Publications in peer reviewed journals
Vitamin and Amino Acid Auxotrophy in Anaerobic Consortia Operating under Methanogenic Conditions.2017 - mSystems, 5: e00038-17
Syntrophy among Archaea and Bacteria facilitates the anaerobic degradation of organic compounds to CH4 and CO2. Particularly during aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbon mineralization, as in the case of crude oil reservoirs and petroleum-contaminated sediments, metabolic interactions between obligate mutualistic microbial partners are of central importance. Using micromanipulation combined with shotgun metagenomic approaches, we describe the genomes of complex consortia within short-chain alkane-degrading cultures operating under methanogenic conditions. Metabolic reconstruction revealed that only a small fraction of genes in the metagenome-assembled genomes encode the capacity for fermentation of alkanes facilitated by energy conservation linked to H2 metabolism. Instead, the presence of inferred lifestyles based on scavenging anabolic products and intermediate fermentation products derived from detrital biomass was a common feature. Additionally, inferred auxotrophy for vitamins and amino acids suggests that the hydrocarbon-degrading microbial assemblages are structured and maintained by multiple interactions beyond the canonical H2-producing and syntrophic alkane degrader-methanogen partnership. Compared to previous work, our report points to a higher order of complexity in microbial consortia engaged in anaerobic hydrocarbon transformation. IMPORTANCE Microbial interactions between Archaea and Bacteria mediate many important chemical transformations in the biosphere from degrading abundant polymers to synthesis of toxic compounds. Two of the most pressing issues in microbial interactions are how consortia are established and how we can modulate these microbial communities to express desirable functions. Here, we propose that public goods (i.e., metabolites of high energy demand in biosynthesis) facilitate energy conservation for life under energy-limited conditions and determine the assembly and function of the consortia. Our report suggests that an understanding of public good dynamics could result in new ways to improve microbial pollutant degradation in anaerobic systems.
Bottled aqua incognita: Microbiota assembly and dissolved organic matter diversity in natural mineral waters2017 - 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.
Evaluating the Detection of Hydrocarbon-Degrading Bacteria in 16S rRNA Gene Sequencing Surveys.2017 - Front Microbiol, 8: 2460
Hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria (HCB) play a key role in the biodegradation of oil hydrocarbons in marine and other environments. A small number of taxa have been identified as obligate HCB, notably the Gammaproteobacterial genera Alcanivorax, Cycloclasticus, Marinobacter, Neptumonas, Oleiphilus, Oleispira, and Thalassolituus, as well as the Alphaproteobacterial genus Thalassospira. Detection of HCB in amplicon-based sequencing surveys relies on high coverage by PCR primers and accurate taxonomic classification. In this study, we performed a phylogenetic analysis to identify 16S rRNA gene sequence regions that represent the breadth of sequence diversity within these taxa. Using validated sequences, we evaluated 449 universal 16S rRNA gene-targeted bacterial PCR primer pairs for their coverage of these taxa. The results of this analysis provide a practical framework for selection of suitable primer sets for optimal detection of HCB in sequencing surveys.