skip to main content

Title: MGEs as the MVPs of Partner Quality Variation in Legume-Rhizobium Symbiosis
ABSTRACT Despite decades of research, we are only just beginning to understand the forces maintaining variation in the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis between rhizobial bacteria and leguminous plants. In their recent work, Alexandra Weisberg and colleagues use genomics to document the breadth of mobile element diversity that carries the symbiosis genes of Bradyrhizobium in natural populations. Studying rhizobia from the perspective of their mobile genetic elements, which have their own transmission modes and fitness interests, reveals novel mechanisms for the generation and maintenance of diversity in natural populations of these ecologically and economically important mutualisms.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Virus–host interactions evolve along a symbiosis continuum from antagonism to mutualism. Long-term associations between virus and host, such as those in chronic infection, will select for traits that drive the interaction towards mutualism, especially when susceptible hosts are rare in the population. Virus–host mutualism has been demonstrated in thermophilic archaeal populations where Sulfolobus spindle-shaped viruses (SSVs) provide a competitive advantage to their host Sulfolobus islandicus by producing a toxin that kills uninfected strains. Here, we determine the genetic basis of this killing phenotype by identifying highly transcribed genes in cells that are chronically infected with a diversity of SSVs. We demonstrate that these genes alone confer growth inhibition by being expressed in uninfected cells via a Sulfolobus expression plasmid. Challenge of chronically infected strains with vector-expressed toxins revealed a nested network of cross-toxicity among divergent SSVs, with both broad and specific toxin efficacies. This suggests that competition between viruses and/or their hosts could maintain toxin diversity. We propose that competitive interactions among chronic viruses to promote their host fitness form the basis of virus–host mutualism. This article is part of the theme issue ‘The secret lives of microbial mobile genetic elements’. 
    more » « less
  2. ABSTRACT Marine sponges are recognized as valuable sources of bioactive metabolites and renowned as petri dishes of the sea, providing specialized niches for many symbiotic microorganisms. Sponges of the family Dysideidae are well documented to be chemically talented, often containing high levels of polyhalogenated compounds, terpenoids, peptides, and other classes of bioactive small molecules. This group of tropical sponges hosts a high abundance of an uncultured filamentous cyanobacterium, Hormoscilla spongeliae . Here, we report the comparative genomic analyses of two phylogenetically distinct Hormoscilla populations, which reveal shared deficiencies in essential pathways, hinting at possible reasons for their uncultivable status, as well as differing biosynthetic machinery for the production of specialized metabolites. One symbiont population contains clustered genes for expanded polybrominated diphenylether (PBDE) biosynthesis, while the other instead harbors a unique gene cluster for the biosynthesis of the dysinosin nonribosomal peptides. The hybrid sequencing and assembly approach utilized here allows, for the first time, a comprehensive look into the genomes of these elusive sponge symbionts. IMPORTANCE Natural products provide the inspiration for most clinical drugs. With the rise in antibiotic resistance, it is imperative to discover new sources of chemical diversity. Bacteria living in symbiosis with marine invertebrates have emerged as an untapped source of natural chemistry. While symbiotic bacteria are often recalcitrant to growth in the lab, advances in metagenomic sequencing and assembly now make it possible to access their genetic blueprint. A cell enrichment procedure, combined with a hybrid sequencing and assembly approach, enabled detailed genomic analysis of uncultivated cyanobacterial symbiont populations in two chemically rich tropical marine sponges. These population genomes reveal a wealth of secondary metabolism potential as well as possible reasons for historical difficulties in their cultivation. 
    more » « less
  3. ABSTRACT Theory, simulation, and experimental evolution demonstrate that diversified CRISPR-Cas immunity to lytic viruses can lead to stochastic virus extinction due to a limited number of susceptible hosts available to each potential new protospacer escape mutation. Under such conditions, theory predicts that to evade extinction, viruses evolve toward decreased virulence and promote vertical transmission and persistence in infected hosts. To better understand the evolution of host-virus interactions in microbial populations with active CRISPR-Cas immunity, we studied the interaction between CRISPR-immune Sulfolobus islandicus cells and immune-deficient strains that are infected by the chronic virus SSV9. We demonstrate that Sulfolobus islandicus cells infected with SSV9, and with other related SSVs, kill uninfected, immune strains through an antagonistic mechanism that is a protein and is independent of infectious virus. Cells that are infected with SSV9 are protected from killing and persist in the population. We hypothesize that this infection acts as a form of mutualism between the host and the virus by removing competitors in the population and ensuring continued vertical transmission of the virus within populations with diversified CRISPR-Cas immunity. IMPORTANCE Multiple studies, especially those focusing on the role of lytic viruses in key model systems, have shown the importance of viruses in shaping microbial populations. However, it has become increasingly clear that viruses with a long host-virus interaction, such as those with a chronic lifestyle, can be important drivers of evolution and have large impacts on host ecology. In this work, we describe one such interaction with the acidic crenarchaeon Sulfolobus islandicus and its chronic virus Sulfolobus spindle-shaped virus 9. Our work expands the view in which this symbiosis between host and virus evolved, describing a killing phenotype which we hypothesize has evolved in part due to the high prevalence and diversity of CRISPR-Cas immunity seen in natural populations. We explore the implications of this phenotype in population dynamics and host ecology, as well as the implications of mutualism between this virus-host pair. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Recent diversity studies have revealed that microbial communities of natural environments are dominated by species-like, sequence-discrete populations. However, how stable the sequence and gene-content diversity are within these populations and especially in highly dynamic lotic habitats remain unclear. Here we quantified the dynamics of intra-population diversity in samples spanning two years and five sites in the Kalamas River (Northwest Greece). A significant positive correlation was observed between higher intra-population sequence diversity and longer persistence over time, revealing that more diverse populations tended to represent more autochthonous (vs. allochthonous) community members. Assessment of intra-population gene-content changes caused by strain replacement or gene loss over time revealed different profiles with the majority of populations exhibiting gene-content changes close to 10% of the total genes, while one population exhibited ~21% change. The variable genes were enriched in hypothetical proteins and mobile elements, and thus, were probably functionally neutral or attributable to phage predation. A few notable exceptions to this pattern were also noted such as phototrophy-related proteins in summer vs. winter populations. Taken together, these results revealed that some freshwater genomes are remarkably dynamic, even across short time and spatial scales, and have implications for the bacterial species concept and microbial source tracking.

    more » « less
  5. null (Ed.)
    Although microorganisms are known to dominate Earth’s biospheres and drive biogeochemical cycling, little is known about the geographic distributions of microbial populations or the environmental factors that pattern those distributions. We used a global-level hierarchical sampling scheme to comprehensively characterize the evolutionary relationships and distributional limitations of the nitrogen-fixing bacterial symbionts of the crop chickpea, generating 1,027 draft whole-genome sequences at the level of bacterial populations, including 14 high-quality PacBio genomes from a phylogenetically representative subset. We find that diverse Mesorhizobium taxa perform symbiosis with chickpea and have largely overlapping global distributions. However, sampled locations cluster based on the phylogenetic diversity of Mesorhizobium populations, and diversity clusters correspond to edaphic and environmental factors, primarily soil type and latitude. Despite long-standing evolutionary divergence and geographic isolation, the diverse taxa observed to nodulate chickpea share a set of integrative conjugative elements (ICEs) that encode the major functions of the symbiosis. This symbiosis ICE takes 2 forms in the bacterial chromosome—tripartite and monopartite—with tripartite ICEs confined to a broadly distributed superspecies clade. The pairwise evolutionary relatedness of these elements is controlled as much by geographic distance as by the evolutionary relatedness of the background genome. In contrast, diversity in the broader gene content of Mesorhizobium genomes follows a tight linear relationship with core genome phylogenetic distance, with little detectable effect of geography. These results illustrate how geography and demography can operate differentially on the evolution of bacterial genomes and offer useful insights for the development of improved technologies for sustainable agriculture. 
    more » « less