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  1. Community- and “species”-level analyses elucidate ecological impacts and roles of marine RNA viruses.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 10, 2023
  2. Abstract Natural microbial communities are phylogenetically and metabolically diverse. In addition to underexplored organismal groups 1 , this diversity encompasses a rich discovery potential for ecologically and biotechnologically relevant enzymes and biochemical compounds 2,3 . However, studying this diversity to identify genomic pathways for the synthesis of such compounds 4 and assigning them to their respective hosts remains challenging. The biosynthetic potential of microorganisms in the open ocean remains largely uncharted owing to limitations in the analysis of genome-resolved data at the global scale. Here we investigated the diversity and novelty of biosynthetic gene clusters in the ocean by integrating around 10,000 microbial genomes from cultivated and single cells with more than 25,000 newly reconstructed draft genomes from more than 1,000 seawater samples. These efforts revealed approximately 40,000 putative mostly new biosynthetic gene clusters, several of which were found in previously unsuspected phylogenetic groups. Among these groups, we identified a lineage rich in biosynthetic gene clusters (‘ Candidatus Eudoremicrobiaceae’) that belongs to an uncultivated bacterial phylum and includes some of the most biosynthetically diverse microorganisms in this environment. From these, we characterized the phospeptin and pythonamide pathways, revealing cases of unusual bioactive compound structure and enzymology, respectively. Together, this researchmore »demonstrates how microbiomics-driven strategies can enable the investigation of previously undescribed enzymes and natural products in underexplored microbial groups and environments.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 7, 2023
  3. Oceans are brimming with life invisible to our eyes, a myriad of species of bacteria, viruses and other microscopic organisms essential for the health of the planet. These ‘marine plankton’ are unable to swim against currents and should therefore be constantly on the move, yet previous studies have suggested that distinct species of plankton may in fact inhabit different oceanic regions. However, proving this theory has been challenging; collecting plankton is logistically difficult, and it is often impossible to distinguish between species simply by examining them under a microscope. However, within the last decade, a research schooner called Tara has travelled the globe to gather thousands of plankton samples. At the same time, advances in genomics have made it possible to identify species based only on fragments of their DNA sequence. To understand the hidden geography of plankton communities in Earth’s oceans, Richter et al. pored over DNA from the Tara Oceans expedition. This revealed that, despite being unable to resist the flow of water, various planktonic species which live close to the surface manage to occupy distinct, stable provinces shaped by currents. Different sizes of plankton are distributed in different sized provinces, with the smallest organisms tending to inhabitmore »the smallest areas. Comparing DNA similarities and speeds of currents at the ocean surface revealed how these might stretch and mix plankton communities. Plankton play a critical role in the health of the ocean and the chemical cycles of planet Earth. These results could allow deeper investigation by marine modellers, ecologists, and evolutionary biologists. Meanwhile, work is already underway to investigate how climate change might impact this hidden geography.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 3, 2023
  4. Viruses of two candidate phyla are abundant in the ocean and revise our understanding of early RNA virus evolution.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 8, 2023