Publications in peer reviewed journals

44 Publications found
  • Making It Stick: A Compelling Case for Precision Microbiome Reconstitution

    2016 - Cell Host & Microbe, 20: 415-417


    Modification of the intestinal microbiome is an emerging target to improve health and prevent or treat a number of diseases. In this issue of Cell Host & Microbe, Maldonado-Gomez et al. (2016) uncover the basic principles that govern the successful establishment and persistence of an exogenously introduced gut bacterium.

  • Refining the phylum Chlorobi by resolving the phylogeny and metabolic potential of the representative of a deeply branching, uncultivated lineage

    Hiras J, Y.W. Wu, S.A. Eichorst, B.A. Simmons, S.W.Singer
    2016 - ISME Journal, 10: 833-845
  • Soil microbial carbon use efficiency and biomass turnover in a long-term fertilization experiment in a temperate grassland

    Spohn M, Pötsch EM, Eichorst SA, Woebken D, Wanek W, Richter A
    2016 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 97: 168-175


    Soil microbial carbon use efficiency (CUE), defined as the ratio of organic C allocated to growth over organic C taken up, strongly affects soil carbon (C) cycling. Despite the importance of the microbial CUE for the terrestrial C cycle, very little is known about how it is affected by nutrient availability. Therefore, we studied microbial CUE and microbial biomass turnover time in soils of a long-term fertilization experiment in a temperate grassland comprising five treatments (control, PK, NK, NP, NPK). Microbial CUE and the turnover of microbial biomass were determined using a novel substrate-independent method based on incorporation of 18O from labeled water into microbial DNA. Microbial respiration was 28–37% smaller in all three N treatments (NK, NP, and NPK) compared to the control, whereas the PK treatment did not affect microbial respiration. N-fertilization decreased microbial C uptake, while the microbial growth rate was not affected. Microbial CUE ranged between 0.31 and 0.45, and was 1.3- to 1.4-fold higher in the N-fertilized soils than in the control. The turnover time ranged between 80 and 113 days and was not significantly affected by fertilization. Net primary production (NPP) and the abundance of legumes differed strongly across the treatments, and the fungal:bacterial ratio was very low in all treatments. Structural equation modeling revealed that microbial CUE was exclusively controlled by N fertilization and that neither the abundance of legumes (as a proxy for the quality of the organic matter inputs) nor NPP (as a proxy for C inputs) had an effect on microbial CUE. Our results show that N fertilization did not only decrease microbial respiration, but also microbial C uptake, indicating that less C was intracellularly processed in the N fertilized soils. The reason for reduced C uptake and increased CUE in the N-fertilization treatments is likely an inhibition of oxidative enzymes involved in the degradation of aromatic compounds by N in combination with a reduced energy requirement for microbial N acquisition in the fertilized soils. In conclusion, the study shows that N availability can control soil C cycling by affecting microbial CUE, while plant community-mediated changes in organic matter inputs and P and K availability played no important role for C partitioning of the microbial community in this temperate grassland.

  • Permanent draft genome of strain ESFC-1: ecological genomics of a newly discovered lineage of filamentous diazotrophic cyanobacteria

    R. Craig Everroad, Rhona K. Stuart, Brad M. Bebout, Angela M. Detweiler, Jackson Z. Lee, Dagmar Woebken, Leslie Prufert-Bebout and Jennifer Pett-Ridge
    2016 - Standards in Genomic Sciences, 11: 1-8


    The nonheterocystous filamentous cyanobacterium, strain ESFC-1, is a recently described member of the order Oscillatoriales within the Cyanobacteria. ESFC-1 has been shown to be a major diazotroph in the intertidal microbial mat system at Elkhorn Slough, CA, USA. Based on phylogenetic analyses of the 16S RNA gene, ESFC-1 appears to belong to a unique, genus-level divergence; the draft genome sequence of this strain has now been determined. Here we report features of this genome as they relate to the ecological functions and capabilities of strain ESFC-1. The 5,632,035 bp genome sequence encodes 4914 protein-coding genes and 92 RNA genes. One striking feature of this cyanobacterium is the apparent lack of either uptake or bi-directional hydrogenases typically expected within a diazotroph. Additionally, a large genomic island is found that contains numerous low GC-content genes and genes related to extracellular polysaccharide production and cell wall synthesis and maintenance.

  • Multi-scale imaging of anticancer platinum(IV) compounds in murine tumor and kidney

    Legin AA, Theiner S, Schintlmeister A, Reipert S, Heffeter P, Jakupec MA, Varbanov HP, Kowol CR, Galanski, Berger MW, Wagner M, Keppler BK
    2016 - Chemical Science, 7: 3052-3061


    Nano-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) enables trace element and isotope analyses with high spatial resolution. This unique capability has recently been exploited in several studies analyzing the subcellular distribution of Au and Pt anticancer compounds. However, these studies were restricted to cell culture systems. To explore the applicability to the in vivo setting, we developed a combined imaging approach consisting of laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS), NanoSIMS and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) suitable for multi-scale detection of the platinum distribution in tissues. Applying this approach to murine tumor and kidney samples upon administration of selected platinum(IV) anticancer prodrugs revealed uneven platinum distributions on both the organ and subcellular scales. Spatial platinum accumulation patterns by LA-ICP-MS were quantitatively assessed in histologically heterogeneous organs (e.g., higher platinum accumulation in kidney cortex than in medulla) and used to select regions of interest for subcellular scale imaging with NanoSIMS. These analyses revealed cytoplasmic sulfur-rich organelles to accumulate platinum in both kidney and malignant cells. Those in the tumor were subsequently identified as organelles of lysosomal origin, demonstrating the potential of the combinatorial approach for investigating therapeutically relevant drug concentrations on a submicrometer scale.

  • Budget of primary production and dinitrogen fixation in a highly seasonal Red Sea coral reef

    Cardini U, Bednarz VN, van Hoytema N, Rovere A, Naumann MS, Al-Rshaidat MMD, Wild C
    2016 - Ecosystems, 5: 771-785


    Biological dinitrogen (N2) fixation (diazotrophy, BNF) relieves marine primary producers of nitrogen (N) limitation in a large part of the world oceans. N concentrations are particularly low in tropical regions where coral reefs are located, and N is therefore a key limiting nutrient for these productive ecosystems. In this context, the importance of diazotrophy for reef productivity is still not resolved, with studies up to now lacking organismal and seasonal resolution. Here, we present a budget of gross primary production (GPP) and BNF for a highly seasonal Red Sea fringing reef, based on ecophysiological and benthic cover measurements combined with geospatial analyses. Benthic GPP varied from 215 to 262 mmol C m−2 reef d−1, with hard corals making the largest contribution (41–76%). Diazotrophy was omnipresent in space and time, and benthic BNF varied from 0.16 to 0.92 mmol N m−2 reef d−1. Planktonic GPP and BNF rates were respectively approximately 60- and 20-fold lower than those of the benthos, emphasizing the importance of the benthic compartment in reef biogeochemical cycling. BNF showed higher sensitivity to seasonality than GPP, implying greater climatic control on reef BNF. Up to about 20% of net reef primary production could be supported by BNF during summer, suggesting a strong biogeochemical coupling between diazotrophy and the reef carbon cycle.

  • Mapping limits to life on Earth

    Freeman K, Harrison J, Dobinson L, Cockell C, McKenzie R, Wyllie D, Nixon SL
    2016 - Astronomy & Geophysics, 2: 15-17


    Kenneth Freeman and colleagues take a look at extremophiles and ask how their biology fits them for life on and off planet Earth.

  • Biophysical and Population Genetic Models Predict the Presence of “Phantom” Stepping Stones Connecting Mid-Atlantic Ridge Vent Ecosystems

    Breusing C, Biastoch A, Drews A, Metaxas A, Jollivet D, Vrijenhoek RC, Bayer T, Melzner F, Sayavedra L, Petersen JM, Dubilier N, Schilhabel MB, Rosenstiel P, Reusch TBH
    2016 - Current Biology, 26: 1 - 11


    Deep-sea hydrothermal vents are patchily distributed ecosystems inhabited by specialized animal populations that are textbook meta-populations. Many vent-associated species have free-swimming, dispersive larvae that can establish connections between remote populations. However, connectivity patterns among hydrothermal vents are still poorly understood because the deep sea is undersampled, the molecular tools used to date are of limited resolution, and larval dispersal is difficult to measure directly. A better knowledge of connectivity is urgently needed to develop sound environmental management plans for deep-sea mining. Here, we investigated larval dispersal and contemporary connectivity of ecologically important vent mussels (Bathymodiolus spp.) from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge by using high-resolution ocean modeling and population genetic methods. Even when assuming a long pelagic larval duration, our physical model of larval drift suggested that arrival at localities more than 150 km from the source site is unlikely and that dispersal between populations requires intermediate habitats (“phantom” stepping stones). Dispersal patterns showed strong spatiotemporal variability, making predictions of population connectivity challenging. The assumption that mussel populations are only connected via additional stepping stones was supported by contemporary migration rates based on neutral genetic markers. Analyses of population structure confirmed the presence of two southern and two hybridizing northern mussel lineages that exhibited a substantial, though incomplete, genetic differentiation. Our study provides insights into how vent animals can disperse between widely separated vent habitats and shows that recolonization of perturbed vent sites will be subject to chance events, unless connectivity is explicitly considered in the selection of conservation areas.

  • Ecology and Fisheries: Dark Carbon on Your Dinner Plate.

    2016 - Curr. Biol., 24: R1277-R1279


    Chemosynthetic primary production by symbiotic microbes powers entire ecosystems in the remote deep sea. New research shows that in shallow waters chemosynthetic symbioses can contribute substantially to a vital economic resource - lobster fisheries in the Caribbean Sea.

  • Environmental enteric dysfunction and growth failure/stunting in global child health

    Owino V, Ahmed T, Freemark M, Kelly P, Loy A, Manary M, Loechl C
    2016 - Pediatrics, 138: e20160641


    Approximately 25% of the world’s children under age 5 years have stunted growth, which is associated with increased mortality, cognitive dysfunction, and loss of productivity. Reducing by 40% the number of stunted children is a global target for 2030. The pathogenesis of stunting is poorly understood. Pre- and post-natal nutritional deficits and enteric and systemic infections clearly contribute, but recent findings implicate a central role for environmental enteric dysfunction (EED), a generalized disturbance of small intestinal structure and function found at high prevalence in children living under unsanitary conditions. Mechanisms contributing to growth failure in EED include intestinal leakiness and heightened permeability, gut inflammation, dysbiosis and bacterial translocation, systemic inflammation, and nutrient malabsorption. Since EED has multiple causal pathways, approaches to manage it need to be multi-faceted. Potential interventions to tackle EED include: a) reduction of exposure to feces and contact with animals through programs like improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); b) breastfeeding and enhanced dietary diversity; c) probiotics and prebiotics; d) nutrient supplements including zinc, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and amino acids; e) anti-inflammatory agents such as 5-aminosalicyclic acid; and f) antibiotics in the context of acute malnutrition and infection. Better understanding of the underlying causes of EED, and development of non-invasive, practical, simple, and affordable point of care diagnostic tools remain key gaps. ‘Omics’ technologies (genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics) and stable isotope techniques (e.g., 13Carbon breath tests) targeted at children and their intestinal microbiota will enhance our ability to successfully identify, manage, and prevent the disorder.

  • Fenton's reagent for the rapid and efficient isolation of microplastics from wastewater.

    Tagg AS, Harrison JP, Ju-Nam Y, Sapp M, Bradley EL, Sinclair CJ, Ojeda JJ
    2016 - Chem. Commun. (Camb.), 2: 372-375


    Fenton's reagent was used to isolate microplastics from organic-rich wastewater. The catalytic reaction did not affect microplastic chemistry or size, enabling its use as a pre-treatment method for focal plane array-based micro-FT-IR imaging. Compared with previously described microplastic treatment methods, Fenton's reagent offers a considerable reduction in sample preparation times.

  • Genome-guided design of a novel defined mouse microbiota that confers colonization resistance against Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium

    Brugiroux S, Beutler M, Pfann C, Garzetti D, Ruscheweyh H-J, Ring D, Diehl M, Herp S, Lötscher Y, Hussain S, Bunk B, Pukall R, Huson DH, Münch PC, McHardy AC, McCoy KD, Macpherson AJ, Loy A, Clavel T, Berry D, Stecher B
    2016 - Nature Microbiol, 2: 16215


    Protection against enteric infections, also termed colonization resistance, results from mutualistic interactions of the host and its indigenous microbes. The gut microbiota of humans and mice is highly diverse and it is therefore challenging to assign specific properties to its individual members. Here, we have used a collection of murine bacterial strains and a modular design approach to create a minimal bacterial community that, once established in germ-free mice, provided colonization resistance against the human enteric pathogen Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. Tm). Initially, a community of 12 strains, termed Oligo-Mouse Microbiota (Oligo-MM12), representing members of the major bacterial phyla in the murine gut, was selected. This community was stable over consecutive mouse generations and provided colonization resistance against S. Tm infection, albeit not to the degree of a conventional complex microbiota. Comparative (meta)genome analyses identified functions represented in a conventional microbiome but absent from the Oligo-MM12. By genome-informed design, we created an improved version of the Oligo-MM community harbouring three facultative anaerobic bacteria from the Mouse Intestinal Bacterial Collection (miBC) that provided conventional-like colonization resistance. In conclusion, we have established a highly versatile experimental system that showed efficacy in an enteric infection model. Thus, in combination with exhaustive bacterial strain collections and systems-based approaches, genomeguided design can be used to generate insights into microbe–microbe and microbe–host interactions for the investigation of ecological and disease-relevant mechanisms in the intestine.

  • Chemosynthetic symbionts of marine invertebrate animals are capable of nitrogen fixation.

    Petersen JM, Kemper A, Gruber-Vodicka H, Cardini U, van der Geest M, Kleiner M, Bulgheresi S, Mußmann M, Herbold C, Seah BK, Antony CP, Liu D, Belitz A, Weber M
    2016 - Nat Microbiol, 2: 16195


    Chemosynthetic symbioses are partnerships between invertebrate animals and chemosynthetic bacteria. The latter are the primary producers, providing most of the organic carbon needed for the animal host's nutrition. We sequenced genomes of the chemosynthetic symbionts from the lucinid bivalve Loripes lucinalis and the stilbonematid nematode Laxus oneistus. The symbionts of both host species encoded nitrogen fixation genes. This is remarkable as no marine chemosynthetic symbiont was previously known to be capable of nitrogen fixation. We detected nitrogenase expression by the symbionts of lucinid clams at the transcriptomic and proteomic level. Mean stable nitrogen isotope values of Loripes lucinalis were within the range expected for fixed atmospheric nitrogen, further suggesting active nitrogen fixation by the symbionts. The ability to fix nitrogen may be widespread among chemosynthetic symbioses in oligotrophic habitats, where nitrogen availability often limits primary productivity.

  • Intensive cryptic microbial iron cycling in the low iron water column of the meromictic Lake Cadagno.

    Berg JS, Michellod D, Pjevac P, Martinez-Perez C, Buckner CR, Hach PF, Schubert CJ, Milucka J, Kuypers MM
    2016 - Environ. Microbiol., 12: 5288-5302


    Iron redox reactions play an important role in carbon remineralization, supporting large microbial communities in iron-rich terrestrial and aquatic sediments. Stratified water columns with comparably low iron concentrations are globally widespread, but microbial iron cycling in these systems has largely been ignored. We found evidence for unexpectedly high iron turnover rates in the low (1-2 µmol·l(-1) ) iron waters of Lake Cadagno. Light-dependent, biological iron oxidation rates (1.4-13.8 µmol·l(-1) ·d(-1) ) were even higher than in ferruginous lakes with well-studied microbial iron cycles. This photoferrotrophic iron oxidation may account for up to 10% of total primary production in the chemocline. Iron oxides could not be detected and were presumably reduced immediately by iron-reducing microorganisms. Sequences of putative iron oxidizers and reducers were retrieved from in situ 16S rRNA gene amplicon libraries and some of these bacteria were identified in our enrichment cultures supplemented with Fe(II) and FeS. Based on our results, we propose a model in which iron is oxidized by photoferrotrophs and microaerophiles, and iron oxides are immediately reduced by heterotrophic iron reducers, resulting in a cryptic iron cycle. We hypothesize that microbial iron cycling may be more prevalent in water column redoxclines, especially those within the photic zone, than previously believed.

  • IMNGS: A comprehensive open resource of processed 16S rRNA microbial profiles for ecology and diversity studies.

    Lagkouvardos I, Joseph D, Kapfhammer M, Giritli S, Horn M, Haller D, Clavel T
    2016 - Sci Rep, 33721


    The SRA (Sequence Read Archive) serves as primary depository for massive amounts of Next Generation Sequencing data, and currently host over 100,000 16S rRNA gene amplicon-based microbial profiles from various host habitats and environments. This number is increasing rapidly and there is a dire need for approaches to utilize this pool of knowledge. Here we created IMNGS (Integrated Microbial Next Generation Sequencing), an innovative platform that uniformly and systematically screens for and processes all prokaryotic 16S rRNA gene amplicon datasets available in SRA and uses them to build sample-specific sequence databases and OTU-based profiles. Via a web interface, this integrative sequence resource can easily be queried by users. We show examples of how the approach allows testing the ecological importance of specific microorganisms in different hosts or ecosystems, and performing targeted diversity studies for selected taxonomic groups. The platform also offers a complete workflow for de novo analysis of users' own raw 16S rRNA gene amplicon datasets for the sake of comparison with existing data. IMNGS can be accessed at

  • Ecogenomics and potential biogeochemical impacts of globally abundant ocean viruses

    Roux S, Brum JR, Dutilh BE, Sunagawa S, Duhaime MB, Loy A, Poulos BT, Solonenko N, Lara E, Poulain J, Pesant S, Kandels-Lewis S, Dimier C, Picheral M, Searson S, Cruaud C, Alberti A, Duarte CM, Gasol JM, Vaque D, Tara Oceans Coordinators, Bork P, Acinas SG, Wincker P, Sullivan MB
    2016 - Nature, 537: 689–693


    Ocean microbes drive biogeochemical cycling on a global scale1. However, this cycling is constrained by viruses that affect community composition, metabolic activity, and evolutionary trajectories23. Owing to challenges with the sampling and cultivation of viruses, genome-level viral diversity remains poorly described and grossly understudied, with less than 1% of observed surface-ocean viruses known4. Here we assemble complete genomes and large genomic fragments from both surface- and deep-ocean viruses sampled during the Tara Oceans and Malaspina research expeditions56, and analyse the resulting ‘global ocean virome’ dataset to present a global map of abundant, double-stranded DNA viruses complete with genomic and ecological contexts. A total of 15,222 epipelagic and mesopelagic viral populations were identified, comprising 867 viral clusters (defined as approximately genus-level groups78). This roughly triples the number of known ocean viral populations4 and doubles the number of candidate bacterial and archaeal virus genera8, providing a near-complete sampling of epipelagic communities at both the population and viral-cluster level. We found that 38 of the 867 viral clusters were locally or globally abundant, together accounting for nearly half of the viral populations in any global ocean virome sample. While two-thirds of these clusters represent newly described viruses lacking any cultivated representative, most could be computationally linked to dominant, ecologically relevant microbial hosts. Moreover, we identified 243 viral-encoded auxiliary metabolic genes, of which only 95 were previously known. Deeper analyses of four of these auxiliary metabolic genes (dsrC, soxYZ, P-II (also known as glnB) and amoC) revealed that abundant viruses may directly manipulate sulfur and nitrogen cycling throughout the epipelagic ocean. This viral catalog and functional analyses provide a necessary foundation for the meaningful integration of viruses into ecosystem models where they act as key players in nutrient cycling and trophic networks.

  • Bacterial nutrient foraging in a mouse model of enteral nutrient deprivation: Insight into the gut origin of sepsis

    Ralls MW, Demehri FR, Feng Y, Raskind S, Ruan C, Schintlmeister A, Loy A, Hanson B, Berry D, Burant CF, Teitelbaum DH
    2016 - Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol, 311: G734-G743


    Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) leads to a shift in small intestinal microbiota with a characteristic dominance of Proteobacteria. This study examined how metabolomic changes within the small bowel support an altered microbial community in enterally deprived mice.
    C57BL/6 mice were given TPN or enteral chow. Metabolomic analysis of jejunal contents was performed by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS). In some experiments, leucine in TPN was partly substituted with (13)C-leucine. Additionally, jejunal contents from TPN dependent and enterally fed mice were gavaged into germ-free mice to reveal if the TPN phenotype was transferrable.
    Small bowel contents of TPN mice maintained an amino acid composition similar to that of the TPN solution. Mass spectrometry analysis of small bowel contents of TPN dependent mice showed increased concentration of (13)C compared to fed mice receiving saline enriched with (13)C-leucine. (13)C-leucine added to the serosal side of Ussing chambers showed rapid permeation across TPN-dependent jejunum, suggesting increased transmucosal passage. Single-cell analysis by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) - NanoSIMS demonstrated uptake of (13)C-leucine by TPN-associated bacteria, with preferential uptake by Enterobacteriaceae. Gavage of small bowel effluent from TPN mice into germ-free, fed mice resulted in a trend toward the pro-inflammatory TPN-phenotype with loss of epithelial barrier function.
    TPN-dependence leads to increased permeation of TPN-derived nutrients into the small intestinal lumen, where they are predominately utilized by Enterobacteriaceae. The altered metabolomic composition of the intestinal lumen during TPN promotes dysbiosis.

  • A specific and widespread association between deep-sea Bathymodiolus mussels and a novel family of Epsilonproteobacteria.

    Assié A, Borowski C, van der Heijden K, Raggi L, Geier B, Leisch N, Schimak MP, Dubilier N, Petersen JM
    2016 - Environ Microbiol Rep, 8: 805-813


    Bathymodiolus mussels dominate animal communities at many hydrothermal vents and cold seeps. Essential to the mussels' ecological and evolutionary success is their association with symbiotic methane- and sulfur-oxidizing gammaproteobacteria, which provide them with nutrition. In addition to these well-known gammaproteobacterial endosymbionts, we found epsilonproteobacterial sequences in metatranscriptomes, metagenomes and 16S rRNA clone libraries as well as by polymerase chain reaction screening of Bathymodiolus species sampled from vents and seeps around the world. These epsilonproteobacterial sequences were closely related, indicating that the association is highly specific. The Bathymodiolus-associated epsilonproteobacterial 16S rRNA sequences were at most 87.6% identical to the closest cultured relative, and 91.2% identical to the closest sequences in public databases. This clade therefore represents a novel family within the Epsilonproteobacteria. Fluorescence in situ hybridization and transmission electron microscopy showed that the bacteria are filamentous epibionts associated with the gill epithelia in two Bathymodiolus species. In animals that host highly specific symbioses with one or a few types of endosymbionts, other less-abundant members of the microbiota can be easily overlooked. Our work highlights how widespread and specific associations with less-abundant microbes can be. Possibly, these microbes play an important role in the survival and health of their animal hosts.

  • A New Perspective on Microbes Formerly Known as Nitrite-Oxidizing Bacteria.

    Daims H, Lücker S, Wagner M
    2016 - Trends Microbiol., 9: 699-712


    Nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) catalyze the second step of nitrification, nitrite oxidation to nitrate, which is an important process of the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle. NOB were traditionally perceived as physiologically restricted organisms and were less intensively studied than other nitrogen-cycling microorganisms. This picture is in contrast to new discoveries of an unexpected high diversity of mostly uncultured NOB and a great physiological versatility, which includes complex microbe-microbe interactions and lifestyles outside the nitrogen cycle. Most surprisingly, close relatives to NOB perform complete nitrification (ammonia oxidation to nitrate) and this finding will have far-reaching implications for nitrification research. We review recent work that has changed our perspective on NOB and provides a new basis for future studies on these enigmatic organisms.

  • The root-associated microbial community of the world's highest growing vascular plants

    Angel R, Conrad R, Dvorsky M, Kopecky M, Kotilínek M, Hiiesalu I, Schweingruber F, Doležal J
    2016 - Microbial Ecology, 72: 394-406


    Upward migration of plants to barren subnival areas is occurring worldwide due to raising ambient temperatures and glacial recession. In summer 2012, the presence of six vascular plants, growing in a single patch, was recorded at an unprecedented elevation of 6150 m.a.s.l. close to the summit of Mount Shukule II in the Western Himalayas (Ladakh, India). Whilst showing multiple signs of stress, all plants have managed to establish stable growth and persist for several years. To learn about the role of microbes in the process of plant upward migration, we analysed the root-associated microbial community of the plants (three individuals from each) using microscopy and tagged amplicon sequencing. No mycorrhizae were found on the roots, implying they are of little importance to the establishment and early growth of the plants. However, all roots were associated with a complex bacterial community, with richness and diversity estimates similar or even higher than the surrounding bare soil. Both soil and root-associated communities were dominated by members of the orders Sphingomonadales and Sphingobacteriales, which are typical for hot desert soils, but were different from communities of temperate subnival soils and typical rhizosphere communities. Despite taxonomic similarity on the order level, the plants harboured a unique set of highly dominant operational taxonomic units which were not found in the bare soil. These bacteria have been likely transported with the dispersing seeds and became part of the root-associated community following germination. The results indicate that developing soils act not only as a source of inoculation to plant roots but also possibly as a sink for plant-associated bacteria.

  • Microbial dinitrogen fixation in coral holobionts exposed to thermal stress and bleaching.

    Cardini U, van Hoytema N, Bednarz VN, Rix L, Foster RA, Al-Rshaidat MM, Wild C
    2016 - Environ. Microbiol., 8: 2620-33


    Coral holobionts (i.e., coral-algal-prokaryote symbioses) exhibit dissimilar thermal sensitivities that may determine which coral species will adapt to global warming. Nonetheless, studies simultaneously investigating the effects of warming on all holobiont members are lacking. Here we show that exposure to increased temperature affects key physiological traits of all members (herein: animal host, zooxanthellae and diazotrophs) of both Stylophora pistillata and Acropora hemprichii during and after thermal stress. S. pistillata experienced severe loss of zooxanthellae (i.e., bleaching) with no net photosynthesis at the end of the experiment. Conversely, A. hemprichii was more resilient to thermal stress. Exposure to increased temperature (+ 6°C) resulted in a drastic increase in daylight dinitrogen (N2 ) fixation, particularly in A. hemprichii (threefold compared with controls). After the temperature was reduced again to in situ levels, diazotrophs exhibited a reversed diel pattern of activity, with increased N2 fixation rates recorded only in the dark, particularly in bleached S. pistillata (twofold compared to controls). Concurrently, both animal hosts, but particularly bleached S. pistillata, reduced both organic matter release and heterotrophic feeding on picoplankton. Our findings indicate that physiological plasticity by coral-associated diazotrophs may play an important role in determining the response of coral holobionts to ocean warming.

  • Free-living amoebae and their associated bacteria in Austrian cooling towers: a 1-year routine screening

    Scheikl U, Tsao HF, Horn M, Indra A, Walochnik J
    2016 - Parasitol Res, 115: 3365-74


    Free-living amoebae (FLA) are widely spread in the environment and known to cause rare but often serious infections. Besides this, FLA may serve as vehicles for bacterial pathogens. In particular, Legionella pneumophila is known to replicate within FLA thereby also gaining enhanced infectivity. Cooling towers have been the source of outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease in the past and are thus usually screened for legionellae on a routine basis, not considering, however, FLA and their vehicle function. The aim of this study was to incorporate a screening system for host amoebae into a Legionella routine screening. A new real-time PCR-based screening system for various groups of FLA was established. Three cooling towers were screened every 2 weeks over the period of 1 year for FLA and Legionella spp., by culture and molecular methods in parallel. Altogether, 83.3 % of the cooling tower samples were positive for FLA, Acanthamoeba being the dominating genus. Interestingly, 69.7 % of the cooling tower samples were not suitable for the standard Legionella screening due to their high organic burden. In the remaining samples, positivity for Legionella spp. was 25 % by culture, but overall positivity was 50 % by molecular methods. Several amoebal isolates revealed intracellular bacteria.

  • Single cell stable isotope probing in microbiology using Raman microspectroscopy

    Yun Wang Y, Huang WE, Cui L, Wagner M
    2016 - Curr Opin Biotechnol, 41:34-42
    Single Cell Stable Isotope Probing in Microbiology using Raman Microspectroscopy


    Microbial communities are essential for most ecosystem processes and interact in highly complex ways with virtually all eukaryotes. Thus, a detailed understanding of the function of such communities is a fundamental prerequisite for microbial ecologists, applied microbiologists and microbiome researchers. Using single cell Raman microspectroscopy, biochemical fingerprints of individual microbial cells can be obtained in a fast and nondestructive manner. If combined with stable isotope probing (SIP), Raman spectroscopy can directly reveal functions of single microorganisms in their natural habitat. This review provides an update on various SIP-approaches suitable for combination with different Raman scattering techniques and illustrates how single cell Raman SIP can be directly combined with the omics-centric analysis pipelines generally applied to investigate microbial communities. 

  • Single cell genome and group-specific dsrAB sequencing implicate members of the class Dehalococcoidia (phylum Chloroflexi) in sulfur cycling

    Wasmund K, Cooper M, Schreiber L, Lloyd KG, Baker B, Petersen DG, Jørgensen BB, Stepanauskas R, Reinhardt R, Schramm A, Loy A, Adrian L
    2016 - mBio, 7: e00266-16


    The marine subsurface sediment biosphere is widely inhabited by bacteria affiliated with the class Dehalococcoidia (DEH), phylum Chloroflexi, yet little is known regarding their metabolisms. In this report, genomic content from a single DEH cell (‘DEH-C11’) with a 16S rRNA gene that affiliated with a diverse cluster of 16S rRNA gene sequences prevalent in marine sediments, was obtained from sediments of Aarhus Bay, Denmark. The distinctive gene content of this cell suggests metabolic characteristics that differ from those of known DEH and Chloroflexi. Genes encoding dissimilatory sulfite reductase (Dsr) suggest DEH could respire oxidized sulfur compounds, although Chloroflexi have never been implicated in this mode of sulfur cycling. Using long-range PCR assays targeting DEH dsr-loci, dsrAB were amplified and sequenced from various marine sediments. Many of the amplified dsrAB sequences affiliated with the DEH Dsr-clade, which we propose equates to a family-level clade. This provides supporting evidence for the potential for sulfite reduction by diverse DEH. DEH-C11 also harboured genes encoding reductases for arsenate, dimethyl sulfoxide and halogenated organics. The reductive dehalogenase homolog (RdhA) forms a monophyletic clade along with RdhA sequences from various DEH-derived contigs retrieved from available metagenomes. Multiple facts indicate this RdhA may not be a terminal reductase. Other genes indicated nutrients and energy may be derived from the oxidation of substituted homocyclic and heterocyclic aromatic compounds. Together, these results suggest that marine DEH play a previously unrecognised role in sulfur cycling, and reveal potential for expanded catabolic and respiratory functions among subsurface DEH.

  • Genomics of a phototrophic nitrite oxidizer: insights into the evolution of photosynthesis and nitrification.

    Hemp J, Lücker S, Schott J, Pace LA, Johnson JE, Schink B, Daims H, Fischer WW
    2016 - ISME J, 11: 2669-2678


    Oxygenic photosynthesis evolved from anoxygenic ancestors before the rise of oxygen ~2.32 billion years ago; however, little is known about this transition. A high redox potential reaction center is a prerequisite for the evolution of the water-oxidizing complex of photosystem II. Therefore, it is likely that high-potential phototrophy originally evolved to oxidize alternative electron donors that utilized simpler redox chemistry, such as nitrite or Mn. To determine whether nitrite could have had a role in the transition to high-potential phototrophy, we sequenced and analyzed the genome of Thiocapsa KS1, a Gammaproteobacteria capable of anoxygenic phototrophic nitrite oxidation. The genome revealed a high metabolic flexibility, which likely allows Thiocapsa KS1 to colonize a great variety of habitats and to persist under fluctuating environmental conditions. We demonstrate that Thiocapsa KS1 does not utilize a high-potential reaction center for phototrophic nitrite oxidation, which suggests that this type of phototrophic nitrite oxidation did not drive the evolution of high-potential phototrophy. In addition, phylogenetic and biochemical analyses of the nitrite oxidoreductase (NXR) from Thiocapsa KS1 illuminate a complex evolutionary history of nitrite oxidation. Our results indicate that the NXR in Thiocapsa originates from a different nitrate reductase clade than the NXRs in chemolithotrophic nitrite oxidizers, suggesting that multiple evolutionary trajectories led to modern nitrite-oxidizing bacteria.

  • Biotransformation of Two Pharmaceuticals by the Ammonia-Oxidizing Archaeon Nitrososphaera gargensis.

    Men Y, Han P, Helbling DE, Jehmlich N, Herbold C, Gulde R, Onnis-Hayden A, Gu AZ, Johnson DR, Wagner M, Fenner K
    2016 - Environ Sci Technol, 9: 4682-92
    Nitrososphaera gargensis


    The biotransformation of some micropollutants has previously been observed to be positively associated with ammonia oxidation activities and the transcript abundance of the archaeal ammonia monooxygenase gene (amoA) in nitrifying activated sludge. Given the increasing interest in and potential importance of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA), we investigated the capabilities of an AOA pure culture, Nitrososphaera gargensis, to biotransform ten micropollutants belonging to three structurally similar groups (i.e., phenylureas, tertiary amides, and tertiary amines). N. gargensis was able to biotransform two of the tertiary amines, mianserin (MIA) and ranitidine (RAN), exhibiting similar compound specificity as two ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) strains that were tested for comparison. The same MIA and RAN biotransformation reactions were carried out by both the AOA and AOB strains. The major transformation product (TP) of MIA, α-oxo MIA was likely formed via a two-step oxidation reaction. The first hydroxylation step is typically catalyzed by monooxygenases. Three RAN TP candidates were identified from nontarget analysis. Their tentative structures and possible biotransformation pathways were proposed. The biotransformation of MIA and RAN only occurred when ammonia oxidation was active, suggesting cometabolic transformations. Consistently, a comparative proteomic analysis revealed no significant differential expression of any protein-encoding gene in N. gargensis grown on ammonium with MIA or RAN compared with standard cultivation on ammonium only. Taken together, this study provides first important insights regarding the roles played by AOA in micropollutant biotransformation.

  • Consortia of low-abundance bacteria drive sulfate reduction-dependent degradation of fermentation products in peat soil microcosms

    Hausmann B, Knorr K-H, Schreck K, Tringe SG, del Rio TG, Loy A, Pester M
    2016 - ISME J, 10: 2365-75


    Dissimilatory sulfate reduction in peatlands is sustained by a cryptic sulfur cycle and effectively competes with methanogenic degradation pathways. In a series of peat soil microcosms incubated over 50 days, we identified bacterial consortia that responded to small, periodic additions of individual fermentation products (formate, acetate, propionate, lactate or butyrate) in the presence or absence of sulfate. Under sulfate supplementation, net sulfate turnover (ST) steadily increased to 16-174 nmol cm-3 per day and almost completely blocked methanogenesis. 16S rRNA gene and cDNA amplicon sequencing identified microorganisms whose increases in ribosome numbers strongly correlated to ST. Natively abundant (⩾0.1% estimated genome abundance) species-level operational taxonomic units (OTUs) showed no significant response to sulfate. In contrast, low-abundance OTUs responded significantly to sulfate in incubations with propionate, lactate and butyrate. These OTUs included members of recognized sulfate-reducing taxa (Desulfosporosinus, Desulfopila, Desulfomonile, Desulfovibrio) and also members of taxa that are either yet unknown sulfate reducers or metabolic interaction partners thereof. Most responsive OTUs markedly increased their ribosome content but only weakly increased in abundance. Responsive Desulfosporosinus OTUs even maintained a constantly low population size throughout 50 days, which suggests a novel strategy of rare biosphere members to display activity. Interestingly, two OTUs of the non-sulfate-reducing genus Telmatospirillum (Alphaproteobacteria) showed strongly contrasting preferences towards sulfate in butyrate-amended microcosms, corroborating that closely related microorganisms are not necessarily ecologically coherent. We show that diverse consortia of low-abundance microorganisms can perform peat soil sulfate reduction, a process that exerts control on methane production in these climate-relevant ecosystems.

  • AstRoMap European Astrobiology Roadmap.

    Horneck G, Walter N, Westall F, Grenfell JL, Martin WF, Gomez F, Leuko S, Lee N, Onofri S, Tsiganis K, Saladino R, Pilat-Lohinger E, Palomba E, Harrison J, Rull F, Müller C, Strazzulla G, Brucato JR, Rettberg P, Capria MT
    2016 - Astrobiology, 3: 201-43


    The European AstRoMap project (supported by the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme) surveyed the state of the art of astrobiology in Europe and beyond and produced the first European roadmap for astrobiology research. In the context of this roadmap, astrobiology is understood as the study of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the context of cosmic evolution; this includes habitability in the Solar System and beyond. The AstRoMap Roadmap identifies five research topics, specifies several key scientific objectives for each topic, and suggests ways to achieve all the objectives. The five AstRoMap Research Topics are • Research Topic 1: Origin and Evolution of Planetary Systems • Research Topic 2: Origins of Organic Compounds in Space • Research Topic 3: Rock-Water-Carbon Interactions, Organic Synthesis on Earth, and Steps to Life • Research Topic 4: Life and Habitability • Research Topic 5: Biosignatures as Facilitating Life Detection It is strongly recommended that steps be taken towards the definition and implementation of a European Astrobiology Platform (or Institute) to streamline and optimize the scientific return by using a coordinated infrastructure and funding system.

  • Microbes as Engines of Ecosystem Function: When Does Community Structure Enhance Predictions of Ecosystem Processes?

    Graham EB, Knelman JE, Schindlbacher A, Siciliano S, Breulmann M, Yannarell A, Beman JM, Abell G, Philippot L, Prosser J, Foulquier A, Yuste JC, Glanville HC, Jones DL, Angel R, Salminen J, Newton RJ, Bürgmann H, Ingram LJ, Hamer U, Siljanen HMP, Peltoniemi K, Potthast K, Bañeras L, Hartmann M, Banerjee S, Yu R-Q, Nogaro G, Richter A, Koranda M, Castle SC, Goberna M, Song B, Chatterjee A, Nunes OC, Lopes AR, Cao Y, Kaisermann A, Hallin S, Strickland MS, Garcia-Pausas J, Barba J, Kang H, Isobe K, Papaspyrou S, Pastorelli R, Lagomarsino A, Lindström ES, Basiliko N, and Nemergut DR
    2016 - Front Microbiol, 7: 214


    Microorganisms are vital in mediating the earth's biogeochemical cycles; yet, despite our rapidly increasing ability to explore complex environmental microbial communities, the relationship between microbial community structure and ecosystem processes remains poorly understood. Here, we address a fundamental and unanswered question in microbial ecology: 'When do we need to understand microbial community structure to accurately predict function?' We present a statistical analysis investigating the value of environmental data and microbial community structure independently and in combination for explaining rates of carbon and nitrogen cycling processes within 82 global datasets. Environmental variables were the strongest predictors of process rates but left 44% of variation unexplained on average, suggesting the potential for microbial data to increase model accuracy. Although only 29% of our datasets were significantly improved by adding information on microbial community structure, we observed improvement in models of processes mediated by narrow phylogenetic guilds via functional gene data, and conversely, improvement in models of facultative microbial processes via community diversity metrics. Our results also suggest that microbial diversity can strengthen predictions of respiration rates beyond microbial biomass parameters, as 53% of models were improved by incorporating both sets of predictors compared to 35% by microbial biomass alone. Our analysis represents the first comprehensive analysis of research examining links between microbial community structure and ecosystem function. Taken together, our results indicate that a greater understanding of microbial communities informed by ecological principles may enhance our ability to predict ecosystem process rates relative to assessments based on environmental variables and microbial physiology.

  • Back to the Future of Soil Metagenomics.

    Nesme J, Achouak W, Agathos SN, Bailey M, Baldrian P, Brunel D, Frostegård A, Heulin T, Jansson JK, Jurkevitch E, Kruus KL, Kowalchuk GA, Lagares A, Lappin-Scott HM, Lemanceau P, Le Paslier D, Mandic-Mulec I, Murrell JC, Myrold DD, Nalin R, Nannipieri P, Neufeld JD, O'Gara F, Parnell JJ, Pühler A, Pylro V, Ramos JL, Roesch LF, Schloter M, Schleper C, Sczyrba A, Sessitsch A, Sjöling S, Sørensen J, Sørensen SJ, Tebbe CC, Topp E, Tsiamis G, van Elsas JD, van Keulen G, Widmer F, Wagner M, Zhang T, Zhang X, Zhao L, Zhu YG, Vogel TM, Simonet P
    2016 - Front Microbiol, 73
  • Behavior of platinum(iv) complexes in models of tumor hypoxia: cytotoxicity, compound distribution and accumulation

    Schreiber-Brynzak E, Pichler V, Heffeter P, Hanson B, Theiner S, Lichtscheidl-Schultz I, Kornauth C, Bamonti L, Dhery V, Groza D, Berry D, Berger W, Galanski M, Jakupec MA, Keppler BK
    2016 - Metallomics, 4: 422-33


    Hypoxia in solid tumors remains a challenge for conventional cancer therapeutics. As a source for resistance, metastasis development and drug bioprocessing, it influences treatment results and disease outcome. Bioreductive platinum(iv) prodrugs might be advantageous over conventional metal-based therapeutics, as biotransformation in a reductive milieu, such as under hypoxia, is required for drug activation. This study deals with a two-step screening of experimental platinum(iv) prodrugs with different rates of reduction and lipophilicity with the aim of identifying the most appropriate compounds for further investigations. In the first step, the cytotoxicity of all compounds was compared in hypoxic multicellular spheroids and monolayer culture using a set of cancer cell lines with different sensitivities to platinum(ii) compounds. Secondly, two selected compounds were tested in hypoxic xenografts in SCID mouse models in comparison to satraplatin, and, additionally, (LA)-ICP-MS-based accumulation and distribution studies were performed for these compounds in hypoxic spheroids and xenografts. Our findings suggest that, while cellular uptake and cytotoxicity strongly correlate with lipophilicity, cytotoxicity under hypoxia compared to non-hypoxic conditions and antitumor activity of platinum(iv) prodrugs are dependent on their rate of reduction.

  • The emerging view of Firmicutes as key fibre degraders in the human gut

    2016 - Environ. Microbiol., 7: 2081-3
  • Relative Abundance of Nitrotoga spp. in a Biofilter of a Cold-Freshwater Aquaculture Plant Appears To Be Stimulated by Slightly Acidic pH.

    Hüpeden J, Wegen S, Off S, Lücker S, Bedarf Y, Daims H, Kühn C, Spieck E
    2016 - Appl. Environ. Microbiol., 6: 1838-45


    The functioning of recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS) is essential to maintain water quality for fish health, and one crucial process here is nitrification. The investigated RAS was connected to a rainbow trout production system and operated at an average temperature of 13°C and pH 6.8. Community analyses of the nitrifying biofilm revealed a coexistence of Nitrospira and Nitrotoga, and it is hypothesized that a slightly acidic pH in combination with lower temperatures favors the growth of the latter. Modification of the standard cultivation approach toward lower pH values of 5.7 to 6.0 resulted in the successful enrichment (99% purity) of Nitrotoga sp. strain HW29, which had a 16S rRNA sequence similarity of 99.0% to Nitrotoga arctica. Reference cultures of Nitrospira defluvii and the novel Nitrotoga sp. HW29 were used to confirm differentiation of these nitrite oxidizers in distinct ecological niches. Nitrotoga sp. HW29 revealed pH and temperature optima of 6.8 and 22°C, respectively, whereas Nitrospira defluvii displayed the highest nitrite oxidation rate at pH 7.3 and 32°C. We report here the occurrence of Nitrotoga as one of the main nitrite-oxidizing bacteria in freshwater aquaculture systems and indicate that a slightly acidic pH, in addition to temperatures below 20°C, can be applied as a selective isolation criterion for this microorganism.

  • Trophosome of the deep-sea tubeworm Riftia pachyptila inhibits bacterial growth

    Klose J, Aistleitner K, Horn M, Krenn L, Dirsch V, Zehl M, Bright M
    2016 - PLoS One, 11: e0146446


    The giant tubeworm Riftia pachyptila lives in symbiosis with the chemoautotrophic gammaproteobacterium Cand. Endoriftia persephone. Symbionts are released back into the environment upon host death in high-pressure experiments, while microbial fouling is not involved in trophosome degradation. Therefore, we examined the antimicrobial effect of the tubeworm's trophosome and skin. The growth of all four tested Gram-positive, but only of one of the tested Gram-negative bacterial strains was inhibited by freshly fixed and degrading trophosome (incubated up to ten days at either warm or cold temperature), while no effect on Saccharomyces cerevisiae was observed. The skin did not show antimicrobial effects. A liquid chromatography-mass spectrometric analysis of the ethanol supernatant of fixed trophosomes lead to the tentative identification of the phospholipids 1-palmitoleyl-2-lyso-phosphatidylethanolamine, 2-palmitoleyl-1-lyso-phosphatidylethanolamine and the free fatty acids palmitoleic, palmitic and oleic acid, which are known to have an antimicrobial effect. As a result of tissue autolysis, the abundance of the free fatty acids increased with longer incubation time of trophosome samples. This correlated with an increasing growth inhibition of Bacillus subtilis and Listeria welshimeri, but not of the other bacterial strains. Therefore, the free fatty acids produced upon host degradation could be the cause of inhibition of at least these two bacterial strains.

  • Diversity analysis of sulfite- and sulfate-reducing microorganisms by multiplex dsrA and dsrB amplicon sequencing using new primers and mock community-optimized bioinformatics

    Pelikan C, Herbold CW, Hausmann B, Müller AL, Pester M, Loy A
    2016 - Environ Microbiol, 18: 2994-3009


    Genes encoding dissimilatory sulfite reductase (DsrAB) are commonly used as diagnostic markers in ecological studies of sulfite- and sulfate-reducing microorganisms. Here, we developed new high-coverage primer sets for generation of reductive bacterial-type dsrA and dsrB PCR products for highly parallel amplicon sequencing and a bioinformatics workflow for processing and taxonomic classification of short dsrA and dsrB reads. We employed two diverse mock communities that consisted of 45 or 90 known dsrAB sequences derived from environmental clones to precisely evaluate the performance of individual steps of our amplicon sequencing approach on the Illumina MiSeq platform. Although PCR cycle number, gene-specific primer mismatches, and stringent filtering for high-quality sequences had notable effects on the observed dsrA and dsrB community structures, recovery of most mock community sequences was generally proportional to their relative input abundances. Successful dsrA and dsrB diversity analysis in selected environmental samples further proved that the multiplex amplicon sequencing approach is adequate for monitoring spatial distribution and temporal abundance dynamics of dsrAB-containing microorganisms. While tested for reductive bacterial-type dsrAB, this method is readily applicable for oxidative-type dsrAB of sulfur-oxidizing bacteria and also provides guidance for processing short amplicon reads of other functional genes.

  • Phylogenetic and genomic analysis of Methanomassiliicoccales in wetlands and animal intestinal tracts reveals clade-specific habitat preferences

    Söllinger A, Schwab C, Weinmaier T, Loy A, Tveit AT, Schleper C, Urich T
    2016 - FEMS Microbiol Ecol, 92: fiv149


    Methanogenic Thermoplasmata of the novel order Methanomassiliicoccales were recently discovered in human and animal gastro-intestinal tracts (GITs). However their distribution in other methanogenic environments has not been addressed systematically. Here we surveyed Methanomassiliicoccales presence in wetland soils, a globally important source of methane emissions to the atmosphere, and in the GITs of different animals by PCR targeting their 16S rRNA and methyl:coenzyme M reductase (α-subunit) genes. We detected Methanomassiliicoccales in all 16 peat soils investigated, indicating their wide distribution in these habitats. Additionally, we detected their genes in various animal feces. Methanomassiliicoccales were subdivided in two broad phylogenetic clades designated 'environmental' and 'GIT' clades based on differential, although non-exclusive, habitat preferences of their members. A well-supported cluster within the environmental clade comprised more than 80% of all wetland 16S rRNA gene sequences. Metagenome assembly from bovine rumen fluid enrichments resulted in two almost complete genomes of both Methanomassiliicoccales clades. Comparative genomics revealed that members of the environmental clade contain larger genomes and a higher number of genes encoding anti-oxidative enzymes than animal GIT clade representatives. This study highlights the wide distribution of Methanomassiliicoccales in wetlands, which suggests that they contribute to methane emissions from these climate-relevant ecosystems.

  • probeBase - an online resource for rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes and primers: new features 2016

    Greuter D, Loy A, Horn M, Rattei T
    2016 - Nucleic Acids Res, 44: D586-D589


    probeBase is a manually maintained and curated database of rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes and primers. Contextual information and multiple options for evaluating in silico hybridization performance against the most recent rRNA sequence databases are provided for each oligonucleotide entry, which makes probeBase an important and frequently used resource for microbiology research and diagnostics. Here we present a major update of probeBase, which was last featured in the NAR Database Issue 2007. This update describes a complete remodeling of the database architecture and environment to accommodate computationally efficient access. Improved search functions, sequence match tools, and data output now extend the opportunities for finding suitable hierarchical probe sets that target an organism or taxon at different taxonomic levels. To facilitate the identification of complementary probe sets for organisms represented by short rRNA sequence reads generated by amplicon sequencing or metagenomic analysis with next generation sequencing technologies such as Illumina and IonTorrent, we introduce a novel tool that recovers surrogate near full-length rRNA sequences for short query sequences and finds matching oligonucleotides in probeBase.

  • Chlamydial seasonal dynamics and isolation of 'Candidatus Neptunochlamydia vexilliferae' from a Tyrrhenian coastal lake.

    Pizzetti I, Schulz F, Tyml T, Fuchs BM, Amann R, Horn M, Fazi S
    2016 - Environ. Microbiol., 8: 2405-17


    The Chlamydiae are a phylum of obligate intracellular bacteria comprising important human and animal pathogens, yet their occurrence in the environment, their phylogenetic diversity and their host range has been largely underestimated. We investigated the seasonality of environmental chlamydiae in a Tyrrhenian coastal lake. By catalysed reporter deposition fluorescence in situ hybridization, we quantified the small planktonic cells and detected a peak in the abundance of environmental chlamydiae in early autumn with up to 5.9 × 10(4) cells ml(-1) . Super-resolution microscopy improved the visualization and quantification of these bacteria and enabled the detection of pleomorphic chlamydial cells in their protist host directly in an environmental sample. To isolate environmental chlamydiae together with their host, we applied a high-throughput limited dilution approach and successfully recovered a Vexillifera sp., strain harbouring chlamydiae (93% 16S rRNA sequence identity to Simkania negevensis), tentatively named 'Candidatus Neptunochlamydia vexilliferae'. Transmission electron microscopy in combination with fluorescence in situ hybridization was used to prove the intracellular location of these bacteria representing the first strain of marine chlamydiae stably maintained alongside with their host in a laboratory culture. Taken together, this study contributes to a better understanding of the distribution and diversity of environmental chlamydiae in previously neglected marine environments.

  • Rock geochemistry induces stress and starvation responses in the bacterial proteome.

    Bryce CC, Le Bihan T, Martin SF, Harrison JP, Bush T, Spears B, Moore A, Leys N, Byloos B, Cockell CS
    2016 - Environ. Microbiol., 4: 1110-21


    Interactions between microorganisms and rocks play an important role in Earth system processes. However, little is known about the molecular capabilities microorganisms require to live in rocky environments. Using a quantitative label-free proteomics approach, we show that a model bacterium (Cupriavidus metallidurans CH34) can use volcanic rock to satisfy some elemental requirements, resulting in increased rates of cell division in both magnesium- and iron-limited media. However, the rocks also introduced multiple new stresses via chemical changes associated with pH, elemental leaching and surface adsorption of nutrients that were reflected in the proteome. For example, the loss of bioavailable phosphorus was observed and resulted in the upregulation of diverse phosphate limitation proteins, which facilitate increase phosphate uptake and scavenging within the cell. Our results revealed that despite the provision of essential elements, rock chemistry drives complex metabolic reorganization within rock-dwelling organisms, requiring tight regulation of cellular processes at the protein level. This study advances our ability to identify key microbial responses that enable life to persist in rock environments.

  • Activity and community structures of sulfate-reducing microorganisms in polar, temperate and tropical marine sediments

    Robador A, Müller AL, Sawicka JE, Berry D, Hubert CRJ, Loy A, Jørgensen BB, Brüchert V
    2016 - ISME J, 10: 796–809


    Temperature has a fundamental impact on the metabolic rates of microorganisms and strongly influences microbial ecology and biogeochemical cycling in the environment. In this study, we examined the catabolic temperature response of natural communities of sulfate-reducing microorganisms (SRM) in polar, temperate, and tropical marine sediments. In short-term sediment incubation experiments with 35S-sulfate, we demonstrated how the cardinal temperatures for sulfate reduction correlate with mean annual sediment temperatures, indicating specific thermal adaptations of the dominant SRM in each of the investigated ecosystems. The community structure of putative SRM in the sediments, as revealed by pyrosequencing of bacterial 16S rRNA gene amplicons and phylogenetic assignment to known SRM taxa, consistently correlated with in situ temperatures, but not with sediment organic carbon concentrations or C:N ratios of organic matter. Additionally, several species-level SRM phylotypes of the class Deltaproteobacteria tended to co-occur at sites with similar mean annual temperatures, regardless of geographic distance. The observed temperature adaptations of SRM imply that environmental temperature is a major controlling variable for physiological selection and ecological and evolutionary differentiation of microbial communities.

  • Response of the bacterial community associated with a cosmopolitan marine diatom to crude oil shows a preference for the biodegradation of aromatic hydrocarbons.

    Mishamandani S, Gutierrez T, Berry D, Aitken MD
    2016 - Environ. Microbiol., 6: 1817-33


    Emerging evidence shows that hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria (HCB) may be commonly found associated with phytoplankton in the ocean, but the ecology of these bacteria and how they respond to crude oil remains poorly understood. Here, we used a natural diatom-bacterial assemblage to investigate the diversity and response of HCB associated with a cosmopolitan marine diatom, Skeletonema costatum, to crude oil. Pyrosequencing analysis and qPCR revealed a dramatic transition in the diatom-associated bacterial community, defined initially by a short-lived bloom of Methylophaga (putative oil degraders) that was subsequently succeeded by distinct groups of HCB (Marinobacter, Polycyclovorans, Arenibacter, Parvibaculum, Roseobacter clade), including putative novel phyla, as well as other groups with previously unqualified oil-degrading potential. Interestingly, these oil-enriched organisms contributed to the apparent and exclusive biodegradation of substituted and non-substituted polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), thereby suggesting that the HCB community associated with the diatom is tuned to specializing in the degradation of PAHs. Furthermore, the formation of marine oil snow (MOS) in oil-amended incubations was consistent with its formation during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This work highlights the phycosphere of phytoplankton as an underexplored biotope in the ocean where HCB may contribute importantly to the biodegradation of hydrocarbon contaminants in marine surface waters.

  • Ecophysiology of an uncultivated lineage of Aigarchaeota from an oxic, hot spring filamentous 'streamer' community.

    Beam JP, Jay ZJ, Schmid MC, Rusch DB, Romine MF, M Jennings Rd, Kozubal MA, Tringe SG, Wagner M, Inskeep WP
    2016 - ISME J, 1: 210-224


    The candidate archaeal phylum 'Aigarchaeota' contains microorganisms from terrestrial and subsurface geothermal ecosystems. The phylogeny and metabolic potential of Aigarchaeota has been deduced from several recent single-cell amplified genomes; however, a detailed description of their metabolic potential and in situ transcriptional activity is absent. Here, we report a comprehensive metatranscriptome-based reconstruction of the in situ metabolism of Aigarchaeota in an oxic, hot spring filamentous 'streamer' community. Fluorescence in situ hybridization showed that these newly discovered Aigarchaeota are filamentous, which is consistent with the presence and transcription of an actin-encoding gene. Aigarchaeota filaments are intricately associated with other community members, which include both bacteria (for example, filamentous Thermocrinis spp.) and archaea. Metabolic reconstruction of genomic and metatranscriptomic data suggests that this aigarchaeon is an aerobic, chemoorganoheterotroph with autotrophic potential. A heme copper oxidase complex was identified in the environmental genome assembly and highly transcribed in situ. Potential electron donors include acetate, fatty acids, amino acids, sugars and aromatic compounds, which may originate from extracellular polymeric substances produced by other microorganisms shown to exist in close proximity and/or autochthonous dissolved organic carbon (OC). Transcripts related to genes specific to each of these potential electron donors were identified, indicating that this aigarchaeon likely utilizes several OC substrates. Characterized members of this lineage cannot synthesize heme, and other cofactors and vitamins de novo, which suggests auxotrophy. We propose the name Candidatus 'Calditenuis aerorheumensis' for this aigarchaeon, which describes its filamentous morphology and its primary electron acceptor, oxygen.

  • A Rickettsiales symbiont of amoebae with ancient features.

    Schulz F, Martijn J, Wascher F, Lagkouvardos I, Kostanjšek R, Ettema TJ, Horn M
    2016 - Environ. Microbiol., 8: 2326-42


    The Rickettsiae comprise intracellular bacterial symbionts and pathogens infecting diverse eukaryotes. Here, we provide a detailed characterization of 'Candidatus Jidaibacter acanthamoeba', a rickettsial symbiont of Acanthamoeba. The bacterium establishes the infection in its amoeba host within 2 h where it replicates within vacuoles. Higher bacterial loads and accelerated spread of infection at elevated temperatures were observed. The infection had a negative impact on host growth rate, although no increased levels of host cell lysis were seen. Phylogenomic analysis identified this bacterium as member of the Midichloriaceae. Its 2.4 Mb genome represents the largest among Rickettsiales and is characterized by a moderate degree of pseudogenization and a high coding density. We found an unusually large number of genes encoding proteins with eukaryotic-like domains such as ankyrins, leucine-rich repeats and tetratricopeptide repeats, which likely function in host interaction. There are a total of three divergent, independently acquired type IV secretion systems, and 35 flagellar genes representing the most complete set found in an obligate intracellular Alphaproteobacterium. The deeply branching phylogenetic position of 'Candidatus Jidaibacter acanthamoeba' together with its ancient features place it closely to the rickettsial ancestor and helps to better understand the transition from a free-living to an intracellular lifestyle.

  • Gypsum amendment to rice paddy soil stimulated bacteria involved in sulfur cycling but largely preserved the phylogenetic composition of the total bacterial community

    Wörner S, Zecchin S, Dan J, Hristova Todorova N, Loy A, Conrad R, Pester M
    2016 - Environ Microbiol Rep, 8: 413-23


    Rice paddies are indispensable for human food supply but emit large amounts of the greenhouse gas methane. Sulfur cycling occurs at high rates in these water-submerged soils and controls methane production, an effect that is increased by sulfate-containing fertilizers or soil amendments. We grew rice plants until their late vegetative phase with and without gypsum (CaSO4 ·2H2 O) amendment and identified responsive bacteria by 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. Gypsum amendment decreased methane emissions by up to 99% but had no major impact on the general phylogenetic composition of the bacterial community. It rather selectively stimulated or repressed a small number of 129 and 27 species-level operational taxonomic units (OTUs) (out of 1,883-2,287 observed) in the rhizosphere and bulk soil, respectively. Gypsum-stimulated OTUs were affiliated with several potential sulfate-reducing (Syntrophobacter, Desulfovibrio, unclassified Desulfobulbaceae, unclassified Desulfobacteraceae) and sulfur-oxidizing taxa (Thiobacillus, unclassified Rhodocyclaceae), while gypsum-repressed OTUs were dominated by aerobic methanotrophs (Methylococcaceae). Abundance correlation networks suggested that two abundant (>1%) OTUs (Desulfobulbaceae, Rhodocyclaceae) were central to the reductive and oxidative parts of the sulfur cycle.

Book chapters and other publications

2 Publications found
  • Candidatus Nitrosotenuis

    Herbold CW, Lebedeva E, Palatinszky M, Wagner M
    2016 - 1-9. in Bergey’s Manual of Systematics of Archaea and Bacteria. (William B. Whitman). John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, England


    Candidatus Nitrosotenuis is a genus of Thaumarchaeota that can be found widely distributed in soils, freshwater, hot springs, the subsurface, and activated sludge. They may be rods or spheres and may or may not have flagella. Like other known and described Thaumarchaeota, Ca. Nitrosotenuis are aerobic chemolithautotrophs that use energy gained from the oxidation of ammonia to nitrite to fix carbon via modified 3-hydroxypropionate/4-hydroxybutyrate carbon fixation pathway. At this time, no pure culture of Ca. Nitrosotenuis exists, but some of the six available enrichments with members of the genus are almost pure. It remains to be  demonstrated whether the remaining bacterial contaminants provide essential compounds to Ca. Nitrosotenuis. Enrichments of Ca. Nitrosotenuis are intolerant to high salinity (>0.3%), although they are phylogenetically related to the Group I.1a Thaumarchaeota (Nitrosopumilaceae), which includes taxa that are widely distributed in the ocean.


  • Candidatus Nitrosotenuaceae

    Herbold CW, Lebedeva E, Palatinszky M, Wagner M
    2016 - 1-5. in Bergey’s Manual of Systematics of Archaea and Bacteria. (William B. Whitman)). John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, England


    Candidatus Nitrosotenuaceae is a family of Thaumarchaeota that consists of a single genus, Ca. Nitrosotenuis, which can be found widely distributed in soils, freshwater, hot springs, the subsurface, and activated sludge. They may be rods or spheres and may or may not have flagella. Similar to other known and described Thaumarchaeota, Ca. Nitrosotenuaceae are aerobic chemolithautotrophs that use energy gained from the oxidation of ammonia to nitrite to fix carbon via modified 3-hydroxypropionate/4 –hydroxybutyrate carbon fixation pathway. At this time, no pure culture of Ca. Nitrosotenuaceae exists, but some of the six available enrichments with members of the genus are almost pure. It remains to be demonstrated whether the remaining bacterial contaminants provide essential compounds to Ca. Nitrosotenuaceae. Enrichments of Ca. Nitrosotenuaceae are intolerant to high salinity (>0.3%), although they are phylogenetically related to the Group I.1a Thaumarchaeota (Ca. Nitrosopumilaceae), which includes taxa that are widely distributed in the ocean.