Identification of the Core Set of Carbon-Associated Genes in a Bioenergy Grassland Soil.
ABSTRACT: Despite the central role of soil microbial communities in global carbon (C) cycling, little is known about soil microbial community structure and even less about their metabolic pathways. Efforts to characterize soil communities often focus on identifying differences in gene content across environmental gradients, but an alternative question is what genes are similar in soils. These genes may indicate critical species or potential functions that are required in all soils. Here we identified the "core" set of C cycling sequences widely present in multiple soil metagenomes from a fertilized prairie (FP). Of 226,887 sequences associated with known enzymes involved in the synthesis, metabolism, and transport of carbohydrates, 843 were identified to be consistently prevalent across four replicate soil metagenomes. This core metagenome was functionally and taxonomically diverse, representing five enzyme classes and 99 enzyme families within the CAZy database. Though it only comprised 0.4% of all CAZy-associated genes identified in FP metagenomes, the core was found to be comprised of functions similar to those within cumulative soils. The FP CAZy-associated core sequences were present in multiple publicly available soil metagenomes and most similar to soils sharing geographic proximity. In soil ecosystems, where high diversity remains a key challenge for metagenomic investigations, these core genes represent a subset of critical functions necessary for carbohydrate metabolism, which can be targeted to evaluate important C fluxes in these and other similar soils.
Project description:Microorganisms drive much of the Earth's nitrogen (N) cycle, but we still lack a global overview of the abundance and composition of the microorganisms carrying out soil N processes. To address this gap, we characterized the biogeography of microbial N traits, defined as eight N-cycling pathways, using publically available soil metagenomes. The relative frequency of N pathways varied consistently across soils, such that the frequencies of the individual N pathways were positively correlated across the soil samples. Habitat type, soil carbon, and soil N largely explained the total N pathway frequency in a sample. In contrast, we could not identify major drivers of the taxonomic composition of the N functional groups. Further, the dominant genera encoding a pathway were generally similar among habitat types. The soil samples also revealed an unexpectedly high frequency of bacteria carrying the pathways required for dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium, a little-studied N process in soil. Finally, phylogenetic analysis showed that some microbial groups seem to be N-cycling specialists or generalists. For instance, taxa within the Deltaproteobacteria encoded all eight N pathways, whereas those within the Cyanobacteria primarily encoded three pathways. Overall, this trait-based approach provides a baseline for investigating the relationship between microbial diversity and N cycling across global soils.
Project description:Microbial nitrogen fixation is crucial for building labile nitrogen stocks and facilitating higher plant colonisation in oligotrophic glacier forefield soils. Here, the diazotrophic bacterial community structure across four Arctic glacier forefields was investigated using metagenomic analysis. In total, 70 soil metagenomes were used for taxonomic interpretation based on 185 nitrogenase (nif) sequences, extracted from assembled contigs. The low number of recovered genes highlights the need for deeper sequencing in some diverse samples, to uncover the complete microbial populations. A key group of forefield diazotrophs, found throughout the forefields, was identified using a nifH phylogeny, associated with nifH Cluster I and III. Sequences related most closely to groups including Alphaproteobacteria, Betaproteobacteria, Cyanobacteria and Firmicutes. Using multiple nif genes in a Last Common Ancestor analysis revealed a diverse range of diazotrophs across the forefields. Key organisms identified across the forefields included Nostoc, Geobacter, Polaromonas and Frankia. Nitrogen fixers that are symbiotic with plants were also identified, through the presence of root associated diazotrophs, which fix nitrogen in return for reduced carbon. Additional nitrogen fixers identified in forefield soils were metabolically diverse, including fermentative and sulphur cycling bacteria, halophiles and anaerobes.
Project description:Among the bacteria, members of the order Actinomycetales are considered quintessential degraders of complex polysaccharides in soils. However, studies examining complex polysaccharide degradation by Actinomycetales (other than Streptomyces spp.) in soils are limited. Here, we examine the lignocellulolytic and chitinolytic potential of 112 Actinomycetales strains, encompassing 13 families, isolated from a semiarid grassland of the Colorado Plateau in Utah. Members of the Streptomycetaceae, Pseudonocardiaceae, Micromonosporaceae, and Promicromonosporaceae families exhibited robust activity against carboxymethyl cellulose, xylan, chitin, and pectin substrates (except for low/no pectinase activity by the Micromonosporaceae). When incubated in a hydrated mixture of blended Stipa and Hilaria grass biomass over a 5-week period, Streptomyces and Saccharothrix (a member of the Pseudonocardiaceae) isolates produced high levels of extracellular enzyme activity, such as endo- and exocellulase, glucosidase, endo- and exoxylosidase, and arabinofuranosidase. These characteristics make them well suited to degrade the cellulose and hemicellulose components of grass cell walls. On the basis of the polysaccharide degradation profiles of the isolates, relative abundance of Actinomycetales sequences in 16S rRNA gene surveys of Colorado Plateau soils, and analysis of genes coding for polysaccharide-degrading enzymes among 237 Actinomycetales genomes in the CAZy database and 5 genomes from our isolates, we posit that Streptomyces spp. and select members of the Pseudonocardiaceae and Micromonosporaceae likely play an important role in the degradation of hemicellulose, cellulose, and chitin substances in dryland soils.IMPORTANCE Shifts in the relative abundance of Actinomycetales taxa have been observed in soil microbial community surveys during large, manipulated climate change field studies. However, our limited understanding of the ecophysiology of diverse Actinomycetales taxa in soil systems undermines attempts to determine the underlying causes of the population shifts or their impact on carbon cycling in soil. This study combines a systematic analysis of the polysaccharide degradation potential of a diverse collection of Actinomycetales isolates from surface soils of a semiarid grassland with analysis of genomes from five of these isolates and publicly available Actinomycetales genomes for genes encoding polysaccharide-active enzymes. The results address an important gap in knowledge of Actinomycetales ecophysiology-identification of key taxa capable of facilitating lignocellulose degradation in dryland soils. Information from this study will benefit future metagenomic studies related to carbon cycling in dryland soils by providing a baseline linkage of Actinomycetales phylogeny with lignocellulolytic functional potential.
Project description:Microbial activities in soils, such as (incomplete) denitrification, represent major sources of nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas. The key enzyme for mitigating N2O emissions is NosZ, which catalyzes N2O reduction to N2. We recently described "atypical" functional NosZ proteins encoded by both denitrifiers and nondenitrifiers, which were missed in previous environmental surveys (R. A. Sanford et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 109:19709-19714, 2012, doi:10.1073/pnas.1211238109). Here, we analyzed the abundance and diversity of both nosZ types in whole-genome shotgun metagenomes from sandy and silty loam agricultural soils that typify the U.S. Midwest corn belt. First, different search algorithms and parameters for detecting nosZ metagenomic reads were evaluated based on in silico-generated (mock) metagenomes. Using the derived cutoffs, 71 distinct alleles (95% amino acid identity level) encoding typical or atypical NosZ proteins were detected in both soil types. Remarkably, more than 70% of the total nosZ reads in both soils were classified as atypical, emphasizing that prior surveys underestimated nosZ abundance. Approximately 15% of the total nosZ reads were taxonomically related to Anaeromyxobacter, which was the most abundant genus encoding atypical NosZ-type proteins in both soil types. Further analyses revealed that atypical nosZ genes outnumbered typical nosZ genes in most publicly available soil metagenomes, underscoring their potential role in mediating N2O consumption in soils. Therefore, this study provides a bioinformatics strategy to reliably detect target genes in complex short-read metagenomes and suggests that the analysis of both typical and atypical nosZ sequences is required to understand and predict N2O flux in soils.Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas with ozone layer destruction potential. Microbial activities control both the production and the consumption of N2O, i.e., its conversion to innocuous dinitrogen gas (N2). Until recently, consumption of N2O was attributed to bacteria encoding "typical" nitrous oxide reductase (NosZ). However, recent phylogenetic and physiological studies have shown that previously uncharacterized, functional, "atypical" NosZ proteins are encoded in genomes of diverse bacterial groups. The present study revealed that atypical nosZ genes outnumbered their typical counterparts, highlighting their potential role in N2O consumption in soils and possibly other environments. These findings advance our understanding of the diversity of microbes and functional genes involved in the nitrogen cycle and provide the means (e.g., gene sequences) to study N2O fluxes to the atmosphere and associated climate change.
Project description:The fate of the carbon stocked in permafrost soils following global warming and permafrost thaw is of major concern in view of the potential for increased CH4 and CO2 emissions from these soils. Complex carbon compound degradation and greenhouse gas emissions are due to soil microbial communities, but their composition and functional potential in permafrost soils are largely unknown. Here, a 2 m deep permafrost and its overlying active layer soil were subjected to metagenome sequencing, quantitative PCR, and microarray analyses. The active layer soil and 2 m permafrost soil microbial community structures were very similar, with Actinobacteria being the dominant phylum. The two soils also possessed a highly similar spectrum of functional genes, especially when compared to other already published metagenomes. Key genes related to methane generation, methane oxidation and organic matter degradation were highly diverse for both soils in the metagenomic libraries and some (e.g. pmoA) showed relatively high abundance in qPCR assays. Genes related to nitrogen fixation and ammonia oxidation, which could have important roles following climatic change in these nitrogen-limited environments, showed low diversity but high abundance. The 2 m permafrost soil showed lower abundance and diversity for all the assessed genes and taxa. Experimental biases were also evaluated and showed that the whole community genome amplification technique used caused large representational biases in the metagenomic libraries. This study described for the first time the detailed functional potential of permafrost-affected soils and detected several genes and microorganisms that could have crucial importance following permafrost thaw. Overall design: A 2m deep permafrost sample and it overlying active layer were sampled and their metagenome analysed. For microarray analyses, 8 other soil samples from the same region were used for comparison purposes.
Project description:Organohalide-respiring bacteria have been linked to the cycling and possible respiration of chlorinated natural organic matter (Cl-NOM) in uncontaminated soils and sediments. The importance of non-respiratory hydrolytic/oxidative dechlorination processes in the cycling of Cl-NOM in terrestrial soil and sediment, however, is still not understood. This research analyzes the dechlorination potential of terrestrial systems through analysis of the metagenomes of urban lake sediments and cultures enriched with Cl-NOM. Even with the variability in sample type and enrichment conditions, the potential to dechlorinate was universal, with reductive dehalogenase genes and hydrolytic or oxidative dehalogenase genes found in all samples analyzed. The reductive dehalogenase genes detected grouped taxonomically with those from organohalide-respiring bacteria with broad metabolic capabilities, as opposed to those that obligately respire organohalides. Furthermore, reductive dehalogenase genes and two haloacid dehalogenase genes increased in abundance when sediment was enriched with high concentrations of Cl-NOM. Our data suggests that both respiratory and non-respiratory dechlorination processes are important for Cl-NOM cycling, and that non-obligate organohalide-respiring bacteria are most likely involved in these processes.
Project description:How soil microbial communities contrast with respect to taxonomic and functional composition within and between ecosystems remains an unresolved question that is central to predicting how global anthropogenic change will affect soil functioning and services. In particular, it remains unclear how small-scale observations of soil communities based on the typical volume sampled (1-2 g) are generalizable to ecosystem-scale responses and processes. This is especially relevant for remote, northern latitude soils, which are challenging to sample and are also thought to be more vulnerable to climate change compared to temperate soils. Here, we employed well-replicated shotgun metagenome and 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing to characterize community composition and metabolic potential in Alaskan tundra soils, combining our own datasets with those publically available from distant tundra and temperate grassland and agriculture habitats. We found that the abundance of many taxa and metabolic functions differed substantially between tundra soil metagenomes relative to those from temperate soils, and that a high degree of OTU-sharing exists between tundra locations. Tundra soils were an order of magnitude less complex than their temperate counterparts, allowing for near-complete coverage of microbial community richness (~92% breadth) by sequencing, and the recovery of 27 high-quality, almost complete (>80% completeness) population bins. These population bins, collectively, made up to ~10% of the metagenomic datasets, and represented diverse taxonomic groups and metabolic lifestyles tuned toward sulfur cycling, hydrogen metabolism, methanotrophy, and organic matter oxidation. Several population bins, including members of Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, and Proteobacteria, were also present in geographically distant (~100-530 km apart) tundra habitats (full genome representation and up to 99.6% genome-derived average nucleotide identity). Collectively, our results revealed that Alaska tundra microbial communities are less diverse and more homogenous across spatial scales than previously anticipated, and provided DNA sequences of abundant populations and genes that would be relevant for future studies of the effects of environmental change on tundra ecosystems.
Project description:The fate of the carbon stocked in permafrost soils following global warming and permafrost thaw is of major concern in view of the potential for increased CH4 and CO2 emissions from these soils. Complex carbon compound degradation and greenhouse gas emissions are due to soil microbial communities, but their composition and functional potential in permafrost soils are largely unknown. Here, a 2 m deep permafrost and its overlying active layer soil were subjected to metagenome sequencing, quantitative PCR, and microarray analyses. The active layer soil and 2 m permafrost soil microbial community structures were very similar, with Actinobacteria being the dominant phylum. The two soils also possessed a highly similar spectrum of functional genes, especially when compared to other already published metagenomes. Key genes related to methane generation, methane oxidation and organic matter degradation were highly diverse for both soils in the metagenomic libraries and some (e.g. pmoA) showed relatively high abundance in qPCR assays. Genes related to nitrogen fixation and ammonia oxidation, which could have important roles following climatic change in these nitrogen-limited environments, showed low diversity but high abundance. The 2 m permafrost soil showed lower abundance and diversity for all the assessed genes and taxa. Experimental biases were also evaluated and showed that the whole community genome amplification technique used caused large representational biases in the metagenomic libraries. This study described for the first time the detailed functional potential of permafrost-affected soils and detected several genes and microorganisms that could have crucial importance following permafrost thaw. A 2m deep permafrost sample and it overlying active layer were sampled and their metagenome analysed. For microarray analyses, 8 other soil samples from the same region were used for comparison purposes.
Project description:Structural succession and its driving factors for nitrogen (N) cycling microbial communities during the early stages of soil development (0-44 years) were studied along a chronosequence in the glacial forelands of the Tianshan Mountain No.1 glacier in the arid and semi-arid region of central Asia. We assessed the abundance and population of functional genes affiliated with N-fixation (nifH), nitrification (bacterial and archaeal amoA), and denitrification (nirK/S and nosZ) in a glacier foreland using molecular methods. The abundance of functional genes significantly increased with soil development. N cycling community compositions were also significantly shifted within 44 years and were structured by successional age. Cyanobacterial nifH gene sequences were the most dominant N fixing bacteria and its relative abundance increased from 56.8-93.2% along the chronosequence. Ammonia-oxidizing communities shifted from the Nitrososphaera cluster (AOA-amoA) and the Nitrosospira cluster ME (AOB-aomA) in younger soils (0 and 5 years) to communities dominated by soil and sediment 1 (AOA-amoA) and Nitrosospira Cluster 2 Related (AOB-aomA) in older soils (?17 years). Most of the denitrifers closest relatives were potential aerobic denitrifying bacteria, and some other types of denitrifying bacteria (like autotrophic nitrate-reducing, sulfide-oxidizing bacteria and denitrifying phosphorus removing bacteria) were also detected in all soil samples. The regression analysis showed that N cycling microbial communities were dominant in younger soils (0-5 years) and significantly correlated with soil total carbon, while communities that were most abundant in older soils were significantly correlated with soil total nitrogen. These results suggested that the shift of soil C and N contents during the glacial retreat significantly influenced the abundance, composition and diversity of N cycling microbial communities.
Project description:The dynamics of individual microbial populations and their gene functions in agricultural soils, especially after major activities such as nitrogen (N) fertilization, remain elusive but are important for a better understanding of nutrient cycling. Here, we analyzed 20 short-read metagenomes collected at four time points during 1 year from two depths (0 to 5 and 20 to 30 cm) in two Midwestern agricultural sites representing contrasting soil textures (sandy versus silty loam) with similar cropping histories. Although the microbial community taxonomic and functional compositions differed between the two locations and depths, they were more stable within a depth/site throughout the year than communities in natural aquatic ecosystems. For example, among the 69 population genomes assembled from the metagenomes, 75% showed a less than 2-fold change in abundance between any two sampling points. Interestingly, six deep-branching Thaumarchaeota and three complete ammonia oxidizer (comammox) Nitrospira populations increased up to 5-fold in abundance upon the addition of N fertilizer. These results indicated that indigenous archaeal ammonia oxidizers may respond faster (are more copiotrophic) to N fertilization than previously thought. None of 29 recovered putative denitrifier genomes encoded the complete denitrification pathway, suggesting that denitrification is carried out by a collection of different populations. Altogether, our study identified novel microbial populations and genes responding to seasonal and human-induced perturbations in agricultural soils that should facilitate future monitoring efforts and N-related studies.IMPORTANCE Even though the impact of agricultural management on the microbial community structure has been recognized, an understanding of the dynamics of individual microbial populations and what functions each population carries are limited. Yet, this information is important for a better understanding of nutrient cycling, with potentially important implications for preserving nitrogen in soils and sustainability. Here, we show that reconstructed metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) are relatively stable in their abundance and functional gene content year round, and seasonal nitrogen fertilization has selected for novel Thaumarchaeota and comammox Nitrospira nitrifiers that are potentially less oligotrophic than their marine counterparts previously studied.