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  1. Abstract In globally distributed deep-sea hydrothermal vent plumes, microbiomes are shaped by the redox energy landscapes created by reduced hydrothermal vent fluids mixing with oxidized seawater. Plumes can disperse over thousands of kilometers and their characteristics are determined by geochemical sources from vents, e.g., hydrothermal inputs, nutrients, and trace metals. However, the impacts of plume biogeochemistry on the oceans are poorly constrained due to a lack of integrated understanding of microbiomes, population genetics, and geochemistry. Here, we use microbial genomes to understand links between biogeography, evolution, and metabolic connectivity, and elucidate their impacts on biogeochemical cycling in the deep sea. Using data from 36 diverse plume samples from seven ocean basins, we show that sulfur metabolism defines the core microbiome of plumes and drives metabolic connectivity in the microbial community. Sulfur-dominated geochemistry influences energy landscapes and promotes microbial growth, while other energy sources influence local energy landscapes. We further demonstrated the consistency of links among geochemistry, function, and taxonomy. Amongst all microbial metabolisms, sulfur transformations had the highest MW-score, a measure of metabolic connectivity in microbial communities. Additionally, plume microbial populations have low diversity, short migration history, and gene-specific sweep patterns after migrating from background seawater. Selected functions include nutrient uptake, aerobic oxidation, sulfur oxidation for higher energy yields, and stress responses for adaptation. Our findings provide the ecological and evolutionary bases of change in sulfur-driven microbial communities and their population genetics in adaptation to changing geochemical gradients in the oceans. 
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  2. ABSTRACT Viruses are ubiquitous on Earth and are keystone components of environments, ecosystems, and human health. Yet, viruses remain poorly studied because most cannot be isolated in a laboratory. In the field of biogeochemistry, which aims to understand the interactions between biology, geology, and chemistry, there is progress to be made in understanding the different roles played by viruses in nutrient cycling, food webs, and elemental transformations. In this commentary, we outline current microbial ecology frameworks for understanding biogeochemical cycling in aquatic ecosystems. Next, we review some existing experimental and computational techniques that are enabling us to study the role of viruses in biogeochemical cycling, using examples from aquatic environments. Finally, we provide a conceptual model that balances limitations of computational tools when combined with biogeochemistry and ecological data. We envision meeting the grand challenge of understanding how viruses impact biogeochemical cycling by using a multifaceted approach to viral ecology. 
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  3. Abstract Background

    Advances in microbiome science are being driven in large part due to our ability to study and infer microbial ecology from genomes reconstructed from mixed microbial communities using metagenomics and single-cell genomics. Such omics-based techniques allow us to read genomic blueprints of microorganisms, decipher their functional capacities and activities, and reconstruct their roles in biogeochemical processes. Currently available tools for analyses of genomic data can annotate and depict metabolic functions to some extent; however, no standardized approaches are currently available for the comprehensive characterization of metabolic predictions, metabolite exchanges, microbial interactions, and microbial contributions to biogeochemical cycling.


    We present METABOLIC (METabolic And BiogeOchemistry anaLyses In miCrobes), a scalable software to advance microbial ecology and biogeochemistry studies using genomes at the resolution of individual organisms and/or microbial communities. The genome-scale workflow includes annotation of microbial genomes, motif validation of biochemically validated conserved protein residues, metabolic pathway analyses, and calculation of contributions to individual biogeochemical transformations and cycles. The community-scale workflow supplements genome-scale analyses with determination of genome abundance in the microbiome, potential microbial metabolic handoffs and metabolite exchange, reconstruction of functional networks, and determination of microbial contributions to biogeochemical cycles. METABOLIC can take input genomes from isolates, metagenome-assembled genomes, or single-cell genomes. Results are presented in the form of tables for metabolism and a variety of visualizations including biogeochemical cycling potential, representation of sequential metabolic transformations, community-scale microbial functional networks using a newly defined metric “MW-score” (metabolic weight score), and metabolic Sankey diagrams. METABOLIC takes ~ 3 h with 40 CPU threads to process ~ 100 genomes and corresponding metagenomic reads within which the most compute-demanding part of hmmsearch takes ~ 45 min, while it takes ~ 5 h to complete hmmsearch for ~ 3600 genomes. Tests of accuracy, robustness, and consistency suggest METABOLIC provides better performance compared to other software and online servers. To highlight the utility and versatility of METABOLIC, we demonstrate its capabilities on diverse metagenomic datasets from the marine subsurface, terrestrial subsurface, meadow soil, deep sea, freshwater lakes, wastewater, and the human gut.


    METABOLIC enables the consistent and reproducible study of microbial community ecology and biogeochemistry using a foundation of genome-informed microbial metabolism, and will advance the integration of uncultivated organisms into metabolic and biogeochemical models. METABOLIC is written in Perl and R and is freely available under GPLv3 at

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  4. Kent, Angela D. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Methylmercury is a potent bioaccumulating neurotoxin that is produced by specific microorganisms that methylate inorganic mercury. Methylmercury production in diverse anaerobic bacteria and archaea was recently linked to the hgcAB genes. However, the full phylogenetic and metabolic diversity of mercury-methylating microorganisms has not been fully unraveled due to the limited number of cultured experimentally verified methylators and the limitations of primer-based molecular methods. Here, we describe the phylogenetic diversity and metabolic flexibility of putative mercury-methylating microorganisms by hgcAB identification in publicly available isolate genomes and metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) as well as novel freshwater MAGs. We demonstrate that putative mercury methylators are much more phylogenetically diverse than previously known and that hgcAB distribution among genomes is most likely due to several independent horizontal gene transfer events. The microorganisms we identified possess diverse metabolic capabilities spanning carbon fixation, sulfate reduction, nitrogen fixation, and metal resistance pathways. We identified 111 putative mercury methylators in a set of previously published permafrost metatranscriptomes and demonstrated that different methylating taxa may contribute to hgcA expression at different depths. Overall, we provide a framework for illuminating the microbial basis of mercury methylation using genome-resolved metagenomics and metatranscriptomics to identify putative methylators based upon hgcAB presence and describe their putative functions in the environment. IMPORTANCE Accurately assessing the production of bioaccumulative neurotoxic methylmercury by characterizing the phylogenetic diversity, metabolic functions, and activity of methylators in the environment is crucial for understanding constraints on the mercury cycle. Much of our understanding of methylmercury production is based on cultured anaerobic microorganisms within the Deltaproteobacteria , Firmicutes , and Euryarchaeota. Advances in next-generation sequencing technologies have enabled large-scale cultivation-independent surveys of diverse and poorly characterized microorganisms from numerous ecosystems. We used genome-resolved metagenomics and metatranscriptomics to highlight the vast phylogenetic and metabolic diversity of putative mercury methylators and their depth-discrete activities in thawing permafrost. This work underscores the importance of using genome-resolved metagenomics to survey specific putative methylating populations of a given mercury-impacted ecosystem. 
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  5. Abstract

    Lake Tanganyika (LT) is the largest tropical freshwater lake, and the largest body of anoxic freshwater on Earth’s surface. LT’s mixed oxygenated surface waters float atop a permanently anoxic layer and host rich animal biodiversity. However, little is known about microorganisms inhabiting LT’s 1470 meter deep water column and their contributions to nutrient cycling, which affect ecosystem-level function and productivity. Here, we applied genome-resolved metagenomics and environmental analyses to link specific taxa to key biogeochemical processes across a vertical depth gradient in LT. We reconstructed 523 unique metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) from 34 bacterial and archaeal phyla, including many rarely observed in freshwater lakes. We identified sharp contrasts in community composition and metabolic potential with an abundance of typical freshwater taxa in oxygenated mixed upper layers, and Archaea and uncultured Candidate Phyla in deep anoxic waters. Genomic capacity for nitrogen and sulfur cycling was abundant in MAGs recovered from anoxic waters, highlighting microbial contributions to the productive surface layers via recycling of upwelled nutrients, and greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide. Overall, our study provides a blueprint for incorporation of aquatic microbial genomics in the representation of tropical freshwater lakes, especially in the context of ongoing climate change, which is predicted to bring increased stratification and anoxia to freshwater lakes.

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  6. null (Ed.)
  7. Abstract

    Extracellular electron transfer (EET) by electroactive bacteria in anoxic soils and sediments is an intensively researched subject, but EET's function in planktonic ecology has been less considered. Following the discovery of an unexpectedly high prevalence of EET genes in a bog lake's bacterioplankton, we hypothesized that the redox capacities of dissolved organic matter (DOM) enrich for electroactive bacteria by mediating redox chemistry. We developed the bioinformatics pipeline FEET (Find EET) to identify and summarize predicted EET protein‐encoding genes from metagenomics data. We then applied FEET to 36 bog and thermokarst lakes and correlated gene occurrence with environmental data to test our predictions. Our results provide indirect evidence that DOM may participate in bacterioplankton EET. We found a similarly high prevalence of genes encoding putative EET proteins in most of these lakes, where oxidative EET strongly correlated with DOM. Numerous novel clusters of multiheme cytochromes that may enable EET were identified. Taxa previously not considered EET‐capable were found to carry EET genes. We propose that EET and DOM interactions are of ecologically important to bacterioplankton in small boreal lakes, and that EET, particularly by methylotrophs and anoxygenic phototrophs, should be further studied and incorporated into methane emission models of melting permafrost.

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