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This content will become publicly available on November 21, 2024

Title: Dual thermal ecotypes coexist within a nearly genetically identical population of the unicellular marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus

The extent and ecological significance of intraspecific functional diversity within marine microbial populations is still poorly understood, and it remains unclear if such strain-level microdiversity will affect fitness and persistence in a rapidly changing ocean environment. In this study, we cultured 11 sympatric strains of the ubiquitous marine picocyanobacteriumSynechococcusisolated from a Narragansett Bay (RI) phytoplankton community thermal selection experiment. Thermal performance curves revealed selection at cool and warm temperatures had subdivided the initial population into thermotypes with pronounced differences in maximum growth temperatures. Curiously, the genomes of all 11 isolates were almost identical (average nucleotide identities of >99.99%, with >99% of the genome aligning) and no differences in gene content or single nucleotide variants were associated with either cool or warm temperature phenotypes. Despite a very high level of genomic similarity, sequenced epigenomes for two strains showed differences in methylation on genes associated with photosynthesis. These corresponded to measured differences in photophysiology, suggesting a potential pathway for future mechanistic research into thermal microdiversity. Our study demonstrates that present-day marine microbial populations can harbor cryptic but environmentally relevant thermotypes which may increase their resilience to future rising temperatures.

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Award ID(s):
1851222 2149837
Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
US National Academy of Sciences
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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