skip to main content

Title: Long-Term m5C Methylome Dynamics Parallel Phenotypic Adaptation in the Cyanobacterium Trichodesmium
Abstract A major challenge in modern biology is understanding how the effects of short-term biological responses influence long-term evolutionary adaptation, defined as a genetically determined increase in fitness to novel environments. This is particularly important in globally important microbes experiencing rapid global change, due to their influence on food webs, biogeochemical cycles, and climate. Epigenetic modifications like methylation have been demonstrated to influence short-term plastic responses, which ultimately impact long-term adaptive responses to environmental change. However, there remains a paucity of empirical research examining long-term methylation dynamics during environmental adaptation in nonmodel, ecologically important microbes. Here, we show the first empirical evidence in a marine prokaryote for long-term m5C methylome modifications correlated with phenotypic adaptation to CO2, using a 7-year evolution experiment (1,000+ generations) with the biogeochemically important marine cyanobacterium Trichodesmium. We identify m5C methylated sites that rapidly changed in response to high (750 µatm) CO2 exposure and were maintained for at least 4.5 years of CO2 selection. After 7 years of CO2 selection, however, m5C methylation levels that initially responded to high-CO2 returned to ancestral, ambient CO2 levels. Concurrently, high-CO2 adapted growth and N2 fixation rates remained significantly higher than those of ambient CO2 adapted cell lines irrespective of CO2 concentration, more » a trend consistent with genetic assimilation theory. These data demonstrate the maintenance of CO2-responsive m5C methylation for 4.5 years alongside phenotypic adaptation before returning to ancestral methylation levels. These observations in a globally distributed marine prokaryote provide critical evolutionary insights into biogeochemically important traits under global change. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1657757 1851222 1260490
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10212746
Journal Name:
Molecular Biology and Evolution
ISSN:
0737-4038
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. ABSTRACT Nitrogen-fixing (N 2 ) cyanobacteria provide bioavailable nitrogen to vast ocean regions but are in turn limited by iron (Fe) and/or phosphorus (P), which may force them to employ alternative nitrogen acquisition strategies. The adaptive responses of nitrogen fixers to global-change drivers under nutrient-limited conditions could profoundly alter the current ocean nitrogen and carbon cycles. Here, we show that the globally important N 2 fixer Trichodesmium fundamentally shifts nitrogen metabolism toward organic-nitrogen scavenging following long-term high-CO 2 adaptation under iron and/or phosphorus (co)limitation. Global shifts in transcripts and proteins under high-CO 2 /Fe-limited and/or P-limited conditions include decreases in the N 2 -fixing nitrogenase enzyme, coupled with major increases in enzymes that oxidize trimethylamine (TMA). TMA is an abundant, biogeochemically important organic nitrogen compound that supports rapid Trichodesmium growth while inhibiting N 2 fixation. In a future high-CO 2 ocean, this whole-cell energetic reallocation toward organic nitrogen scavenging and away from N 2 fixation may reduce new-nitrogen inputs by Trichodesmium while simultaneously depleting the scarce fixed-nitrogen supplies of nitrogen-limited open-ocean ecosystems. IMPORTANCE Trichodesmium is among the most biogeochemically significant microorganisms in the ocean, since it supplies up to 50% of the new nitrogen supporting open-ocean food webs. We usedmore »Trichodesmium cultures adapted to high-CO 2 conditions for 7 years, followed by additional exposure to iron and/or phosphorus (co)limitation. We show that “future ocean” conditions of high CO 2 and concurrent nutrient limitation(s) fundamentally shift nitrogen metabolism away from nitrogen fixation and instead toward upregulation of organic nitrogen-scavenging pathways. We show that the responses of Trichodesmium to projected future ocean conditions include decreases in the nitrogen-fixing nitrogenase enzymes coupled with major increases in enzymes that oxidize the abundant organic nitrogen source trimethylamine (TMA). Such a shift toward organic nitrogen uptake and away from nitrogen fixation may substantially reduce new-nitrogen inputs by Trichodesmium to the rest of the microbial community in the future high-CO 2 ocean, with potential global implications for ocean carbon and nitrogen cycling.« less
  2. BACKGROUND The availability of nitrogen (N) to plants and microbes has a major influence on the structure and function of ecosystems. Because N is an essential component of plant proteins, low N availability constrains the growth of plants and herbivores. To increase N availability, humans apply large amounts of fertilizer to agricultural systems. Losses from these systems, combined with atmospheric deposition of fossil fuel combustion products, introduce copious quantities of reactive N into ecosystems. The negative consequences of these anthropogenic N inputs—such as ecosystem eutrophication and reductions in terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity—are well documented. Yet although N availability is increasing in many locations, reactive N inputs are not evenly distributed globally. Furthermore, experiments and theory also suggest that global change factors such as elevated atmospheric CO 2 , rising temperatures, and altered precipitation and disturbance regimes can reduce the availability of N to plants and microbes in many terrestrial ecosystems. This can occur through increases in biotic demand for N or reductions in its supply to organisms. Reductions in N availability can be observed via several metrics, including lowered nitrogen concentrations ([N]) and isotope ratios (δ 15 N) in plant tissue, reduced rates of N mineralization, and reduced terrestrial Nmore »export to aquatic systems. However, a comprehensive synthesis of N availability metrics, outside of experimental settings and capable of revealing large-scale trends, has not yet been carried out. ADVANCES A growing body of observations confirms that N availability is declining in many nonagricultural ecosystems worldwide. Studies have demonstrated declining wood δ 15 N in forests across the continental US, declining foliar [N] in European forests, declining foliar [N] and δ 15 N in North American grasslands, and declining [N] in pollen from the US and southern Canada. This evidence is consistent with observed global-scale declines in foliar δ 15 N and [N] since 1980. Long-term monitoring of soil-based N availability indicators in unmanipulated systems is rare. However, forest studies in the northeast US have demonstrated decades-long decreases in soil N cycling and N exports to air and water, even in the face of elevated atmospheric N deposition. Collectively, these studies suggest a sustained decline in N availability across a range of terrestrial ecosystems, dating at least as far back as the early 20th century. Elevated atmospheric CO 2 levels are likely a main driver of declines in N availability. Terrestrial plants are now uniformly exposed to ~50% more of this essential resource than they were just 150 years ago, and experimentally exposing plants to elevated CO 2 often reduces foliar [N] as well as plant-available soil N. In addition, globally-rising temperatures may raise soil N supply in some systems but may also increase N losses and lead to lower foliar [N]. Changes in other ecosystem drivers—such as local climate patterns, N deposition rates, and disturbance regimes—individually affect smaller areas but may have important cumulative effects on global N availability. OUTLOOK Given the importance of N to ecosystem functioning, a decline in available N is likely to have far-reaching consequences. Reduced N availability likely constrains the response of plants to elevated CO 2 and the ability of ecosystems to sequester carbon. Because herbivore growth and reproduction scale with protein intake, declining foliar [N] may be contributing to widely reported declines in insect populations and may be negatively affecting the growth of grazing livestock and herbivorous wild mammals. Spatial and temporal patterns in N availability are not yet fully understood, particularly outside of Europe and North America. Developments in remote sensing, accompanied by additional historical reconstructions of N availability from tree rings, herbarium specimens, and sediments, will show how N availability trajectories vary among ecosystems. Such assessment and monitoring efforts need to be complemented by further experimental and theoretical investigations into the causes of declining N availability, its implications for global carbon sequestration, and how its effects propagate through food webs. Responses will need to involve reducing N demand via lowering atmospheric CO 2 concentrations, and/or increasing N supply. Successfully mitigating and adapting to declining N availability will require a broader understanding that this phenomenon is occurring alongside the more widely recognized issue of anthropogenic eutrophication. Intercalibration of isotopic records from leaves, tree rings, and lake sediments suggests that N availability in many terrestrial ecosystems has steadily declined since the beginning of the industrial era. Reductions in N availability may affect many aspects of ecosystem functioning, including carbon sequestration and herbivore nutrition. Shaded areas indicate 80% prediction intervals; marker size is proportional to the number of measurements in each annual mean. Isotope data: (tree ring) K. K. McLauchlan et al. , Sci. Rep. 7 , 7856 (2017); (lake sediment) G. W. Holtgrieve et al. , Science 334 , 1545–1548 (2011); (foliar) J. M. Craine et al. , Nat. Ecol. Evol. 2 , 1735–1744 (2018)« less
  3. Abstract

    Adaptive evolution and phenotypic plasticity will fuel resilience in the geologically unprecedented warming and acidification of the earth’s oceans, however, we have much to learn about the interactions and costs of these mechanisms of resilience. Here, using 20 generations of experimental evolution followed by three generations of reciprocal transplants, we investigated the relationship between adaptation and plasticity in the marine copepod,Acartia tonsa, in future global change conditions (high temperature and high CO2). We found parallel adaptation to global change conditions in genes related to stress response, gene expression regulation, actin regulation, developmental processes, and energy production. However, reciprocal transplantation showed that adaptation resulted in a loss of transcriptional plasticity, reduced fecundity, and reduced population growth when global change-adapted animals were returned to ambient conditions or reared in low food conditions. However, after three successive transplant generations, global change-adapted animals were able to match the ambient-adaptive transcriptional profile. Concurrent changes in allele frequencies and erosion of nucleotide diversity suggest that this recovery occurred via adaptation back to ancestral conditions. These results demonstrate that while plasticity facilitated initial survival in global change conditions, it eroded after 20 generations as populations adapted, limiting resilience to new stressors and previously benign environments.

  4. The role of phenotypic plasticity in adaptive evolution has been debated for decades. This is because the strength of natural selection is dependent on the direction and magnitude of phenotypic responses to environmental signals. Therefore, the connection between plasticity and adaptation will depend on the patterns of plasticity harbored by ancestral populations before a change in the environment. Yet few studies have directly assessed ancestral variation in plasticity and tracked phenotypic changes over time. Here we resurrected historic propagules ofDaphniaspanning multiple species and lakes in Wisconsin following the invasion and proliferation of a novel predator (spiny waterflea,Bythotrephes longimanus). This approach revealed extensive genetic variation in predator-induced plasticity in ancestral populations ofDaphnia. It is unlikely that the standing patterns of plasticity shieldedDaphniafrom selection to permit long-term coexistence with a novel predator. Instead, this variation in plasticity provided the raw materials forBythotrephes-mediated selection to drive rapid shifts inDaphniabehavior and life history. Surprisingly, there was little evidence for the evolution of trait plasticity as genetic variation in plasticity was maintained in the face of a novel predator. Such results provide insight into the link between plasticity and adaptation and highlight the importance of quantifying genetic variation in plasticity when evaluating the drivers ofmore »evolutionary change in the wild.

    « less
  5. Marine microbes form the base of ocean food webs and drive ocean biogeochemical cycling. Yet little is known about the ability of microbial populations to adapt as they are advected through changing conditions. Here, we investigated the interplay between physical and biological timescales using a model of adaptation and an eddy-resolving ocean circulation climate model. Two criteria were identified that relate the timing and nature of adaptation to the ratio of physical to biological timescales. Genetic adaptation was impeded in highly variable regimes by nongenetic modifications but was promoted in more stable environments. An evolutionary trade-off emerged where greater short-term nongenetic transgenerational effects (low-γ strategy) enabled rapid responses to environmental fluctuations but delayed genetic adaptation, while fewer short-term transgenerational effects (high-γ strategy) allowed faster genetic adaptation but inhibited short-term responses. Our results demonstrate that the selective pressures for organisms within a single water mass vary based on differences in generation timescales resulting in different evolutionary strategies being favored. Organisms that experience more variable environments should favor a low-γ strategy. Furthermore, faster cell division rates should be a key factor in genetic adaptation in a changing ocean. Understanding and quantifying the relationship between evolutionary and physical timescales is critical for robustmore »predictions of future microbial dynamics.« less