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  1. Abstract Background

    Winter carbon loss in northern ecosystems is estimated to be greater than the average growing season carbon uptake and is primarily driven by microbial decomposers. Viruses modulate microbial carbon cycling via induced mortality and metabolic controls, but it is unknown whether viruses are active under winter conditions (anoxic and sub-freezing temperatures).


    We used stable isotope probing (SIP) targeted metagenomics to reveal the genomic potential of active soil microbial populations under simulated winter conditions, with an emphasis on viruses and virus-host dynamics. Arctic peat soils from the Bonanza Creek Long-Term Ecological Research site in Alaska were incubated under sub-freezing anoxic conditions with H218O or natural abundance water for 184 and 370 days. We sequenced 23 SIP-metagenomes and measured carbon dioxide (CO2) efflux throughout the experiment. We identified 46 bacterial populations (spanning 9 phyla) and 243 viral populations that actively took up18O in soil and respired CO2throughout the incubation. Active bacterial populations represented only a small portion of the detected microbial community and were capable of fermentation and organic matter degradation. In contrast, active viral populations represented a large portion of the detected viral community and one third were linked to active bacterial populations. We identified 86 auxiliary metabolic genes and other environmentallymore »relevant genes. The majority of these genes were carried by active viral populations and had diverse functions such as carbon utilization and scavenging that could provide their host with a fitness advantage for utilizing much-needed carbon sources or acquiring essential nutrients.


    Overall, there was a stark difference in the identity and function of the active bacterial and viral community compared to the unlabeled community that would have been overlooked with a non-targeted standard metagenomic analysis. Our results illustrate that substantial active virus-host interactions occur in sub-freezing anoxic conditions and highlight viruses as a major community-structuring agent that likely modulates carbon loss in peat soils during winter, which may be pivotal for understanding the future fate of arctic soils' vast carbon stocks.

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  2. Background

    Metagenomics has transformed our understanding of microbial diversity across ecosystems, with recent advances enablingde novoassembly of genomes from metagenomes. These metagenome-assembled genomes are critical to provide ecological, evolutionary, and metabolic context for all the microbes and viruses yet to be cultivated. Metagenomes can now be generated from nanogram to subnanogram amounts of DNA. However, these libraries require several rounds of PCR amplification before sequencing, and recent data suggest these typically yield smaller and more fragmented assemblies than regular metagenomes.


    Here we evaluatede novoassembly methods of 169 PCR-amplified metagenomes, including 25 for which an unamplified counterpart is available, to optimize specific assembly approaches for PCR-amplified libraries. We first evaluated coverage bias by mapping reads from PCR-amplified metagenomes onto reference contigs obtained from unamplified metagenomes of the same samples. Then, we compared different assembly pipelines in terms of assembly size (number of bp in contigs ≥ 10 kb) and error rates to evaluate which are the best suited for PCR-amplified metagenomes.


    Read mapping analyses revealed that the depth of coverage within individual genomes is significantly more uneven in PCR-amplified datasets versus unamplified metagenomes, with regions of high depth of coverage enriched in short inserts. This enrichment scales with the number of PCRmore »cycles performed, and is presumably due to preferential amplification of short inserts. Standard assembly pipelines are confounded by this type of coverage unevenness, so we evaluated other assembly options to mitigate these issues. We found that a pipeline combining read deduplication and an assembly algorithm originally designed to recover genomes from libraries generated after whole genome amplification (single-cell SPAdes) frequently improved assembly of contigs ≥10 kb by 10 to 100-fold for low input metagenomes.


    PCR-amplified metagenomes have enabled scientists to explore communities traditionally challenging to describe, including some with extremely low biomass or from which DNA is particularly difficult to extract. Here we show that a modified assembly pipeline can lead to an improvedde novogenome assembly from PCR-amplified datasets, and enables a better genome recovery from low input metagenomes.

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