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.
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
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.
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Journal Name:
- Springer Science + Business Media
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
More Like this
Predominance of Anaerobic, Spore-Forming Bacteria in Metabolically Active Microbial Communities from Ancient Siberian PermafrostABSTRACT 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 Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria . In contrast, microbial diversity decreased dramatically in the older sediments, and anaerobic, spore-forming bacteria within Firmicutes 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 oldermore »
The genomic revolution has fundamentally changed how we survey biodiversity on earth. High‐throughput sequencing (“
HTS”) platforms now enable the rapid sequencing of DNAfrom diverse kinds of environmental samples (termed “environmental DNA” or “ eDNA”). Coupling HTSwith our ability to associate sequences from eDNAwith a taxonomic name is called “ eDNAmetabarcoding” and offers a powerful molecular tool capable of noninvasively surveying species richness from many ecosystems. Here, we review the use of eDNAmetabarcoding for surveying animal and plant richness, and the challenges in using eDNAapproaches to estimate relative abundance. We highlight eDNAapplications in freshwater, marine and terrestrial environments, and in this broad context, we distill what is known about the ability of different eDNAsample types to approximate richness in space and across time. We provide guiding questions for study design and discuss the eDNAmetabarcoding workflow with a focus on primers and library preparation methods. We additionally discuss important criteria for consideration of bioinformatic filtering of data sets, with recommendations for increasing transparency. Finally, looking to the future, we discuss emerging applications of eDNAmetabarcoding in ecology, conservation, invasion biology, biomonitoring, and how eDNAmetabarcoding can empower citizen science and biodiversity education.
Global patterns of diversity and metabolism of microbial communities in deep-sea hydrothermal vent deposits
When deep-sea hydrothermal fluids mix with cold oxygenated fluids, minerals precipitate out of solution and form hydrothermal deposits. These actively venting deep-sea hydrothermal deposits support a rich diversity of thermophilic microorganisms which are involved in a range of carbon, sulfur, nitrogen, and hydrogen metabolisms. Global patterns of thermophilic microbial diversity in deep-sea hydrothermal ecosystems have illustrated the strong connectivity between geological processes and microbial colonization, but little is known about the genomic diversity and physiological potential of these novel taxa. Here we explore this genomic diversity in 42 metagenomes from four deep-sea hydrothermal vent fields and a deep-sea volcano collected from 2004 to 2018 and document their potential implications in biogeochemical cycles.
Our dataset represents 3635 metagenome-assembled genomes encompassing 511 novel and recently identified genera from deep-sea hydrothermal settings. Some of the novel bacterial (107) and archaeal genera (30) that were recently reported from the deep-sea Brothers volcano were also detected at the deep-sea hydrothermal vent fields, while 99 bacterial and 54 archaeal genera were endemic to the deep-sea Brothers volcano deposits. We report some of the first examples of medium- (≥ 50% complete, ≤ 10% contaminated) to high-quality (> 90% complete, < 5% contaminated) MAGs from phyla and families never previously identified, or poorlymore »
Our study of globally distributed hydrothermal vent deposits provides a significant expansion of microbial genomic diversity associated with hydrothermal vent deposits and highlights the metabolic adaptation of taxonomic guilds. Collectively, our results illustrate the importance of comparative biodiversity studies in establishing patterns of shared phylogenetic diversity and physiological ecology, while providing many targets for enrichment and cultivation of novel and endemic taxa.
Kent, Angela D. (Ed.)ABSTRACT Methylmercury is a potent bioaccumulating neurotoxin that is produced by specific microorganisms that methylate inorganic mercury. Methylmercury production in diverse anaerobic bacteria and archaea was recently linked to the hgcAB genes. However, the full phylogenetic and metabolic diversity of mercury-methylating microorganisms has not been fully unraveled due to the limited number of cultured experimentally verified methylators and the limitations of primer-based molecular methods. Here, we describe the phylogenetic diversity and metabolic flexibility of putative mercury-methylating microorganisms by hgcAB identification in publicly available isolate genomes and metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) as well as novel freshwater MAGs. We demonstrate that putative mercury methylators are much more phylogenetically diverse than previously known and that hgcAB distribution among genomes is most likely due to several independent horizontal gene transfer events. The microorganisms we identified possess diverse metabolic capabilities spanning carbon fixation, sulfate reduction, nitrogen fixation, and metal resistance pathways. We identified 111 putative mercury methylators in a set of previously published permafrost metatranscriptomes and demonstrated that different methylating taxa may contribute to hgcA expression at different depths. Overall, we provide a framework for illuminating the microbial basis of mercury methylation using genome-resolved metagenomics and metatranscriptomics to identify putative methylators based upon hgcAB presence andmore »
The Spacecraft Assembly Facility (SAF) at the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is the primary cleanroom facility used in the construction of some of the planetary protection (PP)-sensitive missions developed by NASA, including the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover that launched in July 2020. SAF floor samples (
n=98) were collected, over a 6-month period in 2016 prior to the construction of the Mars rover subsystems, to better understand the temporal and spatial distribution of bacterial populations (total, viable, cultivable, and spore) in this unique cleanroom. Results
Cleanroom samples were examined for total (living and dead) and viable (living only) microbial populations using molecular approaches and cultured isolates employing the traditional NASA standard spore assay (NSA), which predominantly isolated spores. The 130 NSA isolates were represented by 16 bacterial genera, of which 97% were identified as spore-formers via Sanger sequencing. The most spatially abundant isolate was
Bacillus subtilis, and the most temporally abundant spore-former was Virgibacillus panthothenticus. The 16S rRNA gene-targeted amplicon sequencing detected 51 additional genera not found in the NSA method. The amplicon sequencing of the samples treated with propidium monoazide (PMA), which would differentiate between viable and dead organisms, revealed a total of 54 genera: 46 viable non-spore forming genera and 8more » Conclusion
This study clearly established that detecting spores via NSA does not provide a complete assessment for the cleanliness of spacecraft-associated environments since it failed to detect several PP-relevant genera that were only recovered via molecular methods. This highlights the importance of a methodological paradigm shift to appropriately monitor bioburden in cleanrooms for not only the aeronautical industry but also for pharmaceutical, medical industries, etc., and the need to employ molecular sequencing to complement traditional culture-based assays.