This Scoop is a collection of internet publications, tweets, and newly published papers in the wide field of Microbial diversity and ecology. I try to curate these here to show relevant news items for people interested in this field.
Feel free to suggest or comment on any of my postings.
Network and multivariate statistical analyses were performed to determine interactions between bacterial and fungal community T-RFLPs as well as soil properties in paired woodland and pasture sites. Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) revealed that shifts in woodland community composition correlated with soil dissolved organic carbon, while changes in pasture community composition correlated with moisture, nitrogen and phosphorus. Weighted correlation network analysis detected two distinct microbial modules per land use. Bacterial and fungal ribotypes did not group separately, rather all modules comprised of both bacterial and fungal ribotypes. Woodland modules had a similar fungal:bacterial ribotype ratio, whilst in the pasture one module was fungal-dominated. There was no correspondence between pasture and woodland modules in their ribotype composition. The modules had different relationships to soil variables, and these contrasts were not detected without the use of network analysis. This study demonstrated that fungi and bacteria, components of the soil microbial communities usually treated as separate functional groups as in a CCA approach, were co-correlated and formed distinct associations in these adjacent habitats. Understanding these distinct modular associations may shed more light on their niche space in the soil environment, and allow a more realistic description of soil microbial ecology and function.
The 2012, Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion more commonly known as the BP oil spill produced drastic changes in microbial communities, some of which contributed to bioremediation of the areas affected by the spill.
Largest virus yet discovered hints at viral diversity trapped in permafrost. (Always interesting to hear about microbial diversity - giant viruses still infectious after 30,000 years in ice!
Thomas Haverkamp's insight:
Very large viruses are doing odd stuff. I am surprised that the virus can still be activated after 30.000 years. Ancient DNA studies have already issues with samples of a 100 year old. Is it the permafrost or the Virus that made the DNA so stable....
To take advantage of affordable high-throughput next-generation sequencing technologies to characterize microbial community composition often requires the development of improved methods to overcome technical limitations inherent to the sequencing platforms. Sequencing low sequence diversity libraries such as 16S rRNA amplicons has been problematic on the Illumina MiSeq platform and often generates sequences of suboptimal quality.
Here we present an improved dual-indexing amplification and sequencing approach to assess the composition of microbial communities from clinical samples using the V3-V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene on the Illumina MiSeq platform. We introduced a 0 to 7 bp "heterogeneity spacer" to the index sequence that allows an equal proportion of samples to be sequenced out of phase.
Our approach yields high quality sequence data from 16S rRNA gene amplicons using both 250 bp and 300 bp paired-end MiSeq protocols and provides a flexible and cost-effective sequencing option.
The Tudor warship the Mary Rose has reached an important transition point in her conservation. The 19 year long process of spraying with polyethylene glycol (PEG) has been completed (April 29th 2013) and the hull is air drying under tightly controlled conditions. Acidophilic bacteria capable of oxidising iron and sulfur have been previously identified and enriched from unpreserved timbers of the Mary Rose, demonstrating that biological pathways of iron and sulfur oxidization existed potentially in this wood, before preservation with PEG. This study was designed to establish if the recycled PEG spray system was a reservoir of microorganisms capable of iron and sulfur oxidization during preservation of the Mary Rose. Microbial enrichments derived from PEG impregnated biofilm collected from underneath the Mary Rose hull, were examined to better understand the processes of cycling of iron. X-ray absorption spectroscopy was utilised to demonstrate the biological contribution to production of sulfuric acid in the wood. Using molecular microbiological techniques to examine these enrichment cultures, PEG was found to mediate a shift in the microbial community from a co-culture of Stenotrophomonas and Brevunidimonas sp, to a co-culture of Stenotrophomonas and the iron oxidising Alicyclobacillus sp. Evidence is presented that PEG is not an inert substance in relation to the redox cycling of iron. This is the first demonstration that solutions of PEG used in the conservation of the Mary Rose are promoting the oxidation of ferrous iron in acidic solutions, in which spontaneous abiotic oxidation does not occur in water. Critically, these results suggest PEG mediated redox cycling of iron between valence states in solutions of 75% PEG 200 and 50% PEG 2000 (v/v) at pH 3.0, with serious implications for the future use of PEG as a conservation material of iron rich wooden archaeological artefacts.
Tree growth limitation at treeline has mainly been studied in terms of carbon limitation while effects and mechanisms of potential nitrogen (N) limitation are barely known, especially in the southern hemisphere. We investigated how soil abiotic properties and microbial community structure and composition change from lower to upper sites within three vegetation belts (Nothofagus betuloides and N. pumilio forests, and alpine vegetation) across an elevation gradient (from 0 to 650 m a.s.l.) in Cordillera Darwin, southern Patagonia. Increasing elevation was associated with a decrease in soil N-NH4+ availability within the N. pumilio and the alpine vegetation belt. Within the alpine vegetation belt, a concurrent increase in the soil C:N ratio was associated with a shift from bacterial-dominated in lower alpine sites to fungal-dominated microbial communities in upper alpine sites. Lower forested belts (N. betuloides, N. pumilio) exhibited more complex patterns both in terms of soil properties and microbial communities. Overall, our results concur with recent findings from high-latitude and altitude ecosystems showing decreased nutrient availability with elevation, leading to fungal-dominated microbial communities. We suggest that growth limitation at treeline may result, in addition to proximal climatic parameters, from a competition between trees and soil microbial communities for limited soil inorganic N. At higher elevation, soil microbial communities could have comparably greater capacities to uptake soil N than trees, and the shift towards a fungal-dominated community would favour N immobilization over N mineralization. Though evidences of altered nutrient dynamics in tree and alpine plant tissue with increasing altitude remain needed, we contend that the measured residual low amount of inorganic N available for trees in the soil could participate to the establishment limitation. Finally, our results suggest that responses of soil microbial communities to elevation could be influenced by functional properties of forest communities for instance through variations in litter quality.
The archaeal machinery responsible for DNA replication is largely homologous to that of eukaryotes and is clearly distinct from its bacterial counterpart. Moreover, it shows high diversity in the various archaeal lineages, including different sets of components, heterogeneous taxonomic distribution, and a large number of additional copies that are sometimes highly divergent. This has made the evolutionary history of this cellular system particularly challenging to dissect. Here, we have carried out an exhaustive identification of homologs of all major replication components in over 140 complete archaeal genomes. Phylogenomic analysis allowed assigning them to either a conserved and probably essential ‘core’ of replication components that were mainly vertically inherited, or to a variable and highly divergent ‘shell’ of extra copies that have likely arisen from integrative elements. This suggests that replication proteins are frequently exchanged between extra-chromosomal elements and cellular genomes. Our study allowed clarifying the history that shaped this key cellular process (ancestral components, horizontal gene transfers, gene losses), providing important evolutionary and functional information. Finally, our precise identification of core components permitted to show that the phylogenetic signal carried by DNA replication is highly consistent with that harbored by two other key informational machineries (translation and transcription), strengthening the existence of a robust organismal tree for the Archaea.
Spironucleus salmonicida causes systemic infections in salmonid fish. It belongs to the group diplomonads, binucleated heterotrophic flagellates adapted to micro-aerobic environments. Recently we identified energy-producing hydrogenosomes in S. salmonicida. Here we present a genome analysis of the fish parasite with a focus on the comparison to the more studied diplomonad Giardia intestinalis. We annotated 8067 protein coding genes in the ~12.9 Mbp S. salmonicida genome. Unlike G. intestinalis, promoter-like motifs were found upstream of genes which are correlated with gene expression, suggesting a more elaborate transcriptional regulation. S. salmonicida can utilise more carbohydrates as energy sources, has an extended amino acid and sulfur metabolism, and more enzymes involved in scavenging of reactive oxygen species compared to G. intestinalis. Both genomes have large families of cysteine-rich membrane proteins. A cluster analysis indicated large divergence of these families in the two diplomonads. Nevertheless, one of S. salmonicida cysteine-rich proteins was localised to the plasma membrane similar to G. intestinalis variant-surface proteins. We identified S. salmonicida homologs to cyst wall proteins and showed that one of these is functional when expressed in Giardia. This suggests that the fish parasite is transmitted as a cyst between hosts. The extended metabolic repertoire and more extensive gene regulation compared to G. intestinalis suggest that the fish parasite is more adapted to cope with environmental fluctuations. Our genome analyses indicate that S. salmonicida is a well-adapted pathogen that can colonize different sites in the host.
“HeritageDaily Theory on origin of animals challenged: Animals needs only extremely little oxygen HeritageDaily How could the first small primitive cells evolve into the diversity of advanced life forms that exists on Earth today?”
Thomas Haverkamp's insight:
Not really fitting the topic, but the blog points to quite an interesting study on the origin of animals and oxygen.
Overall bacterial diversity was investigated in eight marine sediments from four sites in New Brunswick, Canada, resulting in over 44000 high quality sequences (x̄ = 5610 per sample). Analysis revealed all sites exhibited ...
Thomas Haverkamp's insight:
Comparing the actinomycetes diversity with overall bacterial diversity...
It had to happen eventually. My Twitter feed in recent times had become unbearable with the unsufferable PacBio mafia (that's you Keith, Lex, Adam and David) crowing about their PacBio completed bacterial genomes.
Thomas Haverkamp's insight:
Although microbial ecology is not about genome sequencing, this tool, Pacbio, will help in sequencing many microbial isolates from the environment.
Comparisons of closely related microorganisms have shown that individual genomes can be highly diverse in terms of gene content. In this Review, we discuss several studies showing that much of this variation is associated with social and ecological interactions, which have an important role in the population biology of wild populations of bacteria and archaea. These interactions create frequency-dependent selective pressures that can either stabilize gene frequencies at intermediate levels in populations or promote fast gene turnover, which presents as low gene frequencies in genome surveys. Thus, interpretation of gene-content diversity requires the delineation of populations according to cohesive gene flow and ecology, as micro-evolutionary changes arise in response to local selection pressures and population dynamics.
Microbes establish very diverse but still poorly understood associations with other microscopic or macroscopic organisms that do not follow the more conventional modes of competition or mutualism. Phaffia rhodozyma, an orange-coloured yeast that produces the biotechnologically relevant carotenoid astaxanthin, exhibits a Holarctic association with birch trees in temperate forests that contrasts with the more recent finding of a South American population associated with Nothofagus (southern beech) and with stromata of its biotrophic fungal parasite Cyttaria spp. We investigated whether the association of Phaffia with Nothofagus-Cyttaria could be expanded to Australasia, the other region of the world where Nothofagus are endemic, studied the genetic structure of populations representing the known worldwide distribution of Phaffia and analysed the evolution of the association with tree hosts. The phylogenetic analysis revealed that Phaffia diversity in Australasia is much higher than in other regions of the globe and that two endemic and markedly divergent lineages seem to represent new species. The observed genetic diversity correlates with host tree genera rather than with geography, which suggests that adaptation to the different niches is driving population structure in this yeast. The high genetic diversity and endemism in Australasia indicate that the genus evolved in this region and that the association with Nothofagus is the ancestral tree association. Estimates of the divergence times of Phaffia lineages point to splits that are much more recent than the break-up of Gondwana, supporting that long-distance dispersal rather than vicariance is responsible for observed distribution of P. rhodozyma.
arxiv submission: In microbial ecology studies, the most commonly used ways of investigating alpha (within-sample) diversity are either to apply count-only measures such as Simpson's index to Operational Taxonomic Unit (OTU) groupings, or to use classical phylogenetic diversity (PD), which is not abundance-weighted. Although alpha diversity measures that use abundance information in a phylogenetic framework do exist, but are not widely used within the microbial ecology community. The performance of abundance-weighted phylogenetic diversity measures compared to classical discrete measures has not been explored, and the behavior of these measures under rarefaction (sub-sampling) is not yet clear. In this paper we compare the ability of various alpha diversity measures to distinguish between different community states in the human microbiome for three different data sets. We also present and compare a novel one-parameter family of alpha diversity measures, BWPD_\theta, that interpolates between classical phylogenetic diversity (PD) and an abundance-weighted extension of PD. Additionally, we examine the sensitivity of these phylogenetic diversity measures to sampling, via computational experiments and by deriving a closed form solution for the expectation of phylogenetic quadratic entropy under re-sampling. In all three of the datasets considered, an abundance-weighted measure is the best differentiator between community states. OTU-based measures, on the other hand, are less effective in distinguishing community types. In addition, abundance-weighted phylogenetic diversity measures are less sensitive to differing sampling intensity than their unweighted counterparts. Based on these results we encourage the use of abundance-weighted phylogenetic diversity measures, especially for cases such as microbial ecology where species delimitation is difficult.
Thomas Haverkamp's insight:
A possibly interesting addition to the set of alpha diversity estimators already used in microbial ecology.
Natural microbial systems are highly dynamic due to the short generation times of the comprised organisms and their rapid and distinct reactions to changing environments. Microbial flow cytometry approaches are capable techniques for following such community dynamics in a fast and inexpensive way. Newly developed bioinformatics tools not only enable quantification of single cell dynamics, they also make nearly on-line evaluation of community attributes possible, enable interpretation of community trends, and reveal possible constraints that influence community structure and function. Microbial flow cytometry is poised to make the microbial cytome accessible for ambitious ecosystem studies. Functions of cells within the cytome can be determined either by cell sorting in combination with other omics-approaches of choice or by simple correlation analyses.
Thomas Haverkamp's insight:
the "cytome" was identified bt Jonathan Eisen as a bad omics word. Nonetheless, this review is a small paper on single cell flow cytometry that is a nice start for people interested in working with these techniques.
Abstract. Shotgun metagenome sequencing has become a fast, cheap and high-throughput technology for characterizing microbial communities in complex environments and human body sites. However, accurate ...
Thomas Haverkamp's insight:
Shotgun metagenome sequencing has become a fast, cheap and high-throughput technology for characterizing microbial communities in complex environments and human body sites. However, accurate identification of microorganisms at the strain/species level remains extremely challenging. We present a novel k-mer-based approach, termed GSMer, that identifies genome-specific markers (GSMs) from currently sequenced microbial genomes, which were then used for strain/species-level identification in metagenomes. Using 5390 sequenced microbial genomes, 8 770 321 50-mer strain-specific and 11 736 360 species-specific GSMs were identified for 4088 strains and 2005 species (4933 strains), respectively. The GSMs were first evaluated against mock community metagenomes, recently sequenced genomes and real metagenomes from different body sites, suggesting that the identified GSMs were specific to their targeting genomes. Sensitivity evaluation against synthetic metagenomes with different coverage suggested that 50 GSMs per strain were sufficient to identify most microbial strains with ≥0.25× coverage, and 10% of selected GSMs in a database should be detected for confident positive callings. Application of GSMs identified 45 and 74 microbial strains/species significantly associated with type 2 diabetes patients and obese/lean individuals from corresponding gastrointestinal tract metagenomes, respectively. Our result agreed with previous studies but provided strain-level information. The approach can be directly applied to identify microbial strains/species from raw metagenomes, without the effort of complex data pre-processing.
Mesophilic Crenarchaeota (also known as Thaumarchaeota) are ubiquitous and abundant in marine habitats. However, very little is known about their metabolic function in situ. In this study, salt marsh sediments from New Jersey were screened via stable isotope probing (SIP) for heterotrophy by amending with a single 13C-labeled compound (acetate, glycine or urea) or a complex 13C-biopolymer (lipids, proteins or growth medium (ISOGRO)). SIP incubations were done at two substrate concentrations (30–150 μM; 2–10 mg ml−1), and 13C-labeled DNA was analyzed by terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (TRFLP) analysis of 16S rRNA genes. To test for autotrophy, an amendment with 13C-bicarbonate was also performed. Our SIP analyses indicate salt marsh crenarchaea are heterotrophic, double within 2–3 days and often compete with heterotrophic bacteria for the same organic substrates. A clone library of 13C-amplicons was screened to find matches to the 13C-TRFLP peaks, with seven members of the Miscellaneous Crenarchaeal Group and seven members from the Marine Group 1.a Crenarchaeota being discerned. Some of these crenarchaea displayed a preference for particular carbon sources, whereas others incorporated nearly every 13C-substrate provided. The data suggest salt marshes may be an excellent model system for studying crenarchaeal metabolic capabilities and can provide information on the competition between crenarchaea and other microbial groups to improve our understanding of microbial ecology.
“OnEarth Magazine Hot Tub Time Machine OnEarth Magazine Because it will change the makeup of microbial communities, it will alter the availability of key nutrients, like iron and nitrogen.”
Thomas Haverkamp's insight:
This is a very interesting article on ocean acidification. It describes a natural vent of the coast of Italy that emits CO2. This creates a pH gradient in the surrounding sea. The article describes nicely how macro organisms are affect by higher CO2 levels in the water.
“In January of 2013, I wrote about one such study that was carried out by Krissi Hewitt, Frank Mannino, Antonio Gonzalez, John Chase, J. Gregory Caporaso, Scott Kelley and Rob Knight: New paper on bacterial diversity in ...”