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  1. Abstract Dissolved primary production released into seawater by marine phytoplankton is a major source of carbon fueling heterotrophic bacterial production in the ocean. The composition of the organic compounds released by healthy phytoplankton is poorly known and difficult to assess with existing chemical methods. Here, expression of transporter and catabolic genes by three model marine bacteria ( Ruegeria pomeroyi DSS-3, Stenotrophomonas sp. SKA14, and Polaribacter dokdonensis MED152) was used as a biological sensor of metabolites released from the picoeukaryote Micromonas commoda RCC299. Bacterial expression responses indicated that the three species together recognized 38 picoeukaryote metabolites. This was consistent with the Micromonas expression of genes for starch metabolism and synthesis of peptidoglycan-like intermediates. A comparison of the hypothesized Micromonas exometabolite pool with that of the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana CCMP1335, analyzed previously with the same biological sensor method, indicated that both phytoplankton released organic acids, nucleosides, and amino acids, but differed in polysaccharide and organic nitrogen release. Future ocean conditions are expected to favor picoeukaryotic phytoplankton over larger-celled microphytoplankton. Results from this study suggest that such a shift could alter the substrate pool available to heterotrophic bacterioplankton. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  2. Bacteria that assemble in phycospheres surrounding living phytoplankton cells metabolize a substantial proportion of ocean primary productivity. Yet the type and extent of interactions occurring among species that colonize these micron-scale “hot spot” environments are challenging to study. We identified genes that mediate bacterial interactions in phycosphere communities by culturing a transposon mutant library of copiotrophic bacterium Ruegeria pomeroyi DSS-3 with the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana CCMP1335 as the sole source of organic matter in the presence or absence of other heterotrophic bacterial species. The function of genes having significant effects on R. pomeroyi fitness indicated explicit cell–cell interactions initiated in the multibacterial phycospheres. We found that R. pomeroyi simultaneously competed for shared substrates while increasing reliance on substrates that did not support the other species’ growth. Fitness outcomes also indicated that the bacterium competed for nitrogen in the forms of ammonium and amino acids; obtained purines, pyrimidines, and cofactors via crossfeeding; both initiated and defended antagonistic interactions; and sensed an environment with altered oxygen and superoxide levels. The large genomes characteristic of copiotrophic marine bacteria are hypothesized to enable responses to dynamic ecological challenges occurring at the scale of microns. Here, we discover >200 nonessential genes implicated in the management of fitness costs and benefits of membership in a globally significant bacterial community. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 21, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Metabolite exchange within marine microbial communities transfers carbon and other major elements through global cycles and forms the basis of microbial interactions. Yet lack of gene annotations and concern about the quality of existing ones remain major impediments to revealing currencies of carbon flux. We employed an arrayed mutant library of the marine bacterium Ruegeria pomeroyi DSS-3 to experimentally annotate substrates of organic compound transporter systems, using mutant growth and compound drawdown analyses to link transporters to their cognate substrates. Mutant experiments verified substrates for thirteen R. pomeroyi transporters. Four were previously hypothesized based on gene expression data (taurine, glucose/xylose, isethionate, and cadaverine/putrescine/spermidine); five were previously hypothesized based on homology to experimentally annotated transporters in other bacteria (citrate, glycerol, N-acetylglucosamine, fumarate/malate/succinate, and dimethylsulfoniopropionate); and four had no previous annotations (thymidine, carnitine, cysteate, and 3-hydroxybutyrate). These bring the total number of experimentally-verified organic carbon influx transporters to 18 of 126 in the R. pomeroyi genome. In a longitudinal study of a coastal phytoplankton bloom, expression patterns of the experimentally annotated transporters linked them to different stages of the bloom, and also led to the hypothesis that citrate and 3-hydroxybutyrate were among the most highly available bacterial substrates. Improved functional annotation of the gatekeepers of organic carbon uptake is critical for deciphering carbon flux and fate in microbial ecosystems.

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  4. Abstract

    Identifying mechanisms by which bacterial species evolve and maintain genomic diversity is particularly challenging for the uncultured lineages that dominate the surface ocean. A longitudinal analysis of bacterial genes, genomes, and transcripts during a coastal phytoplankton bloom revealed two co-occurring, highly related Rhodobacteraceae species from the deeply branching and uncultured NAC11-7 lineage. These have identical 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequences, yet their genome contents assembled from metagenomes and single cells indicate species-level divergence. Moreover, shifts in relative dominance of the species during dynamic bloom conditions over 7 weeks confirmed the syntopic species’ divergent responses to the same microenvironment at the same time. Genes unique to each species and genes shared but divergent in per-cell inventories of mRNAs accounted for 5% of the species’ pangenome content. These analyses uncover physiological and ecological features that differentiate the species, including capacities for organic carbon utilization, attributes of the cell surface, metal requirements, and vitamin biosynthesis. Such insights into the coexistence of highly related and ecologically similar bacterial species in their shared natural habitat are rare.

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  5. Uncovering which biogeochemical processes have a critical role controlling dissolved organic matter (DOM) compositional changes in complex estuarine environments remains a challenge. In this context, the aim of this study is to characterize the dominant patterns of variability modifying the DOM composition in an estuary off the Southeastern U.S. We collected water samples during three seasons (July and October 2014 and April 2015) at both high and low tides and conducted short- (1 day) and long-term (60 days) dark incubations. Samples were analyzed for bulk DOC concentration, and optical (CDOM) and molecular (FT-ICR MS) compositions and bacterial cells were collected for metatranscriptomics. Results show that the dominant pattern of variability in DOM composition occurs at seasonal scales, likely associated with the seasonality of river discharge. After seasonal variations, long-term biodegradation was found to be comparatively more important in the fall, while tidal variability was the second most important factor correlated to DOM composition in spring, when the freshwater content in the estuary was high. Over shorter time scales, however, the influence of microbial processing was small. Microbial data revealed a similar pattern, with variability in gene expression occurring primarily at the seasonal scale and tidal influence being of secondary importance. Our analyses suggest that future changes in the seasonal delivery of freshwater to this system have the potential to significantly impact DOM composition. Changes in residence time may also be important, helping control the relative contribution of tides and long-term biodegradation to DOM compositional changes in the estuary. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Marine Group II Euryarchaeota ( Candidatus Poseidoniales), abundant but yet-uncultivated members of marine microbial communities, are thought to be (photo)heterotrophs that metabolize dissolved organic matter (DOM), such as lipids and peptides. However, little is known about their transcriptional activity. We mapped reads from a metatranscriptomic time series collected at Sapelo Island (GA, USA) to metagenome-assembled genomes to determine the diversity of transcriptionally active Ca . Poseidoniales. Summer metatranscriptomes had the highest abundance of Ca . Poseidoniales transcripts, mostly from the O1 and O3 genera within Ca . Thalassarchaeaceae (MGIIb). In contrast, transcripts from fall and winter samples were predominantly from Ca . Poseidoniaceae (MGIIa). Genes encoding proteorhodopsin, membrane-bound pyrophosphatase, peptidase/proteases, and part of the ß-oxidation pathway were highly transcribed across abundant genera. Highly transcribed genes specific to Ca . Thalassarchaeaceae included xanthine/uracil permease and receptors for amino acid transporters. Enrichment of Ca . Thalassarchaeaceae transcript reads related to protein/peptide, nucleic acid, and amino acid transport and metabolism, as well as transcript depletion during dark incubations, provided further evidence of heterotrophic metabolism. Quantitative PCR analysis of South Atlantic Bight samples indicated consistently abundant Ca . Poseidoniales in nearshore and inshore waters. Together, our data suggest that Ca . Thalassarchaeaceae are important photoheterotrophs potentially linking DOM and nitrogen cycling in coastal waters. 
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  7. Abstract

    Organic carbon transfer between surface ocean photosynthetic and heterotrophic microbes is a central but poorly understood process in the global carbon cycle. In a model community in which diatom extracellular release of organic molecules sustained growth of a co-cultured bacterium, we determined quantitative changes in the diatom endometabolome and the bacterial uptake transcriptome over two diel cycles. Of the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) peaks in the diatom endometabolites, 38% had diel patterns with noon or mid-afternoon maxima; the remaining either increased (36%) or decreased (26%) through time. Of the genes in the bacterial uptake transcriptome, 94% had a diel pattern with a noon maximum; the remaining decreased over time (6%). Eight diatom endometabolites identified with high confidence were matched to the bacterial genes mediating their utilization. Modeling of these coupled inventories with only diffusion-based phytoplankton extracellular release could not reproduce all the patterns. Addition of active release mechanisms for physiological balance and bacterial recognition significantly improved model performance. Estimates of phytoplankton extracellular release range from only a few percent to nearly half of annual net primary production. Improved understanding of the factors that influence metabolite release and consumption by surface ocean microbes will better constrain this globally significant carbon flux.

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