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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2024
  2. Rappe, Michael S. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT For the abundant marine Alphaproteobacterium Pelagibacter (SAR11), and other bacteria, phages are powerful forces of mortality. However, little is known about the most abundant Pelagiphages in nature, such as the widespread HTVC023P-type, which is currently represented by two cultured phages. Using viral metagenomic data sets and fluorescence-activated cell sorting, we recovered 80 complete, undescribed Podoviridae genomes that form 10 phylogenomically distinct clades (herein, named Clades I to X) related to the HTVC023P-type. These expanded the HTVC023P-type pan-genome by 15-fold and revealed 41 previously unknown auxiliary metabolic genes (AMGs) in this viral lineage. Numerous instances of partner-AMGs (colocated and involved in related functions) were observed, including partners in nucleotide metabolism, DNA hypermodification, and Curli biogenesis. The Type VIII secretion system (T8SS) responsible for Curli biogenesis was identified in nine genomes and expanded the repertoire of T8SS proteins reported thus far in viruses. Additionally, the identified T8SS gene cluster contained an iron-dependent regulator (FecR), as well as a histidine kinase and adenylate cyclase that can be implicated in T8SS function but are not within T8SS operons in bacteria. While T8SS are lacking in known Pelagibacter , they contribute to aggregation and biofilm formation in other bacteria. Phylogenetic reconstructions of partner-AMGs indicate derivation from cellular lineages with a more recent transfer between viral families. For example, homologs of all T8SS genes are present in syntenic regions of distant Myoviridae Pelagiphages, and they appear to have alphaproteobacterial origins with a later transfer between viral families. The results point to an unprecedented multipartner-AMG transfer between marine Myoviridae and Podoviridae. Together with the expansion of known metabolic functions, our studies provide new prospects for understanding the ecology and evolution of marine phages and their hosts. IMPORTANCE One of the most abundant and diverse marine bacterial groups is Pelagibacter . Phages have roles in shaping Pelagibacter ecology; however, several Pelagiphage lineages are represented by only a few genomes. This paucity of data from even the most widespread lineages has imposed limits on the understanding of the diversity of Pelagiphages and their impacts on hosts. Here, we report 80 complete genomes, assembled directly from environmental data, which are from undescribed Pelagiphages and render new insights into the manipulation of host metabolism during infection. Notably, the viruses have functionally related partner genes that appear to be transferred between distant viruses, including a suite that encode a secretion system which both brings a new functional capability to the host and is abundant in phages across the ocean. Together, these functions have important implications for phage evolution and for how Pelagiphage infection influences host biology in manners extending beyond canonical viral lysis and mortality. 
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  3. Dubilier, Nicole (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT In the ocean surface layer and cell culture, the polyamine transport protein PotD of SAR11 bacteria is often one of the most abundant proteins detected. Polyamines are organic cations at seawater pH produced by all living organisms and are thought to be an important component of dissolved organic matter (DOM) produced in planktonic ecosystems. We hypothesized that SAR11 cells uptake and metabolize multiple polyamines and use them as sources of carbon and nitrogen. Metabolic footprinting and fingerprinting were used to measure the uptake of five polyamine compounds (putrescine, cadaverine, agmatine, norspermidine, and spermidine) in two SAR11 strains that represent the majority of SAR11 cells in the surface ocean environment, “ Candidatus Pelagibacter” strain HTCC7211 and “ Candidatus Pelagibacter ubique” strain HTCC1062. Both strains took up all five polyamines and concentrated them to micromolar or millimolar intracellular concentrations. Both strains could use most of the polyamines to meet their nitrogen requirements, but polyamines did not fully substitute for their requirements of glycine (or related compounds) or pyruvate (or related compounds). Our data suggest that potABCD transports all five polyamines and that spermidine synthase, speE, is reversible, catalyzing the breakdown of spermidine and norspermidine, in addition to its usual biosynthetic role. These findings provide support for the hypothesis that enzyme multifunctionality enables streamlined cells in planktonic ecosystems to increase the range of DOM compounds they metabolize. IMPORTANCE Genome streamlining in SAR11 bacterioplankton has resulted in a small repertoire of genes, yet paradoxically, they consume a substantial fraction of primary production in the oceans. Enzyme multifunctionality, referring to enzymes that are adapted to have broader substrate and catalytic range than canonically defined, is hypothesized to be an adaptation that increases the range of organic compounds metabolized by cells in environments where selection favors genome minimization. We provide experimental support for this hypothesis by demonstrating that SAR11 cells take up and metabolize multiple polyamine compounds and propose that a small set of multifunctional enzymes catalyze this metabolism. We report that polyamine uptake rates can exceed metabolic rates, resulting in both high intracellular concentrations of these nitrogen-rich compounds (in comparison to native polyamine levels) and an increase in cell size. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    Vitamin B1 (thiamin) is an essential coenzyme for all cells. Recent findings from experimental cell biology and genome surveys have shown that thiamin cycling by plankton is far more complex than was previously understood. Many plankton cells cannot produce thiamin (are auxotrophic) and obligately require an exogenous source of thiamin or one or more of 5 different thiamin-related compounds (TRCs). Despite this emerging evidence for the evolution among plankton of complex interactions related to thiamin, the influence of TRCs on plankton community structure and productivity are not understood. We report measurements of three dissolved TRCs 4-amino-5-aminomethyl-2-methylpyrimidine (AmMP), 5-(2-hydroxyethyl)-4-methyl-1,3-thiazole-2-carboxylic acid (cHET), and 4-methyl-5-thiazoleethanol (HET) that have never before been assayed in seawater. Here we characterize them alongside other TRCs that were measured previously [thiamin and 4-amino-5-hydroxymethyl-2-methylpyrimidine (HMP)], in depth profiles from a latitudinal transect in the north Atlantic in March 2018. TRC concentrations ranged from femptomolar to picomolar. Surface depletion relative to a maximum near the bottom of the euphotic zone and low concentrations at deeper depths were consistent features. Our observations suggest that when bacterial abundance and production are low, TRC concentrations approach a steady state where TRC production and consumption terms are balanced. Standing stocks of TRCs also appear to be positively correlated with bacterial production. However, near the period of peak biomass in the accumulation phase of a bloom we observed an inverse relationship between TRCs and bacterial production, coincident with an increased abundance of Flavobacteria that comparative genomics indicates could be vitamin B1 auxotrophs. While these observations suggest that the dissolved pool of TRCs is often at steady state, with TRC production and consumption balanced, our data suggests that bloom induced shifts in microbial community structure and activity may cause a decoupling between TRC production and consumption, leading to increased abundances of some populations of bacteria that are putatively vitamin B1 auxotrophs. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
  6. ABSTRACT Water bloom development due to eutrophication constitutes a case of niche specialization among planktonic cyanobacteria, but the genomic repertoire allowing bloom formation in only some species has not been fully characterized. We posited that the habitat relevance of a trait begets its underlying genomic complexity, so that traits within the repertoire would be differentially more complex in species successfully thriving in that habitat than in close species that cannot. To test this for the case of bloom-forming cyanobacteria, we curated 17 potentially relevant query metabolic pathways and five core pathways selected according to existing ecophysiological literature. The available 113 genomes were split into those of blooming (45) or nonblooming (68) strains, and an index of genomic complexity for each strain’s version of each pathway was derived. We show that strain versions of all query pathways were significantly more complex in bloomers, with complexity in fact correlating positively with strain blooming incidence in 14 of those pathways. Five core pathways, relevant everywhere, showed no differential complexity or correlations. Gas vesicle, toxin and fatty acid synthesis, amino acid uptake, and C, N, and S acquisition systems were most strikingly relevant in the blooming repertoire. Further, we validated our findings using metagenomic gene expression analyses of blooming and nonblooming cyanobacteria in natural settings, where pathways in the repertoire were differentially overexpressed according to their relative complexity in bloomers, but not in nonbloomers. We expect that this approach may find applications to other habitats and organismal groups. IMPORTANCE We pragmatically delineate the trait repertoire that enables organismal niche specialization. We based our approach on the tenet, derived from evolutionary and complex-system considerations, that genomic units that can significantly contribute to fitness in a certain habitat will be comparatively more complex in organisms specialized to that habitat than their genomic homologs found in organisms from other habitats. We tested this in cyanobacteria forming harmful water blooms, for which decades-long efforts in ecological physiology and genomics exist. Our results essentially confirm that genomics and ecology can be linked through comparative complexity analyses, providing a tool that should be of general applicability for any group of organisms and any habitat, and enabling the posing of grounded hypotheses regarding the ecogenomic basis for diversification. 
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  7. ABSTRACT Genus assignment is fundamental in the characterization of microbes, yet there is currently no unambiguous way to demarcate genera solely using standard genomic relatedness indices. Here, we propose an approach to demarcate genera that relies on the combined use of the average nucleotide identity, genome alignment fraction, and the distinction between type- and non-type species. More than 3,500 genomes representing type strains of species from >850 genera of either bacterial or archaeal lineages were tested. Over 140 genera were analyzed in detail within the taxonomic context of order/family. Significant genomic differences between members of a genus and type species of other genera in the same order/family were conserved in 94% of the cases. Nearly 90% (92% if polyphyletic genera are excluded) of the type strains were classified in agreement with current taxonomy. The 448 type strains that need reclassification directly impact 33% of the genera analyzed in detail. The results provide a first line of evidence that the combination of genomic indices provides added resolution to effectively demarcate genera within the taxonomic framework that is currently based on the 16S rRNA gene. We also identify the emergence of natural breakpoints at the genome level that can further help in the circumscription of taxa, increasing the proportion of directly impacted genera to at least 43% and pointing at inaccuracies on the use of the 16S rRNA gene as a taxonomic marker, despite its precision. Altogether, these results suggest that genomic coherence is an emergent property of genera in Bacteria and Archaea . IMPORTANCE In recent decades, the taxonomy of Bacteria and Archaea , and therefore genus designation, has been largely based on the use of a single ribosomal gene, the 16S rRNA gene, as a taxonomic marker. We propose an approach to delineate genera that excludes the direct use of the 16S rRNA gene and focuses on a standard genome relatedness index, the average nucleotide identity. Our findings are of importance to the microbiology community because the emergent properties of Bacteria and Archaea that are identified in this study will help assign genera with higher taxonomic resolution. 
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  8. ABSTRACT There is a growing appreciation within animal and plant physiology that the reactive oxygen species (ROS) superoxide is not only detrimental but also essential for life. Yet, despite widespread production of extracellular superoxide by healthy bacteria and phytoplankton, this molecule remains associated with stress and death. Here, we quantify extracellular superoxide production by seven ecologically diverse bacteria within the Roseobacter clade and specifically target the link between extracellular superoxide and physiology for two species. We reveal for all species a strong inverse relationship between cell-normalized superoxide production rates and cell number. For exponentially growing cells of Ruegeria pomeroyi DSS-3 and Roseobacter sp. strain AzwK-3b, we show that superoxide levels are regulated in response to cell density through rapid modulation of gross production and not decay. Over a life cycle of batch cultures, extracellular superoxide levels are tightly regulated through a balance of both production and decay processes allowing for nearly constant levels of superoxide during active growth and minimal levels upon entering stationary phase. Further, removal of superoxide through the addition of exogenous superoxide dismutase during growth leads to significant growth inhibition. Overall, these results point to tight regulation of extracellular superoxide in representative members of the Roseobacter clade, consistent with a role for superoxide in growth regulation as widely acknowledged in fungal, animal, and plant physiology. IMPORTANCE Formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) through partial reduction of molecular oxygen is widely associated with stress within microbial and marine systems. Nevertheless, widespread observations of the production of the ROS superoxide by healthy and actively growing marine bacteria and phytoplankton call into question the role of superoxide in the health and physiology of marine microbes. Here, we show that superoxide is produced by several marine bacteria within the widespread and abundant Roseobacter clade. Superoxide levels outside the cell are controlled via a tightly regulated balance of production and decay processes in response to cell density and life stage in batch culture. Removal of extracellular superoxide leads to substantial growth inhibition. These findings point to an essential role for superoxide in the health and growth of this ubiquitous group of microbes, and likely beyond. 
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  9. null (Ed.)
  10. Summary

    Marine bacterioplankton face stiff competition for limited nutrient resources. SAR11, a ubiquitous clade of very small and highly abundantAlphaproteobacteria, are known to devote much of their energy to synthesizing ATP‐binding cassette periplasmic proteins that bind substrates. We hypothesized that their small size and relatively large periplasmic space might enable them to outcompete other bacterioplankton for nutrients. Using uptake experiments with14C‐glycine betaine, we discovered that two strains of SAR11,CandidatusPelagibacter sp. HTCC7211 andCand. P. ubique HTCC1062, have extraordinarily high affinity for glycine betaine (GBT), with half‐saturation (Ks) values around 1 nM and specific affinity values between 8 and 14 L mg cell−1 h−1. Competitive inhibition studies indicated that the GBT transporters in these strains are multifunctional, transporting multiple substrates in addition to GBT. Both strains could use most of the transported compounds for metabolism and ATP production. Our findings indicate thatPelagibactercells are primarily responsible for the high affinity and multifunctional GBT uptake systems observed in seawater. Maximization of whole‐cell affinities may enable these organisms to compete effectively for nutrients during periods when the gross transport capacity of the heterotrophic plankton community exceeds the supply, depressing ambient concentrations.

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