Publications in peer reviewed journals

665 Publications found
  • Survival strategies of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) in a full-scale WWTP treating mixed landfill leachate containing copper ions and operating at low-intensity of aeration

    Yang Y, Herbold CW, Jung MY, Qin W, Cai M, Du H, Lin JG, Li X, Li M, Gu JD.
    2021 - Water Research, in press


    Recent studies indicate that ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) may play an important role in nitrogen removal by wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). However, our knowledge of the mechanisms employed by AOA for growth and survival in full-scale WWTPs is still limited. Here, metagenomic and metatranscriptomic analyses combined with a laboratory cultivation experiment revealed that three active AOAs (WS9, WS192, and WS208) belonging to family Nitrososphaeraceae were active in the deep oxidation ditch (DOD) of a full-scale WWTP treating landfill leachate, which is configured with three continuous aerobic-anoxic (OA) modules with low-intensity aeration (≤ 1.5 mg/L). AOA coexisted with AOB and complete ammonia oxidizers (Comammox), while the ammonia-oxidizing microbial (AOM) community was unexpectedly dominated by the novel AOA strain WS9. The low aeration, long retention time, and relatively high inputs of ammonium and copper might be responsible for the survival of AOA over AOB and Comammox while the dominance of WS9 specifically may be enhanced by substrate preference and uniquely encoded retention strategies. The urease-negative WS9 is specifically adapted for ammonia acquisition as evidenced by the high expression of an ammonium transporter, whereas two metabolically versatile urease-positive AOA strains (WS192 and WS208) can likely supplement ammonia needs with urea. This study provides important information for the survival and application of the eutrophic Nitrososphaeraceae AOA and advances our understanding of archaea-dominated ammonia oxidation in a full-scale wastewater treatment system.

  • Distribution of mixotrophy and desiccation survival mechanisms across microbial genomes in an arid biological soil crust community

    Meier DV, Imminger S, Gillor O, Woebken D
    2021 - mSystems, in press


    Desert surface soils devoid of plant cover are populated by a variety of microorganisms, many with yet unresolved physiologies and lifestyles. Nevertheless, a common feature vital for these microorganisms inhabiting arid soils is their ability to survive long drought periods and reactivate rapidly in rare incidents of rain. Chemolithotrophic processes such as oxidation of atmospheric hydrogen and carbon monoxide are suggested to be a widespread energy source to support dormancy and resuscitation in desert soil microorganisms. Here, we assessed the distribution of chemolithotrophic, phototrophic, and desiccation-related metabolic potential among microbial populations in arid biological soil crusts (BSCs) from the Negev Desert, Israel, via population-resolved metagenomic analysis. While the potential to utilize light and atmospheric hydrogen as additional energy sources was widespread, carbon monoxide oxidation was less common than expected. The ability to utilize continuously available energy sources might decrease the dependency of mixotrophic populations on organic storage compounds and carbon provided by the BSC-founding cyanobacteria. Several populations from five different phyla besides the cyanobacteria encoded CO2 fixation potential, indicating further potential independence from photoautotrophs. However, we also found population genomes with a strictly heterotrophic genetic repertoire. The highly abundant Rubrobacteraceae (Actinobacteriota) genomes showed particular specialization for this extreme habitat, different from their closest cultured relatives. Besides the ability to use light and hydrogen as energy sources, they encoded extensive O2 stress protection and unique DNA repair potential. The uncovered differences in metabolic potential between individual, co-occurring microbial populations enable predictions of their ecological niches and generation of hypotheses on the dynamics and interactions among them.

  • Long-Term Consumption of Anthocyanin-Rich Fruit Juice: Impact on Gut Microbiota and Antioxidant Markers in Lymphocytes of Healthy Males

    Groh IAM, Riva A, Braun D, Sutherland HG, Williams O, Bakuradze T, Pahlke G, Richling E, Haupt LM, Griffiths LR, Berry D, Marko D
    2021 - Antioxidants, 10: in press


    Polyphenols are considered protective against diseases associated with oxidative stress. Short-term intake of an anthocyanin-rich fruit juice resulted in significantly reduced deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) strand-breaks in peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) and affected antioxidant markers in healthy volunteers. Consequently, effects of long-term consumption of fruit juice are of particular interest. In focus was the impact on nuclear factor erythroid 2 (NFE2)-related factor 2 (Nrf2), the Nrf2-regulated genes NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO-1) and heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1) as well as effects on the gut microbiota. In a nine-week placebo-controlled intervention trial with 57 healthy male volunteers, consumption of anthocyanin-rich juice significantly increased NQO-1 and HO-1 transcript levels in PBLs compared to a placebo beverage as measured by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Three Nrf2-promotor single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), analyzed by pyrosequencing, indicated an association between individual Nrf2 transcript levels and genotype. Moreover, the Nrf2 genotype appeared to correlate with the presence of specific microbial organisms identified by 16S-PCR and classified as Spirochaetaceae. Furthermore, the microbial community was significantly affected by the duration of juice consumption and intake of juice itself. Taken together, long-term consumption of anthocyanin-rich fruit juice affected Nrf2-dependent transcription in PBLs, indicating systemic effects. Individual Nrf2 genotypes may influence the antioxidant response, thus requiring consideration in future intervention studies focusing on the Nrf2 pathway. Anthocyanin-rich fruit juice had an extensive impact on the gut microbiota. 

  • Conjugative plasmids interact with insertion sequences to shape the horizontal transfer of antimicrobial resistance genes.

    Che Y, Yang Y, Xu X, Břinda K, Polz MF, Hanage WP, Zhang T
    2021 - Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 6: in press


    It is well established that plasmids play an important role in the dissemination of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes; however, little is known about the role of the underlying interactions between different plasmid categories and other mobile genetic elements (MGEs) in shaping the promiscuous spread of AMR genes. Here, we developed a tool designed for plasmid classification, AMR gene annotation, and plasmid visualization and found that most plasmid-borne AMR genes, including those localized on class 1 integrons, are enriched in conjugative plasmids. Notably, we report the discovery and characterization of a massive insertion sequence (IS)-associated AMR gene transfer network (245 combinations covering 59 AMR gene subtypes and 53 ISs) linking conjugative plasmids and phylogenetically distant pathogens, suggesting a general evolutionary mechanism for the horizontal transfer of AMR genes mediated by the interaction between conjugative plasmids and ISs. Moreover, our experimental results confirmed the importance of the observed interactions in aiding the horizontal transfer and expanding the genetic range of AMR genes within complex microbial communities.

  • Coastal Bacterial Community Response to Glacier Melting in the Western Antarctic Peninsula.

    Alcamán-Arias ME, Fuentes-Alburquenque S, Vergara-Barros P, Cifuentes-Anticevic J, Verdugo J, Polz M, Farías L, Pedrós-Alió C, Díez B
    2021 - Microorganisms, 1: in press


    Current warming in the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) has multiple effects on the marine ecosystem, modifying the trophic web and the nutrient regime. In this study, the effect of decreased surface salinity on the marine microbial community as a consequence of freshening from nearby glaciers was investigated in Chile Bay, Greenwich Island, WAP. In the summer of 2016, samples were collected from glacier ice and transects along the bay for 16S rRNA gene sequencing, while in situ dilution experiments were conducted and analyzed using 16S rRNA gene sequencing and metatranscriptomic analysis. The results reveal that certain common seawater genera, such as , and HTCC2207, responded positively to decreased salinity in both the bay transect and experiments. The relative abundance of these bacteria slightly decreased, but their functional activity was maintained and increased the over time in the dilution experiments. However, while ice bacteria, such as and , tolerated the increased salinity after mixing with seawater, their gene expression decreased considerably. We suggest that these bacterial taxa could be defined as sentinels of freshening events in the Antarctic coastal system. Furthermore, these results suggest that a significant portion of the microbial community is resilient and can adapt to disturbances, such as freshening due to the warming effect of climate change in Antarctica.

  • Transkingdom interactions between Lactobacilli and hepatic mitochondria attenuate western diet-induced diabetes.

    Rodrigues RR, Gurung M, Li Z, García-Jaramillo M, Greer R, Gaulke C, Bauchinger F, You H, Pederson JW, Vasquez-Perez S, White KD, Frink B, Philmus B, Jump DB, Trinchieri G, Berry D, Sharpton TJ, Dzutsev A, Morgun A, Shulzhenko N
    2021 - Nat Commun, 1: 101


    Western diet (WD) is one of the major culprits of metabolic disease including type 2 diabetes (T2D) with gut microbiota playing an important role in modulating effects of the diet. Herein, we use a data-driven approach (Transkingdom Network analysis) to model host-microbiome interactions under WD to infer which members of microbiota contribute to the altered host metabolism. Interrogation of this network pointed to taxa with potential beneficial or harmful effects on host's metabolism. We then validate the functional role of the predicted bacteria in regulating metabolism and show that they act via different host pathways. Our gene expression and electron microscopy studies show that two species from Lactobacillus genus act upon mitochondria in the liver leading to the improvement of lipid metabolism. Metabolomics analyses revealed that reduced glutathione may mediate these effects. Our study identifies potential probiotic strains for T2D and provides important insights into mechanisms of their action.

  • Coevolving plasmids drive gene flow and genome plasticity in host-associated intracellular bacteria

    Köstlbacher S, Collingro A, Halter T, Domman D, Horn M
    2021 - Curr. Biol., in press


    Plasmids are important in microbial evolution and adaptation to new environments. Yet, carrying a plasmid can be costly, and long-term association of plasmids with their hosts is poorly understood. Here, we provide evidence that the Chlamydiae, a phylum of strictly host-associated intracellular bacteria, have coevolved with their plasmids since their last common ancestor. Current chlamydial plasmids are amalgamations of at least one ancestral plasmid and a bacteriophage. We show that the majority of plasmid genes are also found on chromosomes of extant chlamydiae. The most conserved plasmid gene families are predominantly vertically inherited, while accessory plasmid gene families show significantly increased mobility. We reconstructed the evolutionary history of plasmid gene content of an entire bacterial phylum over a period of around one billion years. Frequent horizontal gene transfer and chromosomal integration events illustrate the pronounced impact of coevolution with these extrachromosomal elements on bacterial genome dynamics in host-dependent microbes.

  • Flow-through stable isotope probing (Flow-SIP) minimizes cross-feeding in complex microbial communities.

    Mooshammer M, Kitzinger K, Schintlmeister A, Ahmerkamp S, Nielsen JL, Nielsen PH, Wagner M
    2021 - ISME J, 1: 348-353


    Stable isotope probing (SIP) is a key tool for identifying the microorganisms catalyzing the turnover of specific substrates in the environment and to quantify their relative contributions to biogeochemical processes. However, SIP-based studies are subject to the uncertainties posed by cross-feeding, where microorganisms release isotopically labeled products, which are then used by other microorganisms, instead of incorporating the added tracer directly. Here, we introduce a SIP approach that has the potential to strongly reduce cross-feeding in complex microbial communities. In this approach, the microbial cells are exposed on a membrane filter to a continuous flow of medium containing isotopically labeled substrate. Thereby, metabolites and degradation products are constantly removed, preventing consumption of these secondary substrates. A nanoSIMS-based proof-of-concept experiment using nitrifiers in activated sludge and C-bicarbonate as an activity tracer showed that Flow-SIP significantly reduces cross-feeding and thus allows distinguishing primary consumers from other members of microbial food webs.

  • Co-infection of chicken layers with Histomonas meleagridis and avian pathogenic Escherichia coli is associated with dysbiosis, cecal colonization and translocation of the bacteria from the gut lumen

    Abdelhamid MK, Quijada NM, Dzieciol M, Hatfaludi T, Bilic I, Selberherr E, Liebhart D, Hess C, Hess M, Paudel S
    2020 - Front Microbiol, 11: 586437


    Histomonosis in chickens often appears together with colibacillosis in the field. Thus, we have experimentally investigated consequences of the co-infection of birds with Histomonas meleagridisand avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC) on the pathology, host microbiota and bacterial translocation from the gut. Commercial chicken layers were infected via oral and cloacal routes with lux-tagged APEC with or without H. meleagridis whereas negative controls were left uninfected. Except one bird, which died due to colibacillosis, no clinical signs were recorded in birds infected with bioluminescence lux gene tagged E. coli. In co-infected birds, depression and ruffled feathers were observed in 4 birds and average body weight gain significantly decreased. Typhlitis caused by H. meleagridis was present only in co-infected birds, which also had pronounced microscopic lesions in systemic organs such as liver, heart and spleen. The 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing showed that in co-infected birds, corresponding to the severity of cecal lesions, microbial species richness and diversity in caeca greatly decreased and the abundance of the Escherichia group, Helicobacter and Bacteroides was relatively higher with a reduction of commensals. Most of the shared Amplicon Sequencing Variants between cecum and blood in co-infected birds belonged to Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus, and members of Enterobacteriaceae while those assigned as Lactobacillus and members of Ruminococcaceae and Lachnospiraceae were found mainly in negative controls. In infected birds, E. coli in the cecal lumen penetrated into deeper layers, a phenomenon noticed with higher incidence in the dead and co-infected birds. Furthermore, numbers of lux-tagged E. coli in caeca were significantly higher at every sampling date in co-infected birds. Altogether, infection of layers with H. meleagridis and E. coli resulted in more severe pathological changes, dramatic shift in the cecal mucosa-associated microbiota, higher tissue colonization of pathogenic bacteria such as avian pathogenic E. coli in the gut and increased penetration of E. coli from the cecal lumen toward peritoneum. This study provides novel insights into the parasite-bacteria interaction in vivohighlighting the role of H. meleagridis to support E. coli in the pathogenesis of colibacillosis in chickens.

  • Nano-scale imaging of dual stable isotope labeled oxaliplatin in human colon cancer cells reveals the nucleolus as a putative node for therapeutic effect

    Legin AA, Schintlmeister A, Sommerfeld NS, Eckhard M, Theiner S, Reipert S, Strohofer D, Jakupec MA, Galanski M, Wagner M, Keppler BK
    2020 - Nanoscale Advances, in press


    Oxaliplatin shows a superior clinical activity in colorectal cancer compared to cisplatin. Nevertheless, the knowledge about its cellular distribution and the mechanisms responsible for the different range of oxaliplatin-responsive tumors is far from complete. In this study, we combined highly sensitive element specific and isotope selective imaging by nanometer-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) with transmission electron microscopy to investigate the subcellular accumulation of oxaliplatin in three human colon cancer cell lines (SW480, HCT116 wt, HCT116 OxR). Oxaliplatin bearing dual stable isotope labeled moieties, i.e. 2H-labeled diaminocyclohexane (DACH) and 13C-labeled oxalate, were applied for comparative analysis of the subcellular distribution patterns of the central metal and the ligands. In all the investigated cell lines, oxaliplatin was found to have a pronounced tendency for cytoplasmic aggregation in single membrane bound organelles, presumably related to various stages of the endocytic pathway. Moreover, nuclear structures, heterochromatin and in particular nucleoli, were affected by platinum-drug exposure. In order to explore the consequences of oxaliplatin resistance, subcellular drug distribution patterns were investigated in a pair of isogenic malignant cell lines with distinct levels of drug sensitivity (HCT116 wt and HCT116 OxR, the latter with acquired resistance to oxaliplatin). The subcellular platinum distribution was found to be similar in both cell lines, with only slightly higher accumulation in the sensitive HCT116 wt cells which is inconsistent with the resistance factor of more than 20-fold. Instead, the isotopic analysis revealed a disproportionally high accumulation of the oxalate ligand in the resistant cell line.

  • Abiotic factors influence patterns of bacterial diversity and community composition in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica

    Bottos EM, Laughlin DC, Herbold CW, Lee CK, McDonald IR, Cary SC
    2020 - FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 96: in press


    The Dry Valleys of Antarctica are a unique ecosystem of simple trophic structure, where the abiotic factors that influence soil bacterial communities can be resolved in the absence of extensive biotic interactions. This study evaluated the degree to which aspects of topographic, physicochemical and spatial variation explain patterns of bacterial richness and community composition in 471 soil samples collected across a 220 square kilometer landscape in Southern Victoria Land. Richness was most strongly influenced by physicochemical soil properties, particularly soil conductivity, though significant trends with several topographic and spatial variables were also observed. Structural equation modeling (SEM) supported a final model in which variation in community composition was best explained by physicochemical variables, particularly soil water content, and where the effects of topographic variation were largely mediated through their influence on physicochemical variables. Community dissimilarity increased with distance between samples, and though most of this variation was explained by topographic and physicochemical variation, a small but significant relationship remained after controlling for this environmental variation. As the largest survey of terrestrial bacterial communities of Antarctica completed to date, this work provides fundamental knowledge of the Dry Valleys ecosystem, and has implications globally for understanding environmental factors that influence bacterial distributions.

  • Transparent soil microcosms for live-cell imaging and non-destructive stable isotope probing of soil microorganisms

    Sharma K, Palatinszky M, Nikolov G, Berry D, Shank EA
    2020 - Elife, 9: e56275


    Microscale processes are critically important to soil ecology and biogeochemistry yet are difficult to study due to soil’s opacity and complexity. To advance the study of soil processes, we constructed transparent soil microcosms that enable the visualization of microbes via fluorescence microscopy and the non-destructive measurement of microbial activity and carbon uptake in situ via Raman microspectroscopy. We assessed the polymer Nafion and the crystal cryolite as optically transparent soil substrates. We demonstrated that both substrates enable the growth, maintenance, and visualization of microbial cells in three dimensions over time, and are compatible with stable isotope probing using Raman. We applied this system to ascertain that after a dry-down/rewetting cycle, bacteria on and near dead fungal hyphae were more metabolically active than those far from hyphae. These data underscore the impact fungi have facilitating bacterial survival in fluctuating conditions and how these microcosms can yield insights into microscale microbial activities.

  • Conversion of Rutin, a Prevalent Dietary Flavonol, by the Human Gut Microbiota

    Riva A, Kolimar D, Spittler A, Wisgrill L, Herbold CW, Abrankó L, Berry D
    2020 - Frontiers in microbiology, in press


    The gut microbiota plays a pivotal role in the conversion of dietary flavonoids, which can affect their bioavailability and bioactivity and thereby their health-promoting properties. The ability of flavonoids to metabolically-activate the microbiota has, however, not been systematically evaluated. In the present study, we used a fluorescence-based single-cell activity measure [biorthogonal non-canonical ammino acid-tagging (BONCAT)] combined with fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) to determine which microorganisms are metabolically-active after amendment of the flavonoid rutin. We performed anaerobic incubations of human fecal microbiota amended with rutin and in the presence of the cellular activity marker L-azidohomoalanine (AHA) to detect metabolically-active cells. We found that 7.3% of cells in the gut microbiota were active after a 6 h incubation and 26.9% after 24 h. We then sorted BONCAT-positive cells and observed an enrichment of Lachnospiraceae (Lachnoclostridium and Eisenbergiella), Enterobacteriaceae, Tannerellaceae, and Erysipelotrichaceae species in the rutin-responsive fraction of the microbiota. There was marked inter-individual variability in the appearance of rutin conversion products after incubation with rutin. Consistent with this, there was substantial variability in the abundance of rutin-responsive microbiota among different individuals. Specifically, we observed that Enterobacteriaceae were associated with conversion of rutin into quercetin-3-glucoside (Q-glc) and Lachnospiraceae were associated with quercetin (Q) production. This suggests that individual microbiotas differ in their ability to metabolize rutin and utilize different conversion pathways.

  • Environmental and intestinal phylum Firmicutes bacteria metabolize the plant sugar sulfoquinovose via a 6-deoxy-6-sulfofructose transaldolase pathway

    Frommeyer B, Fiedler AW, Oehler SR, Hanson BT, Loy A, Franchini P, Spiteller D, Schleheck D
    2020 - iScience, In press


    Bacterial degradation of the sugar sulfoquinovose (SQ, 6-deoxy-6-sulfoglucose) produced by plants, algae and cyanobacteria, is an important component of the biogeochemical carbon and sulfur cycles. Here, we reveal a third biochemical pathway for primary SQ degradation in an aerobic Bacillus aryabhattaistrain. An isomerase converts SQ to 6-deoxy-6-sulfofructose (SF). A novel transaldolase enzyme cleaves the SF to 3-sulfolactaldehyde (SLA), while the non-sulfonated C3-(glycerone)-moiety is transferred to an acceptor molecule, glyceraldehyde phosphate (GAP), yielding fructose-6-phosphate (F6P). Intestinal anaerobic bacteria such as Enterococcus gilvus, Clostridium symbiosum and Eubacterium rectale strains also express transaldolase-pathway gene clusters during fermentative growth with SQ. The now three known biochemical strategies for SQ catabolism reflect adaptations to the aerobic or anaerobic life-style of the different bacteria. The occurrence of these pathways in intestinal (family) Enterobacteriaceae and (phylum) Firmicutes strains further highlights a potential importance of metabolism of green-diet SQ by gut microbial communities to, ultimately, hydrogen sulfide.

  • 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.

  • Polyphenol Exposure, Metabolism, and Analysis: A Global Exposomics Perspective.

    Oesterle I, Braun D, Berry D, Wisgrill L, Rompel A, Warth B
    2020 - Annu Rev Food Sci Technol, in press


    Polyphenols are generally known for their health benefits and estimating actual exposure levels in health-related studies can be improved by human biomonitoring. Here, the application of newly available exposomic and metabolomic technology, notably high-resolution mass spectrometry, in the context of polyphenols and their biotransformation products, is reviewed. Comprehensive workflows for investigating these important bioactives in biological fluids or microbiome-related experiments are scarce. Consequently, this new era of nontargeted analysis and omic-scale exposure assessment offers a unique chance for better assessing exposure to, as well as metabolism of, polyphenols. In clinical and nutritional trials, polyphenols can be investigated simultaneously with the plethora of other chemicals to which we are exposed, i.e., the exposome, which may interact abundantly and modulate bioactivity. This research direction aims at ultimately eluting into a true systems biology/toxicology evaluation of health effects associated with polyphenol exposure, especially during early life, to unravel their potential for preventing chronic diseases. Expected final online publication date for the , Volume 12 is March 2021. Please see for revised estimates.

  • Optofluidic Raman-activated cell sorting for targeted genome retrieval or cultivation of microbial cells with specific functions.

    Lee KS, Pereira FC, Palatinszky M, Behrendt L, Alcolombri U, Berry D, Wagner M, Stocker R
    2020 - Nat Protoc, in press


    Stable isotope labeling of microbial taxa of interest and their sorting provide an efficient and direct way to answer the question "who does what?" in complex microbial communities when coupled with fluorescence in situ hybridization or downstream 'omics' analyses. We have developed a platform for automated Raman-based sorting in which optical tweezers and microfluidics are used to sort individual cells of interest from microbial communities on the basis of their Raman spectra. This sorting of cells and their downstream DNA analysis, such as by mini-metagenomics or single-cell genomics, or cultivation permits a direct link to be made between the metabolic roles and the genomes of microbial cells within complex microbial communities, as well as targeted isolation of novel microbes with a specific physiology of interest. We describe a protocol from sample preparation through Raman-activated live cell sorting. Subsequent cultivation of sorted cells is described, whereas downstream DNA analysis involves well-established approaches with abundant methods available in the literature. Compared with manual sorting, this technique provides a substantially higher throughput (up to 500 cells per h). Furthermore, the platform has very high sorting accuracy (98.3 ± 1.7%) and is fully automated, thus avoiding user biases that might accompany manual sorting. We anticipate that this protocol will empower in particular environmental and host-associated microbiome research with a versatile tool to elucidate the metabolic contributions of microbial taxa within their complex communities. After a 1-d preparation of cells, sorting takes on the order of 4 h, depending on the number of cells required.

  • Virulence characterization and comparative genomics of Listeria monocytogenes sequence type 155 strains.

    Wagner E, Zaiser A, Leitner R, Quijada NM, Pracser N, Pietzka A, Ruppitsch W, Schmitz-Esser S, Wagner Ma, Rychli K
    2020 - BMC Genomics, 21: 847


    Listeria (L.) monocytogenes strains show a high diversity regarding stress tolerance and virulence potential. Genome studies have mainly focused on specific sequence types (STs) predominantly associated with either food or human listeriosis. This study focused on the prevalent ST155, showing equal distribution among clinical and food isolates. We evaluated the virulence potential of 20 ST155 strains and performed comparative genomic analysis of 130 ST155 strains isolated from food, food processing environments and human listeriosis cases in different countries and years.
    The in vitro virulence assays using human intestinal epithelial Caco2 and hepatocytic HEPG2 cells showed an impaired virulence phenotype for six of the 20 selected ST155 strains. Genome analysis revealed no distinct clustering of strains from the same source category (food, food processing environment, and clinical isolates). All strains harbored an intact inlA and inlB locus, except four strains, which had an internal deletion in the inlA gene. All strains harbored LIPI-1, but prfA was present in a longer variant in six strains, all showing impaired virulence. The longer PrfA variant resulted in lower expression of inlA, inlB, and prfA, and no expression of hly and actA. Regarding stress-related gene content, SSI-1 was present, whereas qacH was absent in all strains. 34.6% of the strains harbored a plasmid. All but one ST155 plasmids showed high conservation and harbored cadA2, bcrABC, and a triphenylmethane reductase.
    This study contributes to an enhanced understanding of L. monocytogenes ST155 strains, being equally distributed among isolates from humans, food, and food processing environments. The conservation of the present genetic traits and the absence of unique inherent genetic features makes these types of STs especially interesting since they are apparently equally adapted to the conditions in food processing environments, as well as in food as to the human host environment. However, a ST155-specific mutation resulting in a longer PrfA variant impaired the virulence potential of several ST155 strains.

  • 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.

  • Redox-informed models of global biogeochemical cycles.

    Zakem EJ, Polz MF, Follows MJ
    2020 - Nat Commun, 1: 5680


    Microbial activity mediates the fluxes of greenhouse gases. However, in the global models of the marine and terrestrial biospheres used for climate change projections, typically only photosynthetic microbial activity is resolved mechanistically. To move forward, we argue that global biogeochemical models need a theoretically grounded framework with which to constrain parameterizations of diverse microbial metabolisms. Here, we explain how the key redox chemistry underlying metabolisms provides a path towards this goal. Using this first-principles approach, the presence or absence of metabolic functional types emerges dynamically from ecological interactions, expanding model applicability to unobserved environments."Nothing is less real than realism. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things." -Georgia O'Keefe.

  • Proposal to reclassify the proteobacterial classes and , and the phylum into four phyla reflecting major functional capabilities.

    Waite DW, Chuvochina M, Pelikan C, Parks DH, Yilmaz P, Wagner M, Loy A, Naganuma T, Nakai R, Whitman WB, Hahn MW, Kuever J, Hugenholtz P
    2020 - Int J Syst Evol Microbiol, 11: 5972-6016


    The class comprises an ecologically and metabolically diverse group of bacteria best known for dissimilatory sulphate reduction and predatory behaviour. Although this lineage is the fourth described class of the phylum , it rarely affiliates with other proteobacterial classes and is frequently not recovered as a monophyletic unit in phylogenetic analyses. Indeed, one branch of the class encompassing like predators was recently reclassified into a separate proteobacterial class, the . Here we systematically explore the phylogeny of taxa currently assigned to these classes using 120 conserved single-copy marker genes as well as rRNA genes. The overwhelming majority of markers reject the inclusion of the classes and in the phylum . Instead, the great majority of currently recognized members of the class are better classified into four novel phylum-level lineages. We propose the names phyl. nov. and phyl. nov. for two of these phyla, based on the oldest validly published names in each lineage, and retain the placeholder name SAR324 for the third phylum pending formal description of type material. Members of the class represent a separate phylum for which we propose the name phyl. nov. based on priority in the literature and general recognition of the genus phyl. nov. includes the taxa previously classified in the phylum , and these reclassifications imply that the ability of sulphate reduction was vertically inherited in the rather than laterally acquired as previously inferred. Our analysis also indicates the independent acquisition of predatory behaviour in the phyla and , which is consistent with their distinct modes of action. This work represents a stable reclassification of one of the most taxonomically challenging areas of the bacterial tree and provides a robust framework for future ecological and systematic studies.

  • 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 CO 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.

  • 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.

  • A refined set of rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes for in situ detection and quantification of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria

    Lukumbuzya M, Kristensen JM, Kitzinger K, Pommerening-Roser A, Nielsen PH, Wagner M, Daims H, Pjevac P
    2020 - Water Res., 186: 116372
    ammonia oxidizing bacteria FISH picture


    Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) of the betaproteobacterial genera Nitrosomonas and Nitrosospira are key nitrifying microorganisms in many natural and engineered ecosystems. Since many AOB remain uncultured, fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) with rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes has been one of the most widely used approaches to study the community composition, abundance, and other features of AOB directly in environmental samples. However, the established and widely used AOB-specific 16S rRNA-targeted FISH probes were designed up to two decades ago, based on much smaller rRNA gene sequence datasets than available today. Several of these probes cover their target AOB lineages incompletely and suffer from a weak target specificity, which causes cross-hybridization of probes that should detect different AOB lineages. Here, a set of new highly specific 16S rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes was developed and experimentally evaluated that complements the existing probes and enables the specific detection and differentiation of the known, major phylogenetic clusters of betaproteobacterial AOB. The new probes were successfully applied to visualize and quantify AOB in activated sludge and biofilm samples from seven pilot- and full-scale wastewater treatment systems. Based on its improved target group coverage and specificity, the refined probe set will facilitate future in situ analyses of AOB.

  • Woeseiales transcriptional response to shallow burial in Arctic fjord surface sediment

    Buongiorno J, Sipes K, Wasmund K, Loy A, Lloyd K
    2020 - PLoS One, 15: e0234839


    Distinct lineages of Gammaproteobacteria clade Woeseiales are globally distributed in marine sediments, based on metagenomic and 16S rRNA gene analysis. Yet little is known about why they are dominant or their ecological role in Arctic fjord sediments, where glacial retreat is rapidly imposing change. This study combined 16S rRNA gene analysis, metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs), and genome-resolved metatranscriptomics uncovered the in situ abundance and transcriptional activity of Woeseiales with burial in four shallow sediment sites of Kongsfjorden and Van Keulenfjorden of Svalbard (79°N). We present five novel Woeseiales MAGs and show transcriptional evidence for metabolic plasticity during burial, including sulfur oxidation with reverse dissimilatory sulfite reductase (dsrAB) down to 4 cm depth and nitrite reduction down to 6 cm depth. A single stress protein, spore protein SP21 (hspA), had a tenfold higher mRNA abundance than any other transcript, and was a hundredfold higher on average than other transcripts. At three out of the four sites, SP21 transcript abundance increased with depth, while total mRNA abundance and richness decreased, indicating a shift in investment from metabolism and other cellular processes to build-up of spore protein SP21. The SP21 gene in MAGs was often flanked by genes involved in membrane-associated stress response. The ability of Woeseiales to shift from sulfur oxidation to nitrite reduction with burial into marine sediments with decreasing access to overlying oxic bottom waters, as well as enter into a dormant state dominated by SP21, may account for its ubiquity and high abundance in marine sediments worldwide, including those of the rapidly shifting Arctic.

  • It Takes a Village: Discovering and Isolating the Nitrifiers.

    2020 - Front Microbiol, 1900


    It has been almost 150 years since Jean-Jacques Schloesing and Achille Müntz discovered that the process of nitrification, the oxidation of ammonium to nitrate, is a biological process carried out by microorganisms. In the following 15 years, numerous researchers independently contributed paradigm shifting discoveries that formed the foundation of nitrification and nitrification-related research. One of them was Sergei Winogradsky, whose major accomplishments include the discovery of both lithotrophy (in sulfur-oxidizing bacteria) and chemoautotrophy (in nitrifying bacteria). However, Winogradsky often receives most of the credit for many other foundational nitrification discoveries made by his contemporaries. This accumulation of credit over time is at least in part due to the increased attention, Winogradsky receives in the scientific literature and textbooks as a "founder of microbiology" and "the founder of microbial ecology." Here, some light is shed on several other researchers who are often overlooked, but whose work was instrumental to the emerging field of nitrification and to the work of Winogradsky himself. Specifically, the discovery of the biological process of nitrification by Schloesing and Müntz, the isolation of the first nitrifier by Grace and Percy Frankland, and the observation that nitrification is carried out by two distinct groups of microorganisms by Robert Warington are highlighted. Finally, the more recent discoveries of the chemolithoautotrophic ammonia-oxidizing archaea and complete ammonia oxidizers are put into this historical context.

  • Dietary Supplementation with Sugar Beet Fructooligosaccharides and Garlic Residues Promotes Growth of Beneficial Bacteria and Increases Weight Gain in Neonatal Lambs.

    Quijada NM, Bodas R, Lorenzo JM, Schmitz-Esser S, Rodríguez-Lázaro D, Hernández M
    2020 - Biomolecules, 8: in press


    The proper development of the early gastrointestinal tract (GIT) microbiota is critical for newborn ruminants. This microbiota is susceptible to modification by diverse external factors (such as diet) that can lead to long-lasting results when occurring in young ruminants. Dietary supplementation with prebiotics, ingredients nondigestible and nonabsorbable by the host that stimulate the growth of beneficial GIT bacteria, has been applied worldwide as a potential approach in order to improve ruminant health and production yields. However, how prebiotics affect the GIT microbiota during ruminants' early life is still poorly understood. We investigated the effect of milk supplementation with a combination of two well-known prebiotics, fructooligosaccharides (FOS) from sugar beet and garlic residues (all together named as "additive"), exerted on preweaned lamb growth and the composition of their fecal microbiota, by using 16S rRNA gene amplicon high-throughput sequencing. The results showed a significant increase in the mean daily weight gain of lambs fed with the additive. Lamb fecal microbiota was also influenced by the additive intake, as additive-diet lambs showed lower bacterial diversity and were significantly more abundant in , , and . These bacteria have been previously reported to confer beneficial properties to the ruminant, including promotion of growth and health status, and our results showed that they were strongly linked to the additive intake and the increased weight gain of lambs. This study points out the combination of FOS from sugar beet and garlic residues as a potential prebiotic to be used in young ruminants' nutrition in order to improve production yields.

  • Molecular causes of an evolutionary shift along the parasitism-mutualism continuum in a bacterial symbiont.

    Herrera P, Schuster L, Wentrup C, König L, Kempinger T, Na H, Schwarz J, Köstlbacher S, Wascher F, Zojer M, Rattei T, Horn M
    2020 - Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 117: 21658-21666


    Symbiosis with microbes is a ubiquitous phenomenon with a massive impact on all living organisms, shaping the world around us today. Theoretical and experimental studies show that vertical transmission of symbionts leads to the evolution of mutualistic traits, whereas horizontal transmission facilitates the emergence of parasitic features. However, these studies focused on phenotypic data, and we know little about underlying molecular changes at the genomic level. Here, we combined an experimental evolution approach with infection assays, genome resequencing, and global gene expression analysis to study the effect of transmission mode on an obligate intracellular bacterial symbiont. We show that a dramatic shift in the frequency of genetic variants, coupled with major changes in gene expression, allow the symbiont to alter its position in the parasitism-mutualism continuum depending on the mode of between-host transmission. We found that increased parasitism in horizontally transmitted chlamydiae residing in amoebae was a result of processes occurring at the infectious stage of the symbiont's developmental cycle. Specifically, genes involved in energy production required for extracellular survival and the type III secretion system-the symbiont's primary virulence mechanism-were significantly up-regulated. Our results identify the genomic and transcriptional dynamics sufficient to favor parasitic or mutualistic strategies.

  • 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, 12: 3038-3053
    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, Steinfeder M, Schwarz J, Zechmeister T, Karst SM, Albertsen M, Nielsen PH, Wagner M, Daims H
    2020 - ISME J, 12: 2967-2979
    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. Nitrospira distribution, 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 from  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.

  • Gut microbiota and undigested food constituents modify toxin composition and suppress the genotoxicity of a naturally occurring mixture of Alternaria toxins in vitro.

    Crudo F, Aichinger G, Mihajlovic J, Dellafiora L, Varga E, Puntscher H, Warth B, Dall'Asta C, Berry D, Marko D
    2020 - Arch. Toxicol., in press


    Molds of the genus Alternaria produce several mycotoxins, some of which may pose a threat for health due to their genotoxicity. Due to the lack of adequate toxicological and occurrence data, they are currently not regulated. Interactions between mycotoxins, gut microbiota and food constituents might occur after food ingestion, modifying the bioavailability and, therefore, overall toxicity of mycotoxins. The present work aimed to investigate the impact of in vitro short-term fecal incubation on the in vitro DNA-damaging effects exerted by 5 µg/mL of an Alternaria alternata extract, containing, among others, 15 nM alternariol, 12 nM alternariol monomethyl ether, 241 nM altertoxin II and 301 nM stemphyltoxin III, all of which are known as genotoxic. The involvement of microorganisms, undigested food constituents and soluble substances of human fecal samples in modifying the composition and the genotoxicity of the extract was investigated through the application of LC-MS/MS analysis and comet assays in HT-29 cells. Results showed that the potential of the mycotoxins to induce DNA strand breaks was almost completely quenched, even before anaerobic incubation, by contact with the different fractions of the fecal samples, while the potency to induce formamidopyrimidine DNA glycosylase (FPG)-sensitive sites was only slightly reduced. These effects were in line with a reduction of mycotoxin concentrations found in samples analyzed by LC-MS/MS. Although a direct correlation between the metabolic activity of the gut microbiota and modifications in mycotoxin contents was not clearly observed, adsorptive phenomena to bacterial cells and to undigested food constituents might explain the observed modifications.

  • Microbiome definition re-visited: old concepts and new challenges.

    Berg G, Rybakova D, Fischer D, Cernava T, Vergès MC, Charles T, Chen X, Cocolin L, Eversole K, Corral GH, Kazou M, Kinkel L, Lange L, Lima N, Loy A, Macklin JA, Maguin E, Mauchline T, McClure R, Mitter B, Ryan M, Sarand I, Smidt H, Schelkle B, Roume H, Kiran GS, Selvin J, Souza RSC, van Overbeek L, Singh BK, Wagner M, Walsh A, Sessitsch A, Schloter M
    2020 - Microbiome, 1: 103


    The field of microbiome research has evolved rapidly over the past few decades and has become a topic of great scientific and public interest. As a result of this rapid growth in interest covering different fields, we are lacking a clear commonly agreed definition of the term "microbiome." Moreover, a consensus on best practices in microbiome research is missing. Recently, a panel of international experts discussed the current gaps in the frame of the European-funded MicrobiomeSupport project. The meeting brought together about 40 leaders from diverse microbiome areas, while more than a hundred experts from all over the world took part in an online survey accompanying the workshop. This article excerpts the outcomes of the workshop and the corresponding online survey embedded in a short historical introduction and future outlook. We propose a definition of microbiome based on the compact, clear, and comprehensive description of the term provided by Whipps et al. in 1988, amended with a set of novel recommendations considering the latest technological developments and research findings. We clearly separate the terms microbiome and microbiota and provide a comprehensive discussion considering the composition of microbiota, the heterogeneity and dynamics of microbiomes in time and space, the stability and resilience of microbial networks, the definition of core microbiomes, and functionally relevant keystone species as well as co-evolutionary principles of microbe-host and inter-species interactions within the microbiome. These broad definitions together with the suggested unifying concepts will help to improve standardization of microbiome studies in the future, and could be the starting point for an integrated assessment of data resulting in a more rapid transfer of knowledge from basic science into practice. Furthermore, microbiome standards are important for solving new challenges associated with anthropogenic-driven changes in the field of planetary health, for which the understanding of microbiomes might play a key role. Video Abstract.

  • Chlamydiae in the Environment.

    Collingro A, Köstlbacher S, Horn M
    2020 - Trends Microbiol, 11: 877-888


    Chlamydiae have been known for more than a century as major pathogens of humans. Yet they are also found ubiquitously in the environment where they thrive within protists and in an unmatched wide range of animals. This review summarizes recent advances in understanding chlamydial diversity and distribution in nature. Studying these environmental chlamydiae provides a novel perspective on basic chlamydial biology and evolution. A picture is beginning to emerge with chlamydiae representing one of the evolutionarily most ancient and successful groups of obligate intracellular bacteria.

  • Roadmap for naming uncultivated Archaea and Bacteria.

    Murray AE, Freudenstein J, Gribaldo S, Hatzenpichler R, Hugenholtz P, Kämpfer P, Konstantinidis KT, Lane CE, Papke RT, Parks DH, Rosselló-Móra R, Stott MB, Sutcliffe IC, Thrash JC, Venter SN, Whitman WB, Acinas SG, Amann RI, Anantharaman K, Armengaud J, Baker BJ, Barco RA, Bode HB, Boyd ES, Brady CL, Carini P, Chain PSG, Colman DR, DeAngelis KM, de Los Rios MA, Estrada-de los Santos P, Dunlap CA, Eisen JA, Emerson D, Ettema TJG, Eveillard D, Girguis PR, Hentschel U, Hollibaugh JT, Hug LA, Inskeep WP, Ivanova EP, Klenk HP, Li WJ, Lloyd KG, Löffler FE, Makhalanyane TP, Moser DP, Nunoura T, Palmer M, Parro V, Pedrós-Alió C, Probst AJ, Smits THM, Steen AD, Steenkamp ET, Spang A, Stewart FJ, Tiedje JM, Vandamme P, Wagner M, Wang FP, Hedlund BP, Reysenbach AL
    2020 - Nat Microbiol, 8: 987-994
    Roadmap for naming uncultured microbes


    The assembly of single-amplified genomes (SAGs) and metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) has led to a surge in genome-based discoveries of members affiliated with Archaea and Bacteria, bringing with it a need to develop guidelines for nomenclature of uncultivated microorganisms. The International Code of Nomenclature of Prokaryotes (ICNP) only recognizes cultures as 'type material', thereby preventing the naming of uncultivated organisms. In this Consensus Statement, we propose two potential paths to solve this nomenclatural conundrum. One option is the adoption of previously proposed modifications to the ICNP to recognize DNA sequences as acceptable type material; the other option creates a nomenclatural code for uncultivated Archaea and Bacteria that could eventually be merged with the ICNP in the future. Regardless of the path taken, we believe that action is needed now within the scientific community to develop consistent rules for nomenclature of uncultivated taxa in order to provide clarity and stability, and to effectively communicate microbial diversity.

  • The role of metal contamination in shaping microbial communities in heavily polluted marine sediments

    Di Cesare A, Pjevac P, Eckert E, Curkov N, Miko Šparica M, Corno G, Orlić S
    2020 - Environ. Pollut., 265: 114823


    Microorganisms in coastal sediments are fundamental for ecosystem functioning, and regulate processes relevant in global biogeochemical cycles. Still, our understanding of the effects anthropogenic perturbation and pollution can have on microbial communities in marine sediments is limited. We surveyed the microbial diversity, and the occurrence and abundance of metal and antibiotic resistance genes is sediments collected from the Pula Bay (Croatia), one of the most significantly polluted sites along the Croatian coast. With a collection of 14 samples from the bay area, we were able to generate a detailed status quo picture of a site that only recently started a cleaning and remediation process (closing of sewage pipes and reduction of industrial activity). The concentrations of heavy metals in Pula Bay sediments are significantly higher than in pristine sediments from the Adriatic Sea, and in some cases, manifold exceed international sediment quality guidelines. While the sedimentary concentrations of heavy metals did significantly influence the abundance of the tested metal resistance genes, no strong effect of heavy metal pollution on the overall microbial community composition was observed. Like in many other marine sediments, Gammaproteobacteria, Bacteroidota and Desulfobacterota dominated the microbial community composition in most samples, and community assembly was primarily driven by water column depth and nutrient (carbon and nitrogen) availability, regardless of the degree of heavy metal pollution.

  • Verrucomicrobia use hundreds of enzymes to digest the algal polysaccharide fucoidan.

    Sichert A, Corzett CH, Schechter MS, Unfried F, Markert S, Becher D, Fernandez-Guerra A, Liebeke M, Schweder T, Polz MF, Hehemann JH
    2020 - Nat Microbiol, 8: 1026-1039


    Brown algae are important players in the global carbon cycle by fixing carbon dioxide into 1 Gt of biomass annually, yet the fate of fucoidan-their major cell wall polysaccharide-remains poorly understood. Microbial degradation of fucoidans is slower than that of other polysaccharides, suggesting that fucoidans are more recalcitrant and may sequester carbon in the ocean. This may be due to the complex, branched and highly sulfated structure of fucoidans, which also varies among species of brown algae. Here, we show that 'Lentimonas' sp. CC4, belonging to the Verrucomicrobia, acquired a remarkably complex machinery for the degradation of six different fucoidans. The strain accumulated 284 putative fucoidanases, including glycoside hydrolases, sulfatases and carbohydrate esterases, which are primarily located on a 0.89-megabase pair plasmid. Proteomics reveals that these enzymes assemble into substrate-specific pathways requiring about 100 enzymes per fucoidan from different species of brown algae. These enzymes depolymerize fucoidan into fucose, which is metabolized in a proteome-costly bacterial microcompartment that spatially constrains the metabolism of the toxic intermediate lactaldehyde. Marine metagenomes and microbial genomes show that Verrucomicrobia including 'Lentimonas' are abundant and highly specialized degraders of fucoidans and other complex polysaccharides. Overall, the complexity of the pathways underscores why fucoidans are probably recalcitrant and more slowly degraded, since only highly specialized organisms can effectively degrade them in the ocean.

  • Crypt residing bacteria and proximal colonic carcinogenesis in a mouse model of Lynch syndrome.

    Lang M, Baumgartner M, Rożalska A, Frick A, Riva A, Jarek M, Berry D, Gasche C
    2020 - Int. J. Cancer, 8: 2316-2326


    Colorectal cancer is a multifactorial disease involving inherited DNA mutations, environmental factors, gut inflammation and intestinal microbiota. Certain germline mutations within the DNA mismatch repair system are associated with Lynch syndrome tumors including right-sided colorectal cancer with mucinous phenotype and presence of an inflammatory infiltrate. Such tumors are more often associated with bacterial biofilms, which may contribute to disease onset and progression. Inflammatory bowel diseases are also associated with colorectal cancer and intestinal dysbiosis. Herein we addressed the question, whether inflammation can aggravate colorectal cancer development under mismatch repair deficiency. MSH2 mice were crossed into the IL-10 background to study the importance of inflammation and mucosal bacteria as a driver of tumorigenesis in a Lynch syndrome mouse model. An increase in large bowel tumorigenesis was found in double knockout mice both under conventional housing and under specific pathogen-free conditions. This increase was mostly due to the development of proximal tumors, a hotspot for tumorigenesis in Lynch syndrome, and was associated with a higher degree of inflammation. Additionally, bacterial invasion into the mucus of tumor crypts was observed in the proximal tumors. Inflammation shifted fecal and mucosal microbiota composition and was associated with enrichment in Escherichia-Shigella as well as Akkermansia, Bacteroides and Parabacteroides genera in fecal samples. Tumor-bearing double knockout mice showed a similar enrichment for Escherichia-Shigella and Parabacteroides. Lactobacilli, Lachnospiraceae and Muribaculaceae family members were depleted upon inflammation. In summary, chronic inflammation aggravates colonic tumorigenesis under mismatch repair deficiency and is associated with a shift in microbiota composition.

  • Energetic Basis of Microbial Growth and Persistence in Desert Ecosystems.

    Leung PM, Bay SK, Meier DV, Chiri E, Cowan DA, Gillor O, Woebken D, Greening C
    2020 - mSystems, 2: in press


    Microbial life is surprisingly abundant and diverse in global desert ecosystems. In these environments, microorganisms endure a multitude of physicochemical stresses, including low water potential, carbon and nitrogen starvation, and extreme temperatures. In this review, we summarize our current understanding of the energetic mechanisms and trophic dynamics that underpin microbial function in desert ecosystems. Accumulating evidence suggests that dormancy is a common strategy that facilitates microbial survival in response to water and carbon limitation. Whereas photoautotrophs are restricted to specific niches in extreme deserts, metabolically versatile heterotrophs persist even in the hyper-arid topsoils of the Atacama Desert and Antarctica. At least three distinct strategies appear to allow such microorganisms to conserve energy in these oligotrophic environments: degradation of organic energy reserves, rhodopsin- and bacteriochlorophyll-dependent light harvesting, and oxidation of the atmospheric trace gases hydrogen and carbon monoxide. In turn, these principles are relevant for understanding the composition, functionality, and resilience of desert ecosystems, as well as predicting responses to the growing problem of desertification.

  • 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.

  • Raman-based sorting of microbial cells to link functions to their genes.

    Lee KS, Wagner M, Stocker R
    2020 - Microb Cell, 3: 62-65


    In our recent work, we developed an optofluidic platform that allows a direct link to be made between the phenotypes (functions) and the genotypes (genes) of microbial cells within natural communities. By combining stable isotope probing, optical tweezers, Raman microspectroscopy, and microfluidics, the platform performs automated Raman-based sorting of taxa from within a complex community in terms of their functional properties. In comparison with manual sorting approaches, our method provides high throughput (up to 500 cells per hour) and very high sorting accuracy (98.3 ± 1.7%), and significantly reduces the human labour required. The system provides an efficient manner to untangle the contributions of individual members within environmental and host-associated microbiomes. In this News and Thoughts, we provide an overview of our platform, describe potential applications, suggest ways in which the system could be improved, and discuss future directions in which Raman-based analysis of microbial populations might be developed.

  • Complementary Metagenomic Approaches Improve Reconstruction of Microbial Diversity in a Forest Soil.

    Alteio LV, Schulz F, Seshadri R, Varghese N, Rodriguez-Reillo W, Ryan E, Goudeau D, Eichorst SA, Malmstrom RR, Bowers RM, Katz LA, Blanchard JL, Woyke T
    2020 - mSystems, 2: in press


    Soil ecosystems harbor diverse microorganisms and yet remain only partially characterized as neither single-cell sequencing nor whole-community sequencing offers a complete picture of these complex communities. Thus, the genetic and metabolic potential of this "uncultivated majority" remains underexplored. To address these challenges, we applied a pooled-cell-sorting-based mini-metagenomics approach and compared the results to bulk metagenomics. Informatic binning of these data produced 200 mini-metagenome assembled genomes (sorted-MAGs) and 29 bulk metagenome assembled genomes (MAGs). The sorted and bulk MAGs increased the known phylogenetic diversity of soil taxa by 7.2% with respect to the Joint Genome Institute IMG/M database and showed clade-specific sequence recruitment patterns across diverse terrestrial soil metagenomes. Additionally, sorted-MAGs expanded the rare biosphere not captured through MAGs from bulk sequences, exemplified through phylogenetic and functional analyses of members of the phylum Analysis of 67 sorted-MAGs showed conserved patterns of carbon metabolism across four clades. These results indicate that mini-metagenomics enables genome-resolved investigation of predicted metabolism and demonstrates the utility of combining metagenomics methods to tap into the diversity of heterogeneous microbial assemblages. Microbial ecologists have historically used cultivation-based approaches as well as amplicon sequencing and shotgun metagenomics to characterize microbial diversity in soil. However, challenges persist in the study of microbial diversity, including the recalcitrance of the majority of microorganisms to laboratory cultivation and limited sequence assembly from highly complex samples. The uncultivated majority thus remains a reservoir of untapped genetic diversity. To address some of the challenges associated with bulk metagenomics as well as low throughput of single-cell genomics, we applied flow cytometry-enabled mini-metagenomics to capture expanded microbial diversity from forest soil and compare it to soil bulk metagenomics. Our resulting data from this pooled-cell sorting approach combined with bulk metagenomics revealed increased phylogenetic diversity through novel soil taxa and rare biosphere members. In-depth analysis of genomes within the highly represented phylum provided insights into conserved and clade-specific patterns of carbon metabolism.

  • Using Colonization Assays and Comparative Genomics To Discover Symbiosis Behaviors and Factors in Vibrio fischeri.

    Bongrand C, Moriano-Gutierrez S, Arevalo P, McFall-Ngai M, Visick KL, Polz M, Ruby EG
    2020 - mBio, 2: in press


    The luminous marine Gram-negative bacterium () is the natural light organ symbiont of several squid species, including the Hawaiian bobtail squid, , and the Japanese bobtail squid, Work with has shown how the bacteria establish their niche in the light organ of the newly hatched host. Two types of strains have been distinguished based upon their behavior in cocolonization competition assays in juvenile , i.e., (i) niche-sharing or (ii) niche-dominant behavior. This study aimed to determine whether these behaviors are observed with other strains or whether they are specific to those isolated from light organs. Cocolonization competition assays between strains isolated from the congeneric squid or from other marine animals revealed the same sharing or dominant behaviors. In addition, whole-genome sequencing of these strains showed that the dominant behavior is polyphyletic and not associated with the presence or absence of a single gene or genes. Comparative genomics of 44 squid light organ isolates from around the globe led to the identification of symbiosis-specific candidates in the genomes of these strains. Colonization assays using genetic derivatives with deletions of these candidates established the importance of two such genes in colonization. This study has allowed us to expand the concept of distinct colonization behaviors to strains isolated from a number of squid and fish hosts. There is an increasing recognition of the importance of strain differences in the ecology of a symbiotic bacterial species and, in particular, how these differences underlie crucial interactions with their host. Nevertheless, little is known about the genetic bases for these differences, how they manifest themselves in specific behaviors, and their distribution among symbionts of different host species. In this study, we sequenced the genomes of isolated from the tissues of squids and fishes and applied comparative genomics approaches to look for patterns between symbiont lineages and host colonization behavior. In addition, we identified the only two genes that were exclusively present in all strains isolated from the light organs of sepiolid squid species. Mutational studies of these genes indicated that they both played a role in colonization of the squid light organ, emphasizing the value of applying a comparative genomics approach in the study of symbioses.

  • The Signal and the Noise: Characteristics of Antisense RNA in Complex Microbial Communities.

    Michaelsen TY, Brandt J, Singleton CM, Kirkegaard RH, Wiesinger J, Segata N, Albertsen M
    2020 - mSystems, 1: in press


    High-throughput sequencing has allowed unprecedented insight into the composition and function of complex microbial communities. With metatranscriptomics, it is possible to interrogate the transcriptomes of multiple organisms simultaneously to get an overview of the gene expression of the entire community. Studies have successfully used metatranscriptomics to identify and describe relationships between gene expression levels and community characteristics. However, metatranscriptomic data sets contain a rich suite of additional information that is just beginning to be explored. Here, we focus on antisense expression in metatranscriptomics, discuss the different computational strategies for handling it, and highlight the strengths but also potentially detrimental effects on downstream analysis and interpretation. We also analyzed the antisense transcriptomes of multiple genomes and metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) from five different data sets and found high variability in the levels of antisense transcription for individual species, which were consistent across samples. Importantly, we challenged the conceptual framework that antisense transcription is primarily the product of transcriptional noise and found mixed support, suggesting that the total observed antisense RNA in complex communities arises from the combined effect of unknown biological and technical factors. Antisense transcription can be highly informative, including technical details about data quality and novel insight into the biology of complex microbial communities. This study systematically evaluated the global patterns of microbial antisense expression across various environments and provides a bird's-eye view of general patterns observed across data sets, which can provide guidelines in our understanding of antisense expression as well as interpretation of metatranscriptomic data in general. This analysis highlights that in some environments, antisense expression from microbial communities can dominate over regular gene expression. We explored some potential drivers of antisense transcription, but more importantly, this study serves as a starting point, highlighting topics for future research and providing guidelines to include antisense expression in generic bioinformatic pipelines for metatranscriptomic data.

  • Diarrhoeal events can trigger long-term Clostridium difficile colonization with recurrent blooms.

    VanInsberghe D, Elsherbini JA, Varian B, Poutahidis T, Erdman S, Polz MF
    2020 - Nat Microbiol, 4: 642-650


    Although Clostridium difficile is widely considered an antibiotic- and hospital-associated pathogen, recent evidence indicates that this is an insufficient depiction of the risks and reservoirs. A common thread that links all major risk factors of infection is their association with gastrointestinal disturbances, but this relationship to C. difficile colonization has never been tested directly. Here, we show that disturbances caused by diarrhoeal events trigger susceptibility to C. difficile colonization. Using survey data of the human gut microbiome, we detected C. difficile colonization and blooms in people recovering from food poisoning and Vibrio cholerae infections. Carriers remained colonized for year-long time scales and experienced highly variable patterns of C. difficile abundance, where increased shedding over short periods of 1-2 d interrupted week-long periods in which C. difficile was undetectable. Given that short shedding events were often linked to gastrointestinal disturbances, our results help explain why C. difficile is frequently detected as a co-infecting pathogen in patients with diarrhoea. To directly test the impact of diarrhoea on susceptibility to colonization, we developed a mouse model of variable disturbance intensity, which allowed us to monitor colonization in the absence of disease. As mice exposed to avirulent C. difficile spores ingested increasing quantities of laxatives, more individuals experienced C. difficile blooms. Our results indicate that the likelihood of colonization is highest in the days immediately following acute disturbances, suggesting that this could be an important window during which transmission could be interrupted and the incidence of infection lowered.

  • 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.

  • Culture-independent tracking of Vibrio cholerae lineages reveals complex spatiotemporal dynamics in a natural population.

    Kirchberger PC, Orata FD, Nasreen T, Kauffman KM, Tarr CL, Case RJ, Polz MF, Boucher YF
    2020 - Environ. Microbiol., in press


    Populations of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae consist of dozens of distinct lineages, with primarily (but not exclusively) members of the pandemic generating lineage capable of causing the diarrhoeal disease cholera. Assessing the composition and temporal dynamics of such populations requires extensive isolation efforts and thus only rarely covers large geographic areas or timeframes exhaustively. We developed a culture-independent amplicon sequencing strategy based on the protein-coding gene viuB (vibriobactin utilization) to study the structure of a V. cholerae population over the course of a summer. We show that the 26 co-occurring V. cholerae lineages continuously compete for limited space on nutrient-rich particles where only a few of them can grow to large numbers. Differential abundance of lineages between locations and size-fractions associated with a particle-attached or free-swimming lifestyle could reflect adaptation to various environmental niches. In particular, a major V. cholerae lineage occasionally grows to large numbers on particles but remain undetectable using isolation-based methods, indicating selective culturability for some members of the species. We thus demonstrate that isolation-based studies may not accurately reflect the structure and complex dynamics of V. cholerae populations and provide a scalable high-throughput method for both epidemiological and ecological approaches to studying this species.

  • Transcriptomic Response of Nitrosomonas europaea Transitioned from Ammonia- to Oxygen-Limited Steady-State Growth.

    Sedlacek CJ, Giguere AT, Dobie MD, Mellbye BL, Ferrell RV, Woebken D, Sayavedra-Soto LA, Bottomley PJ, Daims H, Wagner M, Pjevac P
    2020 - mSystems, 1: e00562-19
    N. europaea electron flow


    Ammonia-oxidizing microorganisms perform the first step of nitrification, the oxidation of ammonia to nitrite. The bacterium is the best-characterized ammonia oxidizer to date. Exposure to hypoxic conditions has a profound effect on the physiology of , e.g., by inducing nitrifier denitrification, resulting in increased nitric and nitrous oxide production. This metabolic shift is of major significance in agricultural soils, as it contributes to fertilizer loss and global climate change. Previous studies investigating the effect of oxygen limitation on have focused on the transcriptional regulation of genes involved in nitrification and nitrifier denitrification. Here, we combine steady-state cultivation with whole-genome transcriptomics to investigate the overall effect of oxygen limitation on Under oxygen-limited conditions, growth yield was reduced and ammonia-to-nitrite conversion was not stoichiometric, suggesting the production of nitrogenous gases. However, the transcription of the principal nitric oxide reductase (cNOR) did not change significantly during oxygen-limited growth, while the transcription of the nitrite reductase-encoding gene () was significantly lower. In contrast, both heme-copper-containing cytochrome oxidases encoded by were upregulated during oxygen-limited growth. Particularly striking was the significant increase in transcription of the B-type heme-copper oxidase, proposed to function as a nitric oxide reductase (sNOR) in ammonia-oxidizing bacteria. In the context of previous physiological studies, as well as the evolutionary placement of sNOR with regard to other heme-copper oxidases, these results suggest sNOR may function as a high-affinity terminal oxidase in and other ammonia-oxidizing bacteria. Nitrification is a ubiquitous microbially mediated process in the environment and an essential process in engineered systems such as wastewater and drinking water treatment plants. However, nitrification also contributes to fertilizer loss from agricultural environments, increasing the eutrophication of downstream aquatic ecosystems, and produces the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. As ammonia-oxidizing bacteria are the most dominant ammonia-oxidizing microbes in fertilized agricultural soils, understanding their responses to a variety of environmental conditions is essential for curbing the negative environmental effects of nitrification. Notably, oxygen limitation has been reported to significantly increase nitric oxide and nitrous oxide production during nitrification. Here, we investigate the physiology of the best-characterized ammonia-oxidizing bacterium, , growing under oxygen-limited conditions.

  • The role of gut microbiota, butyrate and proton pump inhibitors in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a systematic review.

    Erber AC, Cetin H, Berry D, Schernhammer ES
    2020 - Int. J. Neurosci., 7: 727-735


    We conducted a systematic review on existing literature in humans and animals, linking the gut microbiome with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Additionally, we sought to explore the role of the bacterially produced metabolite butyrate as well as of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) in these associations. Following PRISMA guidelines for systematic literature reviews, four databases (Medline, Scopus, Embase and Web of Science) were searched and screened by two independent reviewers against defined inclusion criteria. Six studies in humans and six animal studies were identified, summarized and reviewed. Overall, the evidence accrued to date is supportive of changes in the gut microbiome being associated with ALS risk, and potentially progression, though observational studies are small (describing a total of 145 patients with ALS across all published studies), and not entirely conclusive. With emerging studies beginning to apply metagenome sequencing, more clarity regarding the importance and promise of the gut microbiome in ALS can be expected. Future studies may also help establish the therapeutic potential of butyrate, and the role of PPIs in these associations.

  • Archaeal nitrification is constrained by copper complexation with organic matter in municipal wastewater treatment plants.

    Gwak JH, Jung MY, Hong H, Kim JG, Quan ZX, Reinfelder JR, Spasov E, Neufeld JD, Wagner M, Rhee SK
    2020 - ISME J, 2: 335-346


    Consistent with the observation that ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) outnumber ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) in many eutrophic ecosystems globally, AOB typically dominate activated sludge aeration basins from municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). In this study, we demonstrate that the growth of AOA strains inoculated into sterile-filtered wastewater was inhibited significantly, in contrast to uninhibited growth of a reference AOB strain. In order to identify possible mechanisms underlying AOA-specific inhibition, we show that complex mixtures of organic compounds, such as yeast extract, were highly inhibitory to all AOA strains but not to the AOB strain. By testing individual organic compounds, we reveal strong inhibitory effects of organic compounds with high metal complexation potentials implying that the inhibitory mechanism for AOA can be explained by the reduced bioavailability of an essential metal. Our results further demonstrate that the inhibitory effect on AOA can be alleviated by copper supplementation, which we observed for pure AOA cultures in a defined medium and for AOA inoculated into nitrifying sludge. Our study offers a novel mechanistic explanation for the relatively low abundance of AOA in most WWTPs and provides a basis for modulating the composition of nitrifying communities in both engineered systems and naturally occurring environments.

  • Horizontal acquisition of a patchwork Calvin cycle by symbiotic and free-living Campylobacterota (formerly Epsilonproteobacteria).

    Assié A, Leisch N, Meier DV, Gruber-Vodicka H, Tegetmeyer HE, Meyerdierks A, Kleiner M, Hinzke T, Joye S, Saxton M, Dubilier N, Petersen JM
    2020 - ISME J, 1: 104-122


    Most autotrophs use the Calvin-Benson-Bassham (CBB) cycle for carbon fixation. In contrast, all currently described autotrophs from the Campylobacterota (previously Epsilonproteobacteria) use the reductive tricarboxylic acid cycle (rTCA) instead. We discovered campylobacterotal epibionts ("Candidatus Thiobarba") of deep-sea mussels that have acquired a complete CBB cycle and may have lost most key genes of the rTCA cycle. Intriguingly, the phylogenies of campylobacterotal CBB cycle genes suggest they were acquired in multiple transfers from Gammaproteobacteria closely related to sulfur-oxidizing endosymbionts associated with the mussels, as well as from Betaproteobacteria. We hypothesize that "Ca. Thiobarba" switched from the rTCA cycle to a fully functional CBB cycle during its evolution, by acquiring genes from multiple sources, including co-occurring symbionts. We also found key CBB cycle genes in free-living Campylobacterota, suggesting that the CBB cycle may be more widespread in this phylum than previously known. Metatranscriptomics and metaproteomics confirmed high expression of CBB cycle genes in mussel-associated "Ca. Thiobarba". Direct stable isotope fingerprinting showed that "Ca. Thiobarba" has typical CBB signatures, suggesting that it uses this cycle for carbon fixation. Our discovery calls into question current assumptions about the distribution of carbon fixation pathways in microbial lineages, and the interpretation of stable isotope measurements in the environment.

  • Summer phyto- and bacterioplankton communities during low and high productivity scenarios in the Western Antarctic Peninsula

    Fuentes S, Arroyo JI, Rodriguez-Marconi S, Masotti I, Alarcon-Schumacher T, Polz MF, Trefault N, de la Iglesia R, Díez B
    2019 - Polar Biology, 42: 159-169


    Phytoplankton blooms taking place during the warm season drive high productivity in Antarctic coastal seawaters. Important temporal and spatial variations exist in productivity patterns, indicating local constraints influencing the phototrophic community. Surface water in Chile Bay (Greenwich Island, South Shetlands) is influenced by freshwater from the melting of sea ice and surrounding glaciers; however, it is not a widely studied system. The phyto- and bacterioplankton communities in Chile Bay were studied over two consecutive summers; during a low productivity period (chlorophyll a < 0.05 mg m−3) and an ascendant phototrophic bloom (chlorophyll a up to 2.38 mg m−3). Microbial communities were analyzed by 16S rRNA—including plastidial—gene sequencing. Diatoms (mainly Thalassiosirales) were the most abundant phytoplankton, particularly during the ascendant bloom. Bacterioplankton in the low productivity period was less diverse and dominated by a few operational taxonomic units (OTUs), related to Colwellia and Pseudoalteromonas. Alpha diversity was higher during the bloom, where several Bacteroidetes taxa absent in the low productivity period were present. Network analysis indicated that phytoplankton relative abundance was correlated with bacterioplankton phylogenetic diversity and the abundance of several bacterial taxa. Hubs—the most connected OTUs in the network—were not the most abundant OTUs and included some poorly described taxa in Antarctica, such as Neptunomonas and Ekhidna. In summary, the results of this study indicate that in Antarctic Peninsula coastal waters, such as Chile Bay, higher bacterioplankton community diversity occurs during a phototrophic bloom. This is likely a result of primary production, providing a source of fresh organic matter to bacterioplankton.

  • 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.

  • Berry-Enriched Diet in Salt-Sensitive Hypertensive Rats: Metabolic Fate of (Poly)Phenols and the Role of Gut Microbiota.

    Gomes A, Oudot C, Macià A, Foito A, Carregosa D, Stewart D, Van de Wiele T, Berry D, Motilva MJ, Brenner C, Dos Santos CN
    2019 - Nutrients, 11: 2634


    Diets rich in (poly)phenols are associated with a reduced reduction in the incidence of cardiovascular disorders. While the absorption and metabolism of (poly)phenols has been described, it is not clear how their metabolic fate is affected under pathological conditions. This study evaluated the metabolic fate of berry (poly)phenols in an in vivo model of hypertension as well as the associated microbiota response. Dahl salt-sensitive rats were fed either a low-salt diet (0.26% NaCl) or a high-salt diet (8% NaCl), with or without a berry mixture (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, Portuguese crowberry and strawberry tree fruit) for 9 weeks. The salt-enriched diet promoted an increase in the urinary excretion of berry (poly)phenol metabolites, while the abundance of these metabolites decreased in faeces, as revealed by UPLC-MS/MS. Moreover, salt and berries modulated gut microbiota composition as demonstrated by 16S rRNA analysis. Some changes in the microbiota composition were associated with the high-salt diet and revealed an expansion of the families and . However, this effect was mitigated by the dietary supplementation with berries. Alterations in the metabolic fate of (poly)phenols occur in parallel with the modulation of gut microbiota in hypertensive rats. Thus, beneficial effects of (poly)phenols could be related with these interlinked modifications, between metabolites and microbiota environments.

  • Maintenance of Sympatric and Allopatric Populations in Free-Living Terrestrial Bacteria.

    Chase AB, Arevalo P, Brodie EL, Polz MF, Karaoz U, Martiny JBH
    2019 - mBio, 5: e02361-19


    For free-living bacteria and archaea, the equivalent of the biological species concept does not exist, creating several obstacles to the study of the processes contributing to microbial diversification. These obstacles are particularly high in soil, where high bacterial diversity inhibits the study of closely related genotypes and therefore the factors structuring microbial populations. Here, we isolated strains within a single ecotype from surface soil (leaf litter) across a regional climate gradient and investigated the phylogenetic structure, recombination, and flexible gene content of this genomic diversity to infer patterns of gene flow. Our results indicate that microbial populations are delineated by gene flow discontinuities, with distinct populations cooccurring at multiple sites. Bacterial population structure was further delineated by genomic features allowing for the identification of candidate genes possibly contributing to local adaptation. These results suggest that the genetic structure within this bacterium is maintained both by ecological specialization in localized microenvironments (isolation by environment) and by dispersal limitation between geographic locations (isolation by distance). Due to the promiscuous exchange of genetic material and asexual reproduction, delineating microbial species (and, by extension, populations) remains challenging. Because of this, the vast majority of microbial studies assessing population structure often compare divergent strains from disparate environments under varied selective pressures. Here, we investigated the population structure within a single bacterial ecotype, a unit equivalent to a eukaryotic species, defined as highly clustered genotypic and phenotypic strains with the same ecological niche. Using a combination of genomic and computational analyses, we assessed the phylogenetic structure, extent of recombination, and flexible gene content of this genomic diversity to infer patterns of gene flow. To our knowledge, this study is the first to do so for a dominant soil bacterium. Our results indicate that bacterial soil populations, similarly to those in other environments, are structured by gene flow discontinuities and exhibit distributional patterns consistent with both isolation by distance and isolation by environment. Thus, both dispersal limitation and local environments contribute to the divergence among closely related soil bacteria as observed in macroorganisms.

  • 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.

  • On the evolution and physiology of cable bacteria.

    Kjeldsen KU, Schreiber L, Thorup CA, Boesen T, Bjerg JT, Yang T, Dueholm MS, Larsen S, Risgaard-Petersen N, Nierychlo M, Schmid M, Bøggild A, van de Vossenberg J, Geelhoed JS, Meysman FJR, Wagner M, Nielsen PH, Nielsen LP, Schramm A
    2019 - Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 38: 19116-19125
    Metabolic model for cable bacteria


    Cable bacteria of the family Desulfobulbaceae form centimeter-long filaments comprising thousands of cells. They occur worldwide in the surface of aquatic sediments, where they connect sulfide oxidation with oxygen or nitrate reduction via long-distance electron transport. In the absence of pure cultures, we used single-filament genomics and metagenomics to retrieve draft genomes of 3 marine Electrothrix and 1 freshwater Electronema species. These genomes contain >50% unknown genes but still share their core genomic makeup with sulfate-reducing and sulfur-disproportionating Desulfobulbaceae, with few core genes lost and 212 unique genes (from 197 gene families) conserved among cable bacteria. Last common ancestor analysis indicates gene divergence and lateral gene transfer as equally important origins of these unique genes. With support from metaproteomics of a Electronema enrichment, the genomes suggest that cable bacteria oxidize sulfide by reversing the canonical sulfate reduction pathway and fix CO using the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway. Cable bacteria show limited organotrophic potential, may assimilate smaller organic acids and alcohols, fix N, and synthesize polyphosphates and polyglucose as storage compounds; several of these traits were confirmed by cell-level experimental analyses. We propose a model for electron flow from sulfide to oxygen that involves periplasmic cytochromes, yet-unidentified conductive periplasmic fibers, and periplasmic oxygen reduction. This model proposes that an active cable bacterium gains energy in the anodic, sulfide-oxidizing cells, whereas cells in the oxic zone flare off electrons through intense cathodic oxygen respiration without energy conservation; this peculiar form of multicellularity seems unparalleled in the microbial world.

  • 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.

  • A Reverse Ecology Approach Based on a Biological Definition of Microbial Populations.

    Arevalo P, VanInsberghe D, Elsherbini J, Gore J, Polz MF
    2019 - Cell, 4: 820-834.e14


    Delineating ecologically meaningful populations among microbes is important for identifying their roles in environmental and host-associated microbiomes. Here, we introduce a metric of recent gene flow, which when applied to co-existing microbes, identifies congruent genetic and ecological units separated by strong gene flow discontinuities from their next of kin. We then develop a pipeline to identify genome regions within these units that show differential adaptation and allow mapping of populations onto environmental variables or host associations. Using this reverse ecology approach, we show that the human commensal bacterium Ruminococcus gnavus breaks up into sharply delineated populations that show different associations with health and disease. Defining populations by recent gene flow in this way will facilitate the analysis of bacterial and archaeal genomes using ecological and evolutionary theory developed for plants and animals, thus allowing for testing unifying principles across all biology.

  • Chemosymbiotic bivalves contribute to the nitrogen budget of seagrass ecosystems.

    Cardini U, Bartoli M, Lücker S, Mooshammer M, Polzin J, Lee RW, Micić V, Hofmann T, Weber M, Petersen JM
    2019 - ISME J, 12: 3131-3134


    In many seagrass sediments, lucinid bivalves and their sulfur-oxidizing symbionts are thought to underpin key ecosystem functions, but little is known about their role in nutrient cycles, particularly nitrogen. We used natural stable isotopes, elemental analyses, and stable isotope probing to study the ecological stoichiometry of a lucinid symbiosis in spring and fall. Chemoautotrophy appeared to dominate in fall, when chemoautotrophic carbon fixation rates were up to one order of magnitude higher as compared with the spring, suggesting a flexible nutritional mutualism. In fall, an isotope pool dilution experiment revealed carbon limitation of the symbiosis and ammonium excretion rates up to tenfold higher compared with fluxes reported for nonsymbiotic marine bivalves. These results provide evidence that lucinid bivalves can contribute substantial amounts of ammonium to the ecosystem. Given the preference of seagrasses for this nitrogen source, lucinid bivalves' contribution may boost productivity of these important blue carbon ecosystems.

  • Horizontally transmitted symbiont populations in deep-sea mussels are genetically isolated.

    Romero Picazo D, Dagan T, Ansorge R, Petersen JM, Dubilier N, Kupczok A
    2019 - ISME J, 12: 2954-2968


    Eukaryotes are habitats for bacterial organisms where the host colonization and dispersal among individual hosts have consequences for the bacterial ecology and evolution. Vertical symbiont transmission leads to geographic isolation of the microbial population and consequently to genetic isolation of microbiotas from individual hosts. In contrast, the extent of geographic and genetic isolation of horizontally transmitted microbiota is poorly characterized. Here we show that chemosynthetic symbionts of individual Bathymodiolus brooksi mussels constitute genetically isolated subpopulations. The reconstruction of core genome-wide strains from high-resolution metagenomes revealed distinct phylogenetic clades. Nucleotide diversity and strain composition vary along the mussel life span and individual hosts show a high degree of genetic isolation. Our results suggest that the uptake of environmental bacteria is a restricted process in B. brooksi, where self-infection of the gill tissue results in serial founder effects during symbiont evolution. We conclude that bacterial colonization dynamics over the host life cycle is thus an important determinant of population structure and genome evolution of horizontally transmitted symbionts.

  • 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.

  • In situ abundance and carbon fixation activity of distinct anoxygenic phototrophs in the stratified seawater lake Rogoznica.

    Pjevac P, Dyksma S, Goldhammer T, Mujakić I, Koblížek M, Mußmann M, Amann R, Orlić S
    2019 - Environ. Microbiol., 10: 3896-3908


    Sulphide-driven anoxygenic photosynthesis is an ancient microbial metabolism that contributes significantly to inorganic carbon fixation in stratified, sulphidic water bodies. Methods commonly applied to quantify inorganic carbon fixation by anoxygenic phototrophs, however, cannot resolve the contributions of distinct microbial populations to the overall process. We implemented a straightforward workflow, consisting of radioisotope labelling and flow cytometric cell sorting based on the distinct autofluorescence of bacterial photopigments, to discriminate and quantify contributions of co-occurring anoxygenic phototrophic populations to in situ inorganic carbon fixation in environmental samples. This allowed us to assign 89.3% ± 7.6% of daytime inorganic carbon fixation by anoxygenic phototrophs in Lake Rogoznica (Croatia) to an abundant chemocline-dwelling population of green sulphur bacteria (dominated by Chlorobium phaeobacteroides), whereas the co-occurring purple sulphur bacteria (Halochromatium sp.) contributed only 1.8% ± 1.4%. Furthermore, we obtained two metagenome assembled genomes of green sulphur bacteria and one of a purple sulphur bacterium which provides the first genomic insights into the genus Halochromatium, confirming its high metabolic flexibility and physiological potential for mixo- and heterotrophic growth.

  • Specific micropollutant biotransformation pattern by the comammox bacterium Nitrospira inopinata

    Han P, Yu Y, Zhou L, Tian Z, Li Z, Hou L, Liu M, Wu Q, Wagner M, Men Y
    2019 - Environ. Sci. Technol., 15: 8695-8705
    Comammox biodegradation graphical abstract


    The recently discovered complete ammonia-oxidizing (comammox) bacteria occur in various environments, including wastewater treatment plants. To better understand their role in micropollutant biotransformation in comparison with ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA), we investigated the biotransformation capability of (the only comammox isolate) for 17 micropollutants. Asulam, fenhexamid, mianserin, and ranitidine were biotransformed by , (AOA), and Nm90 (AOB). More distinctively, carbendazim, a benzimidazole fungicide, was exclusively biotransformed by . The biotransformation of carbendazim only occurred when was supplied with ammonia but not nitrite as the energy source. The exclusive biotransformation of carbendazim by was likely enabled by an enhanced substrate promiscuity of its unique AMO and its much higher substrate (for ammonia) affinity compared with the other two ammonia oxidizers. One major plausible transformation product (TP) of carbendazim is a hydroxylated form at the aromatic ring, which is consistent with the function of AMO. These findings provide fundamental knowledge on the micropollutant degradation potential of a comammox bacterium to better understand the fate of micropollutants in nitrifying environments.

  • A Multicolor Fluorescence Hybridization Approach Using an Extended Set of Fluorophores to Visualize Microorganisms.

    Lukumbuzya M, Schmid M, Pjevac P, Daims H
    2019 - Front Microbiol, 10: 1383


    Fluorescence hybridization (FISH) with rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes is a key method for the detection of (uncultured) microorganisms in environmental and medical samples. A major limitation of standard FISH protocols, however, is the small number of phylogenetically distinct target organisms that can be detected simultaneously. In this study, we introduce a multicolor FISH approach that uses eight fluorophores with distinct spectral properties, which can unambiguously be distinguished by confocal laser scanning microscopy combined with white light laser technology. Hybridization of rRNA-targeted DNA oligonucleotide probes, which were mono-labeled with these fluorophores, to cultures confirmed that the fluorophores did not affect probe melting behavior. Application of the new multicolor FISH method enabled the differentiation of seven (potentially up to eight) phylogenetically distinct microbial populations in an artificial community of mixed pure cultures (five bacteria, one archaeon, and one yeast strain) and in activated sludge from a full-scale wastewater treatment plant. In contrast to previously published multicolor FISH approaches, this method does not rely on combinatorial labeling of the same microorganisms with different fluorophores, which is prone to biases. Furthermore, images acquired by this method do not require elaborate post-processing prior to analysis. We also demonstrate that the newly developed multicolor FISH method is compatible with an improved cell fixation protocol for FISH targeting Gram-negative bacterial populations. This fixation approach uses agarose embedding during formaldehyde fixation to better preserve the three-dimensional structure of spatially complex samples such as biofilms and activated sludge flocs. The new multicolor FISH approach should be highly suitable for studying structural and functional aspects of microbial communities in virtually all types of samples that can be analyzed by conventional FISH methods.

  • 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.

  • Proteomic Response of Three Marine Ammonia-Oxidizing Archaea to Hydrogen Peroxide and Their Metabolic Interactions with a Heterotrophic Alphaproteobacterium.

    Bayer B, Pelikan C, Bittner MJ, Reinthaler T, Könneke M, Herndl GJ, Offre P
    2019 - mSystems, 4: e00181–e00119


    Ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) play an important role in the nitrogen cycle and account for a considerable fraction of the prokaryotic plankton in the ocean. Most AOA lack the hydrogen peroxide (HO)-detoxifying enzyme catalase, and some AOA have been shown to grow poorly under conditions of exposure to HO However, differences in the degrees of HO sensitivity of different AOA strains, the physiological status of AOA cells exposed to HO, and their molecular response to HO remain poorly characterized. Further, AOA might rely on heterotrophic bacteria to detoxify HO, and yet the extent and variety of costs and benefits involved in these interactions remain unclear. Here, we used a proteomics approach to compare the protein profiles of three strains grown in the presence and absence of catalase and in coculture with the heterotrophic alphaproteobacterium We observed that most proteins detected at a higher relative abundance in HO-exposed cells had no known function in oxidative stress defense. Instead, these proteins were putatively involved in the remodeling of the extracellular matrix, which we hypothesize to be a strategy limiting the influx of HO into the cells. Using RNA-stable isotope probing, we confirmed that cells growing in coculture with the strains assimilated -derived organic carbon, suggesting that AOA could recruit HO-detoxifying bacteria through the release of labile organic matter. Our results contribute new insights into the response of AOA to HO and highlight the potential ecological importance of their interactions with heterotrophic free-living bacteria in marine environments. Ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) are the most abundant chemolithoautotrophic microorganisms in the oxygenated water column of the global ocean. Although HO appears to be a universal by-product of aerobic metabolism, genes encoding the hydrogen peroxide (HO)-detoxifying enzyme catalase are largely absent in genomes of marine AOA. Here, we provide evidence that closely related marine AOA have different degrees of sensitivity to HO, which may contribute to niche differentiation between these organisms. Furthermore, our results suggest that marine AOA rely on HO detoxification during periods of high metabolic activity and release organic compounds, thereby potentially attracting heterotrophic prokaryotes that provide this missing function. In summary, this report provides insights into the metabolic interactions between AOA and heterotrophic bacteria in marine environments and suggests that AOA play an important role in the biogeochemical carbon cycle by making organic carbon available for heterotrophic microorganisms.

  • 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.

  • Genomic Features for Desiccation Tolerance and Sugar Biosynthesis in the Extremophile sp. UTEX B3054.

    Urrejola C, Alcorta J, Salas L, Vásquez M, Polz MF, Vicuña R, Díez B
    2019 - Front Microbiol, 950


    For tolerating extreme desiccation, cyanobacteria are known to produce both compatible solutes at intracellular level and a copious amount of exopolysaccharides as a protective coat. However, these molecules make cyanobacterial cells refractory to a broad spectrum of cell disruption methods, hindering genome sequencing, and molecular studies. In fact, few genomes are already available from cyanobacteria from extremely desiccated environments such as deserts. In this work, we report the 5.4 Mbp draft genome (with 100% of completeness in 105 contigs) of sp. UTEX B3054 (subsection I; Order Chroococcales), a cultivable sugar-rich and hardly breakable hypolithic cyanobacterium from the Atacama Desert. Our analyses focused on genomic features related to sugar-biosynthesis and adaptation to dryness. Among other findings, screening of genome revealed a unique genetic potential related to the biosynthesis and regulation of compatible solutes and polysaccharides. For instance, our findings showed for the first time a novel genomic arrangement exclusive of Chroococcaceae cyanobacteria associated with the recycling of trehalose, a compatible solute involved in desiccation tolerance. Additionally, we performed a comparative genome survey and analyses to entirely predict the highly diverse pool of glycosyltransferases enzymes, key players in polysaccharide biosynthesis and the formation of a protective coat to dryness. We expect that this work will set the fundamental genomic framework for further research on microbial tolerance to desiccation and to a wide range of other extreme environmental conditions. The study of microorganisms like sp. UTEX B3054 will contribute to expand our limited understanding regarding water optimization and molecular mechanisms allowing extremophiles to thrive in xeric environments such as the Atacama Desert.

  • 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.

  • Cometabolic biotransformation and microbial-mediated abiotic transformation of sulfonamides by three ammonia oxidizers.

    Zhou LJ, Han P, Yu Y, Wang B, Men Y, Wagner M, Wu QL
    2019 - Water Res., 444-453


    The abilities of three phylogenetically distant ammonia oxidizers, Nitrososphaera gargensis, an ammonia-oxidizing archaeon (AOA); Nitrosomomas nitrosa Nm90, an ammonia-oxidizing bacterium (AOB); and Nitrospira inopinata, the only complete ammonia oxidizer (comammox) available as a pure culture, to biotransform seven sulfonamides (SAs) were investigated. The removals and protein-normalized biotransformation rate constants indicated that the AOA strain N. gargensis exhibited the highest SA biotransformation rates, followed by N. inopinata and N. nitrosa Nm90. The transformation products (TPs) of sulfadiazine (SDZ), sulfamethazine (SMZ) and sulfamethoxazole (SMX) and the biotransformation mechanisms were evaluated. Based on the analysis of the TP formulas and approximate structures, it was found that during biotransformation, i) the AOA strain carried out SA deamination, hydroxylation, and nitration; ii) the AOB strain mainly performed SA deamination; and iii) the comammox isolate participated only in deamination reactions. It is proposed that deamination was catalyzed by deaminases while hydroxylation and nitration were mediated by nonspecific activities of the ammonia monooxygenase (AMO). Additionally, it was demonstrated that among the three ammonia oxidizers, only AOB contributed to the formation of pterin-SA conjugates. The biotransformation of SDZ, SMZ and SMX occurred only when ammonia oxidation was active, suggesting a cometabolic transformation mechanism. Interestingly, SAs could also be transformed by hydroxylamine, an intermediate of ammonia oxidation, suggesting that in addition to enzymatic conversions, a microbially induced abiotic mechanism contributes to SA transformation during ammonia oxidation. Overall, using experiments with pure cultures, this study provides important insights into the roles played by ammonia oxidizers in SA biotransformation.

  • Mitigating Anticipated Effects of Systematic Errors Supports Sister-Group Relationship between Xenacoelomorpha and Ambulacraria.

    Philippe H, Poustka AJ, Chiodin M, Hoff KJ, Dessimoz C, Tomiczek B, Schiffer PH, Müller S, Domman D, Horn M, Kuhl H, Timmermann B, Satoh N, Hikosaka-Katayama T, Nakano H, Rowe ML, Elphick MR, Thomas-Chollier M, Hankeln T, Mertes F, Wallberg A, Rast JP, Copley RR, Martinez P, Telford MJ
    2019 - Curr. Biol., 11: 1818-1826.e6
     Xenoturbella japonica


    Xenoturbella and the acoelomorph worms (Xenacoelomorpha) are simple marine animals with controversial affinities. They have been placed as the sister group of all other bilaterian animals (Nephrozoa hypothesis), implying their simplicity is an ancient characteristic; alternatively, they have been linked to the complex Ambulacraria (echinoderms and hemichordates) in a clade called the Xenambulacraria, suggesting their simplicity evolved by reduction from a complex ancestor. The difficulty resolving this problem implies the phylogenetic signal supporting the correct solution is weak and affected by inadequate modeling, creating a misleading non-phylogenetic signal. The idea that the Nephrozoa hypothesis might be an artifact is prompted by the faster molecular evolutionary rate observed within the Acoelomorpha. Unequal rates of evolution are known to result in the systematic artifact of long branch attraction, which would be predicted to result in an attraction between long-branch acoelomorphs and the outgroup, pulling them toward the root. Other biases inadequately accommodated by the models used can also have strong effects, exacerbated in the context of short internal branches and long terminal branches. We have assembled a large and informative dataset to address this problem. Analyses designed to reduce or to emphasize misleading signals show the Nephrozoa hypothesis is supported under conditions expected to exacerbate errors, and the Xenambulacraria hypothesis is preferred in conditions designed to reduce errors. Our reanalyses of two other recently published datasets produce the same result. We conclude that the Xenacoelomorpha are simplified relatives of the Ambulacraria.

  • Symbiont-mediated defense against Legionella pneumophila in amoebae

    König L, Wentrup C, Schulz F, Wascher F, Escola S, Swanson MS, Buchrieser C, Horn M
    2019 - mBio, 10: e00333-19


    Legionella pneumophila is an important opportunistic pathogen for which environmental reservoirs are crucial for the infection of humans. In the environment, free-living amoebae represent key hosts providing nutrients and shelter for highly efficient intracellular proliferation of L. pneumophila, which eventually leads to lysis of the protist. However, the significance of other bacterial players for L. pneumophila ecology is poorly understood. In this study, we used a ubiquitous amoeba and bacterial endosymbiont to investigate the impact of this common association on L. pneumophilainfection. We demonstrate that L. pneumophila proliferation was severely suppressed in Acanthamoeba castellanii harboring the chlamydial symbiont Protochlamydia amoebophila. The amoebae survived the infection and were able to resume growth. Different environmental amoeba isolates containing the symbiont were equally well protected as different L. pneumophila isolates were diminished, suggesting ecological relevance of this symbiont-mediated defense. Furthermore, protection was not mediated by impaired L. pneumophila uptake. Instead, we observed reduced virulence of L. pneumophila released from symbiont-containing amoebae. Pronounced gene expression changes in the presence of the symbiont indicate that interference with the transition to the transmissive phase impedes the L. pneumophila infection. Finally, our data show that the defensive response of amoebae harboring P. amoebophila leaves the amoebae with superior fitness reminiscent of immunological memory. Given that mutualistic associations between bacteria and amoebae are widely distributed, P. amoebophila and potentially other amoeba endosymbionts could be key in shaping environmental survival, abundance, and virulence of this important pathogen, thereby affecting the frequency of human infection.

  • Antioxidative activity and health benefits of anthocyanin-rich fruit juice in healthy volunteers.

    Bakuradze T, Tausend A, Galan J, Maria Groh IA, Berry D, Tur JA, Marko D, Richling E
    2019 - Free Radic. Res., 1-11


    Oxidative cell damage has been linked to the pathogenesis of numerous diseases such as atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. The consumption of foods rich in polyphenols (e.g. anthocyanins) has been shown to exert preventive effects against such diseases. We investigated the biological effects of anthocyanin-rich fruit juice in a 9-week, placebo-controlled intervention study with 57 healthy male volunteers. The study design encompassed an initial 1 week of wash-out, followed by 8 weeks of intervention period with anthocyanin-rich fruit juice or placebo. The anthocyanin-rich fruit juice demonstrated DNA-protective and antioxidant effects; however, the placebo beverage, rich in vitamin C, showed similar effects based on the tested biomarkers. A significant reduction in background and total DNA strand breaks was observed in both groups within 24 h as well as after 8 weeks of intervention. Only anthocyanin-rich fruit juice consumption provided a significant reduction in body fat and an increase in fat-free mass. The activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD) was significantly elevated after consumption of anthocyanin-rich fruit juice. Both groups showed decreased levels of LDL and total cholesterol (TC) within the first week of the intervention. Similar results in both groups could be explained by the relatively high vitamin C contents of both beverages (>500 mg/L), which may have masked the effects of anthocyanins and other antioxidants in the studied juice. Taken together, anthocyanin-rich fruit juice as well as the placebo drink, both of which had high vitamin C content, can improve DNA integrity and might influence lipid metabolism in humans.

  • Global diversity and biogeography of bacterial communities in wastewater treatment plants.

    Wu L, Ning D, Zhang B, Li Y, Zhang P, Shan X, Zhang Q, Brown M, Li Z, Van Nostrand JD, Ling F, Xiao N, Zhang Y, Vierheilig J, Wells GF, Yang Y, Deng Y, Tu Q, Wang A, Zhang T, He Z, Keller J, Nielsen PH, Alvarez PJJ, Criddle CS, Wagner M, Tiedje JM, He Q, Curtis TP, Stahl DA, Alvarez-Cohen L, Rittmann BE, Wen X, Zhou J
    2019 - Nat Microbiol, 7: 1183-1195
    Sources of microbes in activated sludge


    Microorganisms in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are essential for water purification to protect public and environmental health. However, the diversity of microorganisms and the factors that control it are poorly understood. Using a systematic global-sampling effort, we analysed the 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequences from ~1,200 activated sludge samples taken from 269 WWTPs in 23 countries on 6 continents. Our analyses revealed that the global activated sludge bacterial communities contain ~1 billion bacterial phylotypes with a Poisson lognormal diversity distribution. Despite this high diversity, activated sludge has a small, global core bacterial community (n = 28 operational taxonomic units) that is strongly linked to activated sludge performance. Meta-analyses with global datasets associate the activated sludge microbiomes most closely to freshwater populations. In contrast to macroorganism diversity, activated sludge bacterial communities show no latitudinal gradient. Furthermore, their spatial turnover is scale-dependent and appears to be largely driven by stochastic processes (dispersal and drift), although deterministic factors (temperature and organic input) are also important. Our findings enhance our mechanistic understanding of the global diversity and biogeography of activated sludge bacterial communities within a theoretical ecology framework and have important implications for microbial ecology and wastewater treatment processes.

  • 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.

  • Mucispirillum schaedleri antagonizes Salmonella virulence to protect mice against colitis

    Herp S, Brugiroux S, Garzetti D, Ring D, Jochum LM, Beutler M, Eberl C, Hussain S, Walter S, Gerlach RG, Ruscheweyh HJ, Huson D, Sellin ME, Slack E, Hanson B, Loy A, Baines JF, Rausch P, Basic M, Bleich A, Berry D, Stecher B
    2019 - Cell Host Microbe, 25: 681-694


    The microbiota and the gastrointestinal mucus layer play a pivotal role in protection against non-typhoidal Salmonellaenterica serovar Typhimurium (S. Tm) colitis. Here, we analyzed the course of Salmonella colitis in mice lacking a functional mucus layer in the gut. Unexpectedly, in contrast to mucus-proficient littermates, genetically deficient mice were protected against Salmonella-induced gut inflammation in the streptomycin colitis model. This correlated with microbiota alterations and enrichment of the bacterial phylum Deferribacteres. Using gnotobiotic mice associated with defined bacterial consortia, we causally linked Mucispirillum schaedleri, currently the sole known representative of Deferribacteres present in the mammalian microbiota, to host protection against S. Tm colitis. Inhibition by M. schaedleri involves interference with S. Tm invasion gene expression, partly by competing for anaerobic electron acceptors. In conclusion, this study establishes M. schaedleri, a core member of the murine gut microbiota, as a key antagonist of S. Tm virulence in the gut.

  • 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.).

  • Resolving the individual contribution of key microbial populations to enhanced biological phosphorus removal with Raman-FISH.

    Fernando EY, McIlroy SJ, Nierychlo M, Herbst FA, Petriglieri F, Schmid MC, Wagner M, Nielsen JL, Nielsen PH
    2019 - ISME J, 8: 1933-1946


    Enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) is a globally important biotechnological process and relies on the massive accumulation of phosphate within special microorganisms. Candidatus Accumulibacter conform to the classical physiology model for polyphosphate accumulating organisms and are widely believed to be the most important player for the process in full-scale EBPR systems. However, it was impossible till now to quantify the contribution of specific microbial clades to EBPR. In this study, we have developed a new tool to directly link the identity of microbial cells to the absolute quantification of intracellular poly-P and other polymers under in situ conditions, and applied it to eight full-scale EBPR plants. Besides Ca. Accumulibacter, members of the genus Tetrasphaera were found to be important microbes for P accumulation, and in six plants they were the most important. As these Tetrasphaera cells did not exhibit the classical phenotype of poly-P accumulating microbes, our entire understanding of the microbiology of the EBPR process has to be revised. Furthermore, our new single-cell approach can now also be applied to quantify storage polymer dynamics in individual populations in situ in other ecosystems and might become a valuable tool for many environmental microbiologists.

  • Polyclonal symbiont populations in hydrothermal vent tubeworms and the environment.

    Polzin J, Arevalo P, Nussbaumer T, Polz MF, Bright M
    2019 - Proc. Biol. Sci., 1896: 20181281


    Horizontally transmitted symbioses usually house multiple and variable symbiont genotypes that are acquired from a much more diverse environmental pool via partner choice mechanisms. However, in the deep-sea hydrothermal vent tubeworm Riftia pachyptila (Vestimentifera, Siboglinidae), it has been suggested that the Candidatus Endoriftia persephone symbiont is monoclonal. Here, we show with high-coverage metagenomics that adult R. pachyptila house a polyclonal symbiont population consisting of one dominant and several low-frequency variants. This dominance of one genotype is confirmed by multilocus gene sequencing of amplified housekeeping genes in a broad range of host individuals where three out of four loci ( atpA, uvrD and recA) revealed no genomic differences, while one locus ( gyrB) was more diverse in adults than in juveniles. We also analysed a metagenome of free-living Endoriftia and found that the free-living population showed greater sequence variability than the host-associated population. Most juveniles and adults shared a specific dominant genotype, while other genotypes can dominate in few individuals. We suggest that although generally permissive, partner choice is selective enough to restrict uptake of some genotypes present in the environment.

  • An automated Raman-based platform for the sorting of live cells by functional properties.

    Lee KS, Palatinszky M, Pereira FC, Nguyen J, Fernandez VI, Mueller AJ, Menolascina F, Daims H, Berry D, Wagner M, Stocker R
    2019 - Nat Microbiol, 6: 1035-1048


    Stable-isotope probing is widely used to study the function of microbial taxa in their natural environment, but sorting of isotopically labelled microbial cells from complex samples for subsequent genomic analysis or cultivation is still in its early infancy. Here, we introduce an optofluidic platform for automated sorting of stable-isotope-probing-labelled microbial cells, combining microfluidics, optical tweezing and Raman microspectroscopy, which yields live cells suitable for subsequent single-cell genomics, mini-metagenomics or cultivation. We describe the design and optimization of this Raman-activated cell-sorting approach, illustrate its operation with four model bacteria (two intestinal, one soil and one marine) and demonstrate its high sorting accuracy (98.3 ± 1.7%), throughput (200-500 cells h; 3.3-8.3 cells min) and compatibility with cultivation. Application of this sorting approach for the metagenomic characterization of bacteria involved in mucin degradation in the mouse colon revealed a diverse consortium of bacteria, including several members of the underexplored family Muribaculaceae, highlighting both the complexity of this niche and the potential of Raman-activated cell sorting for identifying key players in targeted processes.

  • Historical factors associated with past environments influence the biogeography of thermophilic endospores in Arctic marine sediments

    Hanson CA, Müller AL, Loy A, Dona C, Appel R, Jørgensen BB, Hubert CRJ
    2019 - Front Microbiol, 10: 245


    Selection by the local, contemporary environment plays a prominent role in shaping the biogeography of microbes. However, the importance of historical factors in microbial biogeography is more debatable. Historical factors include past ecological and evolutionary circumstances that may have influenced present-day microbial diversity, such as dispersal and past environmental conditions. Diverse thermophilic sulfate-reducing are present as dormant endospores in marine sediments worldwide where temperatures are too low to support their growth. Therefore, they are dispersed to here from elsewhere, presumably a hot, anoxic habitat. While dispersal through ocean currents must influence their distribution in cold marine sediments, it is not clear whether even earlier historical factors, related to the source habitat where these organisms were once active, also have an effect. We investigated whether these historical factors may have influenced the diversity and distribution of thermophilic endospores by comparing their diversity in 10 Arctic fjord surface sediments. Although community composition varied spatially, clear biogeographic patterns were only evident at a high level of taxonomic resolution (>97% sequence similarity of the 16S rRNA gene) achieved with oligotyping. In particular, the diversity and distribution of oligotypes differed for the two most prominent OTUs (defined using a standard 97% similarity cutoff). One OTU was dominated by a single ubiquitous oligotype, while the other OTU consisted of ten more spatially localized oligotypes that decreased in compositional similarity with geographic distance. These patterns are consistent with differences in historical factors that occurred when and where the taxa were once active, prior to sporulation. Further, the influence of history on biogeographic patterns was only revealed by analyzing microdiversity within OTUs, suggesting that populations within standard OTU-level groupings do not necessarily share a common ecological and evolutionary history.

  • Rapid transfer of plant photosynthates to soil bacteria via ectomycorrhizal hyphae and its interaction with nitrogen availability.

    Gorka S, Dietrich M, Mayerhofer W, Gabriel R, Wiesenbauer J, Martin V, Zheng Q, Imai B, Prommer J, Weidinger M, Schweiger P, Eichorst SA, Wagner M, Richter A, Schintlmeister A, Woebken D, Kaiser C
    2019 - Front Microbiol, 168


    Plant roots release recent photosynthates into the rhizosphere, accelerating decomposition of organic matter by saprotrophic soil microbes ("rhizosphere priming effect") which consequently increases nutrient availability for plants. However, about 90% of all higher plant species are mycorrhizal, transferring a significant fraction of their photosynthates directly to their fungal partners. Whether mycorrhizal fungi pass on plant-derived carbon (C) to bacteria in root-distant soil areas, i.e., incite a "hyphosphere priming effect," is not known. Experimental evidence for C transfer from mycorrhizal hyphae to soil bacteria is limited, especially for ectomycorrhizal systems. As ectomycorrhizal fungi possess enzymatic capabilities to degrade organic matter themselves, it remains unclear whether they cooperate with soil bacteria by providing photosynthates, or compete for available nutrients. To investigate a possible C transfer from ectomycorrhizal hyphae to soil bacteria, and its response to changing nutrient availability, we planted young beech trees () into "split-root" boxes, dividing their root systems into two disconnected soil compartments. Each of these compartments was separated from a litter compartment by a mesh penetrable for fungal hyphae, but not for roots. Plants were exposed to a C-CO-labeled atmosphere, while N-labeled ammonium and amino acids were added to one side of the split-root system. We found a rapid transfer of recent photosynthates via ectomycorrhizal hyphae to bacteria in root-distant soil areas. Fungal and bacterial phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) biomarkers were significantly enriched in hyphae-exclusive compartments 24 h after C-CO-labeling. Isotope imaging with nanometer-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) allowed for the first time visualization of plant-derived C and N taken up by an extraradical fungal hypha, and in microbial cells thriving on hyphal surfaces. When N was added to the litter compartments, bacterial biomass, and the amount of incorporated C strongly declined. Interestingly, this effect was also observed in adjacent soil compartments where added N was only available for bacteria through hyphal transport, indicating that ectomycorrhizal fungi were acting on soil bacteria. Together, our results demonstrate that (i) ectomycorrhizal hyphae rapidly transfer plant-derived C to bacterial communities in root-distant areas, and (ii) this transfer promptly responds to changing soil nutrient conditions.

  • Interactions in self-assembled microbial communities saturate with diversity.

    Yu X, Polz MF, Alm EJ
    2019 - ISME J, 6: 1602-1617


    How the diversity of organisms competing for or sharing resources influences community function is an important question in ecology but has rarely been explored in natural microbial communities. These generally contain large numbers of species making it difficult to disentangle how the effects of different interactions scale with diversity. Here, we show that changing diversity affects measures of community function in relatively simple communities but that increasing richness beyond a threshold has little detectable effect. We generated self-assembled communities with a wide range of diversity by growth of cells from serially diluted seawater on brown algal leachate. We subsequently isolated the most abundant taxa from these communities via dilution-to-extinction in order to compare productivity functions of the entire community to those of individual taxa. To parse the effect of different types of organismal interactions, we defined relative total function (RTF) as an index for positive or negative effects of diversity on community function. Our analysis identified three overall regimes with increasing diversity. At low richness (<12 taxa), positive and negative effects of interactions were both weak, while at moderate richness (12-26 taxa), community resource uptake increased but the carbon use efficiency decreased. Finally, beyond 26 taxa, the effect of interactions on community function saturated and further diversity increases did not affect community function. Although more diverse communities had overall greater access to resources, on average individual taxa within these communities had lower resource availability and reduced carbon use efficiency. Our results thus suggest competition and complementation simultaneously increase with diversity but both saturate at a threshold.

  • Long-term transcriptional activity at zero growth by a cosmopolitan rare biosphere member

    Hausmann B, Pelikan C, Rattei T, Loy A, Pester M
    2019 - mBio, 10: e02189-18


    Microbial diversity in the environment is mainly concealed within the rare biosphere (all species with <0.1% relative abundance). While dormancy explains a low-abundance state very well, the mechanisms leading to rare but active microorganisms remain elusive. We used environmental systems biology to genomically and transcriptionally characterise Candidatus Desulfosporosinus infrequens, a low-abundance sulfate-reducing microorganism cosmopolitan to freshwater wetlands, where it contributes to cryptic sulfur cycling. We obtained its near-complete genome by metagenomics of acidic peat soil. In addition, we analyzed anoxic peat soil incubated under in situ-like conditions for 50 days by Desulfosporosinus-targeted qPCR and metatranscriptomics. The Desulfosporosinus population stayed at a constant low abundance under all incubation conditions, averaging 1.2 × 10⁶ 16S rRNA gene copies per cm³ soil. In contrast, transcriptional activity of Ca.D. infrequens increased at day 36 by 56- to 188-fold when minor amendments of acetate, propionate, lactate, or butyrate were provided with sulfate, as compared to the no-substrate-control. Overall transcriptional activity was driven by expression of genes encoding ribosomal proteins, energy metabolism and stress response but not by expression of genes encoding cell growth-associated processes. Since our results did not support growth of these highly active microorganisms in terms of biomass increase or cell division, they had to invest their sole energy for maintenance, most likely counterbalancing acidic pH conditions. This finding explains how a rare biosphere member can contribute to a biogeochemically relevant process while remaining in a zero growth state over a period of 50 days.

  • Dark aerobic sulfide oxidation by anoxygenic phototrophs in anoxic waters.

    Berg JS, Pjevac P, Sommer T, Buckner CRT, Philippi M, Hach PF, Liebeke M, Holtappels M, Danza F, Tonolla M, Sengupta A, Schubert CJ, Milucka J, Kuypers MMM
    2019 - Environ. Microbiol., 5: 1611-1626


    Anoxygenic phototrophic sulfide oxidation by green and purple sulfur bacteria (PSB) plays a key role in sulfide removal from anoxic shallow sediments and stratified waters. Although some PSB can also oxidize sulfide with nitrate and oxygen, little is known about the prevalence of this chemolithotrophic lifestyle in the environment. In this study, we investigated the role of these phototrophs in light-independent sulfide removal in the chemocline of Lake Cadagno. Our temporally resolved, high-resolution chemical profiles indicated that dark sulfide oxidation was coupled to high oxygen consumption rates of ~9 μM O ·h . Single-cell analyses of lake water incubated with CO in the dark revealed that Chromatium okenii was to a large extent responsible for aerobic sulfide oxidation and it accounted for up to 40% of total dark carbon fixation. The genome of Chr. okenii reconstructed from the Lake Cadagno metagenome confirms its capacity for microaerophilic growth and provides further insights into its metabolic capabilities. Moreover, our genomic and single-cell data indicated that other PSB grow microaerobically in these apparently anoxic waters. Altogether, our observations suggest that aerobic respiration may not only play an underappreciated role in anoxic environments but also that organisms typically considered strict anaerobes may be involved.

  • Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy of microorganisms: limitations and applicability on the single-cell level.

    Weiss R, Palatinszky M, Wagner M, Niessner R, Elsner M, Seidel M, Ivleva NP
    2019 - Analyst, 3: 943-953
    Raman single cell isotope imaging


    Detection and characterization of microorganisms is essential for both clinical diagnostics and environmental studies. An emerging technique to analyse microbes at single-cell resolution is surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (surface-enhanced Raman scattering: SERS). Optimised SERS procedures enable fast analytical read-outs with specific molecular information, providing insight into the chemical composition of microbiological samples. Knowledge about the origin of microbial SERS signals and parameter(s) affecting their occurrence, intensity and/or reproducibility is crucial for reliable SERS-based analyses. In this work, we explore the feasibility and limitations of the SERS approach for characterizing microbial cells and investigate the applicability of SERS for single-cell sorting as well as for three-dimensional visualization of microbial communities. Analyses of six different microbial species (an archaeon, two Gram-positive bacteria, three Gram-negative bacteria) showed that for several of these organisms distinct features in their SERS spectra were lacking. As additional confounding factor, the physiological conditions of the cells (as influenced by e.g., storage conditions or deuterium-labelling) were systematically addressed, for which we conclude that the respective SERS signal at the single-cell level is strongly influenced by the metabolic activity of the analysed cells. While this finding complicates the interpretation of SERS data, it may on the other hand enable probing of the metabolic state of individual cells within microbial populations of interest.

  • 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.

  • Sulfate is transported at significant rates through the symbiosome membrane and is crucial for nitrogenase biosynthesis.

    Schneider S, Schintlmeister A, Becana M, Wagner M, Woebken D, Wienkoop S
    2019 - Plant Cell Environ., 4: 1180-1189


    Legume-rhizobia symbioses play a major role in food production for an ever growing human population. In this symbiosis, dinitrogen is reduced ("fixed") to ammonia by the rhizobial nitrogenase enzyme complex and is secreted to the plant host cells, whereas dicarboxylic acids derived from photosynthetically produced sucrose are transported into the symbiosomes and serve as respiratory substrates for the bacteroids. The symbiosome membrane contains high levels of SST1 protein, a sulfate transporter. Sulfate is an essential nutrient for all living organisms, but its importance for symbiotic nitrogen fixation and nodule metabolism has long been underestimated. Using chemical imaging, we demonstrate that the bacteroids take up 20-fold more sulfate than the nodule host cells. Furthermore, we show that nitrogenase biosynthesis relies on high levels of imported sulfate, making sulfur as essential as carbon for the regulation and functioning of symbiotic nitrogen fixation. Our findings thus establish the importance of sulfate and its active transport for the plant-microbe interaction that is most relevant for agriculture and soil fertility.

  • Transcriptomic and proteomic insight into the mechanism of cyclooctasulfur- versus thiosulfate-oxidation by the chemolithoautotroph Sulfurimonas denitrificans.

    Götz F, Pjevac P, Markert S, McNichol J, Becher D, Schweder T, Mussmann M, Sievert SM
    2019 - Environ. Microbiol., 1: 244-258


    Chemoautotrophic bacteria belonging to the genus Sulfurimonas (class Campylobacteria) were previously identified as key players in the turnover of zero-valence sulfur, a central intermediate in the marine sulfur cycle. S. denitrificans was further shown to be able to oxidize cyclooctasulfur (S ). However, at present the mechanism of activation and metabolism of cyclooctasulfur is not known. Here, we assessed the transcriptome and proteome of S. denitrificans grown with either thiosulfate or S as the electron donor. While the overall expression profiles under the two growth conditions were rather similar, distinct differences were observed that could be attributed to the utilization of S . This included a higher abundance of expressed genes related to surface attachment in the presence of S , and the differential regulation of the sulfur-oxidation multienzyme complex (SOX), which in S. denitrificans is encoded in two gene clusters: soxABXY Z and soxCDY Z . While the proteins of both clusters were present with thiosulfate, only proteins of the soxCDY Z were detected at significant levels with S . Based on these findings a model for the oxidation of S is proposed. Our results have implications for interpreting metatranscriptomic and -proteomic data and for the observed high level of diversification of soxY Z among sulfur-oxidizing Campylobacteria.

  • Bacterial community structure in a sympagic habitat expanding with global warming: brackish ice brine at 85-90 °N.

    Fernández-Gómez B, Díez B, Polz MF, Arroyo JI, Alfaro FD, Marchandon G, Sanhueza C, Farías L, Trefault N, Marquet PA, Molina-Montenegro MA, Sylvander P, Snoeijs-Leijonmalm P
    2019 - ISME J, 2: 316-333


    Larger volumes of sea ice have been thawing in the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO) during the last decades than during the past 800,000 years. Brackish brine (fed by meltwater inside the ice) is an expanding sympagic habitat in summer all over the CAO. We report for the first time the structure of bacterial communities in this brine. They are composed of psychrophilic extremophiles, many of them related to phylotypes known from Arctic and Antarctic regions. Community structure displayed strong habitat segregation between brackish ice brine (IB; salinity 2.4-9.6) and immediate sub-ice seawater (SW; salinity 33.3-34.9), expressed at all taxonomic levels (class to genus), by dominant phylotypes as well as by the rare biosphere, and with specialists dominating IB and generalists SW. The dominant phylotypes in IB were related to Candidatus Aquiluna and Flavobacterium, those in SW to Balneatrix and ZD0405, and those shared between the habitats to Halomonas, Polaribacter and Shewanella. A meta-analysis for the oligotrophic CAO showed a pattern with Flavobacteriia dominating in melt ponds, Flavobacteriia and Gammaproteobacteria in solid ice cores, Flavobacteriia, Gamma- and Betaproteobacteria, and Actinobacteria in brine, and Alphaproteobacteria in SW. Based on our results, we expect that the roles of Actinobacteria and Betaproteobacteria in the CAO will increase with global warming owing to the increased production of meltwater in summer. IB contained three times more phylotypes than SW and may act as an insurance reservoir for bacterial diversity that can act as a recruitment base when environmental conditions change.

  • Biodegradation of synthetic polymers in soils: Tracking carbon into CO2 and microbial biomass

    Zumstein MT, Schintlmeister A, Nelson TF, Baumgartner R, Woebken D, Wagner M, Kohler H-PE, McNeill K, Sander M
    2018 - Science Advances, 4: eaas9024


    Plastic materials are widely used in agricultural applications to achieve food security for the growing world population. The use of biodegradable instead of nonbiodegradable polymers in single-use agricultural applications, including plastic mulching, promises to reduce plastic accumulation in the environment. We present a novel approach that allows tracking of carbon from biodegradable polymers into CO2 and microbial biomass. The approach is based on 13C-labeled polymers and on isotope-specific analytical methods, including nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS). Our results unequivocally demonstrate the biodegradability of poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) (PBAT), an important polyester used in agriculture, in soil. Carbon from each monomer unit of PBAT was used by soil microorganisms, including filamentous fungi, to gain energy and to form biomass. This work advances both our conceptual understanding of polymer biodegradation and the methodological capabilities to assess this process in natural and engineered environments.

  • A bacterial pioneer produces cellulase complexes that persist through community succession

    Kolinko S, Wu YW, Tachea F, Denzel E, Hiras J, Gabriel R, Bäcker N, Chan LJG, Eichorst SA, Frey D, Chen Q, Azadi P, Adams PD, Pray TR, Tanjore D, Petzold CJ, Gladden JM, Simmons BA, Singer SW
    2018 - Nat Microbiol, 3: 99-107
  • 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.

  • Transmission of fungal partners to incipient Cecropia-tree ant colonies

    Mayer VE, Nepel M, Blatrix R, Oberhauser FB, Fiedler K, Schönenberger J, Voglmayr H
    2018 - PLoS One, 13: e0192207


    Ascomycete fungi in the nests of ants inhabiting plants (= myrmecophytes) are very often cultivated by the ants in small patches and used as food source. Where these fungi come from is not known yet. Two scenarios of fungus recruitment are possible: (1) random infection through spores or hyphal fragments from the environment, or (2) transmission from mother to daughter colonies by the foundress queen. It is also not known at which stage of the colony life cycle fungiculture is initiated, and whether the- symbiont fungi serve as food for the ant queen. To clarify these questions, we investigated four Azteca ant species inhabiting three different Cecropia species (CinsignisCobtusifolia, and Cpeltata). We analysed an rRNA gene fragment from 52 fungal patches produced by founding queens and compared them with those from established Azteca colonies (n = 54). The infrabuccal pockets of winged queens were dissected to investigate whether young queens carry fungi from their mother colony. Additionally, 15N labelling experiments were done to verify whether the queen feeds on the patches until she is nourished by her first worker offspring. We infer from the results that the fungi cultivated in hollow plant structures are transferred from the parental colony of the young queen. First, fungal genotypes/OTU diversity was not significantly different between foundress queen patches and established colonies, and second, hyphal parts were discovered in the infrabuccal pockets of female alates. We could show that fungiculture already starts before queens lay their eggs, and that the queens do not feed on fungal patch material but feed it to the larvae. Our findings suggest that fungiculture may be crucial for successful colony founding of arboreal ants in the tropics.

  • 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.

  • Recognizing Patterns: Spatial Analysis of Observed Microbial Colonization on Root Surfaces

    Schmidt H, Nunan N, Höck A, Eickhorst T, Kaiser C, Woebken D, Xaynaud X
    2018 - Front Environ Sci, 6: 1-12


    Root surfaces are major sites of interactions between plants and associated microorganisms. Here, plants and microbes communicate via signaling molecules, compete for nutrients, and release substrates that may have beneficial or harmful effects on each other. Whilst the body of knowledge on the abundance and diversity of microbial communities at root-soil interfaces is now substantial, information on their spatial distribution at the microscale is still scarce.
    In this study, a standardized method for recognizing and analyzing microbial cell distributions on root surfaces is presented. Fluorescence microscopy was combined with automated image analysis and spatial statistics to explore the distribution of bacterial colonization patterns on rhizoplanes of rice roots. To test and evaluate the presented approach, a gnotobiotic experiment was performed using a potential nitrogen-fixing bacterial strain in combination with roots of wetland rice. 
    The automated analysis procedure resulted in reliable spatial data of bacterial cells colonizing the rhizoplane. Among all replicate roots, the analysis revealed an increasing density of bacterial cells from the root tip to the region of root cell maturation. Moreover, bacterial cells showed significant spatial clustering and tended to be located around plant root cell walls. The quantitative data suggest that the structure of the root surface plays a major role in bacterial colonization patterns. 
    Possible adaptations of the presented approach for future studies are discussed along with potential pitfalls such as inaccurate imaging. Our results demonstrate that standardized recognition and statistical evaluation of microbial colonization on root surfaces holds the potential to increase our understanding of microbial associations with roots and of the underlying ecological interactions.

  • 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. 

  • Streamlining standard bacteriophage methods for higher throughput.

    Kauffman KM, Polz MF
    2018 - MethodsX, 159-172


    A universal tool in the culture-based study of bacterial viruses (bacteriophages, or phages) is the agar overlay, which is used in the isolation of new viruses, and in their quantification and purification. Here, simple optimizations that increase efficiency and throughput in agar overlay based isolation and cultivation of virus-host systems are presented. The agar overlay is streamlined to minimize steps and materials. Serial purification of viruses from viral colonies (plaques) is optimized to eliminate steps by combining purification by serial re-streaking with the optimized agar overlay approach. Finally, recommendations are made for efficient archival and storage of virus plaques. In sum, this work presents: •Tube-free Agar Overlays: rapid plaque assays with fewer steps and materials•Molten Streaking for Singles: rapid tube-free serial purification of viruses•Archiving Plaques: saving virus purification for later.

  • The draft genome sequence of “Nitrospira lenta” strain BS10, a nitrite oxidizing bacterium isolated from activated sludge

    Sakoula D, Nowka B, Spieck E, Daims H, Lücker S
    2018 - Stand Genomic Sci, 13: 32


    The genus Nitrospira is considered to be the most widespread and abundant group of nitrite-oxidizing bacteria in many natural and man-made ecosystems. However, the ecophysiological versatility within this phylogenetic group remains highly understudied, mainly due to the lack of pure cultures and genomic data. To further expand our understanding of this biotechnologically important genus, we analyzed the high quality draft genome of “Nitrospira lenta” strain BS10, a sublineage II Nitrospira that was isolated from a municipal wastewater treatment plant in Hamburg, Germany. The genome of “N. lenta” has a size of 3,756,190 bp and contains 3968 genomic objects, of which 3907 are predicted protein-coding sequences. Thorough genome annotation allowed the reconstruction of the “N. lenta” core metabolism for energy conservation and carbon fixation. Comparative analyses indicated that most metabolic features are shared with N. moscoviensis and “N. defluvii”, despite their ecological niche differentiation and phylogenetic distance. In conclusion, the genome of “N. lenta” provides important insights into the genomic diversity of the genus Nitrospira and provides a foundation for future comparative genomic studies that will generate a better understanding of the nitrification process.

  • Microbial nitrogen limitation in the mammalian large intestine.

    Reese AT, Pereira FC, Schintlmeister A, Berry D, Wagner M, Hale LP, Wu A, Jiang S, Durand HK, Zhou X, Premont RT, Diehl AM, O'Connell TM, Alberts SC, Kartzinel TR, Pringle RM, Dunn RR, Wright JP, David LA
    2018 - Nat Microbiol, 12: 1441-1450


    Resource limitation is a fundamental factor governing the composition and function of ecological communities. However, the role of resource supply in structuring the intestinal microbiome has not been established and represents a challenge for mammals that rely on microbial symbionts for digestion: too little supply might starve the microbiome while too much might starve the host. We present evidence that microbiota occupy a habitat that is limited in total nitrogen supply within the large intestines of 30 mammal species. Lowering dietary protein levels in mice reduced their faecal concentrations of bacteria. A gradient of stoichiometry along the length of the gut was consistent with the hypothesis that intestinal nitrogen limitation results from host absorption of dietary nutrients. Nitrogen availability is also likely to be shaped by host-microbe interactions: levels of host-secreted nitrogen were altered in germ-free mice and when bacterial loads were reduced via experimental antibiotic treatment. Single-cell spectrometry revealed that members of the phylum Bacteroidetes consumed nitrogen in the large intestine more readily than other commensal taxa did. Our findings support a model where nitrogen limitation arises from preferential host use of dietary nutrients. We speculate that this resource limitation could enable hosts to regulate microbial communities in the large intestine. Commensal microbiota may have adapted to nitrogen-limited settings, suggesting one reason why excess dietary protein has been associated with degraded gut-microbial ecosystems.

  • 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.

  • Ancestral gene acquisition as the key to virulence potential in environmental Vibrio populations.

    Bruto M, Labreuche Y, James A, Piel D, Chenivesse S, Petton B, Polz MF, Le Roux F
    2018 - ISME J, 12: 2954-2966


    Diseases of marine animals caused by bacteria of the genus Vibrio are on the rise worldwide. Understanding the eco-evolutionary dynamics of these infectious agents is important for predicting and managing these diseases. Yet, compared to Vibrio infecting humans, knowledge of their role as animal pathogens is scarce. Here we ask how widespread is virulence among ecologically differentiated Vibrio populations, and what is the nature and frequency of virulence genes within these populations? We use a combination of population genomics and molecular genetics to assay hundreds of Vibrio strains for their virulence in the oyster Crassostrea gigas, a unique animal model that allows high-throughput infection assays. We show that within the diverse Splendidus clade, virulence represents an ancestral trait but has been lost from several populations. Two loci are necessary for virulence, the first being widely distributed across the Splendidus clade and consisting of an exported conserved protein (R5.7). The second is a MARTX toxin cluster, which only occurs within V. splendidus and is for the first time associated with virulence in marine invertebrates. Varying frequencies of both loci among populations indicate different selective pressures and alternative ecological roles, based on which we suggest strategies for epidemiological surveys.

  • Visualisation of the obligate hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria Polycyclovorans algicola and Algiphilus aromaticivorans in co-cultures with micro-algae by CARD-FISH.

    Thompson HF, Lesaulnier C, Pelikan C, Gutierrez T
    2018 - J. Microbiol. Methods, 73-79


    Some studies have described the isolation and 16S rRNA gene sequence-based identification of hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria living associated with marine eukaryotic phytoplankton, and thus far the direct visual observation of these bacteria on micro-algal cell surfaces ('phycosphere') has not yet been reported. Here, we developed two new 16S rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes, PCY223 and ALGAR209, to respectively detect and enumerate the obligate hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria Polycyclovorans algicola and Algiphilus aromaticivorans by Catalyzed Reporter Deposition Fluorescence in situ Hybridization (CARD-FISH). To enhance the hybridization specificity with the ALGAR209 probe, a competitor probe was developed. These probes were tested and optimized using pure cultures, and then used in enrichment experiments with laboratory cultures of micro-algae exposed to phenanthrene, and with coastal water enriched with crude oil. Microscopic analysis revealed these bacteria are found in culture with the micro-algal cells, some of which were found attached to algal cells, and whose abundance increased after phenanthrene or crude oil enrichment. These new probes are a valuable tool for identifying and studying the ecology of P. algicola and A. aromaticivorans in laboratory and field samples of micro-algae, as well as opening new fields of research that could harness their ability to enhance the bioremediation of contaminated sites.

  • Bacterial interactions during sequential degradation of cyanobacterial necromass in a sulfidic arctic marine sediment

    Müller AL, Pelikan C, de Rezende JR, Wasmund K, Putz M, Glombitza C, Kjeldsen KU, Jørgensen BB, Loy A
    2018 - Environ Microbiol, 20: 2927–2940


    Seafloor microorganisms impact global carbon cycling by mineralizing vast quantities of organic matter (OM) from pelagic primary production, which is predicted to increase in the Arctic because of diminishing sea ice cover. We studied microbial interspecies-carbon-flow during anaerobic OM degradation in arctic marine sediment using stable isotope probing. We supplemented sediment incubations with 13C-labeled cyanobacterial necromass (spirulina), mimicking fresh OM input, or acetate, an important OM degradation intermediate, and monitored sulfate reduction rates and concentrations of volatile fatty acids (VFAs) during substrate degradation. Sequential 16S rRNA gene and transcript amplicon sequencing and fluorescence in situ hybridization combined with Raman microspectroscopy revealed that only few bacterial species were the main degraders of 13C-spirulina necromass. Psychrilyobacter, Psychromonas, Marinifilum, Colwellia, Marinilabiaceae and Clostridiales species were likely involved in the primary hydrolysis and fermentation of spirulina. VFAs, mainly acetate, produced from spirulina degradation were mineralized by sulfate-reducing bacteria and an Arcobacter species. Cellular activity of Desulfobacteraceae and Desulfobulbaceae species during acetoclastic sulfate reduction was largely decoupled from relative 16S rRNA gene abundance shifts. Our findings provide new insights into the identities and physiological constraints that determine the population dynamics of key microorganisms during complex OM degradation in arctic marine sediments.

  • Ammonia Monooxygenase-Mediated Cometabolic Biotransformation and Hydroxylamine-Mediated Abiotic Transformation of Micropollutants in an AOB/NOB Coculture.

    Yu Y, Han P, Zhou LJ, Li Z, Wagner M, Men Y
    2018 - Environ. Sci. Technol., 16: 9196-9205


    Biotransformation of various micropollutants (MPs) has been found to be positively correlated with nitrification in activated sludge communities. To further elucidate the roles played by ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB), we investigated the biotransformation capabilities of an NOB pure culture ( Nitrobacter sp.) and an AOB ( Nitrosomonas europaea)/NOB ( Nitrobacter sp.) coculture for 15 MPs, whose biotransformation was reported previously to be associated with nitrification. The NOB pure culture did not biotransform any investigated MP, whereas the AOB/NOB coculture was capable of biotransforming six MPs (i.e., asulam, bezafibrate, fenhexamid, furosemide, indomethacin, and rufinamide). Transformation products (TPs) were identified, and tentative structures were proposed. Inhibition studies with octyne, an ammonia monooxygenase (AMO) inhibitor, suggested that AMO was the responsible enzyme for MP transformation that occurred cometabolically. For the first time, hydroxylamine, a key intermediate of all aerobic ammonia oxidizers, was found to react with several MPs at concentrations typically occurring in AOB batch cultures. All of these MPs were also biotransformed by the AOB/NOB coculture. Moreover, the same asulam TPs were detected in both biotransformation and hydroxylamine-treated abiotic transformation experiments, whereas rufinamide TPs formed from biological transformation were not detected during hydroxylamine-mediated abiotic transformation, which was consistent with the inability of rufinamide abiotic transformation by hydroxylamine. Thus, in addition to cometabolism likely carried out by AMO, an abiotic transformation route indirectly mediated by AMO might also contribute to MP biotransformation by AOB.

  • Stable-isotope probing of human and animal microbiome function

    2018 - Trends Microbiol, 26: 999-1007


    Humans and animals host diverse communities of microorganisms important to their physiology and health. Despite extensive sequencing-based characterization of host-associated microbiomes, there remains a dramatic lack of understanding of microbial functions. Stable-isotope probing (SIP) is a powerful strategy to elucidate the ecophysiology of microorganisms in complex host-associated microbiotas. Here, we suggest that SIP methodologies should be more frequently exploited as part of a holistic functional microbiomics approach. We provide examples of how SIP has been used to study host-associated microbes in vivo and ex vivo. We highlight recent developments in SIP technologies and discuss future directions that will facilitate deeper insights into the function of human and animal microbiomes.

  • 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.

  • Viruses of the Nahant Collection, characterization of 251 marine Vibrionaceae viruses.

    Kauffman KM, Brown JM, Sharma RS, VanInsberghe D, Elsherbini J, Polz MF, Kelly L
    2018 - Sci Data, 180114


    Viruses are highly discriminating in their interactions with host cells and are thought to play a major role in maintaining diversity of environmental microbes. However, large-scale ecological and genomic studies of co-occurring virus-host pairs, required to characterize the mechanistic and genomic foundations of virus-host interactions, are lacking. Here, we present the largest dataset of cultivated and sequenced co-occurring virus-host pairs that captures ecologically representative fine-scale diversity. Using the ubiquitous and ecologically diverse marine Vibrionaceae as a host platform, we isolate and sequence 251 dsDNA viruses and their hosts from three time points within a 93-day time-series study. The virus collection includes representatives of the three Caudovirales tailed virus morphotypes, a novel family of nontailed viruses, and the smallest (10,046 bp) and largest (348,911 bp) Vibrio virus genomes described. We provide general characterization and annotation of the viruses and describe read-mapping protocols to standardize genome presentation. The rich ecological and genomic contextualization of hosts and viruses make the Nahant Collection a unique platform for high-resolution studies of environmental virus-host infection networks.

  • Widespread distribution of prophage-encoded virulence factors in marine Vibrio communities.

    Castillo D, Kauffman K, Hussain F, Kalatzis P, Rørbo N, Polz MF, Middelboe M
    2018 - Sci Rep, 1: 9973


    Prophages are known to encode important virulence factors in the human pathogen Vibrio cholerae. However, little is known about the occurrence and composition of prophage-encoded traits in environmental vibrios. A database of 5,674 prophage-like elements constructed from 1,874 Vibrio genome sequences, covering sixty-four species, revealed that prophage-like elements encoding possible properties such as virulence and antibiotic resistance are widely distributed among environmental vibrios, including strains classified as non-pathogenic. Moreover, we found that 45% of Vibrio species harbored a complete prophage-like element belonging to the Inoviridae family, which encode the zonula occludens toxin (Zot) previously described in the V. cholerae. Interestingly, these zot-encoding prophages were found in a variety of Vibrio strains covering both clinical and marine isolates, including strains from deep sea hydrothermal vents and deep subseafloor sediments. In addition, the observation that a spacer from the CRISPR locus in the marine fish pathogen V. anguillarum strain PF7 had 95% sequence identity with a zot gene from the Inoviridae prophage found in V. anguillarum strain PF4, suggests acquired resistance to inoviruses in this species. Altogether, our results contribute to the understanding of the role of prophages as drivers of evolution and virulence in the marine Vibrio bacteria.

  • Fluorinated Gold Nanoparticles for Nanostructure Imaging Mass Spectrometry.

    Palermo A, Forsberg EM, Warth B, Aisporna AE, Billings E, Kuang E, Benton HP, Berry D, Siuzdak G
    2018 - ACS Nano, 7: 6938-6948


    Nanostructure imaging mass spectrometry (NIMS) with fluorinated gold nanoparticles (f-AuNPs) is a nanoparticle assisted laser desorption/ionization approach that requires low laser energy and has demonstrated high sensitivity. Here we describe NIMS with f-AuNPs for the comprehensive analysis of metabolites in biological tissues. F-AuNPs assist in desorption/ionization by laser-induced release of the fluorocarbon chains with minimal background noise. Since the energy barrier required to release the fluorocarbons from the AuNPs is minimal, the energy of the laser is maintained in the low μJ/pulse range, thus limiting metabolite in-source fragmentation. Electron microscopy analysis of tissue samples after f-AuNP NIMS shows a distinct "raising" of the surface as compared to matrix assisted laser desorption ionization ablation, indicative of a gentle desorption mechanism aiding in the generation of intact molecular ions. Moreover, the use of perfluorohexane to distribute the f-AuNPs on the tissue creates a hydrophobic environment minimizing metabolite solubilization and spatial dislocation. The transfer of the energy from the incident laser to the analytes through the release of the fluorocarbon chains similarly enhances the desorption/ionization of metabolites of different chemical nature, resulting in heterogeneous metabolome coverage. We performed the approach in a comparative study of the colon of mice exposed to three different diets. F-AuNP NIMS allows the direct detection of carbohydrates, lipids, bile acids, sulfur metabolites, amino acids, nucleotide precursors as well as other small molecules of varied biological origins. Ultimately, the diversified molecular coverage obtained provides a broad picture of a tissue's metabolic organization.

  • Signatures of ecological processes in microbial community time series.

    Faust K, Bauchinger F, Laroche B, de Buyl S, Lahti L, Washburne AD, Gonze D, Widder S
    2018 - Microbiome, 1: 120


    Growth rates, interactions between community members, stochasticity, and immigration are important drivers of microbial community dynamics. In sequencing data analysis, such as network construction and community model parameterization, we make implicit assumptions about the nature of these drivers and thereby restrict model outcome. Despite apparent risk of methodological bias, the validity of the assumptions is rarely tested, as comprehensive procedures are lacking. Here, we propose a classification scheme to determine the processes that gave rise to the observed time series and to enable better model selection.
    We implemented a three-step classification scheme in R that first determines whether dependence between successive time steps (temporal structure) is present in the time series and then assesses with a recently developed neutrality test whether interactions between species are required for the dynamics. If the first and second tests confirm the presence of temporal structure and interactions, then parameters for interaction models are estimated. To quantify the importance of temporal structure, we compute the noise-type profile of the community, which ranges from black in case of strong dependency to white in the absence of any dependency. We applied this scheme to simulated time series generated with the Dirichlet-multinomial (DM) distribution, Hubbell's neutral model, the generalized Lotka-Volterra model and its discrete variant (the Ricker model), and a self-organized instability model, as well as to human stool microbiota time series. The noise-type profiles for all but DM data clearly indicated distinctive structures. The neutrality test correctly classified all but DM and neutral time series as non-neutral. The procedure reliably identified time series for which interaction inference was suitable. Both tests were required, as we demonstrated that all structured time series, including those generated with the neutral model, achieved a moderate to high goodness of fit to the Ricker model.
    We present a fast and robust scheme to classify community structure and to assess the prevalence of interactions directly from microbial time series data. The procedure not only serves to determine ecological drivers of microbial dynamics, but also to guide selection of appropriate community models for prediction and follow-up analysis.

  • 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.

  • Biodegradability standards for carrier bags and plastic films in aquatic environments: a critical review.

    Harrison JP, Boardman C, O'Callaghan K, Delort AM, Song J
    2018 - R Soc Open Sci, 5: 171792


    Plastic litter is encountered in aquatic ecosystems across the globe, including polar environments and the deep sea. To mitigate the adverse societal and ecological impacts of this waste, there has been debate on whether 'biodegradable' materials should be granted exemptions from plastic bag bans and levies. However, great care must be exercised when attempting to define this term, due to the broad and complex range of physical and chemical conditions encountered within natural ecosystems. Here, we review existing international industry standards and regional test methods for evaluating the biodegradability of plastics within aquatic environments (wastewater, unmanaged freshwater and marine habitats). We argue that current standards and test methods are insufficient in their ability to realistically predict the biodegradability of carrier bags in these environments, due to several shortcomings in experimental procedures and a paucity of information in the scientific literature. Moreover, existing biodegradability standards and test methods for aquatic environments do not involve toxicity testing or account for the potentially adverse ecological impacts of carrier bags, plastic additives, polymer degradation products or small (microscopic) plastic particles that can arise via fragmentation. Successfully addressing these knowledge gaps is a key requirement for developing new biodegradability standard(s) for lightweight carrier bags.

  • Inter-individual variability in copepod microbiomes reveals bacterial networks linked to host physiology.

    Datta MS, Almada AA, Baumgartner MF, Mincer TJ, Tarrant AM, Polz MF
    2018 - ISME J, 9: 2103-2113


    Copepods harbor diverse bacterial communities, which collectively carry out key biogeochemical transformations in the ocean. However, bulk copepod sampling averages over the variability in their associated bacterial communities, thereby limiting our understanding of the nature and specificity of copepod-bacteria associations. Here, we characterize the bacterial communities associated with nearly 200 individual Calanus finmarchicus copepods transitioning from active growth to diapause. We find that all individual copepods sampled share a small set of "core" operational taxonomic units (OTUs), a subset of which have also been found associated with other marine copepod species in different geographic locations. However, most OTUs are patchily distributed across individual copepods, thereby driving community differences across individuals. Among patchily distributed OTUs, we identified groups of OTUs correlated with common ecological drivers. For instance, a group of OTUs positively correlated with recent copepod feeding served to differentiate largely active growing copepods from those entering diapause. Together, our results underscore the power of individual-level sampling for understanding host-microbiome relationships.

  • Detection of Chlamydiaceae and Chlamydia-like organisms on the ocular surface of children and adults from a trachoma-endemic region

    Ghasemian E, Inic-Kanada A, Collingro A, Tagini F, Stein E, Alchalabi H, Schuerer N, Keše D, Babiker BE, Borel N, Greub G, Barisani-Asenbauer T
    2018 - Sci Rep, 1: 7432


    Trachoma, the leading infectious cause of blindness, is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct), a bacterium of the phylum Chlamydiae. Recent investigations revealed the existence of additional families within the phylum Chlamydiae, also termed Chlamydia-like organisms (CLOs). In this study, the frequency of Ct and CLOs was examined in the eyes of healthy Sudanese (control) participants and those with trachoma (case). We tested 96 children (54 cases and 42 controls) and 93 adults (51 cases and 42 controls) using broad-range Chlamydiae and Ct-specific (omcB) real-time PCR. Samples positive by broad-range Chlamydiae testing were subjected to DNA sequencing. Overall Chlamydiae prevalence was 36%. Sequences corresponded to unclassified and classified Chlamydiae. Ct infection rate was significantly higher in children (31.5%) compared to adults (0%) with trachoma (p < 0.0001). In general, 21.5% of adults and 4.2% of children tested positive for CLOs (p = 0.0003). Our findings are consistent with previous investigations describing the central role of Ct in trachoma among children. This is the first study examining human eyes for the presence of CLOs. We found an age-dependent distribution of CLO DNA in human eyes with significantly higher positivity in adults. Further studies are needed to understand the impact of CLOs in trachoma pathogenicity and/or protection.

  • Long-distance electron transport in individual, living cable bacteria.

    Bjerg JT, Boschker HTS, Larsen S, Berry D, Schmid M, Millo D, Tataru P, Meysman FJR, Wagner M, Nielsen LP, Schramm A
    2018 - Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 22: 5786-5791


    Electron transport within living cells is essential for energy conservation in all respiring and photosynthetic organisms. While a few bacteria transport electrons over micrometer distances to their surroundings, filaments of cable bacteria are hypothesized to conduct electric currents over centimeter distances. We used resonance Raman microscopy to analyze cytochrome redox states in living cable bacteria. Cable-bacteria filaments were placed in microscope chambers with sulfide as electron source and oxygen as electron sink at opposite ends. Along individual filaments a gradient in cytochrome redox potential was detected, which immediately broke down upon removal of oxygen or laser cutting of the filaments. Without access to oxygen, a rapid shift toward more reduced cytochromes was observed, as electrons were no longer drained from the filament but accumulated in the cellular cytochromes. These results provide direct evidence for long-distance electron transport in living multicellular bacteria.

  • Metaproteogenomic Profiling of Microbial Communities Colonizing Actively Venting Hydrothermal Chimneys.

    Pjevac P, Meier DV, Markert S, Hentschker C, Schweder T, Becher D, Gruber-Vodicka HR, Richter M, Bach W, Amann R, Meyerdierks A
    2018 - Front Microbiol, 680


    At hydrothermal vent sites, chimneys consisting of sulfides, sulfates, and oxides are formed upon contact of reduced hydrothermal fluids with oxygenated seawater. The walls and surfaces of these chimneys are an important habitat for vent-associated microorganisms. We used community proteogenomics to investigate and compare the composition, metabolic potential and relative protein abundance of microbial communities colonizing two actively venting hydrothermal chimneys from the Manus Basin back-arc spreading center (Papua New Guinea). We identified overlaps in the functional profiles of both chimneys, despite differences in microbial community composition and venting regime. Carbon fixation on both chimneys seems to have been primarily mediated through the reverse tricarboxylic acid cycle and fueled by sulfur-oxidation, while the abundant metabolic potential for hydrogen oxidation and carbon fixation via the Calvin-Benson-Bassham cycle was hardly utilized. Notably, the highly diverse microbial community colonizing the analyzed black smoker chimney had a highly redundant metabolic potential. In contrast, the considerably less diverse community colonizing the diffusely venting chimney displayed a higher metabolic versatility. An increased diversity on the phylogenetic level is thus not directly linked to an increased metabolic diversity in microbial communities that colonize hydrothermal chimneys.

  • Function and functional redundancy in microbial systems.

    Louca S, Polz MF, Mazel F, Albright MBN, Huber JA, O'Connor MI, Ackermann M, Hahn AS, Srivastava DS, Crowe SA, Doebeli M, Parfrey LW
    2018 - Nat Ecol Evol, 6: 936-943


    Microbial communities often exhibit incredible taxonomic diversity, raising questions regarding the mechanisms enabling species coexistence and the role of this diversity in community functioning. On the one hand, many coexisting but taxonomically distinct microorganisms can encode the same energy-yielding metabolic functions, and this functional redundancy contrasts with the expectation that species should occupy distinct metabolic niches. On the other hand, the identity of taxa encoding each function can vary substantially across space or time with little effect on the function, and this taxonomic variability is frequently thought to result from ecological drift between equivalent organisms. Here, we synthesize the powerful paradigm emerging from these two patterns, connecting the roles of function, functional redundancy and taxonomy in microbial systems. We conclude that both patterns are unlikely to be the result of ecological drift, but are inevitable emergent properties of open microbial systems resulting mainly from biotic interactions and environmental and spatial processes.

  • Evolution of a Vegetarian Vibrio: Metabolic Specialization of Vibrio breoganii to Macroalgal Substrates.

    Corzett CH, Elsherbini J, Chien DM, Hehemann JH, Henschel A, Preheim SP, Yu X, Alm EJ, Polz MF
    2018 - J. Bacteriol., 15: in press


    While most are considered generalists that thrive on diverse substrates, including animal-derived material, we show that has specialized for the consumption of marine macroalga-derived substrates. Genomic and physiological comparisons of with other isolates revealed the ability to degrade alginate, laminarin, and additional glycans present in algal cell walls. Moreover, the widely conserved ability to hydrolyze animal-derived polymers, including chitin and glycogen, was lost, along with the ability to efficiently grow on a variety of amino acids. Ecological data showing associations with particulate algal material but not zooplankton further support this shift in niche preference, and the loss of motility appears to reflect a sessile macroalga-associated lifestyle. Together, these findings indicate that algal polysaccharides have become a major source of carbon and energy in , and these ecophysiological adaptations may facilitate transient commensal associations with marine invertebrates that feed on algae. Vibrios are often considered animal specialists or generalists. Here, we show that has undergone massive genomic changes to become specialized on algal carbohydrates. Accompanying genomic changes include massive gene import and loss. These vibrios may help us better understand how algal biomass is degraded in the environment and may serve as a blueprint on how to optimize the conversion of algae to biofuels.

  • Microbial conservation in the Anthropocene.

    Webster NS, Wagner M, Negri AP
    2018 - Environ. Microbiol., 6: 1925-1928
  • Microbiomes : Importance of Invertebrates in Understanding the Natural Variety of Animal-Microbe Interactions.

    Petersen JM, Osvatic J
    2018 - mSystems, 2: in press


    Animals evolved in a world teeming with microbes, which play pivotal roles in their health, development, and evolution. Although the overwhelming majority of living animals are invertebrates, the minority of "microbiome" studies focus on this group. Interest in invertebrate-microbe interactions is 2-fold-a range of immune components are conserved across almost all animal (including human) life, and their functional roles may be conserved. Thus, understanding cross talk between microbes and invertebrate animals can lead to insights of broader relevance. Invertebrates offer unique opportunities to "eavesdrop" on intricate host-microbe conversations because they tend to associate with fewer microbes. On the other hand, considering the vast diversity of form and function that has evolved in the invertebrates, they likely evolved an equally diverse range of ways to interact with beneficial microbes. We have investigated only a few of these interactions in detail; thus, there is still great potential for fundamentally new discoveries.

  • 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.

  • Expanded diversity of microbial groups that shape the dissimilatory sulfur cycle

    Anantharaman K, Hausmann B, Jungbluth SP, Kantor RS, Lavy A, Warren LA, Rappé MS, Pester M, Loy A, Thomas BC, Banfield JF
    2018 - ISME J, 12: 1715-1728


    A critical step in the biogeochemical cycle of sulfur on Earth is microbial sulfate reduction, yet organisms from relatively few lineages have been implicated in this process. Previous studies using functional marker genes have detected abundant, novel dissimilatory sulfite reductases (DsrAB) that could confer the capacity for microbial sulfite/sulfate reduction but were not affiliated with known organisms. Thus, the identity of a significant fraction of sulfate/sulfite-reducing microbes has remained elusive. Here we report the discovery of the capacity for sulfate/sulfite reduction in the genomes of organisms from thirteen bacterial and archaeal phyla, thereby more than doubling the number of microbial phyla associated with this process. Eight of the thirteen newly identified groups are candidate phyla that lack isolated representatives, a finding only possible given genomes from metagenomes. Organisms from Verrucomicrobia and two candidate phyla, Candidatus Rokubacteria and Candidatus Hydrothermarchaeota, contain some of the earliest evolved dsrAB genes. The capacity for sulfite reduction has been laterally transferred in multiple events within some phyla, and a key gene potentially capable of modulating sulfur metabolism in associated cells has been acquired by putatively symbiotic bacteria. We conclude that current functional predictions based on phylogeny significantly underestimate the extent of sulfate/sulfite reduction across Earth’s ecosystems. Understanding the prevalence of this capacity is integral to interpreting the carbon cycle because sulfate reduction is often coupled to turnover of buried organic carbon. Our findings expand the diversity of microbial groups associated with sulfur transformations in the environment and motivate revision of biogeochemical process models based on microbial community composition.

  • Ecology and Biotechnological Potential of Bacteria Belonging to the Genus Pseudovibrio.

    Romano S
    2018 - Appl. Environ. Microbiol., 8: in press


    Members of the genus have been isolated worldwide from a great variety of marine sources as both free-living and host-associated bacteria. So far, the available data depict a group of alphaproteobacteria characterized by a versatile metabolism, which allows them to use a variety of substrates to meet their carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorous requirements. Additionally, -related bacteria have been shown to proliferate under extreme oligotrophic conditions, tolerate high heavy-metal concentrations, and metabolize potentially toxic compounds. Considering this versatility, it is not surprising that they have been detected from temperate to tropical regions and are often the most abundant isolates obtained from marine invertebrates. Such an association is particularly recurrent with marine sponges and corals, animals that play a key role in benthic marine systems. The data so far available indicate that these bacteria are mainly beneficial to the host, and besides being involved in major nutrient cycles, they could provide the host with both vitamins/cofactors and protection from potential pathogens via the synthesis of antimicrobial secondary metabolites. In fact, the biosynthetic abilities of spp. have been emerging in recent years, and both genomic and analytic studies have underlined how these organisms promise novel natural products of biotechnological value.

  • NanoSIMS and tissue autoradiography reveal symbiont carbon fixation and organic carbon transfer to giant ciliate host.

    Volland JM, Schintlmeister A, Zambalos H, Reipert S, Mozetič P, Espada-Hinojosa S, Turk V, Wagner M, Bright M
    2018 - ISME J, 3: 714-727


    The giant colonial ciliate Zoothamnium niveum harbors a monolayer of the gammaproteobacteria Cand. Thiobios zoothamnicoli on its outer surface. Cultivation experiments revealed maximal growth and survival under steady flow of high oxygen and low sulfide concentrations. We aimed at directly demonstrating the sulfur-oxidizing, chemoautotrophic nature of the symbionts and at investigating putative carbon transfer from the symbiont to the ciliate host. We performed pulse-chase incubations with C- and C-labeled bicarbonate under varying environmental conditions. A combination of tissue autoradiography and nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry coupled with transmission electron microscopy was used to follow the fate of the radioactive and stable isotopes of carbon, respectively. We show that symbiont cells fix substantial amounts of inorganic carbon in the presence of sulfide, but also (to a lesser degree) in the absence of sulfide by utilizing internally stored sulfur. Isotope labeling patterns point to translocation of organic carbon to the host through both release of these compounds and digestion of symbiont cells. The latter mechanism is also supported by ultracytochemical detection of acid phosphatase in lysosomes and in food vacuoles of ciliate cells. Fluorescence in situ hybridization of freshly collected ciliates revealed that the vast majority of ingested microbial cells were ectosymbionts.

  • Coexistence of novel gammaproteobacterial and Arsenophonus symbionts in the scale insect Greenisca brachypodii (Hemiptera, Coccomorpha: Eriococcidae).

    Michalik A, Schulz F, Michalik K, Wascher F, Horn M, Szklarzewicz T
    2018 - Environ. Microbiol., 3: 1148-1157


    Scale insects are commonly associated with obligate, intracellular microorganisms which play important roles in complementing their hosts with essential nutrients. Here we characterized the symbiotic system of Greenisca brachypodii, a member of the family Eriococcidae. Histological and ultrastructural analyses have indicated that G. brachypodii is stably associated with coccoid and rod-shaped bacteria. Phylogenetic analyses have revealed that the coccoid bacteria represent a sister group to the secondary symbiont of the mealybug Melanococcus albizziae, whereas the rod-shaped symbionts are close relatives of Arsenophonus symbionts in insects - to our knowledge, this is the first report of the presence of Arsenophonus bacterium in scale insects. As a comparison of 16S and 23S rRNA genes sequences of the G. brachypodii coccoid symbiont with other gammaprotebacterial sequences showed only low similarity (∼90%), we propose the name 'Candidatus Kotejella greeniscae' for its tentative classification. Both symbionts are transovarially transmitted from one generation to the next. The infection takes place in the neck region of the ovariole. The bacteria migrate between follicular cells, as well as through the cytoplasm of those cells to the perivitelline space, where they form a characteristic 'symbiont ball'. Our findings provide evidence for a polyphyletic origin of symbionts of Eriococcidae.

  • A major lineage of non-tailed dsDNA viruses as unrecognized killers of marine bacteria.

    Kauffman KM, Hussain FA, Yang J, Arevalo P, Brown JM, Chang WK, VanInsberghe D, Elsherbini J, Sharma RS, Cutler MB, Kelly L, Polz MF
    2018 - Nature, 7690: 118-122


    The most abundant viruses on Earth are thought to be double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) viruses that infect bacteria. However, tailed bacterial dsDNA viruses (Caudovirales), which dominate sequence and culture collections, are not representative of the environmental diversity of viruses. In fact, non-tailed viruses often dominate ocean samples numerically, raising the fundamental question of the nature of these viruses. Here we characterize a group of marine dsDNA non-tailed viruses with short 10-kb genomes isolated during a study that quantified the diversity of viruses infecting Vibrionaceae bacteria. These viruses, which we propose to name the Autolykiviridae, represent a novel family within the ancient lineage of double jelly roll (DJR) capsid viruses. Ecologically, members of the Autolykiviridae have a broad host range, killing on average 34 hosts in four Vibrio species, in contrast to tailed viruses which kill on average only two hosts in one species. Biochemical and physical characterization of autolykiviruses reveals multiple virion features that cause systematic loss of DJR viruses in sequencing and culture-based studies, and we describe simple procedural adjustments to recover them. We identify DJR viruses in the genomes of diverse major bacterial and archaeal phyla, and in marine water column and sediment metagenomes, and find that their diversity greatly exceeds the diversity that is currently captured by the three recognized families of such viruses. Overall, these data suggest that viruses of the non-tailed dsDNA DJR lineage are important but often overlooked predators of bacteria and archaea that impose fundamentally different predation and gene transfer regimes on microbial systems than on tailed viruses, which form the basis of all environmental models of bacteria-virus interactions.

  • High resolution time series reveals cohesive but short-lived communities in coastal plankton.

    Martin-Platero AM, Cleary B, Kauffman K, Preheim SP, McGillicuddy DJ, Alm EJ, Polz MF
    2018 - Nat Commun, 1: 266


    Because microbial plankton in the ocean comprise diverse bacteria, algae, and protists that are subject to environmental forcing on multiple spatial and temporal scales, a fundamental open question is to what extent these organisms form ecologically cohesive communities. Here we show that although all taxa undergo large, near daily fluctuations in abundance, microbial plankton are organized into clearly defined communities whose turnover is rapid and sharp. We analyze a time series of 93 consecutive days of coastal plankton using a technique that allows inference of communities as modular units of interacting taxa by determining positive and negative correlations at different temporal frequencies. This approach shows both coordinated population expansions that demarcate community boundaries and high frequency of positive and negative associations among populations within communities. Our analysis thus highlights that the environmental variability of the coastal ocean is mirrored in sharp transitions of defined but ephemeral communities of organisms.

  • Evidence for H2 consumption by uncultured Desulfobacterales in coastal sediments.

    Dyksma S, Pjevac P, Ovanesov K, Mussmann M
    2018 - Environ. Microbiol., 2: 450-461


    Molecular hydrogen (H ) is the key intermediate in the anaerobic degradation of organic matter. Its removal by H -oxidizing microorganisms is essential to keep anaerobic degradation energetically favourable. Sulfate-reducing microorganisms (SRM) are known as the main H scavengers in anoxic marine sediments. Although the community of marine SRM has been extensively studied, those consuming H in situ are completely unknown. We combined metagenomics, PCR-based clone libraries, single-amplified genomes (SAGs) and metatranscriptomics to identify potentially H -consuming SRM in anoxic coastal sediments. The vast majority of SRM-related H ase sequences were assigned to group 1b and 1c [NiFe]-H ases of the deltaproteobacterial order Desulfobacterales. Surprisingly, the same sequence types were similarly highly expressed in spring and summer, suggesting that these are stable and integral members of the H -consuming community. Notably, one sequence cluster from the SRM group 1 consistently accounted for around half of all [NiFe]-H ase transcripts. Using SAGs, we could link this cluster with the 16S rRNA genes of the uncultured Sva0081-group of the family Desulfobacteraceae. Sequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons and H ase gene libraries suggested consistently high in situ abundance of the Sva0081 group also in other marine sediments. Together with other Desulfobacterales these likely are important H -scavengers in marine sediments.

  • Astrobiology as a framework for investigating antibiotic susceptibility: a study of Halomonas hydrothermalis

    Harrison JP, Angel R, Cockell CS
    2017 - J R Soc Interface, 126: online only


    Physical and chemical boundaries for microbial multiplication on Earth are strongly influenced by interactions between environmental extremes. However, little is known about how interactions between multiple stress parameters affect the sensitivity of microorganisms to antibiotics. Here, we assessed how 12 distinct permutations of salinity, availability of an essential nutrient (iron) and atmospheric composition (aerobic or microaerobic) affect the susceptibility of a polyextremotolerant bacterium, Halomonas hydrothermalis, to ampicillin, kanamycin and ofloxacin. While salinity had a significant impact on sensitivity to all three antibiotics (as shown by turbidimetric analyses), the nature of this impact was modified by iron availability and the ambient gas composition, with differing effects observed for each compound. These two parameters were found to be of particular importance when considered in combination and, in the case of ampicillin, had a stronger combined influence on antibiotic tolerance than salinity. Our data show how investigating microbial responses to multiple extremes, which are more representative of natural habitats than single extremes, can improve our understanding of the effects of antimicrobial compounds and suggest how studies of habitability, motivated by the desire to map the limits of life, can be used to systematically assess the effectiveness of antibiotics.

  • Adaptability as the key to success for the ubiquitous marine nitrite oxidizer Nitrococcus

    Füssel J, Lücker S, Yilmaz P, Nowka B, van Kessel MAHJ, Bourceau P, Hach PF, Littmann S, Berg J, Spieck E, Daims H, Kuypers MMM, Lam P
    2017 - Sci Adv, 3: e1700807


    Nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) have conventionally been regarded as a highly specialized functional group responsible for the production of nitrate in the environment. However, recent culture-based studies suggest that they have the capacity to lead alternative lifestyles, but direct environmental evidence for the contribution of marine nitrite oxidizers to other processes has been lacking to date. We report on the alternative biogeochemical functions, worldwide distribution, and sometimes high abundance of the marine NOB Nitrococcus. These largely overlooked bacteria are capable of not only oxidizing nitrite but also reducing nitrate and producing nitrous oxide, an ozone-depleting agent and greenhouse gas. Furthermore, Nitrococcus can aerobically oxidize sulfide, thereby also engaging in the sulfur cycle. In the currently fast-changing global oceans, these findings highlight the potential functional switches these ubiquitous bacteria can perform in various biogeochemical cycles, each with distinct or even contrasting consequences.

  • Vitamin and Amino Acid Auxotrophy in Anaerobic Consortia Operating under Methanogenic Conditions.

    Hubalek V, Buck M, Tan B, Foght J, Wendeberg A, Berry D, Bertilsson S, Eiler A
    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.

  • 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.

  • Abiotic Conversion of Extracellular NH2OH Contributes to N2O Emission during Ammonia Oxidation.

    Liu S, Han P, Hink L, Prosser JI, Wagner M, Brüggemann N
    2017 - Environ. Sci. Technol., 22: 13122-13132


    Abiotic processes involving the reactive ammonia-oxidation intermediates nitric oxide (NO) or hydroxylamine (NH2OH) for N2O production have been indicated recently. The latter process would require the availability of substantial amounts of free NH2OH for chemical reactions during ammonia (NH3) oxidation, but little is known about extracellular NH2OH formation by the different clades of ammonia-oxidizing microbes. Here we determined extracellular NH2OH concentrations in culture media of several ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and archaea (AOA), as well as one complete ammonia oxidizer (comammox) enrichment (Ca. Nitrospira inopinata) during incubation under standard cultivation conditions. NH2OH was measurable in the incubation media of Nitrosomonas europaea, Nitrosospira multiformis, Nitrososphaera gargensis, and Ca. Nitrosotenuis uzonensis, but not in media of the other tested AOB and AOA. NH2OH was also formed by the comammox enrichment during NH3 oxidation. This enrichment exhibited the largest NH2OH:final product ratio (1.92%), followed by N. multiformis (0.56%) and N. gargensis (0.46%). The maximum proportions of NH4+ converted to N2O via extracellular NH2OH during incubation, estimated on the basis of NH2OH abiotic conversion rates, were 0.12%, 0.08%, and 0.14% for AOB, AOA, and Ca. Nitrospira inopinata, respectively, and were consistent with published NH4+:N2O conversion ratios for AOB and AOA.

  • Depth distribution and assembly of sulfate-reducing microbial communities in marine sediments of Aarhus Bay

    Jochum LM, Chena X, Lever MA, Loy A, Jørgensen BB, Schramm A, Kjeldsen KU
    2017 - Appl Environ Microbiol, 83: e01547-17


    Most sulfate-reducing microorganisms (SRM) present in subsurface marine sediments belong to uncultured groups only distantly related to known SRM and it remains unclear how changing geochemical zones and sediment depth influence their community structure. We mapped the community composition and abundance of SRM by amplicon-sequencing and quantifying dsrB, which encodes dissimilatory sulfite reductase subunit beta, in sediment samples covering different vertical geochemical zones ranging from the surface sediment to the deep sulfate-depleted subsurface at four locations in Aarhus Bay, Denmark. SRM were present in all geochemical zones including sulfate-depleted methanogenic sediment. The biggest shift in SRM community composition and abundance occurring across the transition from bioturbated surface sediments into non-bioturbated sediments below, where redox fluctuations and input of fresh organic matter due to macrofaunal activity are absent. SRM abundance correlated with sulfate reduction rates determined for the same sediments. Sulfate availability showed weaker correlation with SRM abundances and no significant correlation with the composition of the SRM community. The overall SRM species diversity decreased with depth, yet we identified a subset of highly abundant community members that persists across all vertical geochemical zones of all stations. We conclude that subsurface SRM communities assemble by persistence of members of the surface community and that the transition from the bioturbated surface sediment to the unmixed sediment below is a main site of assembly of the subsurface SRM community.

  • 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.

  • Identification of secondary metabolite gene clusters in the Pseudovibrio genus reveals encouraging biosynthetic potential toward the production of novel bioactive compounds

    Naughton LM, Romano S, O'Gara F, Dobson ADW
    2017 - Front Microbiol, 8: 1494


    Increased incidences of antimicrobial resistance and the emergence of pan-resistant 'superbugs' have provoked an extreme sense of urgency amongst researchers focusing on the discovery of potentially novel antimicrobial compounds. A strategic shift in focus from the terrestrial to the marine environment has resulted in the discovery of a wide variety of structurally and functionally diverse bioactive compounds from numerous marine sources, including sponges. Bacteria found in close association with sponges and other marine invertebrates have recently gained much attention as potential sources of many of these novel bioactive compounds. Members of the genus Pseudovibrio are one such group of organisms. In this study, we interrogate the genomes of 21 Pseudovibrio strains isolated from a variety of marine sources, for the presence, diversity and distribution of biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs). We expand on results obtained from antiSMASH analysis to demonstrate the similarity between the Pseudovibrio-related BGCs and those characterized in other bacteria and corroborate our findings with phylogenetic analysis. We assess how domain organization of the most abundant type of BGCs present among the isolates (Non-ribosomal peptide synthetases and Polyketide synthases) may influence the diversity of compounds produced by these organisms and highlight for the first time the potential for novel compound production from this genus of bacteria, using a genome guided approach.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • In situ architecture, function, and evolution of a contractile injection system.

    Böck D, Medeiros JM, Tsao HF, Penz T, Weiss GL, Aistleitner K, Horn M, Pilhofer M
    2017 - Science, 6352: 713-717


    Contractile injection systems mediate bacterial cell-cell interactions by a bacteriophage tail-like structure. In contrast to extracellular systems, the type 6 secretion system (T6SS) is defined by intracellular localization and attachment to the cytoplasmic membrane. Here we used cryo-focused ion beam milling, electron cryotomography, and functional assays to study a T6SS in Amoebophilus asiaticus The in situ architecture revealed three modules, including a contractile sheath-tube, a baseplate, and an anchor. All modules showed conformational changes upon firing. Lateral baseplate interactions coordinated T6SSs in hexagonal arrays. The system mediated interactions with host membranes and may participate in phagosome escape. Evolutionary sequence analyses predicted that T6SSs are more widespread than previously thought. Our insights form the basis for understanding T6SS key concepts and exploring T6SS diversity.

  • Allspice and Clove As Source of Triterpene Acids Activating the G Protein-Coupled Bile Acid Receptor TGR5.

    Ladurner A, Zehl M, Grienke U, Hofstadler C, Faur N, Pereira FC, Berry D, Dirsch VM, Rollinger JM
    2017 - Front Pharmacol, 8: 468


    Worldwide, metabolic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes have reached epidemic proportions. A major regulator of metabolic processes that gained interest in recent years is the bile acid receptor TGR5 (Takeda G protein-coupled receptor 5). This G protein-coupled membrane receptor can be found predominantly in the intestine, where it is mainly responsible for the secretion of the incretins glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and peptide YY (PYY). The aim of this study was (i) to identify plant extracts with TGR5-activating potential, (ii) to narrow down their activity to the responsible constituents, and (iii) to assess whether the intestinal microbiota produces transformed metabolites with a different activity profile. Chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) served as positive control for both, the applied cell-based luciferase reporter gene assay for TGR5 activity and the biotransformation assay using mouse fecal slurry. The suitability of the workflow was demonstrated by the biotransformation of CDCA to lithocholic acid resulting in a distinct increase in TGR5 activity. Based on a traditional Tibetan formula, 19 plant extracts were selected and investigated for TGR5 activation. Extracts from the commonly used spices Syzygium aromaticum (SaroE, clove), Pimenta dioica (PdioE, allspice), and Kaempferia galanga (KgalE, aromatic ginger) significantly increased TGR5 activity. After biotransformation, only KgalE showed significant differences in its metabolite profile, which, however, did not alter its TGR5 activity compared to non-transformed KgalE. UHPLC-HRMS (high-resolution mass spectrometry) analysis revealed triterpene acids (TTAs) as the main constituents of the extracts SaroE and PdioE. Identification and quantification of TTAs in these two extracts as well as comparison of their TGR5 activity with reconstituted TTA mixtures allowed the attribution of the TGR5 activity to TTAs. EC50s were determined for the main TTAs, i.e., oleanolic acid (2.2 ± 1.6 μM), ursolic acid (1.1 ± 0.2 μM), as well as for the hitherto unknown TGR5 activators corosolic acid (0.5 ± 1.0 μM) and maslinic acid (3.7 ± 0.7 μM). In conclusion, extracts of clove, allspice, and aromatic ginger activate TGR5, which might play a pivotal role in their therapeutic use for the treatment of metabolic diseases. Moreover, the TGR5 activation of SaroE and PdioE could be pinpointed solely to TTAs.

  • Unexpected genomic features in widespread intracellular bacteria: evidence for motility of marine chlamydiae.

    Collingro A, Köstlbacher S, Mussmann M, Stepanauskas R, Hallam SJ, Horn M
    2017 - ISME J, 10: 2334-2344


    Chlamydiae are obligate intracellular bacteria comprising important human pathogens and symbionts of protists. Molecular evidence indicates a tremendous diversity of chlamydiae particularly in marine environments, yet our current knowledge is based mainly on terrestrial representatives. Here we provide first insights into the biology of marine chlamydiae representing three divergent clades. Our analysis of single-cell amplified genomes revealed hallmarks of the chlamydial lifestyle, supporting the ancient origin of their characteristic developmental cycle and major virulence mechanisms. Surprisingly, these chlamydial genomes encode a complete flagellar apparatus, a previously unreported feature. We show that flagella are an ancient trait that was subject to differential gene loss among extant chlamydiae. Together with a chemotaxis system, these marine chlamydiae are likely motile, with flagella potentially playing a role during host cell infection. This study broadens our view on chlamydial biology and indicates a largely underestimated potential to adapt to different hosts and environments.

  • 'Candidatus Cochliophilus cryoturris' (Coxiellaceae), a symbiont of the testate amoeba Cochliopodium minus.

    Tsao HF, Scheikl U, Volland JM, Köhsler M, Bright M, Walochnik J, Horn M
    2017 - Sci Rep, 1: 3394


    Free-living amoebae are well known for their role in controlling microbial community composition through grazing, but some groups, namely Acanthamoeba species, also frequently serve as hosts for bacterial symbionts. Here we report the first identification of a bacterial symbiont in the testate amoeba Cochliopodium. The amoeba was isolated from a cooling tower water sample and identified as C. minus. Fluorescence in situ hybridization and transmission electron microscopy revealed intracellular symbionts located in vacuoles. 16S rRNA-based phylogenetic analysis identified the endosymbiont as member of a monophyletic group within the family Coxiellaceae (Gammaprotebacteria; Legionellales), only moderately related to known amoeba symbionts. We propose to tentatively classify these bacteria as 'Candidatus Cochliophilus cryoturris'. Our findings add both, a novel group of amoeba and a novel group of symbionts, to the growing list of bacteria-amoeba relationships.

  • Biphasic Metabolism and Host Interaction of a Chlamydial Symbiont.

    König L, Siegl A, Penz T, Haider S, Wentrup C, Polzin J, Mann E, Schmitz-Esser S, Domman D, Horn M
    2017 - mSystems, 2: e00202-16


    Chlamydiae are obligate intracellular bacteria comprising well-known human pathogens and ubiquitous symbionts of protists, which are characterized by a unique developmental cycle. Here we comprehensively analyzed gene expression dynamics of Protochlamydia amoebophila during infection of its Acanthamoeba host by RNA sequencing. This revealed a highly dynamic transcriptional landscape, where major transcriptional shifts are conserved among chlamydial symbionts and pathogens. Our data served to propose a time-resolved model for type III protein secretion during the developmental cycle, and we provide evidence for a biphasic metabolism of P. amoebophila during infection, which involves energy parasitism and amino acids as the carbon source during initial stages and a postreplicative switch to endogenous glucose-based ATP production. This fits well with major transcriptional changes in the amoeba host, where upregulation of complex sugar breakdown precedes the P. amoebophila metabolic switch. The biphasic chlamydial metabolism represents a unique adaptation to exploit eukaryotic host cells, which likely contributed to the evolutionary success of this group of microbes. IMPORTANCE Chlamydiae are known as major bacterial pathogens of humans, causing the ancient disease trachoma, but they are also frequently found in the environment where they infect ubiquitous protists such as amoebae. All known chlamydiae require a eukaryotic host cell to thrive. Using the environmental chlamydia Protochlamydia amoebophila within its natural host, Acanthamoeba castellanii, we investigated gene expression dynamics in vivo and throughout the complete chlamydial developmental cycle for the first time. This allowed us to infer how a major virulence mechanism, the type III secretion system, is regulated and employed, and we show that the physiology of chlamydiae undergoes a complete shift regarding carbon metabolism and energy generation. This study provides comprehensive insights into the infection strategy of chlamydiae and reveals a unique adaptation to life within a eukaryotic host cell.

  • Exploiting fine-scale genetic and physiological variation of closely related microbes to reveal unknown enzyme functions.

    Badur AH, Plutz MJ, Yalamanchili G, Jagtap SS, Schweder T, Unfried F, Markert S, Polz MF, Hehemann JH, Rao CV
    2017 - J. Biol. Chem., 31: 13056-13067


    Polysaccharide degradation by marine microbes represents one of the largest and most rapid heterotrophic transformations of organic matter in the environment. Microbes employ systems of complementary carbohydrate-specific enzymes to deconstruct algal or plant polysaccharides (glycans) into monosaccharides. Because of the high diversity of glycan substrates, the functions of these enzymes are often difficult to establish. One solution to this problem may lie within naturally occurring microdiversity; varying numbers of enzymes, due to gene loss, duplication, or transfer, among closely related environmental microbes create metabolic differences akin to those generated by knock-out strains engineered in the laboratory used to establish the functions of unknown genes. Inspired by this natural fine-scale microbial diversity, we show here that it can be used to develop hypotheses guiding biochemical experiments for establishing the role of these enzymes in nature. In this work, we investigated alginate degradation among closely related strains of the marine bacterium One strain, 13B01, exhibited high extracellular alginate lyase activity compared with other strains. To identify the enzymes responsible for this high extracellular activity, we compared 13B01 with the previously characterized 12B01, which has low extracellular activity and lacks two alginate lyase genes present in 13B01. Using a combination of genomics, proteomics, biochemical, and functional screening, we identified a polysaccharide lyase family 7 enzyme that is unique to 13B01, secreted, and responsible for the rapid digestion of extracellular alginate. These results demonstrate the value of querying the enzymatic repertoires of closely related microbes to rapidly pinpoint key proteins with beneficial functions.

  • 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.

  • Capturing the genetic makeup of the active microbiome in situ.

    Singer E, Wagner M, Woyke T
    2017 - ISME J, 9: 1949-1963


    More than any other technology, nucleic acid sequencing has enabled microbial ecology studies to be complemented with the data volumes necessary to capture the extent of microbial diversity and dynamics in a wide range of environments. In order to truly understand and predict environmental processes, however, the distinction between active, inactive and dead microbial cells is critical. Also, experimental designs need to be sensitive toward varying population complexity and activity, and temporal as well as spatial scales of process rates. There are a number of approaches, including single-cell techniques, which were designed to study in situ microbial activity and that have been successively coupled to nucleic acid sequencing. The exciting new discoveries regarding in situ microbial activity provide evidence that future microbial ecology studies will indispensably rely on techniques that specifically capture members of the microbiome active in the environment. Herein, we review those currently used activity-based approaches that can be directly linked to shotgun nucleic acid sequencing, evaluate their relevance to ecology studies, and discuss future directions.

  • Evaluating the Detection of Hydrocarbon-Degrading Bacteria in 16S rRNA Gene Sequencing Surveys.

    Berry D, Gutierrez T
    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.

  • Vibrational Spectroscopy for Imaging Single Microbial Cells in Complex Biological Samples.

    Harrison JP, Berry D
    2017 - Front Microbiol, 8: 675


    Vibrational spectroscopy is increasingly used for the rapid and non-destructive imaging of environmental and medical samples. Both Raman and Fourier-transform infrared (FT-IR) imaging have been applied to obtain detailed information on the chemical composition of biological materials, ranging from single microbial cells to tissues. Due to its compatibility with methods such as stable isotope labeling for the monitoring of cellular activities, vibrational spectroscopy also holds considerable power as a tool in microbial ecology. Chemical imaging of undisturbed biological systems (such as live cells in their native habitats) presents unique challenges due to the physical and chemical complexity of the samples, potential for spectral interference, and frequent need for real-time measurements. This Mini Review provides a critical synthesis of recent applications of Raman and FT-IR spectroscopy for characterizing complex biological samples, with a focus on developments in single-cell imaging. We also discuss how new spectroscopic methods could be used to overcome current limitations of single-cell analyses. Given the inherent complementarity of Raman and FT-IR spectroscopic methods, we discuss how combining these approaches could enable us to obtain new insights into biological activities either in situ or under conditions that simulate selected properties of the natural environment.

  • HuR small-molecule inhibitor elicits differential effects in adenomatosis polyposis and colorectal carcinogenesis

    Lang M, Berry D, Passecker K, Mesteri I, Bhuju S, Ebner F, Sedlyarov V, Evstatiev R, Dammann K, Loy A, Kuzyk O, Kovarik P, Khare V, Beibel M, Roma G, Meisner-Kober N, Gasche C
    2017 - Cancer Res., 77: 2424-2438


    HuR is an RNA-binding protein implicated in immune homeostasis and various cancers, including colorectal cancer. HuR binding to AU-rich elements within the 3' untranslated region of mRNAs encoding oncogenes, growth factors, and various cytokines leads message stability and translation. In this study, we evaluated HuR as a small-molecule target for preventing colorectal cancer in high-risk groups such as those with familial adenomatosis polyposis (FAP) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In human specimens, levels of cytoplasmic HuR were increased in colonic epithelial cells from patients with IBD, IBD-cancer, FAP-adenoma, and colorectal cancer, but not in patients with IBD-dysplasia. Intraperitoneal injection of the HuR small-molecule inhibitor MS-444 in AOM/DSS mice, a model of IBD and inflammatory colon cancer, augmented DSS-induced weight loss and increased tumor multiplicity, size, and invasiveness. MS-444 treatment also abrogated tumor cell apoptosis and depleted tumor-associated eosinophils, accompanied by a decrease in IL18 and eotaxin-1. In contrast, HuR inhibition in APCMin mice, a model of FAP and colon cancer, diminished the number of small intestinal tumors generated. In this setting, fecal microbiota, evaluated by 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, shifted to a state of reduced bacterial diversity, with an increased representation of Prevotella, Akkermansia, and Lachnospiraceae Taken together, our results indicate that HuR activation is an early event in FAP-adenoma but is not present in IBD-dysplasia. Furthermore, our results offer a preclinical proof of concept for HuR inhibition as an effective means of FAP chemoprevention, with caution advised in the setting of IBD.

  • Natural resource landscapes of a marine bacterium reveal distinct fitness-determining genes across the genome.

    Takemura AF, Corzett CH, Hussain F, Arevalo P, Datta M, Yu X, Le Roux F, Polz MF
    2017 - Environ. Microbiol., 6: 2422-2433


    Heterotrophic bacteria exploit diverse microhabitats in the ocean, from particles to transient gradients. Yet the degree to which genes and pathways can contribute to an organism's fitness on such complex and variable natural resource landscapes remains poorly understood. Here, we determine the gene-by-gene fitness of a generalist saprophytic marine bacterium (Vibrio sp. F13 9CS106) on complex resources derived from its natural habitats - copepods (Apocyclops royi) and brown algae (Fucus vesiculosus) - and as reference substrates, glucose and the polysaccharide alginate, derived from brown algal cell walls. We find that resource complexity strongly buffers fitness costs of mutations, and that anabolic rather than catabolic pathways are more stringently required, likely due to functional redundancy in the latter. Moreover, while carbohydrate-rich algae requires several synthesis pathways, protein-rich Apocyclops does not, suggesting this ancestral habitat for Vibrios is a replete medium with metabolically redundant substrates. We also identify a candidate fitness trade-off for algal colonization: deletion of mshA increases mutant fitness. Our results demonstrate that gene fitness depends on habitat composition, and suggest that this generalist uses distinct resources in different natural habitats. The results further indicate that substrate replete conditions may lead to relatively relaxed selection on catabolic genes.

  • The life sulfuric: Microbial ecology of sulfur cycling in marine sediments.

    Wasmund K, Mußmann M, Loy A
    2017 - Environ Microbiol Rep, 9: 323-344


    Almost the entire seafloor is covered with sediments that can be more than 10,000 m thick and represent a vast microbial ecosystem that is a major component of Earth's element and energy cycles. Notably, a significant proportion of microbial life in marine sediments can exploit energy conserved during transformations of sulfur compounds among different redox states. Sulfur cycling, which is primarily driven by sulfate reduction, is tightly interwoven with other important element cycles (carbon, nitrogen, iron, manganese) and therefore has profound implications for both cellular- and ecosystem-level processes. Sulfur-transforming microorganisms have evolved diverse genetic, metabolic, and in some cases, peculiar phenotypic features to fill an array of ecological niches in marine sediments. Here, we review recent and selected findings on the microbial guilds that are involved in the transformation of different sulfur compounds in marine sediments and emphasize how these are interlinked and have a major influence on ecology and biogeochemistry in the seafloor. Extraordinary discoveries have increased our knowledge on microbial sulfur cycling, mainly in sulfate-rich surface sediments, yet many questions remain regarding how sulfur redox processes may sustain the deep-subsurface biosphere and the impact of organic sulfur compounds on the marine sulfur cycle. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

  • Giant viruses with an expanded complement of translation system components.

    Schulz F, Yutin N, Ivanova NN, Ortega DR, Lee TK, Vierheilig J, Daims H, Horn M, Wagner M, Jensen GJ, Kyrpides NC, Koonin EV, Woyke T
    2017 - Science, 6333: 82-85


    The discovery of giant viruses blurred the sharp division between viruses and cellular life. Giant virus genomes encode proteins considered as signatures of cellular organisms, particularly translation system components, prompting hypotheses that these viruses derived from a fourth domain of cellular life. Here we report the discovery of a group of giant viruses (Klosneuviruses) in metagenomic data. Compared with other giant viruses, the Klosneuviruses encode an expanded translation machinery, including aminoacyl transfer RNA synthetases with specificities for all 20 amino acids. Notwithstanding the prevalence of translation system components, comprehensive phylogenomic analysis of these genes indicates that Klosneuviruses did not evolve from a cellular ancestor but rather are derived from a much smaller virus through extensive gain of host genes.

  • Members of the Oral Microbiota Are Associated with IL-8 Release by Gingival Epithelial Cells in Healthy Individuals.

    Schueller K, Riva A, Pfeiffer S, Berry D, Somoza V
    2017 - Front Microbiol, 8: 416


    The triggers for the onset of oral diseases are still poorly understood. The aim of this study was to characterize the oral bacterial community in healthy humans and its association with nutrition, oral hygiene habits, and the release of the inflammatory marker IL-8 from gingival epithelial cells (GECs) with and without stimulation by bacterial endotoxins to identify possible indicator operational taxonomic units (OTUs) associated with inflammatory marker status. GECs from 21 healthy participants (13 females, 8 males) were incubated with or without addition of bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPSs), and the oral microbiota was profiled using 16S rRNA gene-targeted sequencing. The basal IL-8 release after 6 h was between 9.9 and 98.2 pg/ml, and bacterial communities were characteristic for healthy oral microbiota. The composition of the oral microbiota was associated with basal IL-8 levels, the intake of meat, tea, white wine, sweets and the use of chewing gum, as well as flossing habits, allergies, gender and body mass index. Additionally, eight OTUs were associated with high basal levels of IL-8 and GEC response to LPS, with high basal levels of IL-8, and 1 with low basal levels of IL8. The identification of indicator bacteria in healthy subjects with high levels of IL-8 release is of importance as they may be promising early warning indicators for the possible onset of oral diseases.

  • Microbial community assembly and evolution in subseafloor sediment.

    Starnawski P, Bataillon T, Ettema TJ, Jochum LM, Schreiber L, Chen X, Lever MA, Polz MF, Jørgensen BB, Schramm A, Kjeldsen KU
    2017 - Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 11: 2940-2945


    Bacterial and archaeal communities inhabiting the subsurface seabed live under strong energy limitation and have growth rates that are orders of magnitude slower than laboratory-grown cultures. It is not understood how subsurface microbial communities are assembled and whether populations undergo adaptive evolution or accumulate mutations as a result of impaired DNA repair under such energy-limited conditions. Here we use amplicon sequencing to explore changes of microbial communities during burial and isolation from the surface to the >5,000-y-old subsurface of marine sediment and identify a small core set of mostly uncultured bacteria and archaea that is present throughout the sediment column. These persisting populations constitute a small fraction of the entire community at the surface but become predominant in the subsurface. We followed patterns of genome diversity with depth in four dominant lineages of the persisting populations by mapping metagenomic sequence reads onto single-cell genomes. Nucleotide sequence diversity was uniformly low and did not change with age and depth of the sediment. Likewise, there was no detectable change in mutation rates and efficacy of selection. Our results indicate that subsurface microbial communities predominantly assemble by selective survival of taxa able to persist under extreme energy limitation.

  • Variant profiling of evolving prokaryotic populations.

    Zojer M, Schuster LN, Schulz F, Pfundner A, Horn M, Rattei T
    2017 - PeerJ, e2997


    Genomic heterogeneity of bacterial species is observed and studied in experimental evolution experiments and clinical diagnostics, and occurs as micro-diversity of natural habitats. The challenge for genome research is to accurately capture this heterogeneity with the currently used short sequencing reads. Recent advances in NGS technologies improved the speed and coverage and thus allowed for deep sequencing of bacterial populations. This facilitates the quantitative assessment of genomic heterogeneity, including low frequency alleles or haplotypes. However, false positive variant predictions due to sequencing errors and mapping artifacts of short reads need to be prevented. We therefore created VarCap, a workflow for the reliable prediction of different types of variants even at low frequencies. In order to predict SNPs, InDels and structural variations, we evaluated the sensitivity and accuracy of different software tools using synthetic read data. The results suggested that the best sensitivity could be reached by a union of different tools, however at the price of increased false positives. We identified possible reasons for false predictions and used this knowledge to improve the accuracy by post-filtering the predicted variants according to properties such as frequency, coverage, genomic environment/localization and co-localization with other variants. We observed that best precision was achieved by using an intersection of at least two tools per variant. This resulted in the reliable prediction of variants above a minimum relative abundance of 2%. VarCap is designed for being routinely used within experimental evolution experiments or for clinical diagnostics. The detected variants are reported as frequencies within a VCF file and as a graphical overview of the distribution of the different variant/allele/haplotype frequencies. The source code of VarCap is available at In order to provide this workflow to a broad community, we implemeted VarCap on a Galaxy webserver, which is accessible at

  • Accurate Quantification of Laminarin in Marine Organic Matter with Enzymes from Marine Microbes.

    Becker S, Scheffel A, Polz MF, Hehemann JH
    2017 - Appl. Environ. Microbiol., 9: in press


    Marine algae produce a variety of glycans, which fulfill diverse biological functions and fuel the carbon and energy demands of heterotrophic microbes. A common approach to analysis of marine organic matter uses acid to hydrolyze the glycans into measurable monosaccharides. The monosaccharides may be derived from different glycans that are built with the same monosaccharides, however, and this approach does not distinguish between glycans in natural samples. Here we use enzymes to digest selectively and thereby quantify laminarin in particulate organic matter. Environmental metaproteome data revealed carbohydrate-active enzymes from marine flavobacteria as tools for selective hydrolysis of the algal β-glucan laminarin. The enzymes digested laminarin into glucose and oligosaccharides, which we measured with standard methods to establish the amounts of laminarin in the samples. We cloned, expressed, purified, and characterized three new glycoside hydrolases (GHs) of bacteria: two are endo-β-1,3-glucanases, of the GH16 and GH17 families, and the other is a GH30 exo-β-1,6-glucanase. sp. nov strain Hel1_33_131 GH30 (FbGH30) removed the β-1,6-glucose side chains, and GH17A (FaGH17A) and FaGH16A hydrolyzed the β-1,3-glucose backbone of laminarin. Specificity profiling with a library of glucan oligosaccharides and polysaccharides revealed that FaGH17A and FbGH30 were highly specific enzymes, while FaGH16A also hydrolyzed mixed-linked glucans with β-1,4-glucose. Therefore, we chose the more specific FaGH17A and FbGH30 to quantify laminarin in two cultured diatoms, namely, and , and in seawater samples from the North Sea and the Arctic Ocean. Combined, these results demonstrate the potential of enzymes for faster, stereospecific, and sequence-specific analysis of select glycans in marine organic matter. Marine algae synthesize substantial amounts of the glucose polymer laminarin for energy and carbon storage. Its concentrations, rates of production by autotrophic organisms, and rates of digestion by heterotrophic organisms remain unknown. Here we present a method based on enzymes that hydrolyze laminarin and enable its quantification even in crude substrate mixtures, without purification. Compared to the commonly used acid hydrolysis, the enzymatic method presented here is faster and stereospecific and selectively cleaves laminarin in mixtures of glycans, releasing only glucose and oligosaccharides, which can be easily quantified with reducing sugar assays.

  • 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.

  • A Mobile Element in mutS Drives Hypermutation in a Marine Vibrio.

    Chu ND, Clarke SA, Timberlake S, Polz MF, Grossman AD, Alm EJ
    2017 - mBio, 1: in press


    Bacteria face a trade-off between genetic fidelity, which reduces deleterious mistakes in the genome, and genetic innovation, which allows organisms to adapt. Evidence suggests that many bacteria balance this trade-off by modulating their mutation rates, but few mechanisms have been described for such modulation. Following experimental evolution and whole-genome resequencing of the marine bacterium Vibrio splendidus 12B01, we discovered one such mechanism, which allows this bacterium to switch to an elevated mutation rate. This switch is driven by the excision of a mobile element residing in mutS, which encodes a DNA mismatch repair protein. When integrated within the bacterial genome, the mobile element provides independent promoter and translation start sequences for mutS-different from the bacterium's original mutS promoter region-which allow the bacterium to make a functional mutS gene product. Excision of this mobile element rejoins the mutS gene with host promoter and translation start sequences but leaves a 2-bp deletion in the mutS sequence, resulting in a frameshift and a hypermutator phenotype. We further identified hundreds of clinical and environmental bacteria across Betaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria that possess putative mobile elements within the same amino acid motif in mutS In a subset of these bacteria, we detected excision of the element but not a frameshift mutation; the mobile elements leave an intact mutS coding sequence after excision. Our findings reveal a novel mechanism by which one bacterium alters its mutation rate and hint at a possible evolutionary role for mobile elements within mutS in other bacteria.
    DNA mutations are a double-edged sword. Most mutations are harmful; they can scramble precise genetic sequences honed over thousands of generations. However, in rare cases, mutations also produce beneficial new traits that allow populations to adapt to changing environments. Recent evidence suggests that some bacteria balance this trade-off by altering their mutation rates to suit their environment. To date, however, we know of few mechanisms that allow bacteria to change their mutation rates. We describe one such mechanism, driven by the action of a mobile element, in the marine bacterium Vibrio splendidus 12B01. We also found similar mobile genetic sequences in the mutS genes of many different bacteria, including clinical and agricultural pathogens. These mobile elements might play an as yet unknown role in the evolution of these important bacteria.

  • 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.

  • Physiological and gene expression responses to nitrogen regimes and temperatures in Mastigocladus sp. strain CHP1, a predominant thermotolerant cyanobacterium of hot springs.

    Alcamán ME, Alcorta J, Bergman B, Vásquez M, Polz MF, Díez B
    2017 - Syst. Appl. Microbiol., 2: 102-113


    Cyanobacteria are widely distributed primary producers with significant implications for the global biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nitrogen. Diazotrophic cyanobacteria of subsection V (Order Stigonematales) are particularly ubiquitous in photoautotrophic microbial mats of hot springs. The Stigonematal cyanobacterium strain CHP1 isolated from the Porcelana hot spring (Chile) was one of the major contributors of the new nitrogen through nitrogen fixation. Further morphological and genetic characterization verified that the strain CHP1 belongs to Stigonematales, and it formed a separate clade together with other thermophiles of the genera Fischerella and Mastigocladus. Strain CHP1 fixed maximum N in the light, independent of the temperature range. At 50°C nifH gene transcripts showed high expression during the light period, whereas the nifH gene expression at 45°C was arrhythmic. The strain displayed a high affinity for nitrate and a low tolerance for high ammonium concentrations, whereas the narB and glnA genes showed higher expression in light and at the beginning of the dark phase. It is proposed that Mastigocladus sp. strain CHP1 would represent a good model for the study of subsection V thermophilic cyanobacteria, and for understanding the adaptations of these photoautotrophic organisms inhabiting microbial mats in hot springs globally.

  • 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, 5: 1276-1281


    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.

  • Endemicity of the cosmopolitan mesophilic chemolithoautotroph Sulfurimonas at deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

    Mino S, Nakagawa S, Makita H, Toki T, Miyazaki J, Sievert SM, Polz MF, Inagaki F, Godfroy A, Kato S, Watanabe H, Nunoura T, Nakamura K, Imachi H, Watsuji TO, Kojima S, Takai K, Sawabe T
    2017 - ISME J, 4: 909-919


    Rich animal and microbial communities have been found at deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Although the biogeography of vent macrofauna is well understood, the corresponding knowledge about vent microbial biogeography is lacking. Here, we apply the multilocus sequence analysis (MLSA) to assess the genetic variation of 109 Sulfurimonas strains with ⩾98% 16S rRNA gene sequence similarity, which were isolated from four different geographical regions (Okinawa Trough (OT), Mariana Volcanic Arc and Trough (MVAT), Central Indian Ridge (CIR) and Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR)). Sequence typing based on 11 protein-coding genes revealed high genetic variation, including some allele types that are widespread within regions, resulting in 102 nucleotide sequence types (STs). This genetic variation was predominantly due to mutation rather than recombination. Phylogenetic analysis of the 11 concatenated genes showed a clear geographical isolation corresponding to the hydrothermal regions they originated from, suggesting limited dispersal. Genetic differentiation among Sulfurimonas populations was primarily influenced by geographical distance rather than gas composition of vent fluid or habitat, although in situ environmental conditions of each microhabitat could not be examined. Nevertheless, Sulfurimonas may possess a higher dispersal capability compared with deep-sea hydrothermal vent thermophiles. This is the first report on MLSA of deep-sea hydrothermal vent Epsilonproteobacteria, which is indicative of allopatric speciation.

  • Microbial nutrient niches in the gut.

    Pereira FC, Berry D
    2017 - Environ. Microbiol., 4: 1366-1378


    The composition and function of the mammalian gut microbiota has been the subject of much research in recent years, but the principles underlying the assembly and structure of this complex community remain incompletely understood. Processes that shape the gut microbiota are thought to be mostly niche-driven, with environmental factors such as the composition of available nutrients largely determining whether or not an organism can establish. The concept that the nutrient landscape dictates which organisms can successfully colonize and persist in the gut was first proposed in Rolf Freter's nutrient niche theory. In a situation where nutrients are perfectly mixed and there is balanced microbial growth, Freter postulated that an organism can only survive if it is able to utilize one or a few limiting nutrients more efficiently than its competitors. Recent experimental work indicates, however, that nutrients in the gut vary in space and time. We propose that in such a scenario, Freter's nutrient niche theory must be expanded to account for the co-existence of microorganisms utilizing the same nutrients but in distinct sites or at different times, and that metabolic flexibility and mixed-substrate utilization are common strategies for survival in the face of ever-present nutrient fluctuations.

  • A 12-week intervention with nonivamide, a TRPV1 agonist, prevents a dietary-induced body fat gain and increases peripheral serotonin in moderately overweight subjects.

    Hochkogler CM, Lieder B, Rust P, Berry D, Meier SM, Pignitter M, Riva A, Leitinger A, Bruk A, Wagner S, Hans J, Widder S, Ley JP, Krammer GE, Somoza V
    2017 - Mol Nutr Food Res, 5: 1600731


    A bolus administration of 0.15 mg nonivamide has previously been demonstrated to reduce energy intake in moderately overweight men. This 12-week intervention investigated whether a daily consumption of nonivamide in a protein-based product formulation promotes a reduction in body weight in healthy overweight subjects and affects outcome measures associated with mechanisms regulating food intake, e.g. plasma concentrations of (an)orexigenic hormones, energy substrates as well as changes in fecal microbiota.
    Nineteen overweight subjects were randomly assigned to either a control (C) or a nonivamide (NV) group. Changes in the body composition and plasma concentrations of satiating hormones were determined at fasting and 15, 30, 60, 90, and 120 min after a glucose load. Participants were instructed to consume 0.15 mg nonivamide per day in 450 mL of a milk shake additionally to their habitual diet. After treatment, a group difference in body fat mass change (-0.61 ± 0.36% in NV and +1.36 ± 0.38% in C) and an increase in postprandial plasma serotonin were demonstrated. Plasma metabolome and fecal microbiome read outs were not affected.
    A daily intake of 0.15 mg nonivamide helps to support to maintain a healthy body composition.

  • Convergent patterns in the evolution of mealybug symbioses involving different intrabacterial symbionts.

    Szabó G, Schulz F, Toenshoff ER, Volland JM, Finkel OM, Belkin S, Horn M
    2017 - ISME J, 3: 715-726
    Mealybugs (Trabutina mannipara) enveloped in a wax cover feeding on Tamarix twig


    Mealybugs (Insecta: Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) maintain obligatory relationships with bacterial symbionts, which provide essential nutrients to their insect hosts. Most pseudococcinae mealybugs harbor a unique symbiosis setup with enlarged betaproteobacterial symbionts ('Candidatus Tremblaya princeps'), which themselves contain gammaproteobacterial symbionts. Here we investigated the symbiosis of the manna mealybug, Trabutina mannipara, using a metagenomic approach. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that the intrabacterial symbiont of T. mannipara represents a novel lineage within the Gammaproteobacteria, for which we propose the tentative name 'Candidatus Trabutinella endobia'. Combining our results with previous data available for the nested symbiosis of the citrus mealybug Planococcus citri, we show that synthesis of essential amino acids and vitamins and translation-related functions partition between the symbiotic partners in a highly similar manner in the two systems, despite the distinct evolutionary origin of the intrabacterial symbionts. Bacterial genes found in both mealybug genomes and complementing missing functions in both symbioses were likely integrated in ancestral mealybugs before T. mannipara and P. citri diversified. The high level of correspondence between the two mealybug systems and their highly intertwined metabolic pathways are unprecedented. Our work contributes to a better understanding of the only known intracellular symbiosis between two bacteria and suggests that the evolution of this unique symbiosis included the replacement of intrabacterial symbionts in ancestral mealybugs.

  • Vibrio crassostreae, a benign oyster colonizer turned into a pathogen after plasmid acquisition.

    Bruto M, James A, Petton B, Labreuche Y, Chenivesse S, Alunno-Bruscia M, Polz MF, Le Roux F
    2017 - ISME J, 4: 1043-1052


    Vibrios are frequently associated with oyster mortality; however whether they are the primary causative agent or secondary opportunistic colonizers is not well understood. Here we combine analysis of natural infection dynamics, population genomics and molecular genetics to ask (i) to what extent oysters are passively colonized by Vibrio population present in the surrounding water, (ii) how populations turn over during pathogenicity events and (iii) what genetic factors are responsible for pathogenicity. We identified several populations of Vibrio preferentially associated with oyster tissues. Among these, Vibrio crassostreae is particularly abundant in diseased animals while nearly absent in the surrounding water, and its pathogenicity is correlated with the presence of a large mobilizable plasmid. We further demonstrate that the plasmid is essential for killing but not necessary for survival in tissues of oysters. Our results suggest that V. crassostreae first differentiated into a benign oyster colonizer that was secondarily turned into a pathogen by introgression of a virulence plasmid into the population, possibly facilitated by elevated host density in farming areas.

  • Direct single-cell biomass estimates for marine bacteria via Archimedes' principle.

    Cermak N, Becker JW, Knudsen SM, Chisholm SW, Manalis SR, Polz MF
    2017 - ISME J, 3: 825-828


    Microbes are an essential component of marine food webs and biogeochemical cycles, and therefore precise estimates of their biomass are of significant value. Here, we measured single-cell biomass distributions of isolates from several numerically abundant marine bacterial groups, including Pelagibacter (SAR11), Prochlorococcus and Vibrio using a microfluidic mass sensor known as a suspended microchannel resonator (SMR). We show that the SMR can provide biomass (dry mass) measurements for cells spanning more than two orders of magnitude and that these estimates are consistent with other independent measures. We find that Pelagibacterales strain HTCC1062 has a median biomass of 11.9±0.7 fg per cell, which is five- to twelve-fold smaller than the median Prochlorococcus cell's biomass (depending upon strain) and nearly 100-fold lower than that of rapidly growing V. splendidus strain 13B01. Knowing the biomass contributions from various taxonomic groups will provide more precise estimates of total marine biomass, aiding models of nutrient flux in the ocean.

  • Happens in the best of subfamilies: establishment and repeated replacements of co-obligate secondary endosymbionts within Lachninae aphids.

    Manzano-Marín A, Szabó G, Simon JC, Horn M, Latorre A
    2017 - Environ. Microbiol., 1: 393-408


    Virtually all aphids maintain an obligate mutualistic symbiosis with bacteria from the Buchnera genus, which produce essential nutrients for their aphid hosts. Most aphids from the Lachninae subfamily have been consistently found to house additional endosymbionts, mainly Serratia symbiotica. This apparent dependence on secondary endosymbionts was proposed to have been triggered by the loss of the riboflavin biosynthetic capability by Buchnera in the Lachninae last common ancestor. However, an integral large-scale analysis of secondary endosymbionts in the Lachninae is still missing, hampering the interpretation of the evolutionary and genomic analyses of these endosymbionts. Here, we analysed the endosymbionts of selected representatives from seven different Lachninae genera and nineteen species, spanning four tribes, both by FISH (exploring the symbionts' morphology and tissue tropism) and 16S rRNA gene sequencing. We demonstrate that all analysed aphids possess dual symbiotic systems, and while most harbour S. symbiotica, some have undergone symbiont replacement by other phylogenetically-distinct bacterial taxa. We found that these secondary associates display contrasting cell shapes and tissue tropism, and some appear to be lineage-specific. We propose a scenario for symbiont establishment in the Lachninae, followed by changes in the symbiont's tissue tropism and symbiont replacement events, thereby highlighting the extraordinary versatility of host-symbiont interactions.

  • Metabolic and physiological interdependencies in the Bathymodiolus azoricus symbiosis.

    Ponnudurai R, Kleiner M, Sayavedra L, Petersen JM, Moche M, Otto A, Becher D, Takeuchi T, Satoh N, Dubilier N, Schweder T, Markert S
    2017 - ISME J, 11: 463–477


    The hydrothermal vent mussel Bathymodiolus azoricus lives in an intimate symbiosis with two types of chemosynthetic Gammaproteobacteria in its gills: a sulfur oxidizer and a methane oxidizer. Despite numerous investigations over the last decades, the degree of interdependence between the three symbiotic partners, their individual metabolic contributions, as well as the mechanism of carbon transfer from the symbionts to the host are poorly understood. We used a combination of proteomics and genomics to investigate the physiology and metabolism of the individual symbiotic partners. Our study revealed that key metabolic functions are most likely accomplished jointly by B. azoricus and its symbionts: (1) CO2 is pre-concentrated by the host for carbon fixation by the sulfur-oxidizing symbiont, and (2) the host replenishes essential biosynthetic TCA cycle intermediates for the sulfur-oxidizing symbiont. In return (3), the sulfur oxidizer may compensate for the host's putative deficiency in amino acid and cofactor biosynthesis. We also identified numerous 'symbiosis-specific' host proteins by comparing symbiont-containing and symbiont-free host tissues and symbiont fractions. These proteins included a large complement of host digestive enzymes in the gill that are likely involved in symbiont digestion and carbon transfer from the symbionts to the host.The ISME Journal advance online publication, 1 November 2016; doi:10.1038/ismej.2016.124.

  • Stable isotope techniques for the assessment of host and microbiota response during gastrointestinal dysfunction

    Butler RN, Kosek M, Krebs N, Loechl C, Loy A, Owino V, Zimmermann M, and Morrison DJ
    2017 - J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr, 64: 8-14


    The International Atomic Energy Agency convened a technical meeting on environmental enteric dysfunction (EED) in Vienna (28th – 30th October 2015; to bring together international experts in the fields of EED, nutrition and stable isotope technologies. Advances in stable isotope labelling techniques open up new possibilities to improve our understanding of gastrointestinal dysfunction and the role of the microbiota in host health. In the context of EED, little is known about the role gut dysfunction may play in macro- and micronutrient bioavailability and requirements and what the consequences may be for nutritional status and linear growth. Stable isotope labelling techniques have been used to assess intestinal mucosal injury and barrier function, carbohydrate digestion and fermentation, protein derived amino acid bioavailability and requirements, micronutrient bioavailability and to track microbe-microbe and microbe-host interactions at the single cell level. The non-invasive nature of stable isotope technologies potentially allows for low-hazard, field deployable tests of gut dysfunction that are applicable across all age-groups. The purpose of this review is to assess the state-of-the-art in the use of stable isotope technologies and to provide a perspective on where these technologies can be exploited to further our understanding of gut dysfunction in EED.

  • Pediatric obesity is associated with an altered gut microbiota and discordant shifts in Firmicutes populations

    Riva A, Borgo F, Lassandro C, Verduci E, Morace G, Borghi E, Berry D
    2017 - Environ. Microbiol., 1: 95-105


    An altered gut microbiota has been linked to obesity in adulthood, although little is known about childhood obesity. The aim of this study was to characterize the composition of the gut microbiota in obese (n = 42) and normal-weight (n = 36) children aged 6 to 16. Using 16S rRNA gene-targeted sequencing, we evaluated taxa with differential abundance according to age- and sex-normalized body mass index (BMI z-score). Obesity was associated with an altered gut microbiota characterized by elevated levels of Firmicutes and depleted levels of Bacteroidetes. Correlation network analysis revealed that the gut microbiota of obese children also had increased correlation density and clustering of operational taxonomic units (OTUs). Members of the Bacteroidetes were generally better predictors of BMI z-score and obesity than Firmicutes, which was likely due to discordant responses of Firmicutes OTUs. In accordance with these observations, the main metabolites produced by gut bacteria, short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), were higher in obese children, suggesting elevated substrate utilisation. Multiple taxa were correlated with SCFA levels, reinforcing the tight link between the microbiota, SCFAs and obesity. Our results suggest that gut microbiota dysbiosis and elevated fermentation activity may be involved in the etiology of childhood obesity.

  • Permanent draft genome of strain ESFC-1: ecological genomics of a newly discovered lineage of filamentous diazotrophic cyanobacteria

    Everroad RC, Stuart RK, Bebout BM, Detweiler AM, Lee JZ, Woebken D, Prufert-Bebout L, Pett-Ridge J
    2016 - Standards in Genomic Sciences, 11: 1-8


    The nonheterocystous filamentous cyanobacterium, strain ESFC-1, is a recently described member of the order Oscillatoriales within the Cyanobacteria. ESFC-1 has been shown to be a major diazotroph in the intertidal microbial mat system at Elkhorn Slough, CA, USA. Based on phylogenetic analyses of the 16S RNA gene, ESFC-1 appears to belong to a unique, genus-level divergence; the draft genome sequence of this strain has now been determined. Here we report features of this genome as they relate to the ecological functions and capabilities of strain ESFC-1. The 5,632,035 bp genome sequence encodes 4914 protein-coding genes and 92 RNA genes. One striking feature of this cyanobacterium is the apparent lack of either uptake or bi-directional hydrogenases typically expected within a diazotroph. Additionally, a large genomic island is found that contains numerous low GC-content genes and genes related to extracellular polysaccharide production and cell wall synthesis and maintenance.

  • Biophysical and Population Genetic Models Predict the Presence of “Phantom” Stepping Stones Connecting Mid-Atlantic Ridge Vent Ecosystems

    Breusing C, Biastoch A, Drews A, Metaxas A, Jollivet D, Vrijenhoek RC, Bayer T, Melzner F, Sayavedra L, Petersen JM, Dubilier N, Schilhabel MB, Rosenstiel P, Reusch TBH
    2016 - Current Biology, 26: 1 - 11


    Deep-sea hydrothermal vents are patchily distributed ecosystems inhabited by specialized animal populations that are textbook meta-populations. Many vent-associated species have free-swimming, dispersive larvae that can establish connections between remote populations. However, connectivity patterns among hydrothermal vents are still poorly understood because the deep sea is undersampled, the molecular tools used to date are of limited resolution, and larval dispersal is difficult to measure directly. A better knowledge of connectivity is urgently needed to develop sound environmental management plans for deep-sea mining. Here, we investigated larval dispersal and contemporary connectivity of ecologically important vent mussels (Bathymodiolus spp.) from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge by using high-resolution ocean modeling and population genetic methods. Even when assuming a long pelagic larval duration, our physical model of larval drift suggested that arrival at localities more than 150 km from the source site is unlikely and that dispersal between populations requires intermediate habitats (“phantom” stepping stones). Dispersal patterns showed strong spatiotemporal variability, making predictions of population connectivity challenging. The assumption that mussel populations are only connected via additional stepping stones was supported by contemporary migration rates based on neutral genetic markers. Analyses of population structure confirmed the presence of two southern and two hybridizing northern mussel lineages that exhibited a substantial, though incomplete, genetic differentiation. Our study provides insights into how vent animals can disperse between widely separated vent habitats and shows that recolonization of perturbed vent sites will be subject to chance events, unless connectivity is explicitly considered in the selection of conservation areas.

  • Mapping limits to life on Earth

    Freeman K, Harrison J, Dobinson L, Cockell C, McKenzie R, Wyllie D, Nixon SL
    2016 - Astronomy & Geophysics, 2: 15-17


    Kenneth Freeman and colleagues take a look at extremophiles and ask how their biology fits them for life on and off planet Earth.

  • Refining the phylum Chlorobi by resolving the phylogeny and metabolic potential of the representative of a deeply branching, uncultivated lineage

    Hiras J, Wu YW, Eichorst SA, Simmons BA, Singer SW
    2016 - ISME Journal, 10: 833-845
  • Soil microbial carbon use efficiency and biomass turnover in a long-term fertilization experiment in a temperate grassland

    Spohn M, Pötsch EM, Eichorst SA, Woebken D, Wanek W, Richter A
    2016 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 97: 168-175


    Soil microbial carbon use efficiency (CUE), defined as the ratio of organic C allocated to growth over organic C taken up, strongly affects soil carbon (C) cycling. Despite the importance of the microbial CUE for the terrestrial C cycle, very little is known about how it is affected by nutrient availability. Therefore, we studied microbial CUE and microbial biomass turnover time in soils of a long-term fertilization experiment in a temperate grassland comprising five treatments (control, PK, NK, NP, NPK). Microbial CUE and the turnover of microbial biomass were determined using a novel substrate-independent method based on incorporation of 18O from labeled water into microbial DNA. Microbial respiration was 28–37% smaller in all three N treatments (NK, NP, and NPK) compared to the control, whereas the PK treatment did not affect microbial respiration. N-fertilization decreased microbial C uptake, while the microbial growth rate was not affected. Microbial CUE ranged between 0.31 and 0.45, and was 1.3- to 1.4-fold higher in the N-fertilized soils than in the control. The turnover time ranged between 80 and 113 days and was not significantly affected by fertilization. Net primary production (NPP) and the abundance of legumes differed strongly across the treatments, and the fungal:bacterial ratio was very low in all treatments. Structural equation modeling revealed that microbial CUE was exclusively controlled by N fertilization and that neither the abundance of legumes (as a proxy for the quality of the organic matter inputs) nor NPP (as a proxy for C inputs) had an effect on microbial CUE. Our results show that N fertilization did not only decrease microbial respiration, but also microbial C uptake, indicating that less C was intracellularly processed in the N fertilized soils. The reason for reduced C uptake and increased CUE in the N-fertilization treatments is likely an inhibition of oxidative enzymes involved in the degradation of aromatic compounds by N in combination with a reduced energy requirement for microbial N acquisition in the fertilized soils. In conclusion, the study shows that N availability can control soil C cycling by affecting microbial CUE, while plant community-mediated changes in organic matter inputs and P and K availability played no important role for C partitioning of the microbial community in this temperate grassland.

  • Budget of primary production and dinitrogen fixation in a highly seasonal Red Sea coral reef

    Cardini U, Bednarz VN, van Hoytema N, Rovere A, Naumann MS, Al-Rshaidat MMD, Wild C
    2016 - Ecosystems, 5: 771-785


    Biological dinitrogen (N2) fixation (diazotrophy, BNF) relieves marine primary producers of nitrogen (N) limitation in a large part of the world oceans. N concentrations are particularly low in tropical regions where coral reefs are located, and N is therefore a key limiting nutrient for these productive ecosystems. In this context, the importance of diazotrophy for reef productivity is still not resolved, with studies up to now lacking organismal and seasonal resolution. Here, we present a budget of gross primary production (GPP) and BNF for a highly seasonal Red Sea fringing reef, based on ecophysiological and benthic cover measurements combined with geospatial analyses. Benthic GPP varied from 215 to 262 mmol C m−2 reef d−1, with hard corals making the largest contribution (41–76%). Diazotrophy was omnipresent in space and time, and benthic BNF varied from 0.16 to 0.92 mmol N m−2 reef d−1. Planktonic GPP and BNF rates were respectively approximately 60- and 20-fold lower than those of the benthos, emphasizing the importance of the benthic compartment in reef biogeochemical cycling. BNF showed higher sensitivity to seasonality than GPP, implying greater climatic control on reef BNF. Up to about 20% of net reef primary production could be supported by BNF during summer, suggesting a strong biogeochemical coupling between diazotrophy and the reef carbon cycle.

  • Multi-scale imaging of anticancer platinum(IV) compounds in murine tumor and kidney

    Legin AA, Theiner S, Schintlmeister A, Reipert S, Heffeter P, Jakupec MA, Varbanov HP, Kowol CR, Galanski, Berger MW, Wagner M, Keppler BK
    2016 - Chemical Science, 7: 3052-3061


    Nano-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) enables trace element and isotope analyses with high spatial resolution. This unique capability has recently been exploited in several studies analyzing the subcellular distribution of Au and Pt anticancer compounds. However, these studies were restricted to cell culture systems. To explore the applicability to the in vivo setting, we developed a combined imaging approach consisting of laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS), NanoSIMS and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) suitable for multi-scale detection of the platinum distribution in tissues. Applying this approach to murine tumor and kidney samples upon administration of selected platinum(IV) anticancer prodrugs revealed uneven platinum distributions on both the organ and subcellular scales. Spatial platinum accumulation patterns by LA-ICP-MS were quantitatively assessed in histologically heterogeneous organs (e.g., higher platinum accumulation in kidney cortex than in medulla) and used to select regions of interest for subcellular scale imaging with NanoSIMS. These analyses revealed cytoplasmic sulfur-rich organelles to accumulate platinum in both kidney and malignant cells. Those in the tumor were subsequently identified as organelles of lysosomal origin, demonstrating the potential of the combinatorial approach for investigating therapeutically relevant drug concentrations on a submicrometer scale.

  • Ecology and Fisheries: Dark Carbon on Your Dinner Plate.

    2016 - Curr. Biol., 24: R1277-R1279


    Chemosynthetic primary production by symbiotic microbes powers entire ecosystems in the remote deep sea. New research shows that in shallow waters chemosynthetic symbioses can contribute substantially to a vital economic resource - lobster fisheries in the Caribbean Sea.

  • Environmental enteric dysfunction and growth failure/stunting in global child health

    Owino V, Ahmed T, Freemark M, Kelly P, Loy A, Manary M, Loechl C
    2016 - Pediatrics, 138: e20160641


    Approximately 25% of the world’s children under age 5 years have stunted growth, which is associated with increased mortality, cognitive dysfunction, and loss of productivity. Reducing by 40% the number of stunted children is a global target for 2030. The pathogenesis of stunting is poorly understood. Pre- and post-natal nutritional deficits and enteric and systemic infections clearly contribute, but recent findings implicate a central role for environmental enteric dysfunction (EED), a generalized disturbance of small intestinal structure and function found at high prevalence in children living under unsanitary conditions. Mechanisms contributing to growth failure in EED include intestinal leakiness and heightened permeability, gut inflammation, dysbiosis and bacterial translocation, systemic inflammation, and nutrient malabsorption. Since EED has multiple causal pathways, approaches to manage it need to be multi-faceted. Potential interventions to tackle EED include: a) reduction of exposure to feces and contact with animals through programs like improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); b) breastfeeding and enhanced dietary diversity; c) probiotics and prebiotics; d) nutrient supplements including zinc, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and amino acids; e) anti-inflammatory agents such as 5-aminosalicyclic acid; and f) antibiotics in the context of acute malnutrition and infection. Better understanding of the underlying causes of EED, and development of non-invasive, practical, simple, and affordable point of care diagnostic tools remain key gaps. ‘Omics’ technologies (genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics) and stable isotope techniques (e.g., 13Carbon breath tests) targeted at children and their intestinal microbiota will enhance our ability to successfully identify, manage, and prevent the disorder.

  • Fenton's reagent for the rapid and efficient isolation of microplastics from wastewater.

    Tagg AS, Harrison JP, Ju-Nam Y, Sapp M, Bradley EL, Sinclair CJ, Ojeda JJ
    2016 - Chem. Commun. (Camb.), 2: 372-375


    Fenton's reagent was used to isolate microplastics from organic-rich wastewater. The catalytic reaction did not affect microplastic chemistry or size, enabling its use as a pre-treatment method for focal plane array-based micro-FT-IR imaging. Compared with previously described microplastic treatment methods, Fenton's reagent offers a considerable reduction in sample preparation times.

  • Evidence for Ecological Flexibility in the Cosmopolitan Genus Curtobacterium.

    Chase AB, Arevalo P, Polz MF, Berlemont R, Martiny JB
    2016 - Front Microbiol, 1874


    Assigning ecological roles to bacterial taxa remains imperative to understanding how microbial communities will respond to changing environmental conditions. Here we analyze the genus , as it was found to be the most abundant taxon in a leaf litter community in southern California. Traditional characterization of this taxon predominantly associates it as the causal pathogen in the agricultural crops of dry beans. Therefore, we sought to investigate whether the abundance of this genus was because of its role as a plant pathogen or another ecological role. By collating >24,000 16S rRNA sequences with 120 genomes across the Microbacteriaceae family, we show that has a global distribution with a predominant presence in soil ecosystems. Moreover, this genus harbors a high diversity of genomic potential for the degradation of carbohydrates, specifically with regards to structural polysaccharides. We conclude that may be responsible for the degradation of organic matter within litter communities.

  • Genome-guided design of a novel defined mouse microbiota that confers colonization resistance against Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium

    Brugiroux S, Beutler M, Pfann C, Garzetti D, Ruscheweyh H-J, Ring D, Diehl M, Herp S, Lötscher Y, Hussain S, Bunk B, Pukall R, Huson DH, Münch PC, McHardy AC, McCoy KD, Macpherson AJ, Loy A, Clavel T, Berry D, Stecher B
    2016 - Nature Microbiol, 2: 16215


    Protection against enteric infections, also termed colonization resistance, results from mutualistic interactions of the host and its indigenous microbes. The gut microbiota of humans and mice is highly diverse and it is therefore challenging to assign specific properties to its individual members. Here, we have used a collection of murine bacterial strains and a modular design approach to create a minimal bacterial community that, once established in germ-free mice, provided colonization resistance against the human enteric pathogen Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. Tm). Initially, a community of 12 strains, termed Oligo-Mouse Microbiota (Oligo-MM12), representing members of the major bacterial phyla in the murine gut, was selected. This community was stable over consecutive mouse generations and provided colonization resistance against S. Tm infection, albeit not to the degree of a conventional complex microbiota. Comparative (meta)genome analyses identified functions represented in a conventional microbiome but absent from the Oligo-MM12. By genome-informed design, we created an improved version of the Oligo-MM community harbouring three facultative anaerobic bacteria from the Mouse Intestinal Bacterial Collection (miBC) that provided conventional-like colonization resistance. In conclusion, we have established a highly versatile experimental system that showed efficacy in an enteric infection model. Thus, in combination with exhaustive bacterial strain collections and systems-based approaches, genomeguided design can be used to generate insights into microbe–microbe and microbe–host interactions for the investigation of ecological and disease-relevant mechanisms in the intestine.

  • Bacterial evolution: Genomics of metabolic trade-offs.

    Polz MF, Cordero OX
    2016 - Nat Microbiol, 11: 16181


    The number of ribosomal operons in bacterial genomes correlates with both growth rate and carbon use efficiency, likely via proteome allocation trade-offs, providing clues into how microbial communities are structured to make best use of available nutrients.

  • Chemosynthetic symbionts of marine invertebrate animals are capable of nitrogen fixation.

    Petersen JM, Kemper A, Gruber-Vodicka H, Cardini U, van der Geest M, Kleiner M, Bulgheresi S, Mußmann M, Herbold C, Seah BK, Antony CP, Liu D, Belitz A, Weber M
    2016 - Nat Microbiol, 2: 16195


    Chemosynthetic symbioses are partnerships between invertebrate animals and chemosynthetic bacteria. The latter are the primary producers, providing most of the organic carbon needed for the animal host's nutrition. We sequenced genomes of the chemosynthetic symbionts from the lucinid bivalve Loripes lucinalis and the stilbonematid nematode Laxus oneistus. The symbionts of both host species encoded nitrogen fixation genes. This is remarkable as no marine chemosynthetic symbiont was previously known to be capable of nitrogen fixation. We detected nitrogenase expression by the symbionts of lucinid clams at the transcriptomic and proteomic level. Mean stable nitrogen isotope values of Loripes lucinalis were within the range expected for fixed atmospheric nitrogen, further suggesting active nitrogen fixation by the symbionts. The ability to fix nitrogen may be widespread among chemosynthetic symbioses in oligotrophic habitats, where nitrogen availability often limits primary productivity.

  • Intensive cryptic microbial iron cycling in the low iron water column of the meromictic Lake Cadagno.

    Berg JS, Michellod D, Pjevac P, Martinez-Perez C, Buckner CR, Hach PF, Schubert CJ, Milucka J, Kuypers MM
    2016 - Environ. Microbiol., 12: 5288-5302


    Iron redox reactions play an important role in carbon remineralization, supporting large microbial communities in iron-rich terrestrial and aquatic sediments. Stratified water columns with comparably low iron concentrations are globally widespread, but microbial iron cycling in these systems has largely been ignored. We found evidence for unexpectedly high iron turnover rates in the low (1-2 µmol·l(-1) ) iron waters of Lake Cadagno. Light-dependent, biological iron oxidation rates (1.4-13.8 µmol·l(-1) ·d(-1) ) were even higher than in ferruginous lakes with well-studied microbial iron cycles. This photoferrotrophic iron oxidation may account for up to 10% of total primary production in the chemocline. Iron oxides could not be detected and were presumably reduced immediately by iron-reducing microorganisms. Sequences of putative iron oxidizers and reducers were retrieved from in situ 16S rRNA gene amplicon libraries and some of these bacteria were identified in our enrichment cultures supplemented with Fe(II) and FeS. Based on our results, we propose a model in which iron is oxidized by photoferrotrophs and microaerophiles, and iron oxides are immediately reduced by heterotrophic iron reducers, resulting in a cryptic iron cycle. We hypothesize that microbial iron cycling may be more prevalent in water column redoxclines, especially those within the photic zone, than previously believed.

  • IMNGS: A comprehensive open resource of processed 16S rRNA microbial profiles for ecology and diversity studies.

    Lagkouvardos I, Joseph D, Kapfhammer M, Giritli S, Horn M, Haller D, Clavel T
    2016 - Sci Rep, 33721


    The SRA (Sequence Read Archive) serves as primary depository for massive amounts of Next Generation Sequencing data, and currently host over 100,000 16S rRNA gene amplicon-based microbial profiles from various host habitats and environments. This number is increasing rapidly and there is a dire need for approaches to utilize this pool of knowledge. Here we created IMNGS (Integrated Microbial Next Generation Sequencing), an innovative platform that uniformly and systematically screens for and processes all prokaryotic 16S rRNA gene amplicon datasets available in SRA and uses them to build sample-specific sequence databases and OTU-based profiles. Via a web interface, this integrative sequence resource can easily be queried by users. We show examples of how the approach allows testing the ecological importance of specific microorganisms in different hosts or ecosystems, and performing targeted diversity studies for selected taxonomic groups. The platform also offers a complete workflow for de novo analysis of users' own raw 16S rRNA gene amplicon datasets for the sake of comparison with existing data. IMNGS can be accessed at

  • Ecogenomics and potential biogeochemical impacts of globally abundant ocean viruses

    Roux S, Brum JR, Dutilh BE, Sunagawa S, Duhaime MB, Loy A, Poulos BT, Solonenko N, Lara E, Poulain J, Pesant S, Kandels-Lewis S, Dimier C, Picheral M, Searson S, Cruaud C, Alberti A, Duarte CM, Gasol JM, Vaque D, Tara Oceans Coordinators, Bork P, Acinas SG, Wincker P, Sullivan MB
    2016 - Nature, 537: 689–693


    Ocean microbes drive biogeochemical cycling on a global scale1. However, this cycling is constrained by viruses that affect community composition, metabolic activity, and evolutionary trajectories23. Owing to challenges with the sampling and cultivation of viruses, genome-level viral diversity remains poorly described and grossly understudied, with less than 1% of observed surface-ocean viruses known4. Here we assemble complete genomes and large genomic fragments from both surface- and deep-ocean viruses sampled during the Tara Oceans and Malaspina research expeditions56, and analyse the resulting ‘global ocean virome’ dataset to present a global map of abundant, double-stranded DNA viruses complete with genomic and ecological contexts. A total of 15,222 epipelagic and mesopelagic viral populations were identified, comprising 867 viral clusters (defined as approximately genus-level groups78). This roughly triples the number of known ocean viral populations4 and doubles the number of candidate bacterial and archaeal virus genera8, providing a near-complete sampling of epipelagic communities at both the population and viral-cluster level. We found that 38 of the 867 viral clusters were locally or globally abundant, together accounting for nearly half of the viral populations in any global ocean virome sample. While two-thirds of these clusters represent newly described viruses lacking any cultivated representative, most could be computationally linked to dominant, ecologically relevant microbial hosts. Moreover, we identified 243 viral-encoded auxiliary metabolic genes, of which only 95 were previously known. Deeper analyses of four of these auxiliary metabolic genes (dsrC, soxYZ, P-II (also known as glnB) and amoC) revealed that abundant viruses may directly manipulate sulfur and nitrogen cycling throughout the epipelagic ocean. This viral catalog and functional analyses provide a necessary foundation for the meaningful integration of viruses into ecosystem models where they act as key players in nutrient cycling and trophic networks.

  • Adaptive radiation by waves of gene transfer leads to fine-scale resource partitioning in marine microbes.

    Hehemann JH, Arevalo P, Datta MS, Yu X, Corzett CH, Henschel A, Preheim SP, Timberlake S, Alm EJ, Polz MF
    2016 - Nat Commun, 12860


    Adaptive radiations are important drivers of niche filling, since they rapidly adapt a single clade of organisms to ecological opportunities. Although thought to be common for animals and plants, adaptive radiations have remained difficult to document for microbes in the wild. Here we describe a recent adaptive radiation leading to fine-scale ecophysiological differentiation in the degradation of an algal glycan in a clade of closely related marine bacteria. Horizontal gene transfer is the primary driver in the diversification of the pathway leading to several ecophysiologically differentiated Vibrionaceae populations adapted to different physical forms of alginate. Pathway architecture is predictive of function and ecology, underscoring that horizontal gene transfer without extensive regulatory changes can rapidly assemble fully functional pathways in microbes.

  • Bacterial nutrient foraging in a mouse model of enteral nutrient deprivation: Insight into the gut origin of sepsis

    Ralls MW, Demehri FR, Feng Y, Raskind S, Ruan C, Schintlmeister A, Loy A, Hanson B, Berry D, Burant CF, Teitelbaum DH
    2016 - Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol, 311: G734-G743


    Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) leads to a shift in small intestinal microbiota with a characteristic dominance of Proteobacteria. This study examined how metabolomic changes within the small bowel support an altered microbial community in enterally deprived mice.
    C57BL/6 mice were given TPN or enteral chow. Metabolomic analysis of jejunal contents was performed by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS). In some experiments, leucine in TPN was partly substituted with (13)C-leucine. Additionally, jejunal contents from TPN dependent and enterally fed mice were gavaged into germ-free mice to reveal if the TPN phenotype was transferrable.
    Small bowel contents of TPN mice maintained an amino acid composition similar to that of the TPN solution. Mass spectrometry analysis of small bowel contents of TPN dependent mice showed increased concentration of (13)C compared to fed mice receiving saline enriched with (13)C-leucine. (13)C-leucine added to the serosal side of Ussing chambers showed rapid permeation across TPN-dependent jejunum, suggesting increased transmucosal passage. Single-cell analysis by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) - NanoSIMS demonstrated uptake of (13)C-leucine by TPN-associated bacteria, with preferential uptake by Enterobacteriaceae. Gavage of small bowel effluent from TPN mice into germ-free, fed mice resulted in a trend toward the pro-inflammatory TPN-phenotype with loss of epithelial barrier function.
    TPN-dependence leads to increased permeation of TPN-derived nutrients into the small intestinal lumen, where they are predominately utilized by Enterobacteriaceae. The altered metabolomic composition of the intestinal lumen during TPN promotes dysbiosis.

  • A specific and widespread association between deep-sea Bathymodiolus mussels and a novel family of Epsilonproteobacteria.

    Assié A, Borowski C, van der Heijden K, Raggi L, Geier B, Leisch N, Schimak MP, Dubilier N, Petersen JM
    2016 - Environ Microbiol Rep, 8: 805-813


    Bathymodiolus mussels dominate animal communities at many hydrothermal vents and cold seeps. Essential to the mussels' ecological and evolutionary success is their association with symbiotic methane- and sulfur-oxidizing gammaproteobacteria, which provide them with nutrition. In addition to these well-known gammaproteobacterial endosymbionts, we found epsilonproteobacterial sequences in metatranscriptomes, metagenomes and 16S rRNA clone libraries as well as by polymerase chain reaction screening of Bathymodiolus species sampled from vents and seeps around the world. These epsilonproteobacterial sequences were closely related, indicating that the association is highly specific. The Bathymodiolus-associated epsilonproteobacterial 16S rRNA sequences were at most 87.6% identical to the closest cultured relative, and 91.2% identical to the closest sequences in public databases. This clade therefore represents a novel family within the Epsilonproteobacteria. Fluorescence in situ hybridization and transmission electron microscopy showed that the bacteria are filamentous epibionts associated with the gill epithelia in two Bathymodiolus species. In animals that host highly specific symbioses with one or a few types of endosymbionts, other less-abundant members of the microbiota can be easily overlooked. Our work highlights how widespread and specific associations with less-abundant microbes can be. Possibly, these microbes play an important role in the survival and health of their animal hosts.

  • A Small Number of Phylogenetically Distinct Clonal Complexes Dominate a Coastal Vibrio cholerae Population.

    Kirchberger PC, Orata FD, Barlow EJ, Kauffman KM, Case RJ, Polz MF, Boucher Y
    2016 - Appl. Environ. Microbiol., 18: 5576-86


    Vibrio cholerae is a ubiquitous aquatic microbe in temperate and tropical coastal areas. It is a diverse species, with many isolates that are harmless to humans, while others are highly pathogenic. Most notable among them are strains belonging to the pandemic O1/O139 serogroup lineage, which contains the causative agents of cholera. The environmental selective regimes that led to this diversity are key to understanding how pathogens evolve in environmental reservoirs. A local population of V. cholerae and its close relative Vibrio metoecus from a coastal pond and lagoon system was extensively sampled during two consecutive months across four size fractions (480 isolates). In stark contrast to previous studies, the observed population was highly clonal, with 60% of V. cholerae isolates falling into one of five clonal complexes, which varied in abundance in the short temporal scale sampled. V. cholerae clonal complexes had significantly different distributions across size fractions and the two environments sampled, the pond and the lagoon. Sequencing the genomes of 20 isolates representing these five V. cholerae clonal complexes revealed different evolutionary trajectories, with considerable variations in gene content with potential ecological significance. Showing genotypic differentiation and differential spatial distribution, the dominant clonal complexes are likely ecologically divergent. Temporal variation in the relative abundance of these complexes suggests that transient blooms of specific clones could dominate local diversity.
    Vibrio cholerae is commonly found in coastal areas worldwide, with only a single group of this bacterium capable of causing severe cholera outbreaks. However, the potential to evolve the ability to cause disease exists in many strains of this species in its aquatic reservoir. Understanding how pathogenic bacteria evolve requires the study of their natural environments. By extensive sampling in a geographically restricted location in the United States, we found that most cells of a V. cholerae population belong to only a small number of strains. Analysis of their genome composition and spatial distribution indicates differential environmental adaptations between these strains. Other strains exist in smaller numbers, and the population was found to be temporally varied. This suggests frequent bloom and collapse cycles on a time scale of weeks. These population dynamics make it possible that more virulent strains could stochastically rise to large numbers, allowing for infection to occur.

  • Population genomics of the symbiotic plasmids of sympatric nitrogen-fixing Rhizobium species associated with Phaseolus vulgaris.

    Pérez Carrascal OM, VanInsberghe D, Juárez S, Polz MF, Vinuesa P, González V
    2016 - Environ. Microbiol., 8: 2660-76


    Cultivated common beans are the primary protein source for millions of people around the world who subsist on low-input agriculture, enabled by the symbiotic N2 -fixation these legumes perform in association with rhizobia. Within a single agricultural plot, multiple Rhizobium species can nodulate bean roots, but it is unclear how genetically isolated these species remain in sympatry. To better understand this issue, we sequenced and compared the genomes of 33 strains isolated from the rhizosphere and root nodules of a particular bean variety grown in the same agricultural plot. We found that the Rhizobium species we observed coexist with low genetic recombination across their core genomes. Accessory plasmids thought to be necessary for the saprophytic lifestyle in soil show similar levels of genetic isolation, but with higher rates of recombination than the chromosomes. However, the symbiotic plasmids are extremely similar, with high rates of recombination and do not appear to have co-evolved with the chromosome or accessory plasmids. Therefore, while Rhizobium species are genetically isolated units within the microbial community, a common symbiotic plasmid allows all Rhizobium species to engage in symbiosis with the same host in a single agricultural plot.

  • Microbial interactions lead to rapid micro-scale successions on model marine particles.

    Datta MS, Sliwerska E, Gore J, Polz MF, Cordero OX
    2016 - Nat Commun, 11965


    In the ocean, organic particles harbour diverse bacterial communities, which collectively digest and recycle essential nutrients. Traits like motility and exo-enzyme production allow individual taxa to colonize and exploit particle resources, but it remains unclear how community dynamics emerge from these individual traits. Here we track the taxon and trait dynamics of bacteria attached to model marine particles and demonstrate that particle-attached communities undergo rapid, reproducible successions driven by ecological interactions. Motile, particle-degrading taxa are selected for during early successional stages. However, this selective pressure is later relaxed when secondary consumers invade, which are unable to use the particle resource but, instead, rely on carbon from primary degraders. This creates a trophic chain that shifts community metabolism away from the particle substrate. These results suggest that primary successions may shape particle-attached bacterial communities in the ocean and that rapid community-wide metabolic shifts could limit rates of marine particle degradation.

  • A New Perspective on Microbes Formerly Known as Nitrite-Oxidizing Bacteria.

    Daims H, Lücker S, Wagner M
    2016 - Trends Microbiol., 9: 699-712


    Nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) catalyze the second step of nitrification, nitrite oxidation to nitrate, which is an important process of the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle. NOB were traditionally perceived as physiologically restricted organisms and were less intensively studied than other nitrogen-cycling microorganisms. This picture is in contrast to new discoveries of an unexpected high diversity of mostly uncultured NOB and a great physiological versatility, which includes complex microbe-microbe interactions and lifestyles outside the nitrogen cycle. Most surprisingly, close relatives to NOB perform complete nitrification (ammonia oxidation to nitrate) and this finding will have far-reaching implications for nitrification research. We review recent work that has changed our perspective on NOB and provides a new basis for future studies on these enigmatic organisms.

  • The root-associated microbial community of the world's highest growing vascular plants

    Angel R, Conrad R, Dvorsky M, Kopecky M, Kotilínek M, Hiiesalu I, Schweingruber F, Doležal J
    2016 - Microbial Ecology, 72: 394-406


    Upward migration of plants to barren subnival areas is occurring worldwide due to raising ambient temperatures and glacial recession. In summer 2012, the presence of six vascular plants, growing in a single patch, was recorded at an unprecedented elevation of 6150 m.a.s.l. close to the summit of Mount Shukule II in the Western Himalayas (Ladakh, India). Whilst showing multiple signs of stress, all plants have managed to establish stable growth and persist for several years. To learn about the role of microbes in the process of plant upward migration, we analysed the root-associated microbial community of the plants (three individuals from each) using microscopy and tagged amplicon sequencing. No mycorrhizae were found on the roots, implying they are of little importance to the establishment and early growth of the plants. However, all roots were associated with a complex bacterial community, with richness and diversity estimates similar or even higher than the surrounding bare soil. Both soil and root-associated communities were dominated by members of the orders Sphingomonadales and Sphingobacteriales, which are typical for hot desert soils, but were different from communities of temperate subnival soils and typical rhizosphere communities. Despite taxonomic similarity on the order level, the plants harboured a unique set of highly dominant operational taxonomic units which were not found in the bare soil. These bacteria have been likely transported with the dispersing seeds and became part of the root-associated community following germination. The results indicate that developing soils act not only as a source of inoculation to plant roots but also possibly as a sink for plant-associated bacteria.

  • Microbial dinitrogen fixation in coral holobionts exposed to thermal stress and bleaching.

    Cardini U, van Hoytema N, Bednarz VN, Rix L, Foster RA, Al-Rshaidat MM, Wild C
    2016 - Environ. Microbiol., 8: 2620-33


    Coral holobionts (i.e., coral-algal-prokaryote symbioses) exhibit dissimilar thermal sensitivities that may determine which coral species will adapt to global warming. Nonetheless, studies simultaneously investigating the effects of warming on all holobiont members are lacking. Here we show that exposure to increased temperature affects key physiological traits of all members (herein: animal host, zooxanthellae and diazotrophs) of both Stylophora pistillata and Acropora hemprichii during and after thermal stress. S. pistillata experienced severe loss of zooxanthellae (i.e., bleaching) with no net photosynthesis at the end of the experiment. Conversely, A. hemprichii was more resilient to thermal stress. Exposure to increased temperature (+ 6°C) resulted in a drastic increase in daylight dinitrogen (N2 ) fixation, particularly in A. hemprichii (threefold compared with controls). After the temperature was reduced again to in situ levels, diazotrophs exhibited a reversed diel pattern of activity, with increased N2 fixation rates recorded only in the dark, particularly in bleached S. pistillata (twofold compared to controls). Concurrently, both animal hosts, but particularly bleached S. pistillata, reduced both organic matter release and heterotrophic feeding on picoplankton. Our findings indicate that physiological plasticity by coral-associated diazotrophs may play an important role in determining the response of coral holobionts to ocean warming.

  • Free-living amoebae and their associated bacteria in Austrian cooling towers: a 1-year routine screening

    Scheikl U, Tsao HF, Horn M, Indra A, Walochnik J
    2016 - Parasitol Res, 115: 3365-74


    Free-living amoebae (FLA) are widely spread in the environment and known to cause rare but often serious infections. Besides this, FLA may serve as vehicles for bacterial pathogens. In particular, Legionella pneumophila is known to replicate within FLA thereby also gaining enhanced infectivity. Cooling towers have been the source of outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease in the past and are thus usually screened for legionellae on a routine basis, not considering, however, FLA and their vehicle function. The aim of this study was to incorporate a screening system for host amoebae into a Legionella routine screening. A new real-time PCR-based screening system for various groups of FLA was established. Three cooling towers were screened every 2 weeks over the period of 1 year for FLA and Legionella spp., by culture and molecular methods in parallel. Altogether, 83.3 % of the cooling tower samples were positive for FLA, Acanthamoeba being the dominating genus. Interestingly, 69.7 % of the cooling tower samples were not suitable for the standard Legionella screening due to their high organic burden. In the remaining samples, positivity for Legionella spp. was 25 % by culture, but overall positivity was 50 % by molecular methods. Several amoebal isolates revealed intracellular bacteria.

  • Single cell stable isotope probing in microbiology using Raman microspectroscopy

    Yun Wang Y, Huang WE, Cui L, Wagner M
    2016 - Curr Opin Biotechnol, 41:34-42
    Single Cell Stable Isotope Probing in Microbiology using Raman Microspectroscopy


    Microbial communities are essential for most ecosystem processes and interact in highly complex ways with virtually all eukaryotes. Thus, a detailed understanding of the function of such communities is a fundamental prerequisite for microbial ecologists, applied microbiologists and microbiome researchers. Using single cell Raman microspectroscopy, biochemical fingerprints of individual microbial cells can be obtained in a fast and nondestructive manner. If combined with stable isotope probing (SIP), Raman spectroscopy can directly reveal functions of single microorganisms in their natural habitat. This review provides an update on various SIP-approaches suitable for combination with different Raman scattering techniques and illustrates how single cell Raman SIP can be directly combined with the omics-centric analysis pipelines generally applied to investigate microbial communities. 

  • Single cell genome and group-specific dsrAB sequencing implicate members of the class Dehalococcoidia (phylum Chloroflexi) in sulfur cycling

    Wasmund K, Cooper M, Schreiber L, Lloyd KG, Baker B, Petersen DG, Jørgensen BB, Stepanauskas R, Reinhardt R, Schramm A, Loy A, Adrian L
    2016 - mBio, 7: e00266-16


    The marine subsurface sediment biosphere is widely inhabited by bacteria affiliated with the class Dehalococcoidia (DEH), phylum Chloroflexi, yet little is known regarding their metabolisms. In this report, genomic content from a single DEH cell (‘DEH-C11’) with a 16S rRNA gene that affiliated with a diverse cluster of 16S rRNA gene sequences prevalent in marine sediments, was obtained from sediments of Aarhus Bay, Denmark. The distinctive gene content of this cell suggests metabolic characteristics that differ from those of known DEH and Chloroflexi. Genes encoding dissimilatory sulfite reductase (Dsr) suggest DEH could respire oxidized sulfur compounds, although Chloroflexi have never been implicated in this mode of sulfur cycling. Using long-range PCR assays targeting DEH dsr-loci, dsrAB were amplified and sequenced from various marine sediments. Many of the amplified dsrAB sequences affiliated with the DEH Dsr-clade, which we propose equates to a family-level clade. This provides supporting evidence for the potential for sulfite reduction by diverse DEH. DEH-C11 also harboured genes encoding reductases for arsenate, dimethyl sulfoxide and halogenated organics. The reductive dehalogenase homolog (RdhA) forms a monophyletic clade along with RdhA sequences from various DEH-derived contigs retrieved from available metagenomes. Multiple facts indicate this RdhA may not be a terminal reductase. Other genes indicated nutrients and energy may be derived from the oxidation of substituted homocyclic and heterocyclic aromatic compounds. Together, these results suggest that marine DEH play a previously unrecognised role in sulfur cycling, and reveal potential for expanded catabolic and respiratory functions among subsurface DEH.

  • A genomic comparison of 13 symbiotic Vibrio fischeri isolates from the perspective of their host source and colonization behavior.

    Bongrand C, Koch EJ, Moriano-Gutierrez S, Cordero OX, McFall-Ngai M, Polz MF, Ruby EG
    2016 - ISME J, 12: 2907-2917


    Newly hatched Euprymna scolopes squid obtain their specific light-organ symbionts from an array of Vibrio (Allivibrio) fischeri strains present in their environment. Two genetically distinct populations of this squid species have been identified, one in Kaneohe Bay (KB), and another in Maunaloa Bay (MB), Oahu. We asked whether symbionts isolated from squid in each of these populations outcompete isolates from the other population in mixed-infection experiments. No relationship was found between a strain's host source (KB or MB) and its ability to competitively colonize KB or MB juveniles in a mixed inoculum. Instead, two colonization behaviors were identified among the 11 KB and MB strains tested: a 'dominant' outcome, in which one strain outcompetes the other for colonization, and a 'sharing' outcome, in which two strains co-colonize the squid. A genome-level comparison of these and other V. fischeri strains suggested that the core genomic structure of this species is both syntenous and highly conserved over time and geographical distance. We also identified ~250 Kb of sequence, encoding 194 dispersed orfs, that was specific to those strains that expressed the dominant colonization behavior. Taken together, the results indicate a link between the genome content of V. fischeri strains and their colonization behavior when initiating a light-organ symbiosis.

  • Genomics of a phototrophic nitrite oxidizer: insights into the evolution of photosynthesis and nitrification.

    Hemp J, Lücker S, Schott J, Pace LA, Johnson JE, Schink B, Daims H, Fischer WW
    2016 - ISME J, 11: 2669-2678


    Oxygenic photosynthesis evolved from anoxygenic ancestors before the rise of oxygen ~2.32 billion years ago; however, little is known about this transition. A high redox potential reaction center is a prerequisite for the evolution of the water-oxidizing complex of photosystem II. Therefore, it is likely that high-potential phototrophy originally evolved to oxidize alternative electron donors that utilized simpler redox chemistry, such as nitrite or Mn. To determine whether nitrite could have had a role in the transition to high-potential phototrophy, we sequenced and analyzed the genome of Thiocapsa KS1, a Gammaproteobacteria capable of anoxygenic phototrophic nitrite oxidation. The genome revealed a high metabolic flexibility, which likely allows Thiocapsa KS1 to colonize a great variety of habitats and to persist under fluctuating environmental conditions. We demonstrate that Thiocapsa KS1 does not utilize a high-potential reaction center for phototrophic nitrite oxidation, which suggests that this type of phototrophic nitrite oxidation did not drive the evolution of high-potential phototrophy. In addition, phylogenetic and biochemical analyses of the nitrite oxidoreductase (NXR) from Thiocapsa KS1 illuminate a complex evolutionary history of nitrite oxidation. Our results indicate that the NXR in Thiocapsa originates from a different nitrate reductase clade than the NXRs in chemolithotrophic nitrite oxidizers, suggesting that multiple evolutionary trajectories led to modern nitrite-oxidizing bacteria.

  • Biotransformation of Two Pharmaceuticals by the Ammonia-Oxidizing Archaeon Nitrososphaera gargensis.

    Men Y, Han P, Helbling DE, Jehmlich N, Herbold C, Gulde R, Onnis-Hayden A, Gu AZ, Johnson DR, Wagner M, Fenner K
    2016 - Environ Sci Technol, 9: 4682-92
    Nitrososphaera gargensis


    The biotransformation of some micropollutants has previously been observed to be positively associated with ammonia oxidation activities and the transcript abundance of the archaeal ammonia monooxygenase gene (amoA) in nitrifying activated sludge. Given the increasing interest in and potential importance of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA), we investigated the capabilities of an AOA pure culture, Nitrososphaera gargensis, to biotransform ten micropollutants belonging to three structurally similar groups (i.e., phenylureas, tertiary amides, and tertiary amines). N. gargensis was able to biotransform two of the tertiary amines, mianserin (MIA) and ranitidine (RAN), exhibiting similar compound specificity as two ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) strains that were tested for comparison. The same MIA and RAN biotransformation reactions were carried out by both the AOA and AOB strains. The major transformation product (TP) of MIA, α-oxo MIA was likely formed via a two-step oxidation reaction. The first hydroxylation step is typically catalyzed by monooxygenases. Three RAN TP candidates were identified from nontarget analysis. Their tentative structures and possible biotransformation pathways were proposed. The biotransformation of MIA and RAN only occurred when ammonia oxidation was active, suggesting cometabolic transformations. Consistently, a comparative proteomic analysis revealed no significant differential expression of any protein-encoding gene in N. gargensis grown on ammonium with MIA or RAN compared with standard cultivation on ammonium only. Taken together, this study provides first important insights regarding the roles played by AOA in micropollutant biotransformation.

  • Oysters and Vibrios as a Model for Disease Dynamics in Wild Animals.

    Le Roux F, Wegner KM, Polz MF
    2016 - Trends Microbiol., 7: 568-580


    Disease dynamics in the wild are influenced by a number of ecological and evolutionary factors not addressed by traditional laboratory-based characterization of pathogens. Here we propose the oyster, Crassostrea gigas, as a model for studying the interaction of the environment, bacterial pathogens, and the host in disease dynamics. We show that an important first step is to ask whether the functional unit of pathogenesis is a bacterial clone, a population, or a consortium in order to assess triggers of disease outbreaks and devise appropriate monitoring tools. Moreover, the development of specific-pathogen-free (SPF) oysters has enabled assessment of the infection process under natural conditions. Finally, recent results show the importance of microbial interactions and host genetics in determining oyster health and disease.

  • Consortia of low-abundance bacteria drive sulfate reduction-dependent degradation of fermentation products in peat soil microcosms

    Hausmann B, Knorr K-H, Schreck K, Tringe SG, del Rio TG, Loy A, Pester M
    2016 - ISME J, 10: 2365-75


    Dissimilatory sulfate reduction in peatlands is sustained by a cryptic sulfur cycle and effectively competes with methanogenic degradation pathways. In a series of peat soil microcosms incubated over 50 days, we identified bacterial consortia that responded to small, periodic additions of individual fermentation products (formate, acetate, propionate, lactate or butyrate) in the presence or absence of sulfate. Under sulfate supplementation, net sulfate turnover (ST) steadily increased to 16-174 nmol cm-3 per day and almost completely blocked methanogenesis. 16S rRNA gene and cDNA amplicon sequencing identified microorganisms whose increases in ribosome numbers strongly correlated to ST. Natively abundant (⩾0.1% estimated genome abundance) species-level operational taxonomic units (OTUs) showed no significant response to sulfate. In contrast, low-abundance OTUs responded significantly to sulfate in incubations with propionate, lactate and butyrate. These OTUs included members of recognized sulfate-reducing taxa (Desulfosporosinus, Desulfopila, Desulfomonile, Desulfovibrio) and also members of taxa that are either yet unknown sulfate reducers or metabolic interaction partners thereof. Most responsive OTUs markedly increased their ribosome content but only weakly increased in abundance. Responsive Desulfosporosinus OTUs even maintained a constantly low population size throughout 50 days, which suggests a novel strategy of rare biosphere members to display activity. Interestingly, two OTUs of the non-sulfate-reducing genus Telmatospirillum (Alphaproteobacteria) showed strongly contrasting preferences towards sulfate in butyrate-amended microcosms, corroborating that closely related microorganisms are not necessarily ecologically coherent. We show that diverse consortia of low-abundance microorganisms can perform peat soil sulfate reduction, a process that exerts control on methane production in these climate-relevant ecosystems.

  • AstRoMap European Astrobiology Roadmap.

    Horneck G, Walter N, Westall F, Grenfell JL, Martin WF, Gomez F, Leuko S, Lee N, Onofri S, Tsiganis K, Saladino R, Pilat-Lohinger E, Palomba E, Harrison J, Rull F, Müller C, Strazzulla G, Brucato JR, Rettberg P, Capria MT
    2016 - Astrobiology, 3: 201-43


    The European AstRoMap project (supported by the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme) surveyed the state of the art of astrobiology in Europe and beyond and produced the first European roadmap for astrobiology research. In the context of this roadmap, astrobiology is understood as the study of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the context of cosmic evolution; this includes habitability in the Solar System and beyond. The AstRoMap Roadmap identifies five research topics, specifies several key scientific objectives for each topic, and suggests ways to achieve all the objectives. The five AstRoMap Research Topics are • Research Topic 1: Origin and Evolution of Planetary Systems • Research Topic 2: Origins of Organic Compounds in Space • Research Topic 3: Rock-Water-Carbon Interactions, Organic Synthesis on Earth, and Steps to Life • Research Topic 4: Life and Habitability • Research Topic 5: Biosignatures as Facilitating Life Detection It is strongly recommended that steps be taken towards the definition and implementation of a European Astrobiology Platform (or Institute) to streamline and optimize the scientific return by using a coordinated infrastructure and funding system.

  • Microbes as Engines of Ecosystem Function: When Does Community Structure Enhance Predictions of Ecosystem Processes?

    Graham EB, Knelman JE, Schindlbacher A, Siciliano S, Breulmann M, Yannarell A, Beman JM, Abell G, Philippot L, Prosser J, Foulquier A, Yuste JC, Glanville HC, Jones DL, Angel R, Salminen J, Newton RJ, Bürgmann H, Ingram LJ, Hamer U, Siljanen HMP, Peltoniemi K, Potthast K, Bañeras L, Hartmann M, Banerjee S, Yu R-Q, Nogaro G, Richter A, Koranda M, Castle SC, Goberna M, Song B, Chatterjee A, Nunes OC, Lopes AR, Cao Y, Kaisermann A, Hallin S, Strickland MS, Garcia-Pausas J, Barba J, Kang H, Isobe K, Papaspyrou S, Pastorelli R, Lagomarsino A, Lindström ES, Basiliko N, and Nemergut DR
    2016 - Front Microbiol, 7: 214


    Microorganisms are vital in mediating the earth's biogeochemical cycles; yet, despite our rapidly increasing ability to explore complex environmental microbial communities, the relationship between microbial community structure and ecosystem processes remains poorly understood. Here, we address a fundamental and unanswered question in microbial ecology: 'When do we need to understand microbial community structure to accurately predict function?' We present a statistical analysis investigating the value of environmental data and microbial community structure independently and in combination for explaining rates of carbon and nitrogen cycling processes within 82 global datasets. Environmental variables were the strongest predictors of process rates but left 44% of variation unexplained on average, suggesting the potential for microbial data to increase model accuracy. Although only 29% of our datasets were significantly improved by adding information on microbial community structure, we observed improvement in models of processes mediated by narrow phylogenetic guilds via functional gene data, and conversely, improvement in models of facultative microbial processes via community diversity metrics. Our results also suggest that microbial diversity can strengthen predictions of respiration rates beyond microbial biomass parameters, as 53% of models were improved by incorporating both sets of predictors compared to 35% by microbial biomass alone. Our analysis represents the first comprehensive analysis of research examining links between microbial community structure and ecosystem function. Taken together, our results indicate that a greater understanding of microbial communities informed by ecological principles may enhance our ability to predict ecosystem process rates relative to assessments based on environmental variables and microbial physiology.

  • Back to the Future of Soil Metagenomics.

    Nesme J, Achouak W, Agathos SN, Bailey M, Baldrian P, Brunel D, Frostegård A, Heulin T, Jansson JK, Jurkevitch E, Kruus KL, Kowalchuk GA, Lagares A, Lappin-Scott HM, Lemanceau P, Le Paslier D, Mandic-Mulec I, Murrell JC, Myrold DD, Nalin R, Nannipieri P, Neufeld JD, O'Gara F, Parnell JJ, Pühler A, Pylro V, Ramos JL, Roesch LF, Schloter M, Schleper C, Sczyrba A, Sessitsch A, Sjöling S, Sørensen J, Sørensen SJ, Tebbe CC, Topp E, Tsiamis G, van Elsas JD, van Keulen G, Widmer F, Wagner M, Zhang T, Zhang X, Zhao L, Zhu YG, Vogel TM, Simonet P
    2016 - Front Microbiol, 73
  • Behavior of platinum(iv) complexes in models of tumor hypoxia: cytotoxicity, compound distribution and accumulation

    Schreiber-Brynzak E, Pichler V, Heffeter P, Hanson B, Theiner S, Lichtscheidl-Schultz I, Kornauth C, Bamonti L, Dhery V, Groza D, Berry D, Berger W, Galanski M, Jakupec MA, Keppler BK
    2016 - Metallomics, 4: 422-33


    Hypoxia in solid tumors remains a challenge for conventional cancer therapeutics. As a source for resistance, metastasis development and drug bioprocessing, it influences treatment results and disease outcome. Bioreductive platinum(iv) prodrugs might be advantageous over conventional metal-based therapeutics, as biotransformation in a reductive milieu, such as under hypoxia, is required for drug activation. This study deals with a two-step screening of experimental platinum(iv) prodrugs with different rates of reduction and lipophilicity with the aim of identifying the most appropriate compounds for further investigations. In the first step, the cytotoxicity of all compounds was compared in hypoxic multicellular spheroids and monolayer culture using a set of cancer cell lines with different sensitivities to platinum(ii) compounds. Secondly, two selected compounds were tested in hypoxic xenografts in SCID mouse models in comparison to satraplatin, and, additionally, (LA)-ICP-MS-based accumulation and distribution studies were performed for these compounds in hypoxic spheroids and xenografts. Our findings suggest that, while cellular uptake and cytotoxicity strongly correlate with lipophilicity, cytotoxicity under hypoxia compared to non-hypoxic conditions and antitumor activity of platinum(iv) prodrugs are dependent on their rate of reduction.

  • New methods to unravel rhizosphere processes

    Oburger E, Schmidt H
    2016 - Trends Plant Sci., 3: 243-55


    Root-triggered processes (growth, uptake and release of solutes) vary in space and time, and interact with heterogeneous soil microenvironments that provide habitats for (micro)biota on various scales. Despite tremendous progress in method development in the past decades, finding a suitable experimental set-up to investigate processes occurring at the dynamic conjunction of biosphere, hydrosphere, and pedosphere in the close vicinity of active plant roots still represents a major challenge. We discuss recent methodological developments in rhizosphere research with a focus on imaging techniques. We further review established concepts that have been updated with novel techniques, highlighting the need for combinatorial approaches to disentangle rhizosphere processes on relevant scales.

  • Relative Abundance of Nitrotoga spp. in a Biofilter of a Cold-Freshwater Aquaculture Plant Appears To Be Stimulated by Slightly Acidic pH.

    Hüpeden J, Wegen S, Off S, Lücker S, Bedarf Y, Daims H, Kühn C, Spieck E
    2016 - Appl. Environ. Microbiol., 6: 1838-45


    The functioning of recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS) is essential to maintain water quality for fish health, and one crucial process here is nitrification. The investigated RAS was connected to a rainbow trout production system and operated at an average temperature of 13°C and pH 6.8. Community analyses of the nitrifying biofilm revealed a coexistence of Nitrospira and Nitrotoga, and it is hypothesized that a slightly acidic pH in combination with lower temperatures favors the growth of the latter. Modification of the standard cultivation approach toward lower pH values of 5.7 to 6.0 resulted in the successful enrichment (99% purity) of Nitrotoga sp. strain HW29, which had a 16S rRNA sequence similarity of 99.0% to Nitrotoga arctica. Reference cultures of Nitrospira defluvii and the novel Nitrotoga sp. HW29 were used to confirm differentiation of these nitrite oxidizers in distinct ecological niches. Nitrotoga sp. HW29 revealed pH and temperature optima of 6.8 and 22°C, respectively, whereas Nitrospira defluvii displayed the highest nitrite oxidation rate at pH 7.3 and 32°C. We report here the occurrence of Nitrotoga as one of the main nitrite-oxidizing bacteria in freshwater aquaculture systems and indicate that a slightly acidic pH, in addition to temperatures below 20°C, can be applied as a selective isolation criterion for this microorganism.

  • Trophosome of the deep-sea tubeworm Riftia pachyptila inhibits bacterial growth

    Klose J, Aistleitner K, Horn M, Krenn L, Dirsch V, Zehl M, Bright M
    2016 - PLoS One, 11: e0146446


    The giant tubeworm Riftia pachyptila lives in symbiosis with the chemoautotrophic gammaproteobacterium Cand. Endoriftia persephone. Symbionts are released back into the environment upon host death in high-pressure experiments, while microbial fouling is not involved in trophosome degradation. Therefore, we examined the antimicrobial effect of the tubeworm's trophosome and skin. The growth of all four tested Gram-positive, but only of one of the tested Gram-negative bacterial strains was inhibited by freshly fixed and degrading trophosome (incubated up to ten days at either warm or cold temperature), while no effect on Saccharomyces cerevisiae was observed. The skin did not show antimicrobial effects. A liquid chromatography-mass spectrometric analysis of the ethanol supernatant of fixed trophosomes lead to the tentative identification of the phospholipids 1-palmitoleyl-2-lyso-phosphatidylethanolamine, 2-palmitoleyl-1-lyso-phosphatidylethanolamine and the free fatty acids palmitoleic, palmitic and oleic acid, which are known to have an antimicrobial effect. As a result of tissue autolysis, the abundance of the free fatty acids increased with longer incubation time of trophosome samples. This correlated with an increasing growth inhibition of Bacillus subtilis and Listeria welshimeri, but not of the other bacterial strains. Therefore, the free fatty acids produced upon host degradation could be the cause of inhibition of at least these two bacterial strains.

  • 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.

  • Phylogenetic and genomic analysis of Methanomassiliicoccales in wetlands and animal intestinal tracts reveals clade-specific habitat preferences

    Söllinger A, Schwab C, Weinmaier T, Loy A, Tveit AT, Schleper C, Urich T
    2016 - FEMS Microbiol Ecol, 92: fiv149


    Methanogenic Thermoplasmata of the novel order Methanomassiliicoccales were recently discovered in human and animal gastro-intestinal tracts (GITs). However their distribution in other methanogenic environments has not been addressed systematically. Here we surveyed Methanomassiliicoccales presence in wetland soils, a globally important source of methane emissions to the atmosphere, and in the GITs of different animals by PCR targeting their 16S rRNA and methyl:coenzyme M reductase (α-subunit) genes. We detected Methanomassiliicoccales in all 16 peat soils investigated, indicating their wide distribution in these habitats. Additionally, we detected their genes in various animal feces. Methanomassiliicoccales were subdivided in two broad phylogenetic clades designated 'environmental' and 'GIT' clades based on differential, although non-exclusive, habitat preferences of their members. A well-supported cluster within the environmental clade comprised more than 80% of all wetland 16S rRNA gene sequences. Metagenome assembly from bovine rumen fluid enrichments resulted in two almost complete genomes of both Methanomassiliicoccales clades. Comparative genomics revealed that members of the environmental clade contain larger genomes and a higher number of genes encoding anti-oxidative enzymes than animal GIT clade representatives. This study highlights the wide distribution of Methanomassiliicoccales in wetlands, which suggests that they contribute to methane emissions from these climate-relevant ecosystems.

  • probeBase - an online resource for rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes and primers: new features 2016

    Greuter D, Loy A, Horn M, Rattei T
    2016 - Nucleic Acids Res, 44: D586-D589


    probeBase is a manually maintained and curated database of rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes and primers. Contextual information and multiple options for evaluating in silico hybridization performance against the most recent rRNA sequence databases are provided for each oligonucleotide entry, which makes probeBase an important and frequently used resource for microbiology research and diagnostics. Here we present a major update of probeBase, which was last featured in the NAR Database Issue 2007. This update describes a complete remodeling of the database architecture and environment to accommodate computationally efficient access. Improved search functions, sequence match tools, and data output now extend the opportunities for finding suitable hierarchical probe sets that target an organism or taxon at different taxonomic levels. To facilitate the identification of complementary probe sets for organisms represented by short rRNA sequence reads generated by amplicon sequencing or metagenomic analysis with next generation sequencing technologies such as Illumina and IonTorrent, we introduce a novel tool that recovers surrogate near full-length rRNA sequences for short query sequences and finds matching oligonucleotides in probeBase.

  • Chlamydial seasonal dynamics and isolation of 'Candidatus Neptunochlamydia vexilliferae' from a Tyrrhenian coastal lake.

    Pizzetti I, Schulz F, Tyml T, Fuchs BM, Amann R, Horn M, Fazi S
    2016 - Environ. Microbiol., 8: 2405-17


    The Chlamydiae are a phylum of obligate intracellular bacteria comprising important human and animal pathogens, yet their occurrence in the environment, their phylogenetic diversity and their host range has been largely underestimated. We investigated the seasonality of environmental chlamydiae in a Tyrrhenian coastal lake. By catalysed reporter deposition fluorescence in situ hybridization, we quantified the small planktonic cells and detected a peak in the abundance of environmental chlamydiae in early autumn with up to 5.9 × 10(4) cells ml(-1) . Super-resolution microscopy improved the visualization and quantification of these bacteria and enabled the detection of pleomorphic chlamydial cells in their protist host directly in an environmental sample. To isolate environmental chlamydiae together with their host, we applied a high-throughput limited dilution approach and successfully recovered a Vexillifera sp., strain harbouring chlamydiae (93% 16S rRNA sequence identity to Simkania negevensis), tentatively named 'Candidatus Neptunochlamydia vexilliferae'. Transmission electron microscopy in combination with fluorescence in situ hybridization was used to prove the intracellular location of these bacteria representing the first strain of marine chlamydiae stably maintained alongside with their host in a laboratory culture. Taken together, this study contributes to a better understanding of the distribution and diversity of environmental chlamydiae in previously neglected marine environments.

  • Rock geochemistry induces stress and starvation responses in the bacterial proteome.

    Bryce CC, Le Bihan T, Martin SF, Harrison JP, Bush T, Spears B, Moore A, Leys N, Byloos B, Cockell CS
    2016 - Environ. Microbiol., 4: 1110-21


    Interactions between microorganisms and rocks play an important role in Earth system processes. However, little is known about the molecular capabilities microorganisms require to live in rocky environments. Using a quantitative label-free proteomics approach, we show that a model bacterium (Cupriavidus metallidurans CH34) can use volcanic rock to satisfy some elemental requirements, resulting in increased rates of cell division in both magnesium- and iron-limited media. However, the rocks also introduced multiple new stresses via chemical changes associated with pH, elemental leaching and surface adsorption of nutrients that were reflected in the proteome. For example, the loss of bioavailable phosphorus was observed and resulted in the upregulation of diverse phosphate limitation proteins, which facilitate increase phosphate uptake and scavenging within the cell. Our results revealed that despite the provision of essential elements, rock chemistry drives complex metabolic reorganization within rock-dwelling organisms, requiring tight regulation of cellular processes at the protein level. This study advances our ability to identify key microbial responses that enable life to persist in rock environments.

  • Activity and community structures of sulfate-reducing microorganisms in polar, temperate and tropical marine sediments

    Robador A, Müller AL, Sawicka JE, Berry D, Hubert CRJ, Loy A, Jørgensen BB, Brüchert V
    2016 - ISME J, 10: 796–809


    Temperature has a fundamental impact on the metabolic rates of microorganisms and strongly influences microbial ecology and biogeochemical cycling in the environment. In this study, we examined the catabolic temperature response of natural communities of sulfate-reducing microorganisms (SRM) in polar, temperate, and tropical marine sediments. In short-term sediment incubation experiments with 35S-sulfate, we demonstrated how the cardinal temperatures for sulfate reduction correlate with mean annual sediment temperatures, indicating specific thermal adaptations of the dominant SRM in each of the investigated ecosystems. The community structure of putative SRM in the sediments, as revealed by pyrosequencing of bacterial 16S rRNA gene amplicons and phylogenetic assignment to known SRM taxa, consistently correlated with in situ temperatures, but not with sediment organic carbon concentrations or C:N ratios of organic matter. Additionally, several species-level SRM phylotypes of the class Deltaproteobacteria tended to co-occur at sites with similar mean annual temperatures, regardless of geographic distance. The observed temperature adaptations of SRM imply that environmental temperature is a major controlling variable for physiological selection and ecological and evolutionary differentiation of microbial communities.

  • Response of the bacterial community associated with a cosmopolitan marine diatom to crude oil shows a preference for the biodegradation of aromatic hydrocarbons.

    Mishamandani S, Gutierrez T, Berry D, Aitken MD
    2016 - Environ. Microbiol., 6: 1817-33


    Emerging evidence shows that hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria (HCB) may be commonly found associated with phytoplankton in the ocean, but the ecology of these bacteria and how they respond to crude oil remains poorly understood. Here, we used a natural diatom-bacterial assemblage to investigate the diversity and response of HCB associated with a cosmopolitan marine diatom, Skeletonema costatum, to crude oil. Pyrosequencing analysis and qPCR revealed a dramatic transition in the diatom-associated bacterial community, defined initially by a short-lived bloom of Methylophaga (putative oil degraders) that was subsequently succeeded by distinct groups of HCB (Marinobacter, Polycyclovorans, Arenibacter, Parvibaculum, Roseobacter clade), including putative novel phyla, as well as other groups with previously unqualified oil-degrading potential. Interestingly, these oil-enriched organisms contributed to the apparent and exclusive biodegradation of substituted and non-substituted polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), thereby suggesting that the HCB community associated with the diatom is tuned to specializing in the degradation of PAHs. Furthermore, the formation of marine oil snow (MOS) in oil-amended incubations was consistent with its formation during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This work highlights the phycosphere of phytoplankton as an underexplored biotope in the ocean where HCB may contribute importantly to the biodegradation of hydrocarbon contaminants in marine surface waters.

  • Ecophysiology of an uncultivated lineage of Aigarchaeota from an oxic, hot spring filamentous 'streamer' community.

    Beam JP, Jay ZJ, Schmid MC, Rusch DB, Romine MF, M Jennings Rd, Kozubal MA, Tringe SG, Wagner M, Inskeep WP
    2016 - ISME J, 1: 210-224


    The candidate archaeal phylum 'Aigarchaeota' contains microorganisms from terrestrial and subsurface geothermal ecosystems. The phylogeny and metabolic potential of Aigarchaeota has been deduced from several recent single-cell amplified genomes; however, a detailed description of their metabolic potential and in situ transcriptional activity is absent. Here, we report a comprehensive metatranscriptome-based reconstruction of the in situ metabolism of Aigarchaeota in an oxic, hot spring filamentous 'streamer' community. Fluorescence in situ hybridization showed that these newly discovered Aigarchaeota are filamentous, which is consistent with the presence and transcription of an actin-encoding gene. Aigarchaeota filaments are intricately associated with other community members, which include both bacteria (for example, filamentous Thermocrinis spp.) and archaea. Metabolic reconstruction of genomic and metatranscriptomic data suggests that this aigarchaeon is an aerobic, chemoorganoheterotroph with autotrophic potential. A heme copper oxidase complex was identified in the environmental genome assembly and highly transcribed in situ. Potential electron donors include acetate, fatty acids, amino acids, sugars and aromatic compounds, which may originate from extracellular polymeric substances produced by other microorganisms shown to exist in close proximity and/or autochthonous dissolved organic carbon (OC). Transcripts related to genes specific to each of these potential electron donors were identified, indicating that this aigarchaeon likely utilizes several OC substrates. Characterized members of this lineage cannot synthesize heme, and other cofactors and vitamins de novo, which suggests auxotrophy. We propose the name Candidatus 'Calditenuis aerorheumensis' for this aigarchaeon, which describes its filamentous morphology and its primary electron acceptor, oxygen.

  • A Rickettsiales symbiont of amoebae with ancient features.

    Schulz F, Martijn J, Wascher F, Lagkouvardos I, Kostanjšek R, Ettema TJ, Horn M
    2016 - Environ. Microbiol., 8: 2326-42


    The Rickettsiae comprise intracellular bacterial symbionts and pathogens infecting diverse eukaryotes. Here, we provide a detailed characterization of 'Candidatus Jidaibacter acanthamoeba', a rickettsial symbiont of Acanthamoeba. The bacterium establishes the infection in its amoeba host within 2 h where it replicates within vacuoles. Higher bacterial loads and accelerated spread of infection at elevated temperatures were observed. The infection had a negative impact on host growth rate, although no increased levels of host cell lysis were seen. Phylogenomic analysis identified this bacterium as member of the Midichloriaceae. Its 2.4 Mb genome represents the largest among Rickettsiales and is characterized by a moderate degree of pseudogenization and a high coding density. We found an unusually large number of genes encoding proteins with eukaryotic-like domains such as ankyrins, leucine-rich repeats and tetratricopeptide repeats, which likely function in host interaction. There are a total of three divergent, independently acquired type IV secretion systems, and 35 flagellar genes representing the most complete set found in an obligate intracellular Alphaproteobacterium. The deeply branching phylogenetic position of 'Candidatus Jidaibacter acanthamoeba' together with its ancient features place it closely to the rickettsial ancestor and helps to better understand the transition from a free-living to an intracellular lifestyle.

  • Gypsum amendment to rice paddy soil stimulated bacteria involved in sulfur cycling but largely preserved the phylogenetic composition of the total bacterial community

    Wörner S, Zecchin S, Dan J, Hristova Todorova N, Loy A, Conrad R, Pester M
    2016 - Environ Microbiol Rep, 8: 413-23


    Rice paddies are indispensable for human food supply but emit large amounts of the greenhouse gas methane. Sulfur cycling occurs at high rates in these water-submerged soils and controls methane production, an effect that is increased by sulfate-containing fertilizers or soil amendments. We grew rice plants until their late vegetative phase with and without gypsum (CaSO4 ·2H2 O) amendment and identified responsive bacteria by 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. Gypsum amendment decreased methane emissions by up to 99% but had no major impact on the general phylogenetic composition of the bacterial community. It rather selectively stimulated or repressed a small number of 129 and 27 species-level operational taxonomic units (OTUs) (out of 1,883-2,287 observed) in the rhizosphere and bulk soil, respectively. Gypsum-stimulated OTUs were affiliated with several potential sulfate-reducing (Syntrophobacter, Desulfovibrio, unclassified Desulfobulbaceae, unclassified Desulfobacteraceae) and sulfur-oxidizing taxa (Thiobacillus, unclassified Rhodocyclaceae), while gypsum-repressed OTUs were dominated by aerobic methanotrophs (Methylococcaceae). Abundance correlation networks suggested that two abundant (>1%) OTUs (Desulfobulbaceae, Rhodocyclaceae) were central to the reductive and oxidative parts of the sulfur cycle.

  • Conductive consortia

    2015 - Nature News & Views, 526: 513-514
    anaerobic methane oxidation


    Physiological analyses, electron microscopy and single-cell chemical imaging suggest that direct electron transfer occurs between the members of methane-oxidizing microbial consortia.

  • Genomic Analysis of Xylose Metabolism in Members of the Deinoccocus-Thermus Phylum from Thermophilic Biomass-Deconstructing Bacterial Consortia

    Wu YW, Joshua C, Eichorst SA, Gladden JM, Simmons BA, Singer SW
    2015 - BioEnergy Research, 8: 1031-1038
  • Intestinal microbiota signatures associated with inflammation history in mice experiencing recurring colitis

    Berry D, Kuzyk O, Rauch I, Heider S, Schwab C, Hainzl E, Decker T, Müller M, Strobl B, Schleper C, Urich T, Wagner M, Kenner L, Loy A
    2015 - Front Microbiol, 6: 1408


    Acute colitis causes alterations in the intestinal microbiota, but the microbiota is thought to recover after such events. Extreme microbiota alterations are characteristic of human chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, although alterations reported in different studies are divergent and sometimes even contradictory. To better understand the impact of periodic disturbances on the intestinal microbiota and its compositional difference between acute and relapsing colitis, we investigated the beginnings of recurrent inflammation using the dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) mouse model of chemically induced colitis. Using bacterial 16S rRNA gene-targeted pyrosequencing as well as quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization, we profiled the intestinal and stool microbiota of mice over the course of three rounds of DSS-induced colitis and recovery. We found that characteristic inflammation-associated microbiota could be detected in recovery-phase mice. Successive inflammation episodes further drove the microbiota into an increasingly altered composition post-inflammation, and signatures of colitis history were detectable in the microbiota more sensitively than by pathology analysis. Bacterial indicators of murine colitis history were identified in intestinal and stool samples, with a high degree of consistency between both sample types. Stool may therefore be a promising non-invasive source of bacterial biomarkers that are highly sensitive to inflammation state and history.

  • Complete nitrification by Nitrospira bacteria

    Daims H, Lebedeva EV, Pjevac P, Han P, Herbold C, Albertsen M, Jehmlich N, Palatinszky M, Vierheilig J, Bulaev A, Kirkegaard RH, Bergen MV, Rattei T, Bendinger B, Nielsen PH, Wagner M
    2015 - Nature, 528: 504-509


    Nitrification, the oxidation of ammonia via nitrite to nitrate, has always been considered to be a two-step process catalysed by chemolithoautotrophic microorganisms oxidizing either ammonia or nitrite. No known nitrifier carries out both steps, although complete nitrification should be energetically advantageous. This functional separation has puzzled microbiologists for a century. Here we report on the discovery and cultivation of a completely nitrifying bacterium from the genus Nitrospira, a globally distributed group of nitrite oxidizers. The genome of this chemolithoautotrophic organism encodes the pathways both for ammonia and nitrite oxidation, which are concomitantly activated during growth by ammonia oxidation to nitrate. Genes affiliated with the phylogenetically distinct ammonia monooxygenase and hydroxylamine dehydrogenase genes of Nitrospira are present in many environments and were retrieved on Nitrospira-contigs in new metagenomes from engineered systems. These findings fundamentally change our picture of nitrification and point to completely nitrifying Nitrospira as key components of nitrogen-cycling microbial communities.

  • Prediction of microbial phenotypes based on comparative genomics

    Feldbauer R, Schulz F, Horn M, Rattei T
    2015 - BMC Bioinformatics, 16: S1


    The accessibility of almost complete genome sequences of uncultivable microbial species from metagenomes necessitates computational methods predicting microbial phenotypes solely based on genomic data. Here we investigate how comparative genomics can be utilized for the prediction of microbial phenotypes. The PICA framework facilitates application and comparison of different machine learning techniques for phenotypic trait prediction. We have improved and extended PICA's support vector machine plug-in and suggest its applicability to large-scale genome databases and incomplete genome sequences

  • Intestinal epithelial cell tyrosine kinase 2 transduces interleukin-22 signals to protect from acute colitis

    Hainzl E, Stockinger S, Rauch I, Heider S, Berry D, Lassnig C, Schwab C, Rosebrock F, Milinovich G, Schlederer M, Wagner M, Schleper C, Loy A, Urich T, Kenner L, Han X, Decker T, Strobl B, Müller M
    2015 - J Immunol., 195: 5011-5024


    In the intestinal tract, IL-22 activates signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) to promote intestinal epithelial cell (IEC) homeostasis and tissue healing. The mechanism has remained obscure but we demonstrate that IL-22 acts via tyrosine kinase 2 (Tyk2), a member of the Janus kinase (Jak) family. Using a mouse model for colitis, we show that Tyk2 deficiency is associated with an altered composition of the gut microbiota and exacerbates inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Colitic Tyk2-/- mice have less phosphorylated STAT3 (pY-STAT3) in colon tissue and their IECs proliferate less efficiently. Tyk2-deficient primary IECs show reduced pY-STAT3 in response to IL-22 stimulation and expression of IL-22-STAT3 target genes is reduced in IECs from healthy and colitic Tyk2-/- mice. Experiments with conditional Tyk2-/- mice reveal that IEC-specific depletion of Tyk2 aggravates colitis. Disease symptoms can be alleviated by administering high doses of recombinant IL-22-Fc, indicating that Tyk2 deficiency can be rescued via the IL-22 receptor complex. The pivotal function of Tyk2 in IL-22-dependent colitis was confirmed in Citrobacter rodentium-induced disease. Thus, Tyk2 protects against acute colitis in part by amplifying inflammation-induced epithelial IL-22 signaling to STAT3. 

  • Following the footsteps of chlamydial gene regulation

    Domman D, Horn M
    2015 - Mol. Biol. Evol., 32: 3035-3046


    Regulation of gene expression ensures an organism responds to stimuli and undergoes proper development. Although the regulatory networks in bacteria have been investigated in model microorganisms, nearly nothing is known about the evolution and plasticity of these networks in obligate, intracellular bacteria. The phylum Chlamydiae contains a vast array of host-associated microbes, including several human pathogens. The Chlamydiae are unique among obligate, intracellular bacteria as they undergo a complex biphasic developmental cycle in which large swaths of genes are temporally regulated. Coupled with the low number of transcription factors, these organisms offer a model to study the evolution of regulatory networks in intracellular organisms. We provide the first comprehensive analysis exploring the diversity and evolution of regulatory networks across the phylum. We utilized a comparative genomics approach to construct predicted coregulatory networks, which unveiled genus- and family-specific regulatory motifs and architectures, most notably those of virulence-associated genes. Surprisingly, our analysis suggests that few regulatory components are conserved across the phylum, and those that are conserved are involved in the exploitation of the intracellular niche. Our study thus lends insight into a component of chlamydial evolution that has otherwise remained largely unexplored.

  • Abundant toxin-related genes in the genomes of beneficial symbionts from deep-sea hydrothermal vent mussels.

    Sayavedra L, Kleiner M, Ponnudurai R, Wetzel S, Pelletier E, Barbe V, Satoh N, Shoguchi E, Fink D, Breusing C, Reusch TB, Rosenstiel P, Schilhabel MB, Becher D, Schweder T, Markert S, Dubilier N, Petersen JM
    2015 - Elife, e07966


    Bathymodiolus mussels live in symbiosis with intracellular sulfur-oxidizing (SOX) bacteria that provide them with nutrition. We sequenced the SOX symbiont genomes from two Bathymodiolus species. Comparison of these symbiont genomes with those of their closest relatives revealed that the symbionts have undergone genome rearrangements, and up to 35% of their genes may have been acquired by horizontal gene transfer. Many of the genes specific to the symbionts were homologs of virulence genes. We discovered an abundant and diverse array of genes similar to insecticidal toxins of nematode and aphid symbionts, and toxins of pathogens such as Yersinia and Vibrio. Transcriptomics and proteomics revealed that the SOX symbionts express the toxin-related genes (TRGs) in their hosts. We hypothesize that the symbionts use these TRGs in beneficial interactions with their host, including protection against parasites. This would explain why a mutualistic symbiont would contain such a remarkable 'arsenal' of TRGs.

  • Advancements in the application of NanoSIMS and Raman microspectroscopy to investigate the activity of microbial cells in soils

    Eichorst SA, Strasser F, Woyke T, Schintlmeister A, Wagner M, Woebken D
    2015 - FEMS Microbiology Ecology - *Editor's Choice Article*, in press


    The combined approach of incubating environmental samples with stable isotope-labeled substrates followed by single-cell analyses through high-resolution secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) or Raman microspectroscopy provides insights into the in situ function of microorganisms. This approach has found limited application in soils presumably due to the dispersal of microbial cells in a large background of particles. We developed a pipeline for the efficient preparation of cell extracts from soils for subsequent single-cell methods by combining cell detachment with separation of cells and soil particles followed by cell concentration. The procedure was evaluated by examining its influence on cell recoveries and microbial community composition across two soils. This approach generated a cell fraction with considerably reduced soil particle load and of sufficient small size to allow single-cell analysis by NanoSIMS, as shown when detecting active N2-fixing and cellulose-responsive microorganisms via 15N2 and 13C-UL-cellulose incubations, respectively. The same procedure was also applicable for Raman microspectroscopic analyses of soil microorganisms, assessed via microcosm incubations with a 13C-labeled carbon source and deuterium oxide (D2O, a general activity marker). The described sample preparation procedure enables single-cell analysis of soil microorganisms using NanoSIMS and Raman microspectroscopy, but should also facilitate single-cell sorting and sequencing.

  • Expanded metabolic versatility of ubiquitous nitrite-oxidizing bacteria from the genus Nitrospira

    Koch H, Lücker S, Albertsen M, Kitzinger K, Herbold C, Spieck E, Nielsen PH, Wagner M, Daims H
    2015 - Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 112: 11371-11376


    Nitrospira are a diverse group of nitrite-oxidizing bacteria and among the environmentally most widespread nitrifiers. Despite this, they remain scarcely studied and mostly uncultured. Based on genomic and experimental data from Nitrospira moscoviensis representing the ubiquitous Nitrospira lineage II, we identified ecophysiological traits that contribute to the ecological success of Nitrospira. Unexpectedly, N. moscoviensis possesses genes coding for a urease and cleaves urea to ammonia and CO2. Ureolysis was not observed yet in nitrite oxidizers and enables N. moscoviensis to supply ammonia oxidizers lacking urease with ammonia from urea, which is fully nitrified by this consortium through reciprocal feeding. The presence of highly similar urease genes in Nitrospira lenta from activated sludge, in metagenomes from soils and freshwater habitats, and of other ureases in marine nitrite oxidizers, suggests a wide distribution of this extended interaction between ammonia and nitrite oxidizers, which enables nitrite-oxidizing bacteria to indirectly utilize urea as a source of energy. A soluble formate dehydrogenase lends additional ecophysiological flexibility and allows N. moscoviensis to utilize formate, with or without concomitant nitrite oxidation, using oxygen, nitrate, or both compounds as terminal electron acceptors. Compared to Nitrospira defluvii from lineage I, N. moscoviensis shares the Nitrospira core metabolism but shows substantial genomic dissimilarity including genes for adaptations to elevated oxygen concentrations. Reciprocal feeding and metabolic versatility, including the participation in different nitrogen cycling processes, likely are key factors for the niche partitioning, the ubiquity, and the high diversity of Nitrospira in natural and engineered ecosystems.

  • Marine amoebae with cytoplasmic and perinuclear symbionts deeply branching in the Gammaproteobacteria

    Schulz F, Tyml T, Pizzetti I, Dyková I, Fazi S, Kostka M, Horn M
    2015 - Sci Rep, 5: 13381


    Amoebae play an important ecological role as predators in microbial communities. They also serve as niche for bacterial replication, harbor endosymbiotic bacteria and have contributed to the evolution of major human pathogens. Despite their high diversity, marine amoebae and their association with bacteria are poorly understood. Here we describe the isolation and characterization of two novel marine amoebae together with their bacterial endosymbionts, tentatively named 'Candidatus Occultobacter vannellae' and 'Candidatus Nucleophilum amoebae'. While one amoeba strain is related to Vannella, a genus common in marine habitats, the other represents a novel lineage in the Amoebozoa. The endosymbionts showed only low similarity to known bacteria (85-88% 16S rRNA sequence similarity) but together with other uncultured marine bacteria form a sister clade to the Coxiellaceae. Using fluorescence in situ hybridization and transmission electron microscopy, identity and intracellular location of both symbionts were confirmed; one was replicating in host-derived vacuoles, whereas the other was located in the perinuclear space of its amoeba host. This study sheds for the first time light on a so far neglected group of protists and their bacterial symbionts. The newly isolated strains represent easily maintainable model systems and pave the way for further studies on marine associations between amoebae and bacterial symbionts.

  • Endosymbionts escape dead hydrothermal vent tubeworms to enrich the free-living population.

    Klose J, Polz MF, Wagner M, Schimak MP, Gollner S, Bright M
    2015 - Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 36: 11300-11305


    Theory predicts that horizontal acquisition of symbionts by plants and animals must be coupled to release and limited dispersal of symbionts for intergenerational persistence of mutualisms. For deep-sea hydrothermal vent tubeworms (Vestimentifera, Siboglinidae), it has been demonstrated that a few symbiotic bacteria infect aposymbiotic host larvae and grow in a newly formed organ, the trophosome. However, whether viable symbionts can be released to augment environmental populations has been doubtful, because (i) the adult worms lack obvious openings and (ii) the vast majority of symbionts has been regarded as terminally differentiated. Here we show experimentally that symbionts rapidly escape their hosts upon death and recruit to surfaces where they proliferate. Estimating symbiont release from our experiments taken together with well-known tubeworm density ranges, we suggest a few million to 1.5 billion symbionts seeding the environment upon death of a tubeworm clump. In situ observations show that such clumps have rapid turnover, suggesting that release of large numbers of symbionts may ensure effective dispersal to new sites followed by active larval colonization. Moreover, release of symbionts might enable adaptations that evolve within host individuals to spread within host populations and possibly to new environments.

  • Draft genome sequence of 'Candidatus Hepatoplasma crinochetorum Ps' – a bacterial symbiont in the hepatopancreas of the terrestrial isopod Porcellio scaber

    Collingro A, Kostanjšek R, Toenshoff ER, Schulz F, Schuster L, Domann D, Horn M
    2015 - Genome Announc, 3: e00674-15


    'Candidatus Hepatoplasma crinochetorum Ps' is an extracellular symbiont residing in the hepatopancreas of the terrestrial isopod Porcellio scaber. Its genome is highly similar to that of the close relative 'Cand. Hepatoplasma crinochetorum Av' from Armadillidium vulgare. However, instead of a CRISPR/Cas system it encodes a type I restriction modification system.

  • 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.

  • Cyanate as an energy source for nitrifiers.

    Palatinszky M, Herbold C, Jehmlich N, Pogoda M, Han P, von Bergen M, Lagkouvardos I, Karst SM, Galushko A, Koch H, Berry D, Daims H, Wagner M
    2015 - Nature, 524: 105-108


    Ammonia- and nitrite-oxidizing microorganisms are collectively responsible for the aerobic oxidation of ammonia via nitrite to nitrate and have essential roles in the global biogeochemical nitrogen cycle. The physiology of nitrifiers has been intensively studied, and urea and ammonia are the only recognized energy sources that promote the aerobic growth of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria and archaea. Here we report the aerobic growth of a pure culture of the ammonia-oxidizing thaumarchaeote Nitrososphaera gargensis using cyanate as the sole source of energy and reductant; to our knowledge, the first organism known to do so. Cyanate, a potentially important source of reduced nitrogen in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, is converted to ammonium and carbon dioxide in Nitrososphaera gargensis by a cyanase enzyme that is induced upon addition of this compound. Within the cyanase gene family, this cyanase is a member of a distinct clade also containing cyanases of nitrite-oxidizing bacteria of the genus Nitrospira. We demonstrate by co-culture experiments that these nitrite oxidizers supply cyanase-lacking ammonia oxidizers with ammonium from cyanate, which is fully nitrified by this microbial consortium through reciprocal feeding. By screening a comprehensive set of more than 3,000 publically available metagenomes from environmental samples, we reveal that cyanase-encoding genes clustering with the cyanases of these nitrifiers are widespread in the environment. Our results demonstrate an unexpected metabolic versatility of nitrifying microorganisms, and suggest a previously unrecognized importance of cyanate in cycling of nitrogen compounds in the environment.

  • Methanogenic archaea and sulfate reducing bacteria co-cultured on acetate: teamwork or coexistence?

    Ozuolmez D, Na H, Lever MA, Kjeldsen KU, Jørgensen BB, Plugge CM
    2015 - Front Microbiol, 6: 492


    Acetate is a major product of fermentation processes and an important substrate for sulfate reducing bacteria and methanogenic archaea. Most studies on acetate catabolism by sulfate reducers and methanogens have used pure cultures. Less is known about acetate conversion by mixed pure cultures and the interactions between both groups. We tested interspecies hydrogen transfer and coexistence between marine methanogens and sulfate reducers using mixed pure cultures of two types of microorganisms. First, Desulfovibrio vulgaris subsp. vulgaris (DSM 1744), a hydrogenotrophic sulfate reducer, was cocultured together with the obligate aceticlastic methanogen Methanosaeta concilii using acetate as carbon and energy source. Next, Methanococcus maripaludis S2, an obligate H2- and formate-utilizing methanogen, was used as a partner organism to M. concilii in the presence of acetate. Finally, we performed a coexistence experiment between M. concilii and an acetotrophic sulfate reducer Desulfobacter latus AcSR2. Our results showed that D. vulgaris was able to reduce sulfate and grow from hydrogen leaked by M. concilii. In the other coculture, M. maripaludis was sustained by hydrogen leaked by M. concilii as revealed by qPCR. The growth of the two aceticlastic microbes indicated co-existence rather than competition. Altogether, our results indicate that H2 leaking from M. concilii could be used by efficient H2-scavengers. This metabolic trait, revealed from coculture studies, brings new insight to the metabolic flexibility of methanogens and sulfate reducers residing in marine environments in response to changing environmental conditions and community compositions. Using dedicated physiological studies we were able to unravel the occurrence of less obvious interactions between marine methanogens and sulfate-reducing bacteria.

  • Uncultured Desulfobacteraceae and Crenarchaeotal group C3 incorporate 13 C-acetate in coastal marine sediment

    Na H, Lever MA, Kjeldsen KU, Schulz F, Jørgensen BB
    2015 - Environ Microbiol Rep, 7: 614-22


    Stable isotope probing (SIP) of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) was used to identify microbes incorporating 13 C-labeled acetate in sulfate-reducing sediment from Aarhus Bay, Denmark. Sediment was incubated in medium containing 10 mM sulfate and different 13 C-acetate (10, 1, 0.1 mM) concentrations. The resultant changes in microbial community composition were monitored in total and SIP-fractionated DNA during long-term incubations. Chemical analyses demonstrated metabolic activity in all sediment slurries, with sulfate-reducing activity largely determined by initial acetate concentrations. Sequencing of 16S rRNA gene PCR amplicons showed that the incubations shifted the bacterial but not the archaeal community composition. After 3 months of incubation, only sediment slurries incubated with 10 mM 13 C-acetate showed detectable 13 C-DNA labeling. Based on 16S rRNA and dsrB gene PCR amplicon sequencing, the 13 C-labeled DNA pool was dominated by a single type of sulfate reducer representing a novel genus in the family Desulfobacteraceae. In addition, members of the uncultivated Crenarchaeotal group C3 were enriched in the 13 C-labeled DNA. Our results were reproducible across biological replicate experiments and provide new information about the identities of uncultured acetate-consuming bacteria and archaea in marine sediments.

  • Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics of Episomes among Ecologically Cohesive Bacterial Populations.

    Xue H, Cordero OX, Camas FM, Trimble W, Meyer F, Guglielmini J, Rocha EP, Polz MF
    2015 - mBio, 3: e00552-15


    Although plasmids and other episomes are recognized as key players in horizontal gene transfer among microbes, their diversity and dynamics among ecologically structured host populations in the wild remain poorly understood. Here, we show that natural populations of marine Vibrionaceae bacteria host large numbers of families of episomes, consisting of plasmids and a surprisingly high fraction of plasmid-like temperate phages. Episomes are unevenly distributed among host populations, and contrary to the notion that high-density communities in biofilms act as hot spots of gene transfer, we identified a strong bias for episomes to occur in free-living as opposed to particle-attached cells. Mapping of episomal families onto host phylogeny shows that, with the exception of all phage and a few plasmid families, most are of recent evolutionary origin and appear to have spread rapidly by horizontal transfer. Such high eco-evolutionary turnover is particularly surprising for plasmids that are, based on previously suggested categorization, putatively nontransmissible, indicating that this type of plasmid is indeed frequently transferred by currently unknown mechanisms. Finally, analysis of recent gene transfer among plasmids reveals a network of extensive exchange connecting nearly all episomes. Genes functioning in plasmid transfer and maintenance are frequently exchanged, suggesting that plasmids can be rapidly transformed from one category to another. The broad distribution of episomes among distantly related hosts and the observed promiscuous recombination patterns show how episomes can offer their hosts rapid assembly and dissemination of novel functions.
    Plasmids and other episomes are an integral part of bacterial biology in all environments, yet their study is heavily biased toward their role as vectors for antibiotic resistance genes. This study presents a comprehensive analysis of all episomes within several coexisting bacterial populations of Vibrionaceae from the coastal ocean and represents the largest-yet genomic survey of episomes from a single bacterial family. The host population framework allows analysis of the eco-evolutionary dynamics at unprecedented resolution, yielding several unexpected results. These include (i) discovery of novel, nonintegrative temperate phages, (ii) revision of a class of episomes, previously termed "nontransmissible," as highly transmissible, and (iii) surprisingly high evolutionary turnover of episomes, manifest as frequent birth, spread, and loss.

  • Single-cell genomics of a rare environmental alphaproteobacterium provides unique insights into Rickettsiaceae evolution

    Martijn J, Schulz F, Zaremba-Niedzwiedzka K, Viklund J, Stepanauskas R, Andersson SG, Horn M, Guy L, Ettema TJ
    2015 - ISME J, 9: 2373-85


    The bacterial family Rickettsiaceae includes a group of well-known etiological agents of many human and vertebrate diseases, including epidemic typhus-causing pathogen Rickettsia prowazekii. Owing to their medical relevance, rickettsiae have attracted a great deal of attention and their host-pathogen interactions have been thoroughly investigated. All known members display obligate intracellular lifestyles, and the best-studied genera, Rickettsia and Orientia, include species that are hosted by terrestrial arthropods. Their obligate intracellular lifestyle and host adaptation is reflected in the small size of their genomes, a general feature shared with all other families of the Rickettsiales. Yet, despite that the Rickettsiaceae and other Rickettsiales families have been extensively studied for decades, many details of the origin and evolution of their obligate host-association remain elusive. Here we report the discovery and single-cell sequencing of 'Candidatus Arcanobacter lacustris', a rare environmental alphaproteobacterium that was sampled from Damariscotta Lake that represents a deeply rooting sister lineage of the Rickettsiaceae. Intriguingly, phylogenomic and comparative analysis of the partial 'Candidatus Arcanobacter lacustris' genome revealed the presence chemotaxis genes and vertically inherited flagellar genes, a novelty in sequenced Rickettsiaceae, as well as several host-associated features. This finding suggests that the ancestor of the Rickettsiaceae might have had a facultative intracellular lifestyle. Our study underlines the efficacy of single-cell genomics for studying microbial diversity and evolution in general, and for rare microbial cells in particular.

  • Plastid establishment did not require a chlamydial partner

    Domman D, Horn M, Embley TM, Williams TA
    2015 - Nat Commun, 6: 6421


    Primary plastids descend from the cyanobacterial endosymbiont of an ancient eukaryotic host, but the initial selective drivers that stabilized the association between these two cells are still unclear. One hypothesis that has achieved recent prominence suggests that the first role of the cyanobiont was in energy provision for a host cell whose reserves were being depleted by an intracellular chlamydial pathogen. A pivotal claim is that it was chlamydial proteins themselves that converted otherwise unusable cyanobacterial metabolites into host energy stores. We test this hypothesis by investigating the origins of the key enzymes using sophisticated phylogenetics. Here we show a mosaic origin for the relevant pathway combining genes with host, cyanobacterial or bacterial ancestry, but we detect no strong case for Chlamydiae to host transfer under the best-fitting models. Our conclusion is that there is no compelling evidence from gene trees that Chlamydiae played any role in establishing the primary plastidendosymbiosis.

  • Dimeric chlorite dismutase from the nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium Cyanothece sp. PCC7425

    Schaffner I, Hofbauer S, Krutzler M, Pirker KF, Bellei M, Stadlmayr G, Mlynek G, Djinovic-Carugo K, Battistuzzi G, Furtmüller PG, Daims H, Obinger C
    2015 - Mol Microbiol, 96: 1053-1068


    It is demonstrated that cyanobacteria (both azotrophic and non-azotrophic) contain heme b oxidoreductases that can convert chlorite to chloride and molecular oxygen (incorrectly denominated chlorite 'dismutase', Cld). Beside the water-splitting manganese complex of photosystem II, this metalloenzyme is the second known enzyme that catalyses the formation of a covalent oxygen-oxygen bond. All cyanobacterial Clds have a truncated N-terminus and are dimeric (i.e. clade 2) proteins. As model protein, Cld from Cyanothece sp. PCC7425 (CCld) was recombinantly produced in Escherichia coli and shown to efficiently degrade chlorite with an activity optimum at pH 5.0 [kcat 1144 ± 23.8 s-1 , KM 162 ± 10.0 μM, catalytic efficiency (7.1 ± 0.6) × 106  M-1  s-1 ]. The resting ferric high-spin axially symmetric heme enzyme has a standard reduction potential of the Fe(III)/Fe(II) couple of -126 ± 1.9 mV at pH 7.0. Cyanide mediates the formation of a low-spin complex with kon  = (1.6 ± 0.1) × 105  M-1  s-1 and koff  = 1.4 ± 2.9 s-1 (KD  ∼ 8.6 μM). Both, thermal and chemical unfolding follows a non-two-state unfolding pathway with the first transition being related to the release of the prosthetic group. The obtained data are discussed with respect to known structure-function relationships of Clds. We ask for the physiological substrate and putative function of these O2 -producing proteins in (nitrogen-fixing) cyanobacteria.

  • Intranuclear bacteria: inside the cellular control center of eukaryotes

    Schulz F, Horn M
    2015 - Trends Cell Biol, 25: 339-346


    Intracellular bacteria including major pathogens live in the cytoplasm or in cytoplasmic vacuoles within their host cell. However, some can invade more unusual intracellular niches such as the eukaryotic nucleus. Phylogenetically diverse intranuclear bacteria have been discovered in various protist, arthropod, marine invertebrate, and mammalian hosts. Although targeting the same cellular compartment, they have apparently developed fundamentally-different infection strategies. The nucleus provides a rich pool of nutrients and protection against host cytoplasmic defense mechanisms; intranuclear bacteria can directly manipulate the host by interfering with nuclear processes. The impact on their host cells ranges from stable associations with a neutral or beneficial effect on host fitness to rapid host lysis. The analysis of the intranuclear lifestyle will extend our current framework for understanding host-pathogen interactions.

  • Structure and heme-binding properties of HemQ (chlorite dismutase-like protein) from Listeria monocytogenes

    Hofbauer S, Hagmüller A, Schaffner I, Mlynek G, Krutzler M, Stadlmayr G, Pirker KF, Obinger C, Daims H, Djinovic-Carugo K, Furtmüller PG
    2015 - Arch Biochem Biophys, 574: 36-48


    Chlorite dismutase-like proteins are structurally closely related to functional chlorite dismutases which are heme b-dependent oxidoreductases capable of reducing chlorite to chloride with simultaneous production of dioxygen. Chlorite dismutase-like proteins are incapable of performing this reaction and their biological role is still under discussion. Recently, members of this large protein family were shown to be involved in heme biosynthesis in Gram-positive bacteria, and thus the protein was renamed HemQ in these organisms. In the present work the structural and heme binding properties of the chlorite dismutase-like protein from the Gram-positive pathogen Listeria monocytogenes (LmCld) were analyzed in order to evaluate its potential role as a regulatory heme sensing protein. The homopentameric crystal structure (2.0Å) shows high similarity to chlorite-degrading chlorite dismutases with an important difference in the structure of the putative substrate and heme entrance channel. In solution LmCld is a stable hexamer able to bind the low-spin ligand cyanide. Heme binding is reversible with KD-values determined to be 7.2μM (circular dichroism spectroscopy) and 16.8μM (isothermal titration calorimetry) at pH 7.0. Both acidic and alkaline conditions promote heme release. Presented biochemical and structural data reveal that the chlorite dismutase-like protein from L. monocytogenes could act as a potential regulatory heme sensing and storage protein within heme biosynthesis.

  • Inhibitory properties of C2 - C10 1-alkynes on ammonia oxidation in two Nitrososphaera species

    Taylor A, Taylor K, Tennigkeit B, Palatinszky M, Stieglmeier M, Myrold D, Schleper C, Wagner M, Bottomley P
    2015 - Appl Environ Microbiol, 81: 1942-8


    A previous study showed that ammonia oxidation by the Thaumarchaeota Nitrosopumilus maritimus (group 1.1a) was resistant to concentrations of the C8 1-alkyne, octyne, which completely inhibits activity by ammonia-oxidizing bacteria. In this study, the inhibitory effects of octyne and other C2 to C10 1-alkynes were evaluated on the nitrite production activity of two pure culture isolates from Thaumarchaeota group 1.1b, Nitrososphaera viennensis strain EN76 and Nitrososphaera gargensis. Both N. viennensis and N. gargensis were insensitive to concentrations of octyne that cause complete and irreversible inactivation of nitrite production by ammonia-oxidizing bacteria. However, octyne concentrations (≥20 μM) that did not inhibit N. maritimus partially inhibited nitrite production in N. viennensis and N. gargensis in a manner that did not show the characteristics of irreversible inactivation. In contrast to previous studies with an ammonia-oxidizing bacterium, Nitrosomonas europaea, octyne inhibition of N. viennensis was: (i) fully and immediately reversible, (ii) not competitive with NH4 (+), and (iii) without effect on the competitive interaction between NH4 (+) and acetylene. Both N. viennensis and N. gargensis demonstrated the same overall trend in regard to 1-alkyne inhibition as previously observed for N. maritimus, being highly sensitive to ≤C5 alkynes and more resistant to longer-chain length alkynes. Reproducible differences were observed among N. maritimus, N. viennensis, and N. gargensis in regard to the extent of their resistance/sensitivity to C6 and C7 1-alkynes, which may indicate differences in the ammonia monooxygenase binding and catalytic site(s) among the Thaumarchaeota.

  • Tracking heavy water (D2O) incorporation for identifying and sorting active microbial cells

    Berry D, Mader E, Lee TK, Woebken D, Wang Y, Zhu D, Palatinszky M, Schintlmeister A, Schmid MC, Hanson BT, Shterzer N, Mizrahi I, Rauch I, Decker T, Bocklitz T, Popp J, Gibson CM, Fowler PW, Huang WE, Wagner M
    2015 - Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 112: E194-203


    Microbial communities are essential to the function of virtually all ecosystems and eukaryotes, including humans. However, it is still a major challenge to identify microbial cells active under natural conditions in complex systems. In this study, we developed a new method to identify and sort active microbes on the single-cell level in complex samples using stable isotope probing with heavy water (D2O) combined with Raman microspectroscopy. Incorporation of D2O-derived D into the biomass of autotrophic and heterotrophic bacteria and archaea could be unambiguously detected via C-D signature peaks in single-cell Raman spectra, and the obtained labeling pattern was confirmed by nanoscale-resolution secondary ion MS. In fast-growing Escherichia coli cells, label detection was already possible after 20 min. For functional analyses of microbial communities, the detection of D incorporation from D2O in individual microbial cells via Raman microspectroscopy can be directly combined with FISH for the identification of active microbes. Applying this approach to mouse cecal microbiota revealed that the host-compound foragers Akkermansia muciniphila and Bacteroides acidifaciens exhibited distinctive response patterns to amendments of mucin and sugars. By Raman-based cell sortingof active (deuterated) cells with optical tweezers and subsequent multiple displacement amplification and DNA sequencing, novel cecal microbes stimulated by mucin and/or glucosamine were identified, demonstrating the potential of the nondestructive D2O-Raman approach for targeted sortingof microbial cells with defined functional properties for single-cell genomics.

  • Microbial taxonomy in the post-genomic era: rebuilding from scratch?

    Thompson CC, Amaral GR, Campeão M, Edwards RA, Polz MF, Dutilh BE, Ussery DW, Sawabe T, Swings J, Thompson FL
    2015 - Arch. Microbiol., 3: 359-70


    Microbial taxonomy should provide adequate descriptions of bacterial, archaeal, and eukaryotic microbial diversity in ecological, clinical, and industrial environments. Its cornerstone, the prokaryote species has been re-evaluated twice. It is time to revisit polyphasic taxonomy, its principles, and its practice, including its underlying pragmatic species concept. Ultimately, we will be able to realize an old dream of our predecessor taxonomists and build a genomic-based microbial taxonomy, using standardized and automated curation of high-quality complete genome sequences as the new gold standard.

  • Comparison of oxidation kinetics of nitrite-oxidizing bacteria: nitrite availability as a key factor in niche differentiation

    Nowka B, Daims H, Spieck E
    2015 - Appl Environ Microbiol, 81: 745-53


    Nitrification has an immense impact on nitrogen cycling in natural ecosystems and in wastewater treatment plants. Mathematical models function as tools to capture the complexity of these biological systems, but kinetic parameters especially of nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) are lacking because of a limited number of pure cultures until recently. In this study, we compared the nitrite oxidation kinetics of six pure cultures and one enrichment culture representing three genera of NOB (Nitrobacter, Nitrospira, Nitrotoga). With half-saturation constants (Km) between 9 and 27 μM nitrite, Nitrospira bacteria are adapted to live under significant substrate limitation. Nitrobacter showed a wide range of lower substrate affinities, with Km values between 49 and 544 μM nitrite. However, the advantage of Nitrobacter emerged under excess nitrite supply, sustaining high maximum specific activities (Vmax) of 64 to 164 μmol nitrite/mg protein/h, contrary to the lower activities of Nitrospira of 18 to 48 μmol nitrite/mg protein/h. The Vmax (26 μmol nitrite/mg protein/h) and Km (58 μM nitrite) of "Candidatus Nitrotoga arctica" measured at a low temperature of 17°C suggest that Nitrotoga can advantageously compete with other NOB, especially in cold habitats. The kinetic parameters determined represent improved basis values for nitrifying models and will support predictions of community structure and nitrification rates in natural and engineered ecosystems.

  • Phylogenetic and environmental diversity of DsrAB-type dissimilatory (bi)sulfite reductases

    Müller AL, Kjeldsen KU, Rattei T, Pester M, Loy A
    2015 - ISME J, 9: 1152-1165


    The energy metabolism of essential microbial guilds in the biogeochemical sulfur cycle is based on a DsrAB-type dissimilatory (bi)sulfite reductase that either catalyzes the reduction of sulfite to sulfide during anaerobic respiration of sulfate, sulfite and organosulfonates, or acts in reverse during sulfur oxidation. Common use of dsrAB as a functional marker showed that dsrAB richness in many environments is dominated by novel sequence variants and collectively represents an extensive, largely uncharted sequence assemblage. Here, we established a comprehensive, manually curated dsrAB/DsrAB database and used it to categorize the known dsrAB diversity, reanalyze the evolutionary history of dsrAB and evaluate the coverage of published dsrAB-targeted primers. Based on a DsrAB consensus phylogeny, we introduce an operational classification system for environmentaldsrAB sequences that integrates established taxonomic groups with operational taxonomic units (OTUs) at multiple phylogenetic levels, ranging from DsrAB enzyme families that reflect reductive or oxidative DsrAB types of bacterial or archaeal origin, superclusters, uncultured family-level lineages to species-level OTUs. Environmental dsrAB sequences constituted at least 13 stable family-level lineages without any cultivated representatives, suggesting that major taxa of sulfite/sulfate-reducing microorganisms have not yet been identified. Three of these uncultured lineages occur mainly in marine environments, while specific habitat preferences are not evident for members of the other 10 uncultured lineages. In summary, our publically available dsrAB/DsrAB database, the phylogenetic framework, the multilevel classification system and a set of recommended primers provide a necessary foundation for large-scale dsrAB ecology studies with next-generation sequencing methods.

  • Revisiting N₂ fixation in Guerrero Negro intertidal microbial mats with a functional single-cell approach

    Woebken D, Burow L, Behnam F, Mayali X, Schintlmeister A, Fleming E, Prufert-Bebout L, Singer S, López Cortés A, Hoehler T, Pett-Ridge J, Spormann A, Wagner M, Weber P, Bebout B
    2015 - ISME J, 9: 485-96


    Photosynthetic microbial mats are complex, stratified ecosystems in which high rates of primary production create a demand for nitrogen, met partially by N₂ fixation. Dinitrogenase reductase (nifH) genes and transcripts from Cyanobacteria and heterotrophic bacteria (for example, Deltaproteobacteria) were detected in these mats, yet their contribution to N2 fixation is poorly understood. We used a combined approach of manipulation experiments with inhibitors, nifH sequencing and single-cell isotope analysis to investigate the active diazotrophic community inintertidal microbial mats at Laguna Ojo de Liebre near Guerrero Negro, Mexico. Acetylene reduction assays with specific metabolic inhibitors suggested that both sulfate reducers and members of the Cyanobacteria contributed to N₂ fixation, whereas (15)N₂ tracer experiments at the bulk level only supported a contribution of Cyanobacteria. Cyanobacterial and nifH Cluster III (including deltaproteobacterial sulfate reducers) sequences dominated the nifH gene pool, whereas the nifH transcript pool was dominated by sequences related to Lyngbya spp. Single-cell isotope analysis of (15)N₂-incubated mat samples via high-resolution secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) revealed that Cyanobacteria were enriched in (15)N, with the highest enrichment being detected in Lyngbya spp. filaments (on average 4.4 at% (15)N), whereas the Deltaproteobacteria (identified by CARD-FISH) were not significantly enriched. We investigated the potential dilution effect from CARD-FISH on the isotopic composition and concluded that the dilution bias was not substantial enough to influence our conclusions. Our combined data provide evidence that members of the Cyanobacteria, especially Lyngbya spp., actively contributed to N₂ fixation in the intertidal mats, whereas support for significant N₂ fixation activity of the targeted deltaproteobacterial sulfate reducers could not be found.

  • Conserved features and major differences in the outer membrane protein composition of chlamydiae

    Aistleitner K, Anrather D, Schott T, Klose J, Bright M, Ammerer G, Horn M
    2015 - Environ Microbiol, 7: 1397-413


    Chlamydiae are a highly successful group of obligate intracellular bacteria infecting a variety of eukaryotic hosts. Outer membrane proteins involved in attachment to and uptake into host cells, and cross-linking of these proteins via disulfide bonds are key features of the biphasic chlamydial developmental cycle. In this study, we used a consensus approach to predict outer membrane proteins in the genomes of members of three chlamydial families. By analysing outer membrane protein fractions of purified chlamydiae with highly sensitive mass spectrometry, we show that theprotein composition differs strongly between these organisms. Large numbers of major outer membrane protein-like proteins are present at high abundance in the outer membrane of Simkania negevensis and Waddlia chondrophila, whereas yet uncharacterized putative porins dominate in Parachlamydia acanthamoebae. Simkania represents the first case of a chlamydia completely lacking stabilizing cysteine-rich proteins in its outermembrane. In agreement with this, and in contrast to Parachlamydia and Waddlia, the cellular integrity of Simkania is not impaired by conditions that reduce disulfide bonds of these proteins. The observed differences in the protein composition of the outer membrane among members of divergent chlamydial families suggest different stabilities of these organisms in the environment, probably due to adaption to different niches or transmission routes.

  • Nitrotoga-like bacteria are previously unrecognized key nitrite oxidizers in full-scale wastewater treatment plants

    Lücker S, Schwarz J, Gruber-Dorninger C, Spieck E, Wagner M, Daims H
    2015 - ISME J, 9: 708-720


    Numerous past studies have shown members of the genus Nitrospira to be the predominant nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) in nitrifying wastewatertreatment plants (WWTPs). Only recently, the novel NOB 'Candidatus Nitrotoga arctica' was identified in permafrost soil and a close relative was enriched from activated sludge. Still, little is known about diversity, distribution and functional importance of Nitrotoga in natural and engineered ecosystems. Here we developed Nitrotoga 16S rRNA-specific PCR primers and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) probes, which were applied to screen activated sludge samples from 20 full-scale WWTPs. Nitrotoga-like bacteria were detected by PCR in 11 samples and reached abundances detectable by FISH in seven sludges. They coexisted with Nitrospira in most of these WWTPs, but constituted the only detectable NOB in two systems. Quantitative FISH revealed that Nitrotoga accounted for nearly 2% of the total bacterial community in one of these plants, a number comparable to Nitrospira abundances in other WWTPs. Spatial statistics revealed that Nitrotoga coaggregated with ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, strongly supporting a functional role in nitrite oxidation. This activity was confirmed by FISH in combination with microradiography, which revealednitrite-dependent autotrophic carbon fixation by Nitrotoga in situ. Correlation of the presence or absence with WWTP operational parameters indicated low temperatures as a main factor supporting high Nitrotoga abundances, although in incubation experiments these NOB remained active over an unexpected range of temperatures, and also at different ambient nitrite concentrations. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that Nitrotoga can be functionally important nitrite oxidizers in WWTPs and can even represent the only known NOB in engineered systems.

  • Functionally relevant diversity of closely related Nitrospira in activated sludge

    Gruber-Dorninger C, Pester M, Kitzinger K, Savio DF, Loy A, Rattei T, Wagner M, Daims H
    2015 - ISME J, 9: 643-655


    Nitrospira are chemolithoautotrophic nitrite-oxidizing bacteria that catalyze the second step of nitrification in most oxic habitats and are important for excess nitrogen removal from sewage in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). To date, little is known about their diversity and ecological niche partitioning within complex communities. In this study, the fine-scale community structure and function of Nitrospira was analyzed in two full-scale WWTPs as model ecosystems. In Nitrospira-specific 16S rRNA clone libraries retrieved from each plant, closely related phylogenetic clusters (16S rRNA identities between clusters ranged from 95.8% to 99.6%) within Nitrospira lineages I and II were found. Newly designed probes for fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) allowed the specific detection of several of these clusters, whose coexistence in the WWTPs was shown for prolonged periods of several years. In situ ecophysiological analyses based on FISH, relative abundance and spatial arrangement quantification, as well as microautoradiography revealed functional differences of these Nitrospira clusters regarding the preferred nitrite concentration, the utilization of formate as substrate and the spatial coaggregation with ammonia-oxidizing bacteria as symbiotic partners. Amplicon pyrosequencing of the nxrB gene, which encodes subunit beta of nitrite oxidoreductase of Nitrospira, revealed in one of the WWTPs as many as 121 species-level nxrB operational taxonomic units with highly uneven relative abundances in the amplicon library. These results show a previously unrecognized highdiversity of Nitrospira in engineered systems, which is at least partially linked to niche differentiation and may have important implications for process stability.

  • A nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry study of dinoflagellate functional diversity in reef-building corals.

    Pernice M, Dunn SR, Tonk L, Dove S, Domart-Coulon I, Hoppe P, Schintlmeister A, Wagner M, Meibom A
    2015 - Environ. Microbiol., 10: 3570-80


    Nutritional interactions between corals and symbiotic dinoflagellate algae lie at the heart of the structural foundation of coral reefs. Whilst the genetic diversity of Symbiodinium has attracted particular interest because of its contribution to the sensitivity of corals to environmental changes and bleaching (i.e. disruption of coral-dinoflagellate symbiosis), very little is known about the in hospite metabolic capabilities of different Symbiodinium types. Using a combination of stable isotopic labelling and nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS), we investigated the ability of the intact symbiosis between the reef-building coral Isopora palifera, and Symbiodinium C or D types, to assimilate dissolved inorganic carbon (via photosynthesis) and nitrogen (as ammonium). Our results indicate that Symbiodinium types from two clades naturally associated with I. palifera possess different metabolic capabilities. The Symbiodinium C type fixed and passed significantly more carbon and nitrogen to its coral host than the D type. This study provides further insights into the metabolic plasticity among different Symbiodinium types in hospite and strengthens the evidence that the more temperature-tolerant Symbiodinium D type may be less metabolically beneficial for its coral host under non-stressful conditions.

  • Improved isolation strategies allowed the phenotypic differentiation of two Nitrospira strains from widespread phylogenetic lineages.

    Nowka B, Off S, Daims H, Spieck E
    2015 - FEMS Microbiol Ecol, 91: fiu031


    The second step of nitrification, the oxidation of nitrite to nitrate, is vital for the functioning of the nitrogen cycle, but our understanding of the ecological roles of the involved microorganisms is still limited. The known diversity of Nitrospira, the most widely distributed nitrite-oxidizing bacteria, has increased remarkably by analyses of 16S rRNA and functional gene sequences. However, only few representatives could be brought into laboratory cultures so far. In this study, two Nitrospira from activated sludge were isolated using novel approaches together with established methods. Highly enriched 'Candidatus Nitrospira defluvii' was separated from concomitant heterotrophs by taking advantage of its resistance against ampicillin and acriflavine. Beside this member of lineage I, a novel species of lineage II, named N. lenta, was initially enriched at 10°C and finally purified by using optical tweezers. The tolerance to elevated nitrite levels was much higher in N. defluvii than in the more fastidious N. lenta and was accompanied by pronounced biofilm formation. Phylogenetic classification of 12 additional enrichments indicated that Nitrospira lineage I is common in extreme and moderate ecosystems like lineage II. The new cultures will help to explore physiological and genomic differences affecting niche separation between members of this highly diverse genus.

  • Emendation of the family Chlamydiaceae: Proposal of a single genus, Chlamydia, to include all currently recognized species

    Sachse K, Bavoil PM, Kaltenboeck B, Stephens RS, Kuo CC, Rosselló-Móra R, Horn M
    2015 - Syst Appl Microbiol, 38: 99-103


    The family Chlamydiaceae (order Chlamydiales, phylum Chlamydiae) comprises important, obligate intracellular bacterial pathogens of humans and animals. Subdivision of the family into the two genera Chlamydia and Chlamydophila has been discussed controversially during the past decade. Here, we have revisited the current classification in the light of recent genomic data and in the context of the unique biological properties of these microorganisms. We conclude that neither generally used 16S rRNA sequence identity cut-off values nor parameters based on genomic similarity consistently separate the two genera. Notably, no easily recognizable phenotype such as host preference or tissue tropism is available that would support a subdivision. In addition, the genus Chlamydophila is currently not well accepted and not used by a majority of research groups in the field. Therefore, we propose the classification of all 11 currently recognized Chlamydiaceae species in a single genus, the genus Chlamydia. Finally, we provide emended descriptions of the family Chlamydiaceae, the genus Chlamydia, as well as the species Chlamydia abortus, Chlamydia caviae and Chlamydia felis.

  • NanoSIMS combined with fluorescence microscopy as a tool for subcellular imaging of isotopically labeled platinum-based anticancer drugs

    Legin AA, Schintlmeister A, Jakupec MA, Galanski M, Lichtscheidl I, Wagner M, Keppler B
    2014 - Chem. Sci., 5: 3135-3143


    Multi-elemental, isotope selective nano-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) combined with confocal laser-scanning microscopy was used to characterize the subcellular distribution of 15N-labeled cisplatin in human colon cancer cells. These analyses indicated predominant cisplatin colocalisation with sulfur-rich structures in both the nucleus and cytoplasm. Furthermore, colocalisation of platinum with phosphorus-rich chromatin regions was observed, which is consistent with its binding affinity to DNA as the generally accepted crucial target of the drug. Application of 15N-labeled cisplatin and subsequent measurement of the nitrogen isotopic composition and determination of the relative intensities of platinum and nitrogen associated secondary ion signals in different cellular compartments with NanoSIMS suggested partial dissociation of Pt–N bonds during the accumulation process, in particular within nucleoli at elevated cisplatin concentrations. This finding raises the question as to whether the observed intracellular dissociation of the drug has implications for the mechanism of action of cisplatin. Within the cytoplasm, platinum mainly accumulated in acidic organelles, as demonstrated by a direct combination of specific fluorescent staining, confocal laser scanning microscopy and NanoSIMS. Different processing of platinum drugs in acidic organelles might be relevant for their detoxification, as well as for their mode of action.

  • Improved axenization method reveals complexity of symbiotic associations between bacteria and acanthamoebae.

    Lagkouvardos I, Shen J, Horn M
    2014 - Environ Microbiol Rep., 6: 383-8


    Bacteria associated with free-living amoebae have attracted considerable attention because of their role in human disease and as models for studying endosymbiosis. However, the identification and analysis of such novel associations are hindered by the limitations of methods for isolation and axenization of amoebae. Here, we replaced the heat-inactivated Escherichia coli, which is typically used as food source during axenization, with a live E. coli tolC knockout mutant strain hypersensitive to antibiotics. Together with the addition of otherwise sublethal amounts of ampicillin, this approach tripled the success rate and reduced the time required for axenization by at least 3 days. Using this method for two environmental samples, 10 Acanthamoeba strains were isolated, seven of which contained bacterial symbionts. In three cases, amoebae harbouring two phylogenetically distinct symbionts were recovered, supporting a more widespread occurrence of multi-partner symbiotic associations among free-living amoebae.

  • Nitrogen fertilization has a stronger effect on soil nitrogen-fixing bacterial communities than elevated atmospheric CO2

    Berthrong ST, Yeager CM, Gallegos-Graves L, Steven B, Eichorst SA, Jackson RB, Kuske CR
    2014 - Appl Environ Microbiol, 80: 3103-3112


    Biological nitrogen fixation is the primary supply of N to most ecosystems, yet there is considerable uncertainty about how N-fixing bacteria will respond to global change factors such as increasing atmospheric CO2 and N deposition. Using the nifH gene as a molecular marker, we studied how the community structure of N-fixing soil bacteria from temperate pine, aspen, and sweet gum stands and a brackish tidal marsh responded to multiyear elevated CO2conditions. We also examined how N availability, specifically, N fertilization, interacted with elevated CO2 to affect these communities in the temperate pine forest. Based on data from Sanger sequencing and quantitative PCR, the soil nifHcomposition in the three forest systems was dominated by species in the Geobacteraceae and, to a lesser extent, Alphaproteobacteria. The N-fixing-bacterial-community structure was subtly altered after 10 or more years of elevated atmospheric CO2, and the observed shifts differed in each biome. In the pine forest, N fertilization had a stronger effect on nifH community structure than elevated CO2 and suppressed the diversity and abundance of N-fixing bacteria under elevated atmospheric CO2 conditions. These results indicate that N-fixing bacteria have complex, interacting responses that will be important for understanding ecosystem productivity in a changing climate.

  • Biology of a widespread uncultivated archaeon that contributes to carbon fixation in the subsurface.

    Probst A, Weinmaier T, Raymann K, Perras A, Emerson J, Rattei T, Wanner G, Klingl A, Berg I, Viehweger B, Yoshinaga M, Hinrichs K-U, Thomas B, Meck S, Auerbach A, Heise M, Schintlmeister A, Schmid M, Wagner M, Gribaldo S, Banfield J, Moissl-Eichinger C
    2014 - Nat Commun., 5: 5497
    SM1 Euryarchaeon


    Subsurface microbial life contributes significantly to biogeochemical cycling, yet it remains largely uncharacterized, especially its archaeal members. This 'microbial dark matter' has been explored by recent studies that were, however, mostly based on DNA sequence information only. Here, we use diverse techniques including ultrastuctural analyses to link genomics to biology for the SM1 Euryarchaeon lineage, an uncultivated group ofsubsurface archaea. Phylogenomic analyses reveal this lineage to belong to a widespread group of archaea that we propose to classify as a new euryarchaeal order ('Candidatus Altiarchaeales'). The representative, double-membraned species 'Candidatus Altiarchaeum hamiconexum' has an autotrophic metabolism that uses a not-yet-reported Factor420-free reductive acetyl-CoA pathway, confirmed by stable carbon isotopic measurements of archaeal lipids. Our results indicate that this lineage has evolved specific metabolic and structural features like nano-grappling hooks empowering this widely distributed archaeon to predominate anaerobic groundwater, where it may represent an important carbon dioxide sink.

  • Gene swapping in the dead zone.

    Petersen J, Dubilier N
    2014 - Elife, e04600


    Viruses can swap DNA between bacteria that live in regions of the oceans with little or no oxygen.

  • Bacteria from diverse habitats colonize and compete in the mouse gut

    Seedorf H, Griffin NW, Ridaura VK, Reyes A, Cheng J, Rey FE, Smith MI, Simon GM, Scheffrahn RH, Woebken D, Spormann AM, Van Treuren W, Ursell LK, Pirrung M, Robbins-Pianka A, Cantarel BL, Lombard V, Henrissat B, Knight R, Gordon JI.
    2014 - Cell, 159: 253-266
  • Substrate-specific development of thermophilic bacteria consortia using chemically pretreated switchgrass

    Eichorst SA, Joshua C, Sathitsuksanoh N, Singh S, Simmons BA, Singer SW
    2014 - Appl Environ Microbiol., 80: 7423-7432


    Microbial communities that deconstruct plant biomass have broad relevance in biofuel production and global carbon cycling. Biomass pretreatments reduce plant biomass recalcitrance for increased efficiency of enzymatic hydrolysis. We exploited these chemical pretreatments to study howthermophilic bacterial consortia adapt to deconstruct switchgrass (SG) biomass of varying compositions. Microbial communities were adapted to untreated, ammonium fiber expansion (AFEX)-pretreated, and ionic liquid (IL)-pretreated SG under aerobic, thermophilic conditions using green waste compost as the inoculum to study biomass deconstruction by microbial consortia. After microbial cultivation, gravimetric analysis of the residual biomass demonstrated that both AFEX- and IL-pretreatment enhanced the deconstruction of the SG biomass by approximately 2-fold. 2D-NMR experiments and acetyl bromide-reactive lignin analysis indicated that polysaccharide hydrolysis was the dominant process occurring during microbial biomass deconstruction and lignin remaining in the residual biomass was largely unmodified. SSU rRNA gene amplicon libraries revealed that although the dominant taxa across these chemical pretreatments were consistently represented by members of the Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Deinococcus-Thermus phyla, the abundance of select OTUs varied suggesting adaptations to the different substrates. Combining the observations of differences in the community structure and the chemical and physical structure of the biomass, we hypothesize specific roles for individual community members in biomass deconstruction.

  • Genomic encyclopedia of bacteria and archaea: sequencing a myriad of type strains.

    Kyrpides NC, Hugenholtz P, Eisen JA, Woyke T, Göker, M, Parker CT, 45 other authors, Wagner M, Weinstock G, Weissenbach J, White O, Wang J, Zhang L, Zhou Y-G, Field D, Whitman WB, Garrity GM, Klenk H-P.
    2014 - PLoS Biol., 12(8):e1001920


    Microbes hold the key to life. They hold the secrets to our past (as the descendants of the earliest forms of life) and the prospects for our future (as we mine their genes for solutions to some of the planet's most pressing problems, from global warming to antibiotic resistance). However, the piecemeal approach that has defined efforts to study microbial genetic diversity for over 20 years and in over 30,000 genome projects risks squandering that promise. These efforts have covered less than 20% of the diversity of the cultured archaeal and bacterial species, which represent just 15% of the overall known prokaryotic diversity. Here we call for the funding of a systematic effort to produce a comprehensive genomic catalog of all cultured Bacteria and Archaea by sequencing, where available, the type strain of each species with a validly published name (currently∼11,000). This effort will provide an unprecedented level of coverage of our planet's genetic diversity, allow for the large-scale discovery of novel genes and functions, and lead to an improved understanding of microbial evolution and function in the environment.

  • Massive expansion of ubiquitination-related gene families within the Chlamydiae

    Domman D, Collingro A, Lagkouvardos I, Gehre L, Weinmaier T, Rattei T, Subtil A, Horn M
    2014 - Mol Biol Evol., 31: 2890-904


    Gene loss, gain, and transfer play an important role in shaping the genomes of all organisms; however, the interplay of these processes in isolated populations, such as in obligate intracellular bacteria, is less understood. Despite a general trend towards genome reduction in these microbes, our phylogenomic analysis of the phylum Chlamydiae revealed that within the family Parachlamydiaceae, gene family expansions have had pronounced effects on gene content. We discovered that the largest gene families within the phylum are the result of rapid gene birth-and-death evolution. These large gene families are comprised of members harboring eukaryotic-like ubiquitination-related domains, such as F-box and BTB-box domains, marking the largest reservoir of these proteins found among bacteria. A heterologous type III secretion system assay suggests that these proteins function as effectors manipulating the host cell. The large disparity in copy number of members in these families between closely related organisms suggests that nonadaptive processes might contribute to the evolution of these gene families. Gene birth-and-death evolution in concert with genomic drift might represent a previously undescribed mechanism by which isolated bacterial populations diversify.

  • Symbiont-driven sulfur crystal formation in a thiotrophic symbiosis from deep-sea hydrocarbon seeps.

    Eichinger I, Schmitz-Esser S, Schmid M, Fisher CR, Bright M
    2014 - Environ. Microbiol. Rep., 6: 364-72


    The siboglinid tubeworm Sclerolinum contortum symbiosis inhabits sulfidic sediments at deep-sea hydrocarbon seeps in the Gulf of Mexico. A single symbiont phylotype in the symbiont-housing organ is inferred from phylogenetic analyses of the 16S ribosomal ribonucleic acid (16S rRNA) gene and fluorescent in situ hybridization. The phylotype we studied here, and a previous study from an arctic hydrocarbon seep population, reveal identical 16S rRNA symbiont gene sequences. While sulfide is apparently the energy source for the symbionts (and ultimately the gutless host), both partners also have to cope with its toxicity. This study demonstrates abundant large sulfur crystals restricted to the trophosome area. Based on Raman microspectroscopy and energy dispersive X-ray analysis, these crystals have the same S8 sulfur configuration as the recently described small sulfurvesicles formed in the symbionts. The crystals reside adjacent to the symbionts in the trophosome. This suggests that their formation is either extra- or intracellular in symbionts. We propose that formation of these crystals provides both energy-storage compounds for the symbionts and serves thesymbiosis by removing excess toxic sulfide from host tissues. This symbiont-mediated sulfide detoxification may have been crucial for the establishment of thiotrophic symbiosis and continues to remain an important function of the symbionts.

  • Type I interferons have opposing effects during the emergence and recovery phases of colitis.

    Rauch I, Hainzl E, Rosebrock F, Heider S, Schwab C, Berry D, Stoiber D, Wagner M, Schleper C, Loy A, Urich T, Müller M, Strobl B, Kenner L, Decker T
    2014 - Eur J Immunol., 44: 2749-60


    The contribution of the innate immune system to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is under intensive investigation. Research in animal models has demonstrated that type I interferons (IFN-Is) protect from IBD. In contrast, studies of patients with IBD have produced conflicting results concerning the therapeutic potential of IFN-Is. Here, we present data suggesting that IFN-Is play dual roles as regulators of intestinal inflammation in dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-treated C57BL/6 mice. Though IFN-Is reduced acute intestinal damage and the abundance ofcolitis-associated intestinal bacteria caused by treatment with a high dose of DSS, they also inhibited the resolution of inflammation after DSS treatment. IFN-Is played an anti-inflammatory role by suppressing the release of IL-1β from the colon MHC class II(+) cells. Consistently, IL-1 receptor blockade reduced the severity of inflammation in IFN-I receptor-deficient mice and myeloid cell-restricted ablation of the IFN-I receptor was detrimental. The proinflammatory role of IFN-Is during recovery from DSS treatment was caused by IFN-I-dependent cell apoptosis as well as an increase in chemokine production and infiltrating inflammatory monocytes and neutrophils. Thus, IFN-Is play opposing roles in specificphases of intestinal injury and inflammation, which may be important for guiding treatment strategies in patients.

  • Vibrio metoecus sp. nov., a close relative of Vibrio cholerae isolated from coastal brackish ponds and clinical specimens.

    Kirchberger PC, Turnsek M, Hunt DE, Haley BJ, Colwell RR, Polz MF, Tarr CL, Boucher Y
    2014 - Int. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol., 9: 3208-14


    A Gram-staining-negative, curved-rod-shaped bacterium with close resemblance to Vibrio cholerae, the aetiological agent of cholera, was isolated over the course of several years from coastal brackish water (17 strains) and from clinical cases (two strains) in the United States. 16S rRNA gene identity with V. cholerae exceeded 98 % yet an average nucleotide identity based on genome data of around 86 % and multi locus sequence analysis of six housekeeping genes (mdh, adk, gyrB, recA, pgi and rpoB) clearly delineated these isolates as a distinct genotypic cluster within the V. cholerae-V. mimicus clade. Most standard identification techniques do not differentiate this cluster of isolates from V. cholerae. Only amplification of the ompW gene using V. cholerae-specific primers and a negative Voges-Proskauer test showed a difference between the two clusters. Additionally, all isolated strains differed phenotypically from V. cholerae in their ability to utilize N-acetyl-d-galactosamine and d-glucuronic acid as sole carbon sources. Furthermore, they were generally unable to infect the slime mould Dictyostelium discoideum, a widespread ability in V. cholerae. Based on these clear phenotypic differences that are not necessarily apparent in standard tests as well as average nucleotide identity and phylogeny of protein-coding genes, we propose the existence of a novel species, Vibrio metoecus sp. nov. with the type strain OP3H(T) ( = LMG 27764(T) = CIP 110643(T)). Due to its close resemblance to V. cholerae and the increasing number of strains isolated over the past several years, we suggest that V. metoecus sp. nov. is a relatively common species of the genus Vibrio, isolates of which have been identified as atypical isolates of V. cholerae in the past. Its isolation from clinical samples also indicates that strains of this species, like V. cholerae, are opportunistic pathogens.

  • Deciphering microbial interactions and detecting keystone species with co-occurrence networks

    Berry D, Widder S
    2014 - Front Microbiol, 5: 219


    Co-occurrence networks produced from microbial survey sequencing data are frequently used to identify interactions between community members. While this approach has potential to reveal ecological processes, it has been insufficiently validated due to the technical limitations inherent in studying complex microbial ecosystems. Here, we simulate multi-species microbial communities with known interaction patterns using generalized Lotka-Volterra dynamics. We then construct co-occurrence networks and evaluate how well networks reveal the underlying interactions and how experimental and ecological parameters can affect network inference and interpretation. We find that co-occurrence networks can recapitulate interaction networks under certain conditions, but that they lose interpretability when the effects of habitat filtering become significant. We demonstrate that networks suffer from local hot spots of spurious correlation in the neighborhood of hub species that engage in many interactions. We also identify topological features associated with keystone species in co-occurrence networks. This study provides a substantiated framework to guide environmental microbiologists in the construction and interpretation of co-occurrence networks from microbial survey datasets.

  • Comparative biochemical characterization of three exolytic oligoalginate lyases from Vibrio splendidus reveals complementary substrate scope, temperature, and pH adaptations.

    Jagtap SS, Hehemann JH, Polz MF, Lee JK, Zhao H
    2014 - Appl. Environ. Microbiol., 14: 4207-14


    Marine microbes use alginate lyases to degrade and catabolize alginate, a major cell wall matrix polysaccharide of brown seaweeds. Microbes frequently contain multiple, apparently redundant alginate lyases, raising the question of whether these enzymes have complementary functions. We report here on the molecular cloning and functional characterization of three exo-type oligoalginate lyases (OalA, OalB, and OalC) from Vibrio splendidus 12B01 (12B01), a marine bacterioplankton species. OalA was most active at 16°C, had a pH optimum of 6.5, and displayed activities toward poly-β-d-mannuronate [poly(M)] and poly-α-l-guluronate [poly(G)], indicating that it is a bifunctional enzyme. OalB and OalC were most active at 30 and 35°C, had pH optima of 7.0 and 7.5, and degraded poly(M·G) and poly(M), respectively. Detailed kinetic analyses of oligoalginate lyases with poly(G), poly(M), and poly(M·G) and sodium alginate as substrates demonstrated that OalA and OalC preferred poly(M), whereas OalB preferred poly(M·G). The catalytic efficiency (kcat/Km) of OalA against poly(M) increased with decreasing size of the substrate. OalA showed kcat/Km from 2,130 mg(-1) ml s(-1) for the trisaccharide to 224 mg(-1) ml s(-1) for larger oligomers of ∼50 residues, and 50.5 mg(-1) ml s(-1) for high-molecular-weight alginate. Although OalA was most active on the trisaccharide, OalB and OalC preferred dimers. Taken together, our results indicate that these three Oals have complementary substrate scopes and temperature and pH adaptations.

  • The giant ciliate Zoothamnium niveum and its thiotrophic epibiont Candidatus Thiobios zoothamnicoli: a model system to study interspecies cooperation

    Bright M, Espada-Hinojosa S, Lagkouvardos I, Volland JM
    2014 - Front Microbiol., 5: 145


    Symbioses between chemoautotrophic sulfur-oxidizing (thiotrophic) bacteria and protists or animals are among the most diverse and prevalent in the ocean. They are extremely difficult to maintain in aquaria and no thiotrophic symbiosis involving an animal host has ever been successfully cultivated. In contrast, we have cultivated the giant ciliate Zoothamnium niveum and its obligate ectosymbiont Candidatus Thiobios zoothamnicoli in small flow-through aquaria. This review provides an overview of the host and the symbiont and their phylogenetic relationships. We summarize our knowledge on the ecology, geographic distribution and life cycle of the host, on the vertical transmission of the symbiont, and on the cultivation of this symbiosis. We then discuss the benefits and costs involved in this cooperation compared with other thiotrophic symbioses and outline our view on the evolution and persistence of this byproduct mutualism.

  • Identification of Desulfobacterales as primary hydrogenotrophs in a complex microbial mat community

    Burow LC, Woebken D, Bebout BM, Marshall IPG, Singer SW, Pett-Ridge J, Prufert-Bebout L, Spormann AM, Weber PK, Hoehler TM
    2014 - Geobiology, 12: 221-230


    Hypersaline microbial mats have been shown to produce significant quantities of H2 under dark, anoxic conditions via cyanobacterial fermentation. This flux of a widely accessible microbial substrate has potential to significantly influence the ecology of the mat, and any consumption will affect the net efflux of H2 that might otherwise be captured as a resource. Here, we focus on H2 consumption in a microbial mat from Elkhorn Slough, California, USA, for which H2 production has been previously characterized. Active biologic H2 consumption in this mat is indicated by a significant time-dependent decrease in added H2 compared with a killed control. Inhibition of sulfate reduction, as indicated by a decrease in hydrogen sulfide production relative to controls, resulted in a significant increase in H2 efflux, suggesting that sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) are important hydrogenotrophs. Low methane efflux under these same conditions indicated that methanogens are likely not important hydrogenotrophs. Analyses of genes and transcripts that encode for rRNA or dissimilatory sulfite reductase, using both PCR-dependent and PCR-independent metatranscriptomic sequencing methods, demonstrated that Desulfobacterales are the dominant, active SRB in the upper, H2-producing layer of the mat (0-2 mm). This hypothesis was further supported by the identification of transcripts encoding hydrogenases derived from Desulfobacterales capable of H2 oxidation. Analysis of molecular data provided no evidence for the activity of hydrogenotrophic methanogens. The combined biogeochemical and molecular data strongly indicate that SRB belonging to the Desulfobacterales are the quantitatively important hydrogenotrophs in the Elkhorn Slough mat.

  • Spatial distribution analyses of natural phyllosphere-colonizing bacteria on Arabidopsis thaliana revealed by fluorescence in situ hybridization.

    Remus-Emsermann MNP, Lücker S, Müller DB, Potthoff E, Daims H, Vorholt JA
    2014 - Environ Microbiol, 16: 2329-2340