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  1. Rates of microbial processes are fundamental to understanding the significance of microbial impacts on environmental chemical cycling. However, it is often difficult to quantify rates or to link processes to specific taxa or individual cells, especially in environments where there are few cultured representatives with known physiology. Here, we describe the use of the redox-enzyme-sensitive molecular probe RedoxSensor™ Green to measure rates of anaerobic electron transfer physiology (i.e., sulfate reduction and methanogenesis) in individual cells and link those measurements to genomic sequencing of the same single cells. We used this method to investigate microbial activity in hot, anoxic, low-biomass (~103cells mL−1) groundwater of the Death Valley Regional Flow System, California. Combining this method with electron donor amendment experiments and metatranscriptomics confirmed that the abundant spore formers includingCandidatusDesulforudis audaxviator were actively reducing sulfate in this environment, most likely with acetate and hydrogen as electron donors. Using this approach, we measured environmental sulfate reduction rates at 0.14 to 26.9 fmol cell−1h−1. Scaled to volume, this equates to a bulk environmental rate of ~103pmol sulfate L−1d−1, similar to potential rates determined with radiotracer methods. Despite methane in the system, there was no evidence for active microbial methanogenesis at the time of sampling. Overall, this method is a powerful tool for estimating species-resolved, single-cell rates of anaerobic metabolism in low-biomass environments while simultaneously linking genomes to phenomes at the single-cell level. We reveal active elemental cycling conducted by several species, with a large portion attributable toCa.Desulforudis audaxviator.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 9, 2025
  2. Abstract The ocean–atmosphere exchange of CO 2 largely depends on the balance between marine microbial photosynthesis and respiration. Despite vast taxonomic and metabolic diversity among marine planktonic bacteria and archaea (prokaryoplankton) 1–3 , their respiration usually is measured in bulk and treated as a ‘black box’ in global biogeochemical models 4 ; this limits the mechanistic understanding of the global carbon cycle. Here, using a technology for integrated phenotype analyses and genomic sequencing of individual microbial cells, we show that cell-specific respiration rates differ by more than 1,000× among prokaryoplankton genera. The majority of respiration was found to be performed by minority members of prokaryoplankton (including the Roseobacter cluster), whereas cells of the most prevalent lineages (including Pelagibacter and SAR86) had extremely low respiration rates. The decoupling of respiration rates from abundance among lineages, elevated counts of proteorhodopsin transcripts in Pelagibacter and SAR86 cells and elevated respiration of SAR86 at night indicate that proteorhodopsin-based phototrophy 3,5–7 probably constitutes an important source of energy to prokaryoplankton and may increase growth efficiency. These findings suggest that the dependence of prokaryoplankton on respiration and remineralization of phytoplankton-derived organic carbon into CO 2 for its energy demands and growth may be lower than commonly assumed and variable among lineages. 
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  3. null (Ed.)
  4. Abstract

    Sulfate-reducing bacteria Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator (CDA) were originally discovered in deep fracture fluids accessed via South African gold mines and have since been found in geographically widespread deep subsurface locations. In order to constrain models for subsurface microbial evolution, we compared CDA genomes from Africa, North America and Eurasia using single cell genomics. Unexpectedly, 126 partial single amplified genomes from the three continents, a complete genome from of an isolate from Eurasia, and metagenome-assembled genomes from Africa and Eurasia shared >99.2% average nucleotide identity, low frequency of SNP’s, and near-perfectly conserved prophages and CRISPRs. Our analyses reject sample cross-contamination, recent natural dispersal, and unusually strong purifying selection as likely explanations for these unexpected results. We therefore conclude that the analyzed CDA populations underwent only minimal evolution since their physical separation, potentially as far back as the breakup of Pangea between 165 and 55 Ma ago. High-fidelity DNA replication and repair mechanisms are the most plausible explanation for the highly conserved genome of CDA. CDA presents a stark contrast to the current model organisms in microbial evolutionary studies, which often develop adaptive traits over far shorter periods of time.

     
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  5. null (Ed.)