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  1. Bernstein, Hans C. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Cyanobacterial mats profoundly influenced Earth’s biological and geochemical evolution and still play important ecological roles in the modern world. However, the biogeochemical functioning of cyanobacterial mats under persistent low-O 2 conditions, which dominated their evolutionary history, is not well understood. To investigate how different metabolic and biogeochemical functions are partitioned among community members, we conducted metagenomics and metatranscriptomics on cyanobacterial mats in the low-O 2 , sulfidic Middle Island sinkhole (MIS) in Lake Huron. Metagenomic assembly and binning yielded 144 draft metagenome assembled genomes, including 61 of medium quality or better, and the dominant cyanobacteria and numerous Proteobacteria involved in sulfur cycling. Strains of a Phormidium autumnale -like cyanobacterium dominated the metagenome and metatranscriptome. Transcripts for the photosynthetic reaction core genes psaA and psbA were abundant in both day and night. Multiple types of psbA genes were expressed from each cyanobacterium, and the dominant psbA transcripts were from an atypical microaerobic type of D1 protein from Phormidium . Further, cyanobacterial transcripts for photosystem I genes were more abundant than those for photosystem II, and two types of Phormidium sulfide quinone reductase were recovered, consistent with anoxygenic photosynthesis via photosystem I in the presence of sulfide. Transcripts indicate active sulfurmore »oxidation and reduction within the cyanobacterial mat, predominately by Gammaproteobacteria and Deltaproteobacteria , respectively. Overall, these genomic and transcriptomic results link specific microbial groups to metabolic processes that underpin primary production and biogeochemical cycling in a low-O 2 cyanobacterial mat and suggest mechanisms for tightly coupled cycling of oxygen and sulfur compounds in the mat ecosystem. IMPORTANCE Cyanobacterial mats are dense communities of microorganisms that contain photosynthetic cyanobacteria along with a host of other bacterial species that play important yet still poorly understood roles in this ecosystem. Although such cyanobacterial mats were critical agents of Earth’s biological and chemical evolution through geological time, little is known about how they function under the low-oxygen conditions that characterized most of their natural history. Here, we performed sequencing of the DNA and RNA of modern cyanobacterial mat communities under low-oxygen and sulfur-rich conditions from the Middle Island sinkhole in Lake Huron. The results reveal the organisms and metabolic pathways that are responsible for both oxygen-producing and non-oxygen-producing photosynthesis as well as interconversions of sulfur that likely shape how much O 2 is produced in such ecosystems. These findings indicate tight metabolic reactions between community members that help to explain the limited the amount of O 2 produced in cyanobacterial mat ecosystems.« less
  2. Vast and diverse microbial communities exist within the ocean. To better understand the global influence of these microorganisms on Earth’s climate, we developed a robot capable of sampling dissolved and particulate seawater biochemistry across ocean basins while still capturing the fine-scale biogeochemical processes therein. Carbon and other nutrients are acquired and released by marine microorganisms as they build and break down organic matter. The scale of the ocean makes these processes globally relevant and, at the same time, challenging to fully characterize. Microbial community composition and ocean biochemistry vary across multiple physical scales up to that of the ocean basins. Other autonomous underwater vehicles are optimized for moving continuously and, primarily, horizontally through the ocean. In contrast,Clio, the robot that we describe, is designed to efficiently and precisely move vertically through the ocean, drift laterally in a Lagrangian manner to better observe water masses, and integrate with research vessel operations to map large horizontal scales to a depth of 6000 meters. We present results that show howClioconducts high-resolution sensor surveys and sample return missions, including a mapping of 1144 kilometers of the Sargasso Sea to a depth of 1000 meters. We further show how the samples obtain filtered biomass frommore »seawater that enable genomic and proteomic measurements not possible through in situ sensing. These results demonstrate a robotic oceanography approach for global-scale surveys of ocean biochemistry.

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