Publications in peer reviewed journals

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

    Angel R, Panhölzl C, Gabriel R, Herbold C, Wanek W, Richter A, Eichorst SA, Woebken D
    2017 - Environmental Microbiology, in press


    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.

  • 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.

  • Kinetic analysis of a complete nitrifier reveals an oligotrophic lifestyle.

    Kits KD, Sedlacek CJ, Lebedeva EV, Han P, Bulaev A, Pjevac P, Daebeler A, Romano S, Albertsen M, Stein LY, Daims H, Wagner M
    2017 - Nature, 549: 269-272


    Nitrification, the oxidation of ammonia (NH3) via nitrite (NO2(-)) to nitrate (NO3(-)), is a key process of the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle. For decades, ammonia and nitrite oxidation were thought to be separately catalysed by ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and archaea (AOA), and by nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB). The recent discovery of complete ammonia oxidizers (comammox) in the NOB genus Nitrospira, which alone convert ammonia to nitrate, raised questions about the ecological niches in which comammox Nitrospira successfully compete with canonical nitrifiers. Here we isolate a pure culture of a comammox bacterium, Nitrospira inopinata, and show that it is adapted to slow growth in oligotrophic and dynamic habitats on the basis of a high affinity for ammonia, low maximum rate of ammonia oxidation, high growth yield compared to canonical nitrifiers, and genomic potential for alternative metabolisms. The nitrification kinetics of four AOA from soil and hot springs were determined for comparison. Their surprisingly poor substrate affinities and lower growth yields reveal that, in contrast to earlier assumptions, AOA are not necessarily the most competitive ammonia oxidizers present in strongly oligotrophic environments and that N. inopinata has the highest substrate affinity of all analysed ammonia oxidizer isolates except the marine AOA Nitrosopumilus maritimus SCM1 (ref. 3). These results suggest a role for comammox organisms in nitrification under oligotrophic and dynamic conditions.

  • Crenothrix are major methane consumers in stratified lakes.

    Oswald K, Graf JS, Littmann S, Tienken D, Brand A, Wehrli B, Albertsen M, Daims H, Wagner M, Kuypers MM, Schubert CJ, Milucka J
    2017 - ISME J, 9: 2124-2140


    Methane-oxidizing bacteria represent a major biological sink for methane and are thus Earth's natural protection against this potent greenhouse gas. Here we show that in two stratified freshwater lakes a substantial part of upward-diffusing methane was oxidized by filamentous gamma-proteobacteria related to Crenothrix polyspora. These filamentous bacteria have been known as contaminants of drinking water supplies since 1870, but their role in the environmental methane removal has remained unclear. While oxidizing methane, these organisms were assigned an 'unusual' methane monooxygenase (MMO), which was only distantly related to 'classical' MMO of gamma-proteobacterial methanotrophs. We now correct this assignment and show that Crenothrix encode a typical gamma-proteobacterial PmoA. Stable isotope labeling in combination swith single-cell imaging mass spectrometry revealed methane-dependent growth of the lacustrine Crenothrix with oxygen as well as under oxygen-deficient conditions. Crenothrix genomes encoded pathways for the respiration of oxygen as well as for the reduction of nitrate to N2O. The observed abundance and planktonic growth of Crenothrix suggest that these methanotrophs can act as a relevant biological sink for methane in stratified lakes and should be considered in the context of environmental removal of methane.

  • Cultivation and characterization of Candidatus Nitrosocosmicus exaquare, an ammonia-oxidizing archaeon from a municipal wastewater treatment system.

    Sauder LA, Albertsen M, Engel K, Schwarz J, Nielsen PH, Wagner M, Neufeld JD
    2017 - ISME J, 5: 1142-1157


    Thaumarchaeota have been detected in several industrial and municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), despite the fact that ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) are thought to be adapted to low ammonia environments. However, the activity, physiology and metabolism of WWTP-associated AOA remain poorly understood. We report the cultivation and complete genome sequence of Candidatus Nitrosocosmicus exaquare, a novel AOA representative from a municipal WWTP in Guelph, Ontario (Canada). In enrichment culture, Ca. N. exaquare oxidizes ammonia to nitrite stoichiometrically, is mesophilic, and tolerates at least 15 mm of ammonium chloride or sodium nitrite. Microautoradiography (MAR) for enrichment cultures demonstrates that Ca. N. exaquare assimilates bicarbonate in association with ammonia oxidation. However, despite using inorganic carbon, the ammonia-oxidizing activity of Ca. N. exaquare is greatly stimulated in enrichment culture by the addition of organic compounds, especially malate and succinate. Ca. N. exaquare cells are coccoid with a diameter of ~1-2 μm. Phylogenetically, Ca. N. exaquare belongs to the Nitrososphaera sister cluster within the Group I.1b Thaumarchaeota, a lineage which includes most other reported AOA sequences from municipal and industrial WWTPs. The 2.99 Mbp genome of Ca. N. exaquare encodes pathways for ammonia oxidation, bicarbonate fixation, and urea transport and breakdown. In addition, this genome encodes several key genes for dealing with oxidative stress, including peroxidase and catalase. Incubations of WWTP biofilm demonstrate partial inhibition of ammonia-oxidizing activity by 2-phenyl-4,4,5,5-tetramethylimidazoline-1-oxyl 3-oxide (PTIO), suggesting that Ca. N. exaquare-like AOA may contribute to nitrification in situ. However, CARD-FISH-MAR showed no incorporation of bicarbonate by detected Thaumarchaeaota, suggesting that detected AOA may incorporate non-bicarbonate carbon sources or rely on an alternative and yet unknown metabolism.

  • Lifestyle and horizontal gene transfer-mediated evolution of Mucispirillum schaedleri, a core member of the murine gut microbiota

    Loy A, Pfann C, Steinberger M, Hanson B, Herp S, Brugiroux S, Gomes Neto JC, Boekschoten MV, Schwab C, Urich T, Ramer-Tait AE, Rattei T, Stecher B, Berry D
    2017 - mSystems, 2: e00171-16


    Mucispirillum schaedleri is an abundant inhabitant of the intestinal mucus layer of rodents and other animals and has been suggested to be a pathobiont, a commensal that plays a role in disease. In order to gain insights into its lifestyle, we analyzed the genome and transcriptome of M. schaedleri ASF 457 and performed physiological experiments to test traits predicted by its genome. Although described as a mucus inhabitant, M. schaedleri has limited capacity for degrading host-derived mucosal glycans and other complex polysaccharides. Additionally, M. schaedleri reduces nitrate and expresses systems for scavenging oxygen and reactive oxygen species in vivo, which may account for its localization close to the mucosal tissue and expansion during inflammation. Also of note, M. schaedleri harbors a type VI secretion system and putative effector proteins and can modify gene expression in mucosal tissue, suggesting intimate interactions with its host and a possible role in inflammation. The M. schaedleri genome has been shaped by extensive horizontal gene transfer, primarily from intestinal Epsilon- and Deltaproteobacteria, indicating that horizontal gene transfer has played a key role in defining its niche in the gut ecosystem.

  • Genomic repertoire of the Woeseiaceae/JTB255, cosmopolitan and abundant core members of microbial communities in marine sediments.

    Mußmann M, Pjevac P, Krüger K, Dyksma S
    2017 - ISME J, in press


    To date, very little is known about the bacterial core community of marine sediments. Here we study the environmental distribution, abundance and ecogenomics of the gammaproteobacterial Woeseiaceae/JTB255 marine benthic group. A meta-analysis of published work shows that the Woeseiaceae/JTB255 are ubiquitous and consistently rank among the most abundant 16S rRNA gene sequences in diverse marine sediments. They account for up to 22% of bacterial amplicons and 6% of total cell counts in European and Australian coastal sediments. The analysis of a single-cell genome, metagenomic bins and the genome of the next cultured relative Woeseia oceani indicated a broad physiological range, including heterotrophy and facultative autotrophy. All tested (meta)genomes encode a truncated denitrification pathway to nitrous oxide. The broad range of energy-yielding metabolisms possibly explains the ubiquity and high abundance of Woeseiaceae/JTB255 in marine sediments, where they carry out diverse, but yet unknown ecological functions.The ISME Journal advance online publication, 6 January 2017; doi:10.1038/ismej.2016.185.

Book chapters and other publications

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