Identity, Abundance, and Reactivation Kinetics of Thermophilic Fermentative Endospores in Cold Marine Sediment and Seawater.
ABSTRACT: Cold marine sediments harbor endospores of fermentative and sulfate-reducing, thermophilic bacteria. These dormant populations of endospores are believed to accumulate in the seabed via passive dispersal by ocean currents followed by sedimentation from the water column. However, the magnitude of this process is poorly understood because the endospores present in seawater were so far not identified, and only the abundance of thermophilic sulfate-reducing endospores in the seabed has been quantified. We investigated the distribution of thermophilic fermentative endospores (TFEs) in water column and sediment of Aarhus Bay, Denmark, to test the role of suspended dispersal and determine the rate of endospore deposition and the endospore abundance in the sediment. We furthermore aimed to determine the time course of reactivation of the germinating TFEs. TFEs were induced to germinate and grow by incubating pasteurized sediment and water samples anaerobically at 50°C. We observed a sudden release of the endospore component dipicolinic acid immediately upon incubation suggesting fast endospore reactivation in response to heating. Volatile fatty acids (VFAs) and H2 began to accumulate exponentially after 3.5 h of incubation showing that reactivation was followed by a short phase of outgrowth before germinated cells began to divide. Thermophilic fermenters were mainly present in the sediment as endospores because the rate of VFA accumulation was identical in pasteurized and non-pasteurized samples. Germinating TFEs were identified taxonomically by reverse transcription, PCR amplification and sequencing of 16S rRNA. The water column and sediment shared the same phylotypes, thereby confirming the potential for seawater dispersal. The abundance of TFEs was estimated by most probable number enumeration, rates of VFA production, and released amounts of dipicolinic acid during germination. The surface sediment contained ?105-106 inducible TFEs cm-3. TFEs thus outnumber thermophilic sulfate-reducing endospores by an order of magnitude. The abundance of cultivable TFEs decreased exponentially with sediment depth with a half-life of 350 years. We estimate that 6 × 109 anaerobic thermophilic endospores are deposited on the seafloor per m2 per year in Aarhus Bay, and that these thermophiles represent >10% of the total endospore community in the surface sediment.
Project description:Patterns of microbial biogeography result from a combination of dispersal, speciation and extinction, yet individual contributions exerted by each of these mechanisms are difficult to isolate and distinguish. The influx of endospores of thermophilic microorganisms to cold marine sediments offers a natural model for investigating passive dispersal in the ocean. We investigated the activity, diversity and abundance of thermophilic endospore-forming sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) in Aarhus Bay by incubating pasteurized sediment between 28 and 85?°C, and by subsequent molecular diversity analyses of 16S rRNA and of the dissimilatory (bi)sulfite reductase (dsrAB) genes within the endospore-forming SRB genus Desulfotomaculum. The thermophilic Desulfotomaculum community in Aarhus Bay sediments consisted of at least 23 species-level 16S rRNA sequence phylotypes. In two cases, pairs of identical 16S rRNA and dsrAB sequences in Arctic surface sediment 3000?km away showed that the same phylotypes are present in both locations. Radiotracer-enhanced most probable number analysis revealed that the abundance of endospores of thermophilic SRB in Aarhus Bay sediment was ca. 10(4) per cm(3) at the surface and decreased exponentially to 10(0) per cm(3) at 6.5?m depth, corresponding to 4500 years of sediment age. Thus, a half-life of ca. 300 years was estimated for the thermophilic SRB endospores deposited in Aarhus Bay sediments. These endospores were similarly detected in the overlying water column, indicative of passive dispersal in water masses preceding sedimentation. The sources of these thermophiles remain enigmatic, but at least one source may be common to both Aarhus Bay and Arctic sediments.
Project description:Microbial biogeography is influenced by the combined effects of passive dispersal and environmental selection, but the contribution of either factor can be difficult to discern. As thermophilic bacteria cannot grow in the cold seabed, their inactive spores are not subject to environmental selection. We therefore conducted a global experimental survey using thermophilic endospores that are passively deposited by sedimentation to the cold seafloor as tracers to study the effect of dispersal by ocean currents on the biogeography of marine microorganisms. Our analysis of 81 different marine sediments from around the world identified 146 species-level 16S rRNA phylotypes of endospore-forming, thermophilic Firmicutes. Phylotypes showed various patterns of spatial distribution in the world oceans and were dispersal-limited to different degrees. Co-occurrence of several phylotypes in locations separated by great distances (west of Svalbard, the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of California) demonstrated a widespread but not ubiquitous distribution. In contrast, Arctic regions with water masses that are relatively isolated from global ocean circulation (Baffin Bay and east of Svalbard) were characterized by low phylotype richness and different compositions of phylotypes. The observed distribution pattern of thermophilic endospores in marine sediments suggests that the impact of passive dispersal on marine microbial biogeography is controlled by the connectivity of local water masses to ocean circulation.
Project description:Prior studies have described a morphologically diverse group of intestinal microorganisms associated with surgeonfish. Despite their diversity of form, 16S rRNA gene surveys and fluorescent in situ hybridizations indicate that these bacteria are low-G+C gram-positive bacteria related to Epulopiscium spp. Many of these bacteria exhibit an unusual mode of reproduction, developing multiple offspring intracellularly. Previous reports have suggested that some Epulopiscium-like symbionts produce dormant or phase-bright intracellular offspring. Close relatives of Epulopiscium, such as Metabacterium polyspora and Clostridium lentocellum, are endospore-forming bacteria, which raises the possibility that the phase-bright offspring are endospores. Structural evidence and the presence of dipicolinic acid demonstrate that phase-bright offspring of Epulopiscium-like bacteria are true endospores. In addition, endospores are formed as part of the normal daily life cycle of these bacteria. In the populations studied, mature endospores were seen only at night and the majority of cells in a given population produced one or two endospores per mother cell. Phylogenetic analyses confirmed the close relationship between the endospore-forming surgeonfish symbionts characterized here and previously described Epulopiscium spp. The broad distribution of endospore formation among the Epulopiscium phylogenetic group raises the possibility that sporulation is a characteristic of the group. We speculate that spore formation in Epulopiscium-like symbionts may be important for dispersal and may also enhance survival in the changing conditions of the fish intestinal tract.
Project description:We have developed a rapid endospore viability assay (EVA) in which endospore germination serves as an indicator for viability and applied it to (i) monitor UV inactivation of endospores as a function of dose and (ii) determine the proportion of viable endospores in arctic ice cores (Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 [GISP2] cores; 94 m). EVA is based on the detection of dipicolinic acid (DPA), which is released from endospores during germination. DPA concentrations were determined using the terbium ion (Tb3+)-DPA luminescence assay, and germination was induced by L-alanine addition. The concentrations of germinable endospores were determined by comparison to a standard curve. Parallel EVA and phase-contrast microscopy experiments to determine the percentage of germinable spores yielded comparable results (54.3% +/- 3.8% and 48.9% +/- 4.5%, respectively), while only 27.8% +/- 7.6% of spores produced CFU. EVA was applied to monitor the inactivation of spore suspensions as a function of UV dose, yielding reproducible correlations between EVA and CFU inactivation data. The 90% inactivation doses were 2,773 J/m2, 3,947 J/m2, and 1,322 J/m2 for EVA, phase-contrast microscopy, and CFU reduction, respectively. Finally, EVA was applied to quantify germinable and total endospore concentrations in two GISP2 ice cores. The first ice core contained 295 +/- 19 germinable spores/ml and 369 +/- 36 total spores/ml (i.e., the percentage of germinable endospores was 79.9% +/- 9.3%), and the second core contained 131 +/- 4 germinable spores/ml and 162 +/- 17 total spores/ml (i.e., the percentage of germinable endospores was 80.9% +/- 8.8%), whereas only 2 CFU/ml were detected by culturing.
Project description:Dormant endospores of anaerobic, thermophilic bacteria found in cold marine sediments offer a useful model for studying microbial biogeography, dispersal, and survival. The dormant endospore phenotype confers resistance to unfavorable environmental conditions, allowing dispersal to be isolated and studied independently of other factors such as environmental selection. To study the resilience of thermospores to conditions relevant for survival in extreme cold conditions, their viability following different freezing treatments was tested. Marine sediment was frozen at either -80°C or -20°C for 10 days prior to pasteurization and incubation at +50°C for 21 days to assess thermospore viability. Sulfate reduction commenced at +50°C following both freezing pretreatments indicating persistence of thermophilic endospores of sulfate-reducing bacteria. The onset of sulfate reduction at +50°C was delayed in -80°C pretreated microcosms, which exhibited more variability between triplicates, compared to -20°C pretreated microcosms and parallel controls that were not frozen in advance. Microbial communities were evaluated by 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, revealing an increase in the relative sequence abundance of thermophilic endospore-forming Firmicutes in all microcosms. Different freezing pretreatments (-80°C and -20°C) did not appreciably influence the shift in overall bacterial community composition that occurred during the +50°C incubations. Communities that had been frozen prior to +50°C incubation showed an increase in the relative sequence abundance of operational taxonomic units (OTUs) affiliated with the class Bacilli, relative to unfrozen controls. These results show that freezing impacts but does not obliterate thermospore populations and their ability to germinate and grow under appropriate conditions. Indeed the majority of the thermospore OTUs detected in this study (21 of 22) could be observed following one or both freezing treatments. These results are important for assessing thermospore viability in frozen samples and following cold exposure such as the very low temperatures that would be encountered during panspermia.
Project description:The genus Mycobacterium, which is a member of the high G+C group of Gram-positive bacteria, includes important pathogens, such as M. tuberculosis and M. leprae. A recent publication in PNAS reported that M. marinum and M. bovis bacillus Calmette-Guérin produce a type of spore known as an endospore, which had been observed only in the low G+C group of Gram-positive bacteria. Evidence was presented that the spores were similar to endospores in ultrastructure, in heat resistance and in the presence of dipicolinic acid. Here, we report that the genomes of Mycobacterium species and those of other high G+C Gram-positive bacteria lack orthologs of many, if not all, highly conserved genes diagnostic of endospore formation in the genomes of low G+C Gram-positive bacteria. We also failed to detect the presence of endospores by light microscopy or by testing for heat-resistant colony-forming units in aged cultures of M. marinum. Finally, we failed to recover heat-resistant colony-forming units from frogs chronically infected with M. marinum. We conclude that it is unlikely that Mycobacterium is capable of endospore formation.
Project description:A microscopy-based endospore viability assay (micro-EVA) capable of enumerating germinable Clostridium endospores (GCEs) in less than 30 min has been validated and employed to determine GCE concentrations in Greenland ices and Atacama Desert soils. Inoculation onto agarose doped with Tb(3+) and d-alanine triggers Clostridium spore germination and the concomitant release of ?10(8) molecules of dipicolinic acid (DPA) per endospore, which, under pulsed UV excitation, enables enumeration of resultant green Tb(3+)-DPA luminescent spots as GCEs with time-gated luminescence microscopy. The intensity time courses of the luminescent spots were characteristic of stage I Clostridium spore germination dynamics. Micro-EVA was validated against traditional CFU cultivation from 0 to 1,000 total endospores/ml (i.e., phase-bright bodies/ml), yielding 56.4% ± 1.5% GCEs and 43.0% ± 1.0% CFU. We also show that d-alanine serves as a Clostridium-specific germinant (three species tested) that inhibits Bacillus germination of spores (five species tested) in that endospore concentration regime. Finally, GCE concentrations in Greenland ice cores and Atacama Desert soils were determined with micro-EVA, yielding 1 to 2 GCEs/ml of Greenland ice (versus <1 CFU/ml after 6 months of incubation) and 66 to 157 GCEs/g of Atacama Desert soil (versus 40 CFU/g soil).
Project description:Marine sediments host an unexpectedly large microbial biosphere, suggesting unique microbial mechanisms for surviving burial and slow metabolic turnover. Although dormancy is generally considered an important survival strategy, its specific role in subsurface sediments remains unclear. We quantified dormant bacterial endospores in 331 marine sediment samples from diverse depositional types and geographical origins. The abundance of endospores relative to vegetative cells increased with burial depth and endospores became dominant below 25 m, with an estimated population of 2.5 × 1028 to 1.9 × 1029 endospores in the uppermost kilometer of sediment and a corresponding biomass carbon of 4.6 to 35 Pg surpassing that of vegetative cells. Our data further identify distinct endospore subgroups with divergent resistance to burial and aging. Endospores may shape the deep biosphere by providing a core population for colonization of new habitats and/or through low-frequency germination to sustain slow growth in this environment.
Project description:Desulfatiglans-related organisms comprise one of the most abundant deltaproteobacterial lineages in marine sediments where they occur throughout the sediment column in a gradient of increasing sulfate and organic carbon limitation with depth. Characterized Desulfatiglans isolates are dissimilatory sulfate reducers able to grow by degrading aromatic hydrocarbons. The ecophysiology of environmental Desulfatiglans-populations is poorly understood, however, possibly utilization of aromatic compounds may explain their predominance in marine subsurface sediments. We sequenced and analyzed seven Desulfatiglans-related single-cell genomes (SAGs) from Aarhus Bay sediments to characterize their metabolic potential with regard to aromatic compound degradation and energy metabolism. The average genome assembly size was 1.3 Mbp and completeness estimates ranged between 20 and 50%. Five of the SAGs (group 1) originated from the sulfate-rich surface part of the sediment while two (group 2) originated from sulfate-depleted subsurface sediment. Based on 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing group 2 SAGs represent the more frequent types of Desulfatiglans-populations in Aarhus Bay sediments. Genes indicative of aromatic compound degradation could be identified in both groups, but the two groups were metabolically distinct with regard to energy conservation. Group 1 SAGs carry a full set of genes for dissimilatory sulfate reduction, whereas the group 2 SAGs lacked any genetic evidence for sulfate reduction. The latter may be due to incompleteness of the SAGs, but as alternative energy metabolisms group 2 SAGs carry the genetic potential for growth by acetogenesis and fermentation. Group 1 SAGs encoded reductive dehalogenase genes, allowing them to access organohalides and possibly conserve energy by their reduction. Both groups possess sulfatases unlike their cultured relatives allowing them to utilize sulfate esters as source of organic carbon and sulfate. In conclusion, the uncultivated marine Desulfatiglans populations are metabolically diverse, likely reflecting different strategies for coping with energy and sulfate limitation in the subsurface seabed.
Project description:Endospores of thermophilic bacteria are found in cold and temperate sediments where they persist in a dormant state. As inactive endospores that cannot grow at the low ambient temperatures, they are akin to tracer particles in cold sediments, unaffected by factors normally governing microbial biogeography (e.g., selection, drift, mutation). This makes thermophilic endospores ideal model organisms for studying microbial biogeography since their spatial distribution can be directly related to their dispersal history. To assess dispersal histories of estuarine bacteria, thermophilic endospores were enriched from sediments along a freshwater-to-marine transect of the River Tyne in high temperature incubations (50°C). Dispersal histories for 75 different taxa indicated that the majority of estuarine endospores were of terrestrial origin; most closely related to bacteria from warm habitats associated with industrial activity. A subset of the taxa detected were marine derived, with close relatives from hot deep marine biosphere habitats. These patterns are consistent with the sources of sediment in the River Tyne being predominantly terrestrial in origin. The results point to microbial communities in estuarine and marine sediments being structured by bi-directional currents, terrestrial run-off and industrial effluent as vectors of passive dispersal and immigration.