low yield and abiotic origin of N2O formed by the complete nitrifier Nitrospira inopinata.

    Kits KD, Jung MY, Vierheilig J, Pjevac P, Sedlacek CJ, Liu S, Herbold CW, Stein LY, Richter A, Wissel H, Brüggemann N, Wagner M, Daims H
    2019 - Nat Commun, 1: 1836
    Nitrous oxide comammox


    Nitrous oxide (NO) and nitric oxide (NO) are atmospheric trace gases that contribute to climate change and affect stratospheric and ground-level ozone concentrations. Ammonia oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and archaea (AOA) are key players in the nitrogen cycle and major producers of NO and NO globally. However, nothing is known about NO and NO production by the recently discovered and widely distributed complete ammonia oxidizers (comammox). Here, we show that the comammox bacterium Nitrospira inopinata is sensitive to inhibition by an NO scavenger, cannot denitrify to NO, and emits NO at levels that are comparable to AOA but much lower than AOB. Furthermore, we demonstrate that NO formed by N. inopinata formed under varying oxygen regimes originates from abiotic conversion of hydroxylamine. Our findings indicate that comammox microbes may produce less NO during nitrification than AOB.

  • Widespread soil bacterium that oxidizes atmospheric methane.

    Tveit AT, Hestnes AG, Robinson SL, Schintlmeister A, Dedysh SN, Jehmlich N, von Bergen M, Herbold CW, Wagner M, Richter A, Svenning MM
    2019 - Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 17: 8515-8524
    air eating microbe


    The global atmospheric level of methane (CH), the second most important greenhouse gas, is currently increasing by ∼10 million tons per year. Microbial oxidation in unsaturated soils is the only known biological process that removes CH from the atmosphere, but so far, bacteria that can grow on atmospheric CH have eluded all cultivation efforts. In this study, we have isolated a pure culture of a bacterium, strain MG08 that grows on air at atmospheric concentrations of CH [1.86 parts per million volume (p.p.m.v.)]. This organism, named , is globally distributed in soils and closely related to uncultured members of the upland soil cluster α. CH oxidation experiments and C-single cell isotope analyses demonstrated that it oxidizes atmospheric CH aerobically and assimilates carbon from both CH and CO Its estimated specific affinity for CH (a) is the highest for any cultivated methanotroph. However, growth on ambient air was also confirmed for and , close relatives with a lower specific affinity for CH, suggesting that the ability to utilize atmospheric CH for growth is more widespread than previously believed. The closed genome of MG08 encodes a single particulate methane monooxygenase, the serine cycle for assimilation of carbon from CH and CO, and CO fixation via the recently postulated reductive glycine pathway. It also fixes dinitrogen and expresses the genes for a high-affinity hydrogenase and carbon monoxide dehydrogenase, suggesting that atmospheric CH oxidizers harvest additional energy from oxidation of the atmospheric trace gases carbon monoxide (0.2 p.p.m.v.) and hydrogen (0.5 p.p.m.v.).

  • Cyanate and urea are substrates for nitrification by Thaumarchaeota in the marine environment.

    Kitzinger K, Padilla CC, Marchant HK, Hach PF, Herbold CW, Kidane AT, Könneke M, Littmann S, Mooshammer M, Niggemann J, Petrov S, Richter A, Stewart FJ, Wagner M, Kuypers MMM, Bristow LA
    2019 - Nat Microbiol, 2: 234-243
    Cyanate use by thaumarchaeota


    Ammonia-oxidizing archaea of the phylum Thaumarchaeota are among the most abundant marine microorganisms. These organisms thrive in the oceans despite ammonium being present at low nanomolar concentrations. Some Thaumarchaeota isolates have been shown to utilize urea and cyanate as energy and N sources through intracellular conversion to ammonium. Yet, it is unclear whether patterns observed in culture extend to marine Thaumarchaeota, and whether Thaumarchaeota in the ocean directly utilize urea and cyanate or rely on co-occurring microorganisms to break these substrates down to ammonium. Urea utilization has been reported for marine ammonia-oxidizing communities, but no evidence of cyanate utilization exists for marine ammonia oxidizers. Here, we demonstrate that in the Gulf of Mexico, Thaumarchaeota use urea and cyanate both directly and indirectly as energy and N sources. We observed substantial and linear rates of nitrite production from urea and cyanate additions, which often persisted even when ammonium was added to micromolar concentrations. Furthermore, single-cell analysis revealed that the Thaumarchaeota incorporated ammonium-, urea- and cyanate-derived N at significantly higher rates than most other microorganisms. Yet, no cyanases were detected in thaumarchaeal genomic data from the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, we tested cyanate utilization in Nitrosopumilus maritimus, which also lacks a canonical cyanase, and showed that cyanate was oxidized to nitrite. Our findings demonstrate that marine Thaumarchaeota can use urea and cyanate as both an energy and N source. On the basis of these results, we hypothesize that urea and cyanate are substrates for ammonia-oxidizing Thaumarchaeota throughout the ocean.

  • Application of stable-isotope labelling techniques for the detection of active diazotrophs

    Angel R, Panhölzl C, Gabriel R, Herbold CW, Wanek W, Richter A, Eichorst SA, Woebken D
    2018 - Environmental Microbiology, 20: 44-61


    Investigating active participants in the fixation of dinitrogen gas is vital as N is often a limiting factor for primary production. Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) is performed by a diverse guild of bacteria and archaea (diazotrophs), which can be free-living or symbionts. Free-living diazotrophs are widely distributed in the environment, yet our knowledge about their identity and ecophysiology is still limited. A major challenge in investigating this guild is inferring activity from genetic data as this process is highly regulated. To address this challenge, we evaluated and improved several 15N-based methods for detecting N2 fixation activity (with a focus on soil samples) and studying active diazotrophs. We compared the acetylene reduction assay and the 15N2 tracer method and demonstrated that the latter is more sensitive in samples with low activity. Additionally, tracing 15N into microbial RNA provides much higher sensitivity compared to bulk soil analysis. Active soil diazotrophs were identified with a 15N-RNA-SIP approach optimized for environmental samples and benchmarked to 15N-DNA-SIP. Lastly, we investigated the feasibility of using SIP-Raman microspectroscopy for detecting 15N-labelled cells. Taken together, these tools allow identifying and investigating active free-living diazotrophs in a highly sensitive manner in diverse environments, from bulk to the single-cell level.

  • Evaluation of primers targeting the diazotroph functional gene and development of NifMAP – a bioinformatics pipeline for analyzing nifH amplicon data

    Angel R, Nepel M, Panhölzl C, Schmidt H, Herbold CW, Eichorst SA, Woebken D
    2018 - Front Microbiol, 9: 1-15


    Diazotrophic microorganisms introduce biologically available nitrogen (N) to the global N cycle through the activity of the nitrogenase enzyme. The genetically conserved dinitrogenase reductase (nifH) gene is phylogenetically distributed across four clusters (I-IV) and is widely used as a marker gene for N2 fixation, permitting investigators to study the genetic diversity of diazotrophs in nature and target potential participants in N2 fixation. To date there have been limited, standardized pipelines for the nifH functional gene, which is in stark contrast to the rRNA gene. Here we present a bioinformatics pipeline for processing nifH amplicon datasets – NifMAP (“NifH MiSeq Illumina amplicon Analysis Pipeline”), which as a novel aspect uses Hidden-Markov models to filter out homologous genes to nifH. By using this pipeline, we evaluated the broadly inclusive primer pairs (Ueda19F-R6, IGK3-DVV, F2-R6) that target the nifH gene. To evaluate any systematic biases, the nifH gene was amplified with the aforementioned primer pairs in a diverse collection of environmental samples (soils, rhizosphere and roots samples, biological soil crusts and estuarine samples), in addition to a nifH mock community consisting of six phylogenetically diverse members. We noted that all primer pairs co-amplified nifH homologs to varying degrees; up to 90% of the amplicons were nifH homologs with IGK3-DVV in some samples (rhizosphere and roots from tall oat-grass). In regards to specificity, we observed some degree of bias across the primer pairs. For example, primer pair F2-R6 discriminated against cyanobacteria (amongst others), yet captured many sequences from subclusters IIIE and IIIL-N. These aforementioned subclusters were largely missing by the primer pair IGK3-DVV, which also tended to discriminate against Alphaproteobacteria, but amplified sequences within clusters IIIC (affiliated with Clostridia) and clusters IVB and IVC. Primer pair Ueda19F-R6 exhibited the least bias and successfully captured diazotrophs in cluster I and subclusters IIIE, IIIL, IIIM and IIIN, but discriminated against Firmicutes and subcluster IIIC. Taken together, our newly established bioinformatics pipeline, NifMAP, along with our systematic evaluations of nifH primer pairs permit more robust, high-throughput investigations of diazotrophs in diverse environments. 

  • Genomic insights into the Acidobacteria reveal strategies for their success in terrestrial environments

    Eichorst SA, Trojan D, Roux S, Herbold CW, Rattei T, Woebken D
    2018 - Environ Microbiol, 20: 1041-1063


    Members of the phylum Acidobacteria are abundant and ubiquitous across soils. We performed the largest (to date) comparative genome analysis spanning subdivisions 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, and 23 (n=24) with the goal to identify features to help explain their prevalence in soils and understand their ecophysiology. In contrast to earlier studies, our analysis revealed that bacteriophage integration events along with transposable and mobile elements influenced the structure and plasticity of these genomes. Low- and high-affinity respiratory oxygen reductases were detected in multiple genomes, suggesting the capacity for growing across different oxygen gradients. Amongst many genomes, the capacity to use a diverse collection of carbohydrates, as well as inorganic and organic N sources (such as extracellular peptidases), were detected – both advantageous traits in environments with fluctuating nutrient environments. We also identified multiple soil acidobacteria with the potential to scavenge atmospheric concentrations of H2, now encompassing mesophilic soil strains within the subdivision 1 and 3, in addition to a previously identified thermophilic strain in subdivision 4. This large-scale acidobacteria genome analysis reveals traits that provide genomic, physiological and metabolic versatility, presumably allowing flexibility and versatility in the challenging and fluctuating soil environment.

  • Microbial temperature sensitivity and biomass change explain soil carbon loss with warming.

    Walker TWN, Kaiser C, Strasser F, Herbold CW, Leblans NIW, Woebken D, Janssens IA, Sigurdsson BD, Richter A
    2018 - Nat Clim Chang, 10: 885-889


    Soil microorganisms control carbon losses from soils to the atmosphere1-3, yet their responses to climate warming are often short-lived and unpredictable4-7. Two mechanisms, microbial acclimation and substrate depletion, have been proposed to explain temporary warming effects on soil microbial activity8-10. However, empirical support for either mechanism is unconvincing. Here we used geothermal temperature gradients (> 50 years of field warming)11 and a short-term experiment to show that microbial activity (gross rates of growth, turnover, respiration and carbon uptake) is intrinsically temperature sensitive and does not acclimate to warming (+ 6 ºC) over weeks or decades. Permanently accelerated microbial activity caused carbon loss from soil. However, soil carbon loss was temporary because substrate depletion reduced microbial biomass and constrained the influence of microbes over the ecosystem. A microbial biogeochemical model12-14 showed that these observations are reproducible through a modest, but permanent, acceleration in microbial physiology. These findings reveal a mechanism by which intrinsic microbial temperature sensitivity and substrate depletion together dictate warming effects on soil carbon loss their control over microbial biomass. We thus provide a framework for interpreting the links between temperature, microbial activity and soil carbon loss on timescales relevant to Earth's climate system.

  • Genomic Insights Into the Acid Adaptation of Novel Methanotrophs Enriched From Acidic Forest Soils.

    Nguyen NL, Yu WJ, Gwak JH, Kim SJ, Park SJ, Herbold CW, Kim JG, Jung MY, Rhee SK
    2018 - Front Microbiol, 1982


    Soil acidification is accelerated by anthropogenic and agricultural activities, which could significantly affect global methane cycles. However, detailed knowledge of the genomic properties of methanotrophs adapted to acidic soils remains scarce. Using metagenomic approaches, we analyzed methane-utilizing communities enriched from acidic forest soils with pH 3 and 4, and recovered near-complete genomes of proteobacterial methanotrophs. Novel methanotroph genomes designated KS32 and KS41, belonging to two representative clades of methanotrophs ( of and of ), were dominant. Comparative genomic analysis revealed diverse systems of membrane transporters for ensuring pH homeostasis and defense against toxic chemicals. Various potassium transporter systems, sodium/proton antiporters, and two copies of proton-translocating F1F0-type ATP synthase genes were identified, which might participate in the key pH homeostasis mechanisms in KS32. In addition, the V-type ATP synthase and urea assimilation genes might be used for pH homeostasis in KS41. Genes involved in the modification of membranes by incorporation of cyclopropane fatty acids and hopanoid lipids might be used for reducing proton influx into cells. The two methanotroph genomes possess genes for elaborate heavy metal efflux pumping systems, possibly owing to increased heavy metal toxicity in acidic conditions. Phylogenies of key genes involved in acid adaptation, methane oxidation, and antiviral defense in KS41 were incongruent with that of 16S rRNA. Thus, the detailed analysis of the genome sequences provides new insights into the ecology of methanotrophs responding to soil acidification.

  • Characterization of the first “Candidatus Nitrotoga” isolate reveals metabolic versatility and separate evolution of widespread nitrite-oxidizing bacteria

    Kitzinger K, Koch H, Lücker S, Sedlacek CJ, Herbold CW, Schwarz J, Daebeler A, Mueller AJ, Lukumbuzya M, Romano S, Leisch N, Karst SM, Kirkegaard R, Albertsen M, Nielsen PH, Wagner M, Daims H
    2018 - mBio, 9: e01186-18


    Nitrification is a key process of the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle and of biological wastewater treatment. The second step, nitrite oxidation to nitrate, is catalyzed by phylogenetically diverse, chemolithoautotrophic nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB). Uncultured NOB from the genus “Candidatus Nitrotoga” are widespread in natural and engineered ecosystems. Knowledge about their biology is sparse, because no genomic information and no pure “Ca. Nitrotoga” culture was available. Here we obtained the first “Ca. Nitrotoga” isolate from activated sludge. This organism, “Candidatus Nitrotoga fabula,” prefers higher temperatures (>20°C; optimum, 24 to 28°C) than previous “Ca. Nitrotoga” enrichments, which were described as cold-adapted NOB. “Ca. Nitrotoga fabula” also showed an unusually high tolerance to nitrite (activity at 30 mM NO2) and nitrate (up to 25 mM NO3). Nitrite oxidation followed Michaelis-Menten kinetics, with an apparent Km (Km(app)) of ~89 µM nitrite and a Vmax of ~28 µmol of nitrite per mg of protein per h. Key metabolic pathways of “Ca. Nitrotoga fabula” were reconstructed from the closed genome. “Ca. Nitrotoga fabula” possesses a new type of periplasmic nitrite oxidoreductase belonging to a lineage of mostly uncharacterized proteins. This novel enzyme indicates (i) separate evolution of nitrite oxidation in “Ca. Nitrotoga” and other NOB, (ii) the possible existence of phylogenetically diverse, unrecognized NOB, and (iii) together with new metagenomic data, the potential existence of nitrite-oxidizing archaea. For carbon fixation, “Ca. Nitrotoga fabula” uses the Calvin-Benson-Bassham cycle. It also carries genes encoding complete pathways for hydrogen and sulfite oxidation, suggesting that alternative energy metabolisms enable “Ca. Nitrotoga fabula” to survive nitrite depletion and colonize new niches.

  • Distinct Microbial Assemblage Structure and Archaeal Diversity in Sediments of Arctic Thermokarst Lakes Differing in Methane Sources.

    Matheus Carnevali PB, Herbold CW, Hand KP, Priscu JC, Murray AE
    2018 - Front Microbiol, 1192


    Developing a microbial ecological understanding of Arctic thermokarst lake sediments in a geochemical context is an essential first step toward comprehending the contributions of these systems to greenhouse gas emissions, and understanding how they may shift as a result of long term changes in climate. In light of this, we set out to study microbial diversity and structure in sediments from four shallow thermokarst lakes in the Arctic Coastal Plain of Alaska. Sediments from one of these lakes (Sukok) emit methane (CH) of thermogenic origin, as expected for an area with natural gas reserves. However, sediments from a lake 10 km to the North West (Siqlukaq) produce CH of biogenic origin. Sukok and Siqlukaq were chosen among the four lakes surveyed to test the hypothesis that active CH-producing organisms (methanogens) would reflect the distribution of CH gas levels in the sediments. We first examined the structure of the little known microbial community inhabiting the thaw bulb of arctic thermokarst lakes near Barrow, AK. Molecular approaches (PCR-DGGE and iTag sequencing) targeting the SSU rRNA gene and rRNA molecule were used to profile diversity, assemblage structure, and identify potentially active members of the microbial assemblages. Overall, the potentially active (rRNA dominant) fraction included taxa that have also been detected in other permafrost environments (e.g., Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, Nitrospirae, Chloroflexi, and others). In addition, Siqlukaq sediments were unique compared to the other sites, in that they harbored CH-cycling organisms (i.e., methanogenic Archaea and methanotrophic Bacteria), as well as bacteria potentially involved in N cycling (e.g., Nitrospirae) whereas Sukok sediments were dominated by taxa typically involved in photosynthesis and biogeochemical sulfur (S) transformations. This study revealed a high degree of archaeal phylogenetic diversity in addition to CH-producing archaea, which spanned nearly the phylogenetic extent of currently recognized Archaea phyla (e.g., Euryarchaeota, Bathyarchaeota, Thaumarchaeota, Woesearchaeota, Pacearchaeota, and others). Together these results shed light on expansive bacterial and archaeal diversity in Arctic thermokarst lakes and suggest important differences in biogeochemical potential in contrasting Arctic thermokarst lake sediment ecosystems.

  • Cultivation and genomic analysis of “Candidatus Nitrosocaldus islandicus”, an obligately thermophilic, ammonia-oxidizing thaumarchaeon from a hot spring biofilm in Graendalur valley, Iceland

    Daebeler A, Herbold CW, Vierheilig J, Sedlacek CJ, Pjevac P, Albertsen M, Kirkegaard RH, De La Torre JR, Daims H, Wagner M
    2018 - Front Microbiol, 9: 193


    Ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) within the phylum Thaumarchaeota are the only known aerobic ammonia oxidizers in geothermal environments. Although molecular data indicate the presence of phylogenetically diverse AOA from the Nitrosocaldus clade, group 1.1b and group 1.1a Thaumarchaeota in terrestrial high-temperature habitats, only one enrichment culture of an AOA thriving above 50 °C has been reported and functionally analyzed. In this study, we physiologically and genomically characterized a newly discovered thaumarchaeon from the deep-branching Nitrosocaldaceae family of which we have obtained a high (~85 %) enrichment from biofilm of an Icelandic hot spring (73 °C). This AOA, which we provisionally refer to as “Candidatus Nitrosocaldus islandicus”, is an obligately thermophilic, aerobic chemolithoautotrophic ammonia oxidizer, which stoichiometricall converts ammonia to nitrite at temperatures between 50 °C and 70 °C. “Ca. N. islandicus” encodes the expected repertoire of enzymes proposed to be required for archaeal ammonia oxidation, but unexpectedly lacks a nirK gene and also possesses no identifiable other enzyme for nitric oxide (NO) generation*. Nevertheless, ammonia oxidation by this AOA appears to be NO-dependent as “Ca. N. islandicus” is, like all other tested AOA, inhibited by the addition of an NO scavenger. Furthermore, comparative genomics revealed that “Ca. N. islandicus” has the potential for aromatic amino acid fermentation as its genome encodes an indolepyruvate oxidoreductase (iorAB) as well as a type 3b hydrogenase, which are not present in any other sequenced AOA. A further surprising genomic feature of this thermophilic ammonia oxidizer is the absence of DNA polymerase D genes – one of the predominant replicative DNA polymerases in all other ammonia-oxidizing Thaumarchaeota. Collectively, our findings suggest that metabolic versatility and DNA replication might differ substantially between obligately thermophilic and other AOA.

  • Peatland Acidobacteria with a dissimilatory sulfur metabolism

    Hausmann B, Pelikan C, Herbold CW, Köstlbacher S, Albertsen M, Eichorst SA, Glavina del Rio T, Huemer M, Nielsen PH, Rattei T, Stingl U, Tringe SG, Trojan D, Wentrup C, Woebken D, Pester M, Loy A
    2018 - ISME J, 12: 1729-1742


    Sulfur-cycling microorganisms impact organic matter decomposition in wetlands and consequently greenhouse gas emissions from these globally relevant environments. However, their identities and physiological properties are largely unknown. By applying a functional metagenomics approach to an acidic peatland, we recovered draft genomes of seven novel Acidobacteria species with the potential for dissimilatory sulfite (dsrAB, dsrC, dsrD, dsrN, dsrT, dsrMKJOP) or sulfate respiration (sat, aprBA, qmoABC plus dsr genes). Surprisingly, the genomes also encoded DsrL, which so far was only found in sulfur-oxidizing microorganisms. Metatranscriptome analysis demonstrated expression of acidobacterial sulfur-metabolism genes in native peat soil and their upregulation in diverse anoxic microcosms. This indicated an active sulfate respiration pathway, which, however, might also operate in reverse for dissimilatory sulfur oxidation or disproportionation as proposed for the sulfur-oxidizing Desulfurivibrio alkaliphilus. Acidobacteria that only harbored genes for sulfite reduction additionally encoded enzymes that liberate sulfite from organosulfonates, which suggested organic sulfur compounds as complementary energy sources. Further metabolic potentials included polysaccharide hydrolysis and sugar utilization, aerobic respiration, several fermentative capabilities, and hydrogen oxidation. Our findings extend both, the known physiological and genetic properties of Acidobacteria and the known taxonomic diversity of microorganisms with a DsrAB-based sulfur metabolism, and highlight new fundamental niches for facultative anaerobic Acidobacteria in wetlands based on exploitation of inorganic and organic sulfur molecules for energy conservation.

  • Ammonia-oxidising archaea living at low pH: Insights from comparative genomics.

    Herbold CW, Lehtovirta-Morley LE, Jung MY, Jehmlich N, Hausmann B, Han P, Loy A, Pester M, Sayavedra-Soto LA, Rhee SK, Prosser JI, Nicol GW, Wagner M, Gubry-Rangin C
    2017 - Environ. Microbiol., 12: 4939-4952


    Obligate acidophilic members of the thaumarchaeotal genus Candidatus Nitrosotalea play an important role in nitrification in acidic soils, but their evolutionary and physiological adaptations to acidic environments are still poorly understood, with only a single member of this genus (Ca. N. devanaterra) having its genome sequenced. In this study, we sequenced the genomes of two additional cultured Ca. Nitrosotalea strains, extracted an almost complete Ca. Nitrosotalea metagenome-assembled genome from an acidic fen, and performed comparative genomics of the four Ca. Nitrosotalea genomes with 19 other archaeal ammonia oxidiser genomes. Average nucleotide and amino acid identities revealed that the four Ca. Nitrosotalea strains represent separate species within the genus. The four Ca. Nitrosotalea genomes contained a core set of 103 orthologous gene families absent from all other ammonia-oxidizing archaea and, for most of these gene families, expression could be demonstrated in laboratory culture or the environment via proteomic or metatranscriptomic analyses respectively. Phylogenetic analyses indicated that four of these core gene families were acquired by the Ca. Nitrosotalea common ancestor via horizontal gene transfer from acidophilic representatives of Euryarchaeota. We hypothesize that gene exchange with these acidophiles contributed to the competitive success of the Ca. Nitrosotalea lineage in acidic environments.

  • Bottled aqua incognita: Microbiota assembly and dissolved organic matter diversity in natural mineral waters

    Lesaulnier CC, Herbold CW, Pelikan C, Gérard C, Le Coz X, Gagnot S, Berry D, Niggemann J, Dittmar T, Singer GA, Loy A
    2017 - Microbiome, 5: 126


    Background: Non-carbonated natural mineral waters contain microorganisms that regularly grow after bottling despite low concentrations of dissolved organic matter (DOM). Yet, the compositions of bottled water microbiota and organic substrates that fuel microbial activity, and how both change after bottling, are still largely unknown.

    Results: We performed a multifaceted analysis of microbiota and DOM diversity in twelve natural mineral waters from six European countries. 16S rRNA gene-based analyses showed that less than ten species-level operational taxonomic units (OTUs) dominated the bacterial communities in the water phase and associated with the bottle wall after a short phase of post-bottling growth. Members of the betaproteobacterial genera Curvibacter, Aquabacterium, and Polaromonas (Comamonadaceae) grew in most waters and represent ubiquitous, mesophilic, heterotrophic aerobes in bottled waters. Ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry of DOM in bottled waters and their corresponding source waters identified thousands of molecular formulae characteristic of mostly refractory, soil-derived DOM.

    Conclusions. The bottle environment, including source water physicochemistry, selected for growth of a similar low-diversity microbiota across various bottled waters. Relative abundance changes of hundreds of multi-carbon molecules were related to growth of less than ten abundant OTUs. We thus speculate that individual bacteria cope with oligotrophic conditions by simultaneously consuming diverse DOM molecules.

  • AmoA-targeted polymerase chain reaction primers for the specific detection and quantification of comammox Nitrospira in the environment

    Pjevac P, Schauberger C, Poghosyan L, Herbold CW, van Kessel MAHJ, Daebeler A, Steinberger M, Jetten MSM, Luecker S, Wagner M, Daims H
    2017 - Front Microbiol, 8:1508
    Comammox PCR primers


    Nitrification, the oxidation of ammonia via nitrite to nitrate, has always been considered to be catalyzed by the concerted activity of ammonia- and nitrite-oxidizing microorganisms. Only recently, complete ammonia oxidizers (‘comammox’), which oxidize ammonia to nitrate on their own, were identified in the bacterial genus Nitrospira, previously assumed to contain only canonical nitrite oxidizers. Nitrospira are widespread in nature, but for assessments of the distribution and functional importance of comammox Nitrospira in ecosystems, cultivation-independent tools to distinguish comammox from strictly nitrite oxidizing Nitrospira are required. Here we developed new PCR primer sets that specifically target the amoA genes coding for subunit A of the distinct ammonia monooxygenase of comammox Nitrospira. While existing primers capture only a fraction of the known comammox amoA diversity, the new primer sets cover as much as 95% of the comammox amoA clade A and 92% of the clade B sequences in a reference database containing 326 comammox amoA genes with sequence information at the primer binding sites. Application of the primers to 13 samples from engineered systems (a groundwater well, drinking water treatment and wastewater treatment plants) and other habitats (rice paddy and forest soils, rice rhizosphere, brackish lake sediment and freshwater biofilm) detected comammox Nitrospira in all samples and revealed a considerable diversity of comammox in most habitats. Excellent primer specificity for comammox amoA was achieved by avoiding the use of highly degenerate primer preparations and by using equimolar mixtures of oligonucleotides that match existing comammox amoA genes. Quantitative PCR with these equimolar primer mixtures was highly sensitive and specific, and enabled the efficient quantification of clade A and clade B comammox amoA gene copy numbers in environmental samples. The measured relative abundances of comammox Nitrospira, compared to canonical ammonia oxidizers, were highly variable across environments. The new comammox amoA-targeted primers enable more encompassing future studies of nitrifying microorganisms in diverse habitats. For example, they may be used to monitor the population dynamics of uncultured comammox organisms under changing environmental conditions and in response to altered treatments in engineered and agricultural ecosystems.

  • Diversity analysis of sulfite- and sulfate-reducing microorganisms by multiplex dsrA and dsrB amplicon sequencing using new primers and mock community-optimized bioinformatics

    Pelikan C, Herbold CW, Hausmann B, Müller AL, Pester M, Loy A
    2016 - Environ Microbiol, 18: 2994-3009


    Genes encoding dissimilatory sulfite reductase (DsrAB) are commonly used as diagnostic markers in ecological studies of sulfite- and sulfate-reducing microorganisms. Here, we developed new high-coverage primer sets for generation of reductive bacterial-type dsrA and dsrB PCR products for highly parallel amplicon sequencing and a bioinformatics workflow for processing and taxonomic classification of short dsrA and dsrB reads. We employed two diverse mock communities that consisted of 45 or 90 known dsrAB sequences derived from environmental clones to precisely evaluate the performance of individual steps of our amplicon sequencing approach on the Illumina MiSeq platform. Although PCR cycle number, gene-specific primer mismatches, and stringent filtering for high-quality sequences had notable effects on the observed dsrA and dsrB community structures, recovery of most mock community sequences was generally proportional to their relative input abundances. Successful dsrA and dsrB diversity analysis in selected environmental samples further proved that the multiplex amplicon sequencing approach is adequate for monitoring spatial distribution and temporal abundance dynamics of dsrAB-containing microorganisms. While tested for reductive bacterial-type dsrAB, this method is readily applicable for oxidative-type dsrAB of sulfur-oxidizing bacteria and also provides guidance for processing short amplicon reads of other functional genes.

  • A flexible and economical barcoding approach for highly multiplexed amplicon sequencing of diverse target genes.

    Herbold CW, Pelikan C, Kuzyk O, Hausmann B, Angel R, Berry D, Loy A
    2015 - Front Microbiol, 6: 731


    High throughput sequencing of phylogenetic and functional gene amplicons provides tremendous insight into the structure and functional potential of complex microbial communities. Here, we introduce a highly adaptable and economical PCR approach to barcoding and pooling libraries of numerous target genes. In this approach, we replace gene- and sequencing platform-specific fusion primers with general, interchangeable barcoding primers, enabling nearly limitless customized barcode-primer combinations. Compared to barcoding with long fusion primers, our multiple-target gene approach is more economical because it overall requires lower number of primers and is based on short primers with generally lower synthesis and purification costs. To highlight our approach, we pooled over 900 different small-subunit rRNA and functional gene amplicon libraries obtained from various environmental or host-associated microbial community samples into a single, paired-end Illumina MiSeq run. Although the amplicon regions ranged in size from approximately 290 to 720 bp, we found no significant systematic sequencing bias related to amplicon length or gene target. Our results indicate that this flexible multiplexing approach produces large, diverse, and high quality sets of amplicon sequence data for modern studies in microbial ecology.

Book chapters and other publications

5 Publications found
  • Draft Genome Sequence of Desulfosporosinus fructosivorans Strain 63.6F, Isolated from Marine Sediment in the Baltic Sea

    Hausmann B, Vandieken V, Pjevac P, Schreck K, Herbold CW, Loy A
    2019 - Microbiology Resource Announcements, 8: e00427-1


    Desulfosporosinus fructosivorans strain 63.6FT is a strictly anaerobic, spore-forming, sulfate-reducing bacterium isolated from marine sediment in the Baltic Sea. Here, we report the draft genome sequence of D. fructosivorans 63.6FT.

  • Draft Genome Sequence of Desulfosporosinus sp. Strain Sb-LF, Isolated from an acidic peatland in Germany

    Hausmann B, Pjevac P, Huemer M, Herbold CW, Pester M, Loy A
    2019 - Microbiology Resource Announcements, 8: e00428-1


    Desulfosporosinus sp. strain Sb-LF was isolated from an acidic peatland in Bavaria, Germany. Here, we report the draft genome sequence of the sulfate-reducing and lactate-utilizing strain Sb-LF.

  • Draft genome sequence of Telmatospirillum siberiense 26-4b1T, an acidotolerant peatland alphaproteobacterium potentially involved in sulfur cycling

    Hausmann B, Pjevac P, Schreck K, Herbold CW, Daims H, Wagner M, Loy A
    2018 - Genome Announc, 6: e01524-17


    The facultative anaerobic chemoorganoheterotrophic alphaproteobacterium Telmatospirillum siberiense 26-4b1T was isolated from a Siberian peatland. We report on a 6.20 Mbp near complete, high quality draft genome of T. siberiense that reveals expected and novel metabolic potential for the genus Telmatospirillum, including genes for sulfur oxidation.

  • Candidatus Nitrosotenuaceae

    Herbold CW, Lebedeva E, Palatinszky M, Wagner M
    2016 - 1-5. in Bergey’s Manual of Systematics of Archaea and Bacteria. (William B. Whitman)). John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, England


    Candidatus Nitrosotenuaceae is a family of Thaumarchaeota that consists of a single genus, Ca. Nitrosotenuis, which can be found widely distributed in soils, freshwater, hot springs, the subsurface, and activated sludge. They may be rods or spheres and may or may not have flagella. Similar to other known and described Thaumarchaeota, Ca. Nitrosotenuaceae are aerobic chemolithautotrophs that use energy gained from the oxidation of ammonia to nitrite to fix carbon via modified 3-hydroxypropionate/4 –hydroxybutyrate carbon fixation pathway. At this time, no pure culture of Ca. Nitrosotenuaceae exists, but some of the six available enrichments with members of the genus are almost pure. It remains to be demonstrated whether the remaining bacterial contaminants provide essential compounds to Ca. Nitrosotenuaceae. Enrichments of Ca. Nitrosotenuaceae are intolerant to high salinity (>0.3%), although they are phylogenetically related to the Group I.1a Thaumarchaeota (Ca. Nitrosopumilaceae), which includes taxa that are widely distributed in the ocean.

  • Candidatus Nitrosotenuis

    Herbold CW, Lebedeva E, Palatinszky M, Wagner M
    2016 - 1-9. in Bergey’s Manual of Systematics of Archaea and Bacteria. (William B. Whitman). John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, England


    Candidatus Nitrosotenuis is a genus of Thaumarchaeota that can be found widely distributed in soils, freshwater, hot springs, the subsurface, and activated sludge. They may be rods or spheres and may or may not have flagella. Like other known and described Thaumarchaeota, Ca. Nitrosotenuis are aerobic chemolithautotrophs that use energy gained from the oxidation of ammonia to nitrite to fix carbon via modified 3-hydroxypropionate/4-hydroxybutyrate carbon fixation pathway. At this time, no pure culture of Ca. Nitrosotenuis exists, but some of the six available enrichments with members of the genus are almost pure. It remains to be  demonstrated whether the remaining bacterial contaminants provide essential compounds to Ca. Nitrosotenuis. Enrichments of Ca. Nitrosotenuis are intolerant to high salinity (>0.3%), although they are phylogenetically related to the Group I.1a Thaumarchaeota (Nitrosopumilaceae), which includes taxa that are widely distributed in the ocean.