skip to main content

Title: Complementary Metagenomic Approaches Improve Reconstruction of Microbial Diversity in a Forest Soil
ABSTRACT Soil ecosystems harbor diverse microorganisms and yet remain only partially characterized as neither single-cell sequencing nor whole-community sequencing offers a complete picture of these complex communities. Thus, the genetic and metabolic potential of this “uncultivated majority” remains underexplored. To address these challenges, we applied a pooled-cell-sorting-based mini-metagenomics approach and compared the results to bulk metagenomics. Informatic binning of these data produced 200 mini-metagenome assembled genomes (sorted-MAGs) and 29 bulk metagenome assembled genomes (MAGs). The sorted and bulk MAGs increased the known phylogenetic diversity of soil taxa by 7.2% with respect to the Joint Genome Institute IMG/M database and showed clade-specific sequence recruitment patterns across diverse terrestrial soil metagenomes. Additionally, sorted-MAGs expanded the rare biosphere not captured through MAGs from bulk sequences, exemplified through phylogenetic and functional analyses of members of the phylum Bacteroidetes . Analysis of 67 Bacteroidetes sorted-MAGs showed conserved patterns of carbon metabolism across four clades. These results indicate that mini-metagenomics enables genome-resolved investigation of predicted metabolism and demonstrates the utility of combining metagenomics methods to tap into the diversity of heterogeneous microbial assemblages. IMPORTANCE Microbial ecologists have historically used cultivation-based approaches as well as amplicon sequencing and shotgun metagenomics to characterize microbial diversity in soil. However, challenges persist in the study of microbial diversity, including the recalcitrance of the majority of microorganisms to laboratory cultivation and limited sequence assembly from highly complex samples. The uncultivated majority thus remains a reservoir of untapped genetic diversity. To address some of the challenges associated with bulk metagenomics as well as low throughput of single-cell genomics, we applied flow cytometry-enabled mini-metagenomics to capture expanded microbial diversity from forest soil and compare it to soil bulk metagenomics. Our resulting data from this pooled-cell sorting approach combined with bulk metagenomics revealed increased phylogenetic diversity through novel soil taxa and rare biosphere members. In-depth analysis of genomes within the highly represented Bacteroidetes phylum provided insights into conserved and clade-specific patterns of carbon metabolism.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Jansson, Janet K.
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. 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 and describe their putative functions in the environment. IMPORTANCE Accurately assessing the production of bioaccumulative neurotoxic methylmercury by characterizing the phylogenetic diversity, metabolic functions, and activity of methylators in the environment is crucial for understanding constraints on the mercury cycle. Much of our understanding of methylmercury production is based on cultured anaerobic microorganisms within the Deltaproteobacteria , Firmicutes , and Euryarchaeota. Advances in next-generation sequencing technologies have enabled large-scale cultivation-independent surveys of diverse and poorly characterized microorganisms from numerous ecosystems. We used genome-resolved metagenomics and metatranscriptomics to highlight the vast phylogenetic and metabolic diversity of putative mercury methylators and their depth-discrete activities in thawing permafrost. This work underscores the importance of using genome-resolved metagenomics to survey specific putative methylating populations of a given mercury-impacted ecosystem. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract Background

    Advances in microbiome science are being driven in large part due to our ability to study and infer microbial ecology from genomes reconstructed from mixed microbial communities using metagenomics and single-cell genomics. Such omics-based techniques allow us to read genomic blueprints of microorganisms, decipher their functional capacities and activities, and reconstruct their roles in biogeochemical processes. Currently available tools for analyses of genomic data can annotate and depict metabolic functions to some extent; however, no standardized approaches are currently available for the comprehensive characterization of metabolic predictions, metabolite exchanges, microbial interactions, and microbial contributions to biogeochemical cycling.


    We present METABOLIC (METabolic And BiogeOchemistry anaLyses In miCrobes), a scalable software to advance microbial ecology and biogeochemistry studies using genomes at the resolution of individual organisms and/or microbial communities. The genome-scale workflow includes annotation of microbial genomes, motif validation of biochemically validated conserved protein residues, metabolic pathway analyses, and calculation of contributions to individual biogeochemical transformations and cycles. The community-scale workflow supplements genome-scale analyses with determination of genome abundance in the microbiome, potential microbial metabolic handoffs and metabolite exchange, reconstruction of functional networks, and determination of microbial contributions to biogeochemical cycles. METABOLIC can take input genomes from isolates, metagenome-assembled genomes, or single-cell genomes. Results are presented in the form of tables for metabolism and a variety of visualizations including biogeochemical cycling potential, representation of sequential metabolic transformations, community-scale microbial functional networks using a newly defined metric “MW-score” (metabolic weight score), and metabolic Sankey diagrams. METABOLIC takes ~ 3 h with 40 CPU threads to process ~ 100 genomes and corresponding metagenomic reads within which the most compute-demanding part of hmmsearch takes ~ 45 min, while it takes ~ 5 h to complete hmmsearch for ~ 3600 genomes. Tests of accuracy, robustness, and consistency suggest METABOLIC provides better performance compared to other software and online servers. To highlight the utility and versatility of METABOLIC, we demonstrate its capabilities on diverse metagenomic datasets from the marine subsurface, terrestrial subsurface, meadow soil, deep sea, freshwater lakes, wastewater, and the human gut.


    METABOLIC enables the consistent and reproducible study of microbial community ecology and biogeochemistry using a foundation of genome-informed microbial metabolism, and will advance the integration of uncultivated organisms into metabolic and biogeochemical models. METABOLIC is written in Perl and R and is freely available under GPLv3 at

    more » « less
  3. Fraser, Claire M. (Ed.)

    Metagenomics is a powerful method for interpreting the ecological roles and physiological capabilities of mixed microbial communities. Yet, many tools for processing metagenomic data are neither designed to consider eukaryotes nor are they built for an increasing amount of sequence data. EukHeist is an automated pipeline to retrieve eukaryotic and prokaryotic metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) from large-scale metagenomic sequence data sets. We developed the EukHeist workflow to specifically process large amounts of both metagenomic and/or metatranscriptomic sequence data in an automated and reproducible fashion. Here, we applied EukHeist to the large-size fraction data (0.8–2,000 µm) from Tara Oceans to recover both eukaryotic and prokaryotic MAGs, which we refer to as TOPAZ (Tara Oceans Particle-Associated MAGs). The TOPAZ MAGs consisted of >900 environmentally relevant eukaryotic MAGs and >4,000 bacterial and archaeal MAGs. The bacterial and archaeal TOPAZ MAGs expand upon the phylogenetic diversity of likely particle- and host-associated taxa. We use these MAGs to demonstrate an approach to infer the putative trophic mode of the recovered eukaryotic MAGs. We also identify ecological cohorts of co-occurring MAGs, which are driven by specific environmental factors and putative host-microbe associations. These data together add to a number of growing resources of environmentally relevant eukaryotic genomic information. Complementary and expanded databases of MAGs, such as those provided through scalable pipelines like EukHeist, stand to advance our understanding of eukaryotic diversity through increased coverage of genomic representatives across the tree of life.


    Single-celled eukaryotes play ecologically significant roles in the marine environment, yet fundamental questions about their biodiversity, ecological function, and interactions remain. Environmental sequencing enables researchers to document naturally occurring protistan communities, without culturing bias, yet metagenomic and metatranscriptomic sequencing approaches cannot separate individual species from communities. To more completely capture the genomic content of mixed protistan populations, we can create bins of sequences that represent the same organism (metagenome-assembled genomes [MAGs]). We developed the EukHeist pipeline, which automates the binning of population-level eukaryotic and prokaryotic genomes from metagenomic reads. We show exciting insight into what protistan communities are present and their trophic roles in the ocean. Scalable computational tools, like EukHeist, may accelerate the identification of meaningful genetic signatures from large data sets and complement researchers’ efforts to leverage MAG databases for addressing ecological questions, resolving evolutionary relationships, and discovering potentially novel biodiversity.

    more » « less
  4. Giovannoni, Stephen J. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT <p>Archaea belonging to the DPANN (Diapherotrites, Parvarchaeota, Aenigmarchaeota, Nanoarchaeota, and Nanohaloarchaeota) superphylum have been found in an expanding number of environments and perform a variety of biogeochemical roles, including contributing to carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen cycling. Generally characterized by ultrasmall cell sizes and reduced genomes, DPANN archaea may form mutualistic, commensal, or parasitic interactions with various archaeal and bacterial hosts, influencing the ecology and functioning of microbial communities. While DPANN archaea reportedly comprise a sizeable fraction of the archaeal community within marine oxygen-deficient zone (ODZ) water columns, little is known about their metabolic capabilities in these ecosystems. We report 33 novel metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) belonging to the DPANN phyla Nanoarchaeota, Pacearchaeota, Woesearchaeota, Undinarchaeota, Iainarchaeota, and SpSt-1190 from pelagic ODZs in the Eastern Tropical North Pacific and the Arabian Sea. We find these archaea to be permanent, stable residents of all three major ODZs only within anoxic depths, comprising up to 1% of the total microbial community and up to 25%–50% of archaea as estimated from read mapping to MAGs. ODZ DPANN appear to be capable of diverse metabolic functions, including fermentation, organic carbon scavenging, and the cycling of sulfur, hydrogen, and methane. Within a majority of ODZ DPANN, we identify a gene homologous to nitrous oxide reductase. Modeling analyses indicate the feasibility of a nitrous oxide reduction metabolism for host-attached symbionts, and the small genome sizes and reduced metabolic capabilities of most DPANN MAGs suggest host-associated lifestyles within ODZs.</p></sec> <sec><title>IMPORTANCE

    Archaea from the DPANN (Diapherotrites, Parvarchaeota, Aenigmarchaeota, Nanoarchaeota, and Nanohaloarchaeota) superphylum have diverse metabolic capabilities and participate in multiple biogeochemical cycles. While metagenomics and enrichments have revealed that many DPANN are characterized by ultrasmall genomes, few biosynthetic genes, and episymbiotic lifestyles, much remains unknown about their biology. We report 33 new DPANN metagenome-assembled genomes originating from the three global marine oxygen-deficient zones (ODZs), the first from these regions. We survey DPANN abundance and distribution within the ODZ water column, investigate their biosynthetic capabilities, and report potential roles in the cycling of organic carbon, methane, and nitrogen. We test the hypothesis that nitrous oxide reductases found within several ODZ DPANN genomes may enable ultrasmall episymbionts to serve as nitrous oxide consumers when attached to a host nitrous oxide producer. Our results indicate DPANN archaea as ubiquitous residents within the anoxic core of ODZs with the potential to produce or consume key compounds.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract Background

    Climate change will result in more frequent droughts that can impact soil-inhabiting microbiomes (rhizobiomes) in the agriculturally vital North American perennial grasslands. Rhizobiomes have contributed to enhancing drought resilience and stress resistance properties in plant hosts. In the predicted events of more future droughts, how the changing rhizobiome under environmental stress can impact the plant host resilience needs to be deciphered. There is also an urgent need to identify and recover candidate microorganisms along with their functions, involved in enhancing plant resilience, enabling the successful development of synthetic communities.


    In this study, we used the combination of cultivation and high-resolution genomic sequencing of bacterial communities recovered from the rhizosphere of a tallgrass prairie foundation grass,Andropogon gerardii. We cultivated the plant host-associated microbes under artificial drought-induced conditions and identified the microbe(s) that might play a significant role in the rhizobiome ofAndropogon gerardiiunder drought conditions. Phylogenetic analysis of the non-redundant metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) identified a bacterial genome of interest – MAG-Pseudomonas. Further metabolic pathway and pangenome analyses recovered genes and pathways related to stress responses including ACC deaminase; nitrogen transformation including assimilatory nitrate reductase in MAG-Pseudomonas,which might be associated with enhanced drought tolerance and growth forAndropogon gerardii.


    Our data indicated that the metagenome-assembled MAG-Pseudomonashas the functional potential to contribute to the plant host’s growth during stressful conditions. Our study also suggested the nitrogen transformation potential ofMAG-Pseudomonasthat could impactAndropogon gerardiigrowth in a positive way. The cultivation of MAG-Pseudomonassets the foundation to construct a successful synthetic community forAndropogon gerardii. To conclude, stress resilience mediated through genes ACC deaminase, nitrogen transformation potential through assimilatory nitrate reductase in MAG-Pseudomonascould place this microorganism as an important candidate of the rhizobiome aiding the plant host resilience under environmental stress. This study, therefore, provided insights into the MAG-Pseudomonasand its potential to optimize plant productivity under ever-changing climatic patterns, especially in frequent drought conditions.

    more » « less