Publications by authors named "Karen G Lloyd"

44 Publications

Genomic reconstruction of fossil and living microorganisms in ancient Siberian permafrost.

Microbiome 2021 05 17;9(1):110. Epub 2021 May 17.

Princeton University, B88, Guyot Hall, Princeton, NJ, 08544, USA.

Background: Total DNA (intracellular, iDNA and extracellular, eDNA) from ancient permafrost records the mixed genetic repository of the past and present microbial populations through geological time. Given the exceptional preservation of eDNA under perennial frozen conditions, typical metagenomic sequencing of total DNA precludes the discrimination between fossil and living microorganisms in ancient cryogenic environments. DNA repair protocols were combined with high throughput sequencing (HTS) of separate iDNA and eDNA fraction to reconstruct metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) from ancient microbial DNA entrapped in Siberian coastal permafrost.

Results: Despite the severe DNA damage in ancient permafrost, the coupling of DNA repair and HTS resulted in a total of 52 MAGs from sediments across a chronosequence (26-120 kyr). These MAGs were compared with those derived from the same samples but without utilizing DNA repair protocols. The MAGs from the youngest stratum showed minimal DNA damage and thus likely originated from viable, active microbial species. Many MAGs from the older and deeper sediment appear related to past aerobic microbial populations that had died upon freezing. MAGs from anaerobic lineages, including Asgard archaea, however exhibited minimal DNA damage and likely represent extant living microorganisms that have become adapted to the cryogenic and anoxic environments. The integration of aspartic acid racemization modeling and metaproteomics further constrained the metabolic status of the living microbial populations. Collectively, combining DNA repair protocols with HTS unveiled the adaptive strategies of microbes to long-term survivability in ancient permafrost.

Conclusions: Our results indicated that coupling of DNA repair protocols with simultaneous sequencing of iDNA and eDNA fractions enabled the assembly of MAGs from past and living microorganisms in ancient permafrost. The genomic reconstruction from the past and extant microbial populations expanded our understanding about the microbial successions and biogeochemical alterations from the past paleoenvironment to the present-day frozen state. Furthermore, we provided genomic insights into long-term survival mechanisms of microorganisms under cryogenic conditions through geological time. The combined strategies in this study can be extrapolated to examine other ancient non-permafrost environments and constrain the search for past and extant extraterrestrial life in permafrost and ice deposits on Mars. Video abstract.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40168-021-01057-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8130349PMC
May 2021

Novel taxa of Acidobacteriota implicated in seafloor sulfur cycling.

ISME J 2021 May 12. Epub 2021 May 12.

Division of Microbial Ecology, Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.

Acidobacteriota are widespread and often abundant in marine sediments, yet their metabolic and ecological properties are poorly understood. Here, we examined metabolisms and distributions of Acidobacteriota in marine sediments of Svalbard by functional predictions from metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs), amplicon sequencing of 16S rRNA and dissimilatory sulfite reductase (dsrB) genes and transcripts, and gene expression analyses of tetrathionate-amended microcosms. Acidobacteriota were the second most abundant dsrB-harboring (averaging 13%) phylum after Desulfobacterota in Svalbard sediments, and represented 4% of dsrB transcripts on average. Meta-analysis of dsrAB datasets also showed Acidobacteriota dsrAB sequences are prominent in marine sediments worldwide, averaging 15% of all sequences analysed, and represent most of the previously unclassified dsrAB in marine sediments. We propose two new Acidobacteriota genera, Candidatus Sulfomarinibacter (class Thermoanaerobaculia, "subdivision 23") and Ca. Polarisedimenticola ("subdivision 22"), with distinct genetic properties that may explain their distributions in biogeochemically distinct sediments. Ca. Sulfomarinibacter encode flexible respiratory routes, with potential for oxygen, nitrous oxide, metal-oxide, tetrathionate, sulfur and sulfite/sulfate respiration, and possibly sulfur disproportionation. Potential nutrients and energy include cellulose, proteins, cyanophycin, hydrogen, and acetate. A Ca. Polarisedimenticola MAG encodes various enzymes to degrade proteins, and to reduce oxygen, nitrate, sulfur/polysulfide and metal-oxides. 16S rRNA gene and transcript profiling of Svalbard sediments showed Ca. Sulfomarinibacter members were relatively abundant and transcriptionally active in sulfidic fjord sediments, while Ca. Polarisedimenticola members were more relatively abundant in metal-rich fjord sediments. Overall, we reveal various physiological features of uncultured marine Acidobacteriota that indicate fundamental roles in seafloor biogeochemical cycling.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41396-021-00992-0DOI Listing
May 2021

Microbial Taxonomy Run Amok.

Trends Microbiol 2021 May 2;29(5):394-404. Epub 2021 Feb 2.

Department of Microbiology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA; Center for Environmental Biotechnology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA; Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA; Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA; Biosciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831, USA. Electronic address:

DNA sequencing has led to an explosion in discovery of microbial phylogenetic novelty, especially that represented by uncultivated taxa, to which the traditional system of prokaryotic taxonomy has not adapted. A lack of expansion of the International Code of Nomenclature of Prokaryotes (ICNP, 'the Code') to effectively capture this information has created a 'wild west' situation where names are published or appear in popular reference databases without further verification or validation. The rapid propagation of variant and questionable naming methods has led to widespread confusion and undermines prior accomplishments. We exemplify inconsistencies that have arisen from this practice and endanger the interoperability of scientific findings. The immediate solution to this problem is to develop and adopt universal best practices that are accepted by expert researchers, major publishers, the International Committee on Systematics of Prokaryotes (ICSP), and international microbiological societies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tim.2020.12.010DOI Listing
May 2021

ANME-1 archaea may drive methane accumulation and removal in estuarine sediments.

Environ Microbiol Rep 2021 Apr 18;13(2):185-194. Epub 2021 Jan 18.

Department of Microbiology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA.

ANME-1 archaea subsist on the very low energy of anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM). Most marine sediments shift from net AOM in the sulfate methane transition zone (SMTZ) to methanogenesis in the methane zone (MZ) below it. In White Oak River estuarine sediments, ANME-1 comprised 99.5% of 16S rRNA genes from amplicons and 100% of 16S rRNA genes from metagenomes of the Methanomicrobia in the SMTZ and 99.9% and 98.3%, respectively, in the MZ. Each of the 16 ANME-1 OTUs (97% similarity) had peaks in the SMTZ that coincided with peaks of putative sulfate-reducing bacteria Desulfatiglans sp. and SEEP-SRB1. In the MZ, ANME-1, but none of the putative sulfate-reducing bacteria or cultured methanogens, increased with depth. Our meta-analysis of public data showed only ANME-1 expressed methanogenic genes during both net AOM and net methanogenesis in an enrichment culture. We conclude that ANME-1 perform AOM in the SMTZ and methanogenesis in the MZ of White Oak River sediments. This metabolic flexibility may expand habitable zones in extraterrestrial environments, since it enables greater energy yields in a fluctuating energetic landscape.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1758-2229.12926DOI Listing
April 2021

Time as a microbial resource.

Authors:
Karen G Lloyd

Environ Microbiol Rep 2021 Feb 13;13(1):18-21. Epub 2020 Oct 13.

Microbiology Department, University of Tennessee, Mossman Building Rm 307, Knoxville, TN, 37996, USA.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1758-2229.12892DOI Listing
February 2021

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

PLoS One 2020 27;15(8):e0234839. Epub 2020 Aug 27.

Department of Microbiology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, United States of America.

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.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0234839PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7451513PMC
October 2020

Evidence for a Growth Zone for Deep-Subsurface Microbial Clades in Near-Surface Anoxic Sediments.

Appl Environ Microbiol 2020 09 17;86(19). Epub 2020 Sep 17.

University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA.

Global marine sediments harbor a large and highly diverse microbial biosphere, but the mechanism by which this biosphere is established during sediment burial is largely unknown. During burial in marine sediments, concentrations of easily metabolized organic compounds and total microbial cell abundance decrease. However, it is unknown whether some microbial clades increase with depth. We show total population increases in 38 microbial families over 3 cm of sediment depth in the upper 7.5 cm of White Oak River (WOR) estuary sediments. Clades that increased with depth were more often associated with one or more of the following: anaerobes, uncultured, or common in deep marine sediments relative to those that decreased. Maximum doubling times ( steady-state growth rates could be faster to balance cell decay) were estimated as 2 to 25 years by combining sedimentation rate with either quantitative PCR (qPCR) or the product of the fraction read abundance of 16S rRNA genes and total cell counts (FRAxC). Doubling times were within an order of magnitude of each other in two adjacent cores, as well as in two laboratory enrichments of Cape Lookout Bight (CLB), NC, sediments (average difference of 28% ± 19%). qPCR and FRAxC in sediment cores and laboratory enrichments produced similar doubling times for key deep subsurface uncultured clades (8.7 ± 1.9 years) and /MBG-D (4.1 ± 0.7 years). We conclude that common deep subsurface microbial clades experience a narrow zone of growth in shallow sediments, offering an opportunity for selection of long-term subsistence traits after resuspension events. Many studies show that the uncultured microbes that dominate global marine sediments do not actually increase in population size as they are buried in marine sediments; rather, they exist in a sort of prolonged torpor for thousands of years. This is because, although studies have shown biomass turnover in these clades, no evidence has ever been found that deeper sediments have larger populations for specific clades than shallower layers. We discovered that they actually do increase population sizes during burial, but only in the upper few centimeters. This suggests that marine sediments may be a vast repository of mostly nongrowing microbes with a thin and relatively rapid area of cell abundance increase in the upper 10 cm, offering a chance for subsurface organisms to undergo natural selection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AEM.00877-20DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7499048PMC
September 2020

Roadmap for naming uncultivated Archaea and Bacteria.

Nat Microbiol 2020 08 8;5(8):987-994. Epub 2020 Jun 8.

National Museum of Natural Sciences, CSIC, Madrid, Spain.

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.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41564-020-0733-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7381421PMC
August 2020

Author Correction: Diversity, ecology and evolution of Archaea.

Nat Microbiol 2020 Jul;5(7):976

Microbiology Department, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA.

An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41564-020-0741-xDOI Listing
July 2020

Diversity, ecology and evolution of Archaea.

Nat Microbiol 2020 07 4;5(7):887-900. Epub 2020 May 4.

Microbiology Department, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA.

Compared to bacteria, our knowledge of archaeal biology is limited. Historically, microbiologists have mostly relied on culturing and single-gene diversity surveys to understand Archaea in nature. However, only six of the 27 currently proposed archaeal phyla have cultured representatives. Advances in genomic sequencing and computational approaches are revolutionizing our understanding of Archaea. The recovery of genomes belonging to uncultured groups from the environment has resulted in the description of several new phyla, many of which are globally distributed and are among the predominant organisms on the planet. In this Review, we discuss how these genomes, together with long-term enrichment studies and elegant in situ measurements, are providing insights into the metabolic capabilities of the Archaea. We also debate how such studies reveal how important Archaea are in mediating an array of ecological processes, including global carbon and nutrient cycles, and how this increase in archaeal diversity has expanded our view of the tree of life and early archaeal evolution, and has provided new insights into the origin of eukaryotes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41564-020-0715-zDOI Listing
July 2020

Helium, inorganic and organic carbon isotopes of fluids and gases across the Costa Rica convergent margin.

Sci Data 2019 11 25;6(1):284. Epub 2019 Nov 25.

Department of Microbiology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA.

In 2017, fluid and gas samples were collected across the Costa Rican Arc. He and Ne isotopes, C isotopes as well as total organic and inorganic carbon concentrations were measured. The samples (n = 24) from 2017 are accompanied by (n = 17) samples collected in 2008, 2010 and 2012. He-isotopes ranged from arc-like (6.8 R) to crustal (0.5 R). Measured dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) δC values varied from 3.55 to -21.57‰, with dissolved organic carbon (DOC) following the trends of DIC. Gas phase CO only occurs within ~20 km of the arc; δC values varied from -0.84 to -5.23‰. Onsite, pH, conductivity, temperature and dissolved oxygen (DO) were measured; pH ranged from 0.9-10.0, conductivity from 200-91,900 μS/cm, temperatures from 23-89 °C and DO from 2-84%. Data were used to develop a model which suggests that ~91 ± 4.0% of carbon released from the slab/mantle beneath the Costa Rican forearc is sequestered within the crust by calcite deposition with an additional 3.3 ± 1.3% incorporated into autotrophic biomass.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41597-019-0302-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6961234PMC
November 2019

High proportions of bacteria and archaea across most biomes remain uncultured.

ISME J 2019 12 6;13(12):3126-3130. Epub 2019 Aug 6.

Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 90089, USA.

A recent paper by Martiny argues that "high proportions" of bacteria in diverse Earth environments have been cultured. Here we reanalyze a portion of the data in that paper, and argue that the conclusion is based on several technical errors, most notably a calculation of sequence similarity that does not account for sequence gaps, and the reliance on 16S rRNA gene amplicons that are known to be biased towards cultured organisms. We further argue that the paper is also based on a conceptual error: namely, that sequence similarity cannot be used to infer "culturability" because one cannot infer physiology from 16S rRNA gene sequences. Combined with other recent, more reliable studies, the evidence supports the conclusion that most bacterial and archaeal taxa remain uncultured.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41396-019-0484-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6863901PMC
December 2019

Predominance of Anaerobic, Spore-Forming Bacteria in Metabolically Active Microbial Communities from Ancient Siberian Permafrost.

Appl Environ Microbiol 2019 08 18;85(15). Epub 2019 Jul 18.

Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.

The prevalence of microbial life in permafrost up to several million years (Ma) old has been well documented. However, the long-term survivability, evolution, and metabolic activity of the entombed microbes over this time span remain underexplored. We integrated aspartic acid (Asp) racemization assays with metagenomic sequencing to characterize the microbial activity, phylogenetic diversity, and metabolic functions of indigenous microbial communities across a ∼0.01- to 1.1-Ma chronosequence of continuously frozen permafrost from northeastern Siberia. Although Asp in the older bulk sediments (0.8 to 1.1 Ma) underwent severe racemization relative to that in the youngest sediment (∼0.01 Ma), the much lower d-Asp/l-Asp ratio (0.05 to 0.14) in the separated cells from all samples suggested that indigenous microbial communities were viable and metabolically active in ancient permafrost up to 1.1 Ma. The microbial community in the youngest sediment was the most diverse and was dominated by the phyla and In contrast, microbial diversity decreased dramatically in the older sediments, and anaerobic, spore-forming bacteria within became overwhelmingly dominant. In addition to the enrichment of sporulation-related genes, functional genes involved in anaerobic metabolic pathways such as fermentation, sulfate reduction, and methanogenesis were more abundant in the older sediments. Taken together, the predominance of spore-forming bacteria and associated anaerobic metabolism in the older sediments suggest that a subset of the original indigenous microbial community entrapped in the permafrost survived burial over geological time. Understanding the long-term survivability and associated metabolic traits of microorganisms in ancient permafrost frozen millions of years ago provides a unique window into the burial and preservation processes experienced in general by subsurface microorganisms in sedimentary deposits because of permafrost's hydrological isolation and exceptional DNA preservation. We employed aspartic acid racemization modeling and metagenomics to determine which microbial communities were metabolically active in the 1.1-Ma permafrost from northeastern Siberia. The simultaneous sequencing of extracellular and intracellular genomic DNA provided insight into the metabolic potential distinguishing extinct from extant microorganisms under frozen conditions over this time interval. This in-depth metagenomic sequencing advances our understanding of the microbial diversity and metabolic functions of extant microbiomes from early Pleistocene permafrost. Therefore, these findings extend our knowledge of the survivability of microbes in permafrost from 33,000 years to 1.1 Ma.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AEM.00560-19DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6643238PMC
August 2019

Uncultured Microbial Phyla Suggest Mechanisms for Multi-Thousand-Year Subsistence in Baltic Sea Sediments.

mBio 2019 04 16;10(2). Epub 2019 Apr 16.

University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

Energy-starved microbes in deep marine sediments subsist at near-zero growth for thousands of years, yet the mechanisms for their subsistence are unknown because no model strains have been cultivated from most of these groups. We investigated Baltic Sea sediments with single-cell genomics, metabolomics, metatranscriptomics, and enzyme assays to identify possible subsistence mechanisms employed by uncultured , , group OPB41, , , , , , and marine group II lineages. Some functions appeared to be shared by multiple lineages, such as trehalose production and NAD-consuming deacetylation, both of which have been shown to increase cellular life spans in other organisms by stabilizing proteins and nucleic acids, respectively. Other possible subsistence mechanisms differed between lineages, possibly providing them different physiological niches. Enzyme assays and transcripts suggested that and group OPB41 catabolized sugars, whereas and catabolized peptides. Metabolite and transcript data suggested that utilized allantoin, possibly as an energetic substrate or chemical protectant, and also possessed energy-efficient sodium pumps. single-cell amplified genomes (SAGs) recruited transcripts for full pathways for the production of all 20 canonical amino acids, and the gene for amino acid exporter YddG was one of their most highly transcribed genes, suggesting that they may benefit from metabolic interdependence with other cells. Subsistence of uncultured phyla in deep subsurface sediments may occur through shared strategies of using chemical protectants for biomolecular stabilization, but also by differentiating into physiological niches and metabolic interdependencies. Much of life on Earth exists in a very slow-growing state, with microbes from deeply buried marine sediments representing an extreme example. These environments are like natural laboratories that have run multi-thousand-year experiments that are impossible to perform in a laboratory. We borrowed some techniques that are commonly used in laboratory experiments and applied them to these natural samples to make hypotheses about how these microbes subsist for so long at low activity. We found that some methods for stabilizing proteins and nucleic acids might be used by many members of the community. We also found evidence for niche differentiation strategies, and possibly cross-feeding, suggesting that even though they are barely growing, complex ecological interactions continue to occur over ultralong timescales.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mBio.02376-18DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6469976PMC
April 2019

Microbial Organic Matter Degradation Potential in Baltic Sea Sediments Is Influenced by Depositional Conditions and Geochemistry.

Appl Environ Microbiol 2019 02 6;85(4). Epub 2019 Feb 6.

Department of Life Sciences, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, Texas, USA

Globally, marine sediments are a vast repository of organic matter, which is degraded through various microbial pathways, including polymer hydrolysis and monomer fermentation. The sources, abundances, and quality (i.e., labile or recalcitrant) of the organic matter and the composition of the microbial assemblages vary between sediments. Here, we examine new and previously published sediment metagenomes from the Baltic Sea and the nearby Kattegat region to determine connections between geochemistry and the community potential to degrade organic carbon. Diverse organic matter hydrolysis encoding genes were present in sediments between 0.25 and 67 meters below seafloor and were in higher relative abundances in those sediments that contained more organic matter. New analysis of previously published metatranscriptomes demonstrated that many of these genes were transcribed in two organic-rich Holocene sediments. Some of the variation in deduced pathways in the metagenomes correlated with carbon content and depositional conditions. Fermentation-related genes were found in all samples and encoded multiple fermentation pathways. Notably, genes involved in alcohol metabolism were amongst the most abundant of these genes, indicating that this is an important but underappreciated aspect of sediment carbon cycling. This study is a step towards a more complete understanding of microbial food webs and the impacts of depositional facies on present sedimentary microbial communities. Sediments sequester organic matter over geologic time scales and impact global climate regulation. Microbial communities in marine sediments drive organic matter degradation, but the factors controlling their assemblages and activities, which in turn impact their role in organic matter degradation, are not well understood. Hence, determining the role of microbial communities in carbon cycling in various sediment types is necessary for predicting future sediment carbon cycling. We examined microbial communities in Baltic Sea sediments, which were deposited across various climatic and geographical regimes to determine the relationship between microbial potential for breakdown of organic matter and abiotic factors, including geochemistry and sediment lithology. The findings from this study will contribute to our understanding of carbon cycling in the deep biosphere and how microbial communities live in deeply buried environments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AEM.02164-18DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6365825PMC
February 2019

Genomic and transcriptomic insights into the ecology and metabolism of benthic archaeal cosmopolitan, Thermoprofundales (MBG-D archaea).

ISME J 2019 04 4;13(4):885-901. Epub 2018 Dec 4.

Institute for Advanced Study, Shenzhen University, 518060, Shenzhen, People's Republic of China.

Marine Benthic Group D (MBG-D) archaea, discovered by 16S rRNA gene survey decades ago, are ecologically important, yet understudied and uncultured sedimentary archaea. In this study, a comprehensive meta-analysis based on the 16S rRNA genes of MBG-D archaea showed that MBG-D archaea are one of the most frequently found archaeal lineages in global sediment with widespread distribution and high abundance, including 16 subgroups in total. Interestingly, some subgroups show significant segregations toward salinity and methane seeps. Co-occurrence analyses indicate significant non-random association of MBG-D archaea with Lokiarchaeota (in both saline and freshwater sediments) and Hadesarchaea, suggesting potential interactions among these archaeal groups. Meanwhile, based on four nearly complete metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) and corresponding metatranscriptomes reconstructed from mangrove and intertidal mudflat sediments, we provide insights on metabolic potentials and ecological functions of MBG-D archaea. MBG-D archaea appear to be capable of transporting and assimilating peptides and generating acetate and ethanol through fermentation. Metatranscriptomic analysis suggests high expression of genes for acetate and amino acid utilization and for peptidases, especially the M09B-type extracellular peptidase (collagenase) showing high expression levels in all four mangrove MAGs. Beyond heterotrophic central carbon metabolism, the MBG-D genomes include genes that might encode two autotrophic pathways: Wood-Ljundahl (WL) pathways using both HMPT and Hfolate as C carriers, and an incomplete dicarboxylate/4-hydroxybutyrate cycle with alternative bypasses from pyruvate to malate/oxaloacetate during dicarboxylation. These findings reveal MBG-D archaea as an important ubiquitous benthic sedimentary archaeal group with specific mixotrophic metabolisms, so we proposed the name Thermoprofundales as a new Order within the Class Thermoplasmata. Globally, Thermoprofundales and other benthic archaea might synergistically transform benthic organic matter, possibly playing a vital role in sedimentary carbon cycle.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41396-018-0321-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6461988PMC
April 2019

Phylogenetically Novel Uncultured Microbial Cells Dominate Earth Microbiomes.

mSystems 2018 Sep-Oct;3(5). Epub 2018 Sep 25.

Joint Institute for Computational Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA.

To describe a microbe's physiology, including its metabolism, environmental roles, and growth characteristics, it must be grown in a laboratory culture. Unfortunately, many phylogenetically novel groups have never been cultured, so their physiologies have only been inferred from genomics and environmental characteristics. Although the diversity, or number of different taxonomic groups, of uncultured clades has been studied well, their global abundances, or numbers of cells in any given environment, have not been assessed. We quantified the degree of similarity of 16S rRNA gene sequences from diverse environments in publicly available metagenome and metatranscriptome databases, which we show have far less of the culture bias present in primer-amplified 16S rRNA gene surveys, to those of their nearest cultured relatives. Whether normalized to scaffold read depths or not, the highest abundances of metagenomic 16S rRNA gene sequences belong to phylogenetically novel uncultured groups in seawater, freshwater, terrestrial subsurface, soil, hypersaline environments, marine sediment, hot springs, hydrothermal vents, nonhuman hosts, snow, and bioreactors (22% to 87% uncultured genera to classes and 0% to 64% uncultured phyla). The exceptions were human and human-associated environments, which were dominated by cultured genera (45% to 97%). We estimate that uncultured genera and phyla could comprise 7.3 × 10 (81%) and 2.2 × 10 (25%) of microbial cells, respectively. Uncultured phyla were overrepresented in metatranscriptomes relative to metagenomes (46% to 84% of sequences in a given environment), suggesting that they are viable. Therefore, uncultured microbes, often from deeply phylogenetically divergent groups, dominate nonhuman environments on Earth, and their undiscovered physiologies may matter for Earth systems. In the past few decades, it has become apparent that most of the microbial diversity on Earth has never been characterized in laboratory cultures. We show that these unknown microbes, sometimes called "microbial dark matter," are numerically dominant in all major environments on Earth, with the exception of the human body, where most of the microbes have been cultured. We also estimate that about one-quarter of the population of microbial cells on Earth belong to phyla with no cultured relatives, suggesting that these never-before-studied organisms may be important for ecosystem functions. : An author video summary of this article is available.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mSystems.00055-18DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6156271PMC
September 2018

Methanogens in the Antarctic Dry Valley permafrost.

FEMS Microbiol Ecol 2018 08;94(8)

Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science, Russian Academy of Sciences, Pushchino, 142290, Russia.

Polar permafrost is at the forefront of climate change, yet only a few studies have enriched the native methane-producing microbes that might provide positive feedbacks to climate change. Samples Ant1 and Ant2, collected in Antarctic Miers Valley from permafrost sediments, with and without biogenic methane, respectively, were evaluated for methanogenic activity and presence of methanogens. After a one-year incubation of both samples under anaerobic conditions, methane production was observed only at room temperature in microcosm Ant1 with CO2/H2 (20/80) as carbon and energy sources and was monitored during the subsequent 10 years. The concentration of methane in the headspace of microcosm Ant1 changed from 0.8% to a maximum of 45%. Archaeal 16S rRNA genes from microcosm Ant1 were related to psychrotolerant Methanosarcina lacustris. Repeated efforts at achieving a pure culture of this organism were unsuccessful. Metagenomic reads obtained for the methane-producing microcosm Ant1 were assembled and resulted in a 99.84% complete genome affiliated with the genus Methanosarcina. The metagenome assembled genome contained cold-adapted enzymes and pathways suggesting that the novel uncultured Methanosarcina sp. Ant1 is adapted to sub-freezing conditions in permafrost. This is the first methanogen genome reported from the 15 000 years old permafrost of the Antarctic Dry Valleys.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/femsec/fiy109DOI Listing
August 2018

Estimating Population Turnover Rates by Relative Quantification Methods Reveals Microbial Dynamics in Marine Sediment.

Appl Environ Microbiol 2018 Jan 15;84(1). Epub 2017 Dec 15.

Department of Microbiology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

The difficulty involved in quantifying biogeochemically significant microbes in marine sediments limits our ability to assess interspecific interactions, population turnover times, and niches of uncultured taxa. We incubated surface sediments from Cape Lookout Bight, North Carolina, USA, anoxically at 21°C for 122 days. Sulfate decreased until day 68, after which methane increased, with hydrogen concentrations consistent with the predicted values of an electron donor exerting thermodynamic control. We measured turnover times using two relative quantification methods, quantitative PCR (qPCR) and the product of 16S gene read abundance and total cell abundance (FRAxC, which stands for "fraction of read abundance times cells"), to estimate the population turnover rates of uncultured clades. Most 16S rRNA reads were from deeply branching uncultured groups, and ∼98% of 16S rRNA genes did not abruptly shift in relative abundance when sulfate reduction gave way to methanogenesis. Uncultured and increased at the onset of methanogenesis with population turnover times estimated from qPCR at 9.7 ± 3.9 and 12.6 ± 4.1 days, respectively. These were consistent with FRAxC turnover times of 9.4 ± 5.8 and 9.2 ± 3.5 days, respectively. Uncultured , which are possibly fermentative syntrophs of methanogens, and uncultured Kazan-3A-21 archaea also increased at the onset of methanogenesis, with FRAxC turnover times of 14.7 ± 6.9 and 10.6 ± 3.6 days. Kazan-3A-21 may therefore either perform methanogenesis or form a fermentative syntrophy with methanogens. Three genera of sulfate-reducing bacteria, , , and , increased in the first 19 days before declining rapidly during sulfate reduction. We conclude that population turnover times on the order of days can be measured robustly in organic-rich marine sediment, and the transition from sulfate-reducing to methanogenic conditions stimulates growth only in a few clades directly involved in methanogenesis, rather than in the whole microbial community. Many microbes cannot be isolated in pure culture to determine their preferential growth conditions and predict their response to changing environmental conditions. We created a microcosm of marine sediments that allowed us to simulate a diagenetic profile using a temporal analog for depth. This allowed for the observation of the microbial community population dynamics caused by the natural shift from sulfate reduction to methanogenesis. Our research provides evidence for the population dynamics of uncultured microbes as well as the application of a novel method of turnover rate analysis for individual taxa within a mixed incubation, FRAxC, which stands for "fraction of read abundance times cells," which was verified by quantitative PCR. This allows for the calculation of population turnover times for microbes in a natural setting and the identification of uncultured clades involved in geochemical processes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AEM.01443-17DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5734028PMC
January 2018

Thriving or surviving? Evaluating active microbial guilds in Baltic Sea sediment.

Environ Microbiol Rep 2017 10 19;9(5):528-536. Epub 2017 Sep 19.

Department of Life Sciences, Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, TX, USA.

Microbial life in the deep subsurface biosphere is taxonomically and metabolically diverse, but it is vigorously debated whether the resident organisms are thriving (metabolizing, maintaining cellular integrity and expressing division genes) or just surviving. As part of Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 347: Baltic Sea Paleoenvironment, we extracted and sequenced RNA from organic carbon-rich, nutrient-replete and permanently anoxic sediment. In stark contrast to the oligotrophic subsurface biosphere, Baltic Sea Basin samples provided a unique opportunity to understand the balance between metabolism and other cellular processes. Targeted sequencing of 16S rRNA transcripts showed Atribacteria (an uncultured phylum) and Chloroflexi to be among the dominant and the active members of the community. Metatranscriptomic analysis identified methane cycling, sulfur cycling and halogenated compound utilization as active in situ respiratory metabolisms. Genes for cellular maintenance, cellular division, motility and antimicrobial production were also transcribed. This indicates that microbial life in deep subsurface Baltic Sea Basin sediments was not only alive, but thriving.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1758-2229.12578DOI Listing
October 2017

Interlaboratory quantification of Bacteria and Archaea in deeply buried sediments of the Baltic Sea (IODP Expedition 347).

FEMS Microbiol Ecol 2017 03;93(3)

Department of Microbiology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA.

Two common quantification methods for subseafloor microorganisms are catalyzed reporter deposition fluorescence in situ hybridization (CARD-FISH) and quantitative PCR (qPCR). Using these methods, we quantified Bacteria and Archaea in Baltic Sea basin sediments (IODP Exp. 347) down to 90 mbsf, testing the following hypotheses in an interlaboratory comparison: (1) proteinase K permeabilization of archaeal cell walls increases CARD-FISH accuracy and (2) qPCR varies by more than an order of magnitude between laboratories using similar protocols. CARD-FISH counts did not differ between permeabilization treatments, demonstrating that proteinase K did not increase accuracy of CARD-FISH counts. However, 91% of these counts were below the quantification limit of 1.3 × 107 cells cm-3. For qPCR, data varied between laboratories, but were largely within the same order of magnitude if the same primers were used, with 88% of samples being above the quantification limit. Copy number values were elevated by preparing a sediment slurry before DNA extraction: 3.88 × 106-2.34 × 109 16S rRNA gene copies cm-3 vs. 1.39 × 107-1.87 × 109 total cells cm-3. By qPCR, Bacteria were more abundant than Archaea, although they usually were within the same order of magnitude. Overall, qPCR is more sensitive than CARD-FISH, but both require optimization to consistently achieve both precision and accuracy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/femsec/fix007DOI Listing
March 2017

Draft Genome Sequence of Antarctic Methanogen Enriched from Dry Valley Permafrost.

Genome Announc 2016 Dec 8;4(6). Epub 2016 Dec 8.

Department of Microbiology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

A genomic reconstruction belonging to the genus Methanosarcina was assembled from metagenomic data from a methane-producing enrichment of Antarctic permafrost. This is the first methanogen genome reported from permafrost of the Dry Valleys and can help shed light on future climate-affected methane dynamics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/genomeA.01362-16DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5146446PMC
December 2016

Culture Independent Genomic Comparisons Reveal Environmental Adaptations for Altiarchaeales.

Front Microbiol 2016 5;7:1221. Epub 2016 Aug 5.

Department of Microbiology, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Knoxville TN, USA.

The recently proposed candidatus order Altiarchaeales remains an uncultured archaeal lineage composed of genetically diverse, globally widespread organisms frequently observed in anoxic subsurface environments. In spite of 15 years of studies on the psychrophilic biofilm-producing Candidatus Altiarchaeum hamiconexum and its close relatives, very little is known about the phylogenetic and functional diversity of the widespread free-living marine members of this taxon. From methanogenic sediments in the White Oak River Estuary, NC, USA, we sequenced a single cell amplified genome (SAG), WOR_SM1_SCG, and used it to identify and refine two high-quality genomes from metagenomes, WOR_SM1_79 and WOR_SM1_86-2, from the same site. These three genomic reconstructions form a monophyletic group, which also includes three previously published genomes from metagenomes from terrestrial springs and a SAG from Sakinaw Lake in a group previously designated as pMC2A384. A synapomorphic mutation in the Altiarchaeales tRNA synthetase β subunit, pheT, caused the protein to be encoded as two subunits at non-adjacent loci. Consistent with the terrestrial spring clades, our estuarine genomes contained a near-complete autotrophic metabolism, H2 or CO as potential electron donors, a reductive acetyl-CoA pathway for carbon fixation, and methylotroph-like NADP(H)-dependent dehydrogenase. Phylogenies based on 16S rRNA genes and concatenated conserved proteins identified two distinct sub-clades of Altiarchaeales, Alti-1 populated by organisms from actively flowing springs, and Alti-2 which was more widespread, diverse, and not associated with visible mats. The core Alti-1 genome suggested Alti-1 is adapted for the stream environment with lipopolysaccharide production capacity and extracellular hami structures. The core Alti-2 genome suggested members of this clade are free-living with distinct mechanisms for energy maintenance, motility, osmoregulation, and sulfur redox reactions. These data suggested that the hamus structures found in Candidatus Altiarchaeum hamiconexum are not present outside of stream-adapted Altiarchaeales. Homologs to a Na(+) transporter and membrane bound coenzyme A disulfide reductase that were unique to the brackish sediment Alti-2 genomes, could indicate adaptations to the estuarine, sulfur-rich environment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2016.01221DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4975002PMC
August 2016

Single-Cell Genome and Group-Specific dsrAB Sequencing Implicate Marine Members of the Class Dehalococcoidia (Phylum Chloroflexi) in Sulfur Cycling.

mBio 2016 05 3;7(3). Epub 2016 May 3.

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, Leipzig, Germany.

Unlabelled: The marine subsurface sediment biosphere is widely inhabited by bacteria affiliated with the class Dehalococcoidia (DEH), phylum Chloroflexi, and 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 was 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 The presence of genes encoding dissimilatory sulfite reductase (Dsr) suggests that 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 genes were amplified and sequenced from various marine sediments. Many of the amplified dsrAB sequences were 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 species. DEH-C11 also harbored 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 that this RdhA may not be a terminal reductase. The presence of other genes indicated that 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 unrecognized role in sulfur cycling and reveal the potential for expanded catabolic and respiratory functions among subsurface DEH.

Importance: Sediments underlying our oceans are inhabited by microorganisms in cell numbers similar to those estimated to inhabit the oceans. Microorganisms in sediments consist of various diverse and uncharacterized groups that contribute substantially to global biogeochemical cycles. Since most subsurface microorganisms continue to evade cultivation, possibly due to very slow growth, we obtained and analyzed genomic information from a representative of one of the most widespread and abundant, yet uncharacterized bacterial groups of the marine subsurface. We describe several key features that may contribute to their widespread distribution, such as respiratory flexibility and the potential to use oxidized sulfur compounds, which are abundant in marine environments, as electron acceptors. Together, these data provide important information that can be used to assist in designing enrichment strategies or other postgenomic studies, while also improving our understanding of the diversity and distribution of dsrAB genes, which are widely used functional marker genes for sulfur-cycling microbes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mBio.00266-16DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4959651PMC
May 2016

The Guaymas Basin Hiking Guide to Hydrothermal Mounds, Chimneys, and Microbial Mats: Complex Seafloor Expressions of Subsurface Hydrothermal Circulation.

Front Microbiol 2016 18;7:75. Epub 2016 Feb 18.

Department of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC, USA.

The hydrothermal mats, mounds, and chimneys of the southern Guaymas Basin are the surface expression of complex subsurface hydrothermal circulation patterns. In this overview, we document the most frequently visited features of this hydrothermal area with photographs, temperature measurements, and selected geochemical data; many of these distinct habitats await characterization of their microbial communities and activities. Microprofiler deployments on microbial mats and hydrothermal sediments show their steep geochemical and thermal gradients at millimeter-scale vertical resolution. Mapping these hydrothermal features and sampling locations within the southern Guaymas Basin suggest linkages to underlying shallow sills and heat flow gradients. Recognizing the inherent spatial limitations of much current Guaymas Basin sampling calls for comprehensive surveys of the wider spreading region.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2016.00075DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4757712PMC
February 2016

Microbial Communities in Methane- and Short Chain Alkane-Rich Hydrothermal Sediments of Guaymas Basin.

Front Microbiol 2016 29;7:17. Epub 2016 Jan 29.

Department of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC, USA.

The hydrothermal sediments of Guaymas Basin, an active spreading center in the Gulf of California (Mexico), are rich in porewater methane, short-chain alkanes, sulfate and sulfide, and provide a model system to explore habitat preferences of microorganisms, including sulfate-dependent, methane- and short chain alkane-oxidizing microbial communities. In this study, hot sediments (above 60°C) covered with sulfur-oxidizing microbial mats surrounding a hydrothermal mound (termed "Mat Mound") were characterized by porewater geochemistry of methane, C2-C6 short-chain alkanes, sulfate, sulfide, sulfate reduction rate measurements, in situ temperature gradients, bacterial and archaeal 16S rRNA gene clone libraries and V6 tag pyrosequencing. The most abundantly detected groups in the Mat mound sediments include anaerobic methane-oxidizing archaea of the ANME-1 lineage and its sister clade ANME-1Guaymas, the uncultured bacterial groups SEEP-SRB2 within the Deltaproteobacteria and the separately branching HotSeep-1 Group; these uncultured bacteria are candidates for sulfate-reducing alkane oxidation and for sulfate-reducing syntrophy with ANME archaea. The archaeal dataset indicates distinct habitat preferences for ANME-1, ANME-1-Guaymas, and ANME-2 archaea in Guaymas Basin hydrothermal sediments. The bacterial groups SEEP-SRB2 and HotSeep-1 co-occur with ANME-1 and ANME-1Guaymas in hydrothermally active sediments underneath microbial mats in Guaymas Basin. We propose the working hypothesis that this mixed bacterial and archaeal community catalyzes the oxidation of both methane and short-chain alkanes, and constitutes a microbial community signature that is characteristic for hydrothermal and/or cold seep sediments containing both substrates.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2016.00017DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4731509PMC
February 2016

New aminopeptidase from "microbial dark matter" archaeon.

FASEB J 2015 Sep 10;29(9):4071-9. Epub 2015 Jun 10.

*Midwest Center for Structural Genomics and Structural Biology Center, Biosciences Division, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Illinois, USA; Department of Microbiology and Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Marine sediments host a large population of diverse, heterotrophic, uncultured microorganisms with unknown physiologies that control carbon flow through organic matter decomposition. Recently, single-cell genomics uncovered new key players in these processes, such as the miscellaneous crenarchaeotal group. These widespread archaea encode putative intra- and extracellular proteases for the degradation of detrital proteins present in sediments. Here, we show that one of these enzymes is a self-compartmentalizing tetrameric aminopeptidase with a preference for cysteine and hydrophobic residues at the N terminus of the hydrolyzed peptide. The ability to perform detailed characterizations of enzymes from native subsurface microorganisms, without requiring that those organisms first be grown in pure culture, holds great promise for understanding key carbon transformations in the environment as well as identifying new enzymes for biomedical and biotechnological applications.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1096/fj.15-272906DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4550370PMC
September 2015

Life under extreme energy limitation: a synthesis of laboratory- and field-based investigations.

FEMS Microbiol Rev 2015 Sep 20;39(5):688-728. Epub 2015 May 20.

Center for Geomicrobiology, Institute of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Ny Munkegade 114, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.

The ability of microorganisms to withstand long periods with extremely low energy input has gained increasing scientific attention in recent years. Starvation experiments in the laboratory have shown that a phylogenetically wide range of microorganisms evolve fitness-enhancing genetic traits within weeks of incubation under low-energy stress. Studies on natural environments that are cut off from new energy supplies over geologic time scales, such as deeply buried sediments, suggest that similar adaptations might mediate survival under energy limitation in the environment. Yet, the extent to which laboratory-based evidence of starvation survival in pure or mixed cultures can be extrapolated to sustained microbial ecosystems in nature remains unclear. In this review, we discuss past investigations on microbial energy requirements and adaptations to energy limitation, identify gaps in our current knowledge, and outline possible future foci of research on life under extreme energy limitation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/femsre/fuv020DOI Listing
September 2015