Publications

Publications in peer reviewed journals

40 Publications found
  • CT295 Is Chlamydia trachomatis’ phosphoglucomutase and a type 3 secretion substrate

    Triboulet A, N’Gadjaga MD, Niragire B, Köstlbacher S, Horn M, Aimanianda V, Subtil A
    2022 - Front Cell Infect Microbiol, 12: 866729

    Abstract: 

    The obligate intracellular bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis store glycogen in the lumen of the vacuoles in which they grow. Glycogen catabolism generates glucose-1-phosphate (Glc1P), while the bacteria can take up only glucose-6-phosphate (Glc6P). We tested whether the conversion of Glc1P into Glc6P could be catalyzed by a phosphoglucomutase (PGM) of host or bacterial origin. We found no evidence for the presence of the host PGM in the vacuole. Two C. trachomatis proteins, CT295 and CT815, are potential PGMs. By reconstituting the reaction using purified proteins, and by complementing PGM deficient fibroblasts, we demonstrated that only CT295 displayed robust PGM activity. Intriguingly, we showed that glycogen accumulation in the lumen of the vacuole of a subset of Chlamydia species (C. trachomatis, C. muridarum, C. suis) correlated with the presence, in CT295 orthologs, of a secretion signal recognized by the type three secretion (T3S) machinery of Shigella. C. caviae and C. pneumoniae do not accumulate glycogen, and their CT295 orthologs lack T3S signals. In conclusion, we established that the conversion of Glc1P into Glc6P was accomplished by a bacterial PGM, through the acquisition of a T3S signal in a “housekeeping” protein. Acquisition of this signal likely contributed to shaping glycogen metabolism within Chlamydiaceae.

  • The breakthrough paradox - how focusing on one form of innovation jeopardizes the advancement of science

    Falkenberg F, Fochler M, Sigl L, Bürstmayr, Eichorst SA, Michel S, Oburger E, Staudinger C, Steiner B, Woebken D
    2022 - EMBO Reports, e54772

    Abstract: 

    Science is about venturing into the unknown to find unexpected insights and establish new knowledge. Increasingly, academic institutions and funding agencies such as the European Research Council (ERC) explicitly encourage and support scientists to foster risky and hopefully ground-breaking research. Such incentives are important and have been greatly appreciated by the scientific community. However, the success of the ERC has had its downsides, as other actors in the funding ecosystem have adopted the ERC’s focus on “breakthrough science” and respective notions of scientific excellence. We argue that these tendencies are concerning since disruptive breakthrough innovation is not the only form of innovation in research. While continuous, gradual innovation is often taken for granted, it could become endangered in a research and funding ecosystem that places ever higher value on breakthrough science. This is problematic since, paradoxically, breakthrough potential in science builds on gradual innovation. If the value of gradual innovation is not better recognized, the potential for breakthrough innovation may well be stifled.

  • Microbes From Mum: Symbiont transmission in the tropical reef sponge Ianthella basta

    Engelberts JP, Wahab MAA, Maldonado M, Rix L, Marangon E, Robbins SJ, Wagner M, Webster NS
    2022 - ISME Commun, in press

    Abstract: 

    Most marine sponge species harbour distinct communities of microorganisms which contribute to various aspects of their host’s health and physiology. In addition to their key roles in nutrient transformations and chemical defence, these symbiotic microbes may shape sponge phenotype by mediating important developmental stages and influencing the environmental tolerance of the host. However, the characterisation of each microbial taxa throughout a sponge’s life cycle remains challenging, with several sponge species hosting up to 3 000 distinct microbial species. Ianthella basta, an abundant broadcast spawning species in the Indo-Pacific is an emerging model for sponge symbiosis research as it harbours only three dominant symbionts: a Thaumarchaeotum, a Gammaproteobacterium, and an Alphaproteobacterium. Here, we successfully spawned Ianthella basta, characterised its mode of reproduction, and used 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, fluorescence in situ hybridisation, and transmission electron microscopy to characterise the microbial community throughout its life cycle. We confirmed I. basta as being gonochoric and showed that the three dominant symbionts, which together make up >90% of the microbiome according to 16S rRNA gene abundance, are vertically transmitted from mother to offspring by a unique method involving encapsulation in the peri-oocytic space, suggesting an obligate relationship between these microbes and their host.

  • Sulfur in lucinid bivalves inhibits intake rates of a molluscivore shorebird

    Tim Oortwijn, Jimmy de Fouw, Jillian Petersen, Jan A. van Gils
    2022 - Oecologia, in press

    Abstract: 

    A forager’s energy intake rate is usually constrained by a combination of handling time, encounter rate and digestion rate. On top of that, food intake may be constrained when a forager can only process a maximum amount of certain toxic compounds. The latter constraint is well described for herbivores with a limited tolerance to plant secondary metabolites. In sulfidic marine ecosystems, many animals host chemoautotrophic endosymbionts, which store sulfur compounds as an energy resource, potentially making their hosts toxic to predators. The red knot Calidris canutus canutus is a molluscivore shorebird that winters on the mudflats of Banc d’Arguin, where the most abundant bivalve prey Loripes orbiculatus hosts sulfide-oxidizing bacteria. In this system, we studied the potential effect of sulfur on the red knots’ intake rates, by offering Loripes with various sulfur content to captive birds. To manipulate toxicity, we starved Loripes for 10 days by removing them from their symbiont’s energy source sulfide. As predicted, we found lower sulfur concentrations in starved Loripes. We also included natural variation in sulfur concentrations by offering Loripes collected at two different locations. In both cases lower sulfur levels in Loripes resulted in higher consumption rates in red knots. Over time the red knots increased their intake rates on Loripes, showing their ability to adjust to a higher intake of sulfur.

  • Global grassland diazotrophic communities are structured by combined abiotic, biotic, and spatial distance factors but resilient to fertilization

    Nepel M, Angel R, Borer ET, Frey B, MacDougall AS, McCulley RL, Risch AC, Schütz M, Seasbloom EW, Woebken D
    2022 - Front Microbiol, 13: 821030

    Abstract: 

    Grassland ecosystems cover around 37% of the ice-free land surface on Earth and have critical socioeconomic importance globally. As in many terrestrial ecosystems, biological dinitrogen (N2) fixation represents an essential natural source of nitrogen (N). The ability to fix atmospheric N2 is limited to diazotrophs, a diverse guild of bacteria and archaea. To elucidate the abiotic (climatic, edaphic), biotic (vegetation), and spatial factors that govern diazotrophic community composition in global grassland soils, amplicon sequencing of the dinitrogenase reductase gene—nifH—was performed on samples from a replicated standardized nutrient [N, phosphorus (P)] addition experiment in 23 grassland sites spanning four continents. Sites harbored distinct and diverse diazotrophic communities, with most of reads assigned to diazotrophic taxa within the Alphaproteobacteria (e.g., Rhizobiales), Cyanobacteria (e.g., Nostocales), and Deltaproteobacteria (e.g., Desulforomonadales) groups. Likely because of the wide range of climatic and edaphic conditions and spatial distance among sampling sites, only a few of the taxa were present at all sites. The best model describing the variation among soil diazotrophic communities at the OTU level combined climate seasonality (temperature in the wettest quarter and precipitation in the warmest quarter) with edaphic (C:N ratio, soil texture) and vegetation factors (various perennial plant covers). Additionally, spatial variables (geographic distance) correlated with diazotrophic community variation, suggesting an interplay of environmental variables and spatial distance. The diazotrophic communities appeared to be resilient to elevated nutrient levels, as 2–4 years of chronic N and P additions had little effect on the community composition. However, it remains to be seen, whether changes in the community composition occur after exposure to long-term, chronic fertilization regimes.

  • Omics research on abalone (Haliotis spp.): Current state and perspectives

    Nguyen TV, Alfaro AC, Mundy C, Petersen JM, Ragg NLC
    2022 - Aquaculture, 547: 737438

    Abstract: 

    The steady increase in abalone aquaculture production throughout the world has attracted growing interest in the application of new technologies, such as omics approaches for abalone research. Many omics techniques, such as genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics are becoming established in abalone research and are beginning to reveal key molecules and pathways underlying many biological processes, and to identify associated candidate biomarkers of biological or environmental processes. In this contribution, we synthesize the published omics studies on abalone to highlight the current state of knowledge, open questions, and future directions. In addition, we outline the challenges and limitations of each omics field, some of which could be overcome by integrating multiple omics approaches – a future strategy with great potential for contributing to improve abalone production. Full text

  • Nitrogen fixation by diverse diazotrophic communities can support population growth of arboreal ants

    Nepel M, Pfeifer J, Oberhauser FB, Richter A, Woebken D, Mayer VE
    2022 - BMC Biology, 20: 135

    Abstract: 

    Background: Symbiotic ant-plant associations, in which ants live on plants, feed on plant-provided food, and protect host trees against threats, are ubiquitous across the tropics, with the Azteca-Cecropia associations being amongst the most widespread interactions in the Neotropics. Upon colonization of Cecropia’s hollow internodes, Azteca queens form small patches with plant parenchyma, which are then used as waste piles when the colony grows. Patches—found in many ant-plant mutualisms—are present throughout the colony life cycle and may supplement larval food. Despite their initial nitrogen (N)-poor substrate, patches in Cecropia accommodate fungi, nematodes, and bacteria. In this study, we investigated the atmospheric N2 fixation as an N source in patches of early and established ant colonies. Results: Via 15N2 tracer assays, N2 fixation was frequently detected in all investigated patch types formed by three Azteca ant species. Quantified fixation rates were similar in early and established ant colonies and higher than in various tropical habitats. Based on amplicon sequencing, the identified microbial functional guild—the diazotrophs—harboring and transcribing the dinitrogenase reductase (nifH) gene was highly diverse and heterogeneous across Azteca colonies. The community composition differed between early and established ant colonies and partly between the ant species. Conclusions: Our data show that N2 fixation can result in reasonable amounts of N in ant colonies, which might not only enable bacterial, fungal, and nematode growth in the patch ecosystems but according to our calculations can even support the growth of ant populations. The diverse and heterogeneous diazotrophic community implies a functional redundancy, which could provide the ant-plant-patch system with a higher resilience towards changing environmental conditions. Hence, we propose that N2 fixation represents a previously unknown potential to overcome N limitations in arboreal ant colonies.

  • Single-cell stable isotope probing in microbial ecology

    Alcolombri U, Pioli R, Stocker R, Berry D
    2022 - ISME Commun, 2: 55

    Abstract: 

    Environmental and host-associated microbiomes are typically diverse assemblages of organisms performing myriad activities and engaging in a network of interactions that play out in spatially structured contexts. As the sum of these activities and interactions give rise to overall microbiome function, with important consequences for environmental processes and human health, elucidating specific microbial activities within complex communities is a pressing challenge. Single-cell stable isotope probing (SC-SIP) encompasses multiple techniques that typically utilize Raman microspectroscopy or nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) to enable spatially resolved tracking of isotope tracers in cells, cellular components, and metabolites. SC-SIP techniques are uniquely suited for illuminating single-cell activities in microbial communities and for testing hypotheses about cellular functions generated for example from meta-omics datasets. Here, we illustrate the insights enabled by SC-SIP techniques by reviewing selected applications in microbiology and offer a perspective on their potential for future research.

  • Specific localization and quantification of the Oligo-Mouse-Microbiota (OMM12) by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH)

    Brugiroux S, Berry D, Ring D, Barnich N, Daims H, Stecher B
    2022 - Current Protocols, 2: e548

    Abstract: 

    The oligo-mouse-microbiota (OMM12) is a widely used syncom that colonizes gnotobiotic mice in a stable manner. It provides several fundamental functions to its murine host, including colonization resistance against enteric pathogens. Here, we designed and validated specific fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) probes to detect and quantify OMM12 strains on intestinal tissue cross sections. 16S rRNA‒specific probes were designed, and specificity was validated on fixed pure cultures. A hybridization protocol was optimized for sensitive detection of the individual bacterial cells in cryosections. Using this method, we showed that the intestinal mucosal niche of Akkermansia muciniphila can be influenced by global gut microbial community context.

  • Microbial marker for seawater intrusion in a coastal Mediterranean shallow Lake, Lake Vrana, Croatia

    Selak L, Marković T, Pjevac P, Orlić S
    2022 - Science of The Total Environment, in press

    Abstract: 

    Climate change-induced rising sea levels and prolonged dry periods impose a global threat to the freshwater scarcity on the coastline: salinization. Lake Vrana is the largest surface freshwater resource in mid-Dalmatia, while the local springs are heavily used in agriculture. The karstified carbonate ridge that separates this shallow lake from the Adriatic Sea enables seawater intrusion if the lakes' precipitation-evaporation balance is disturbed. In this study, the impact of anthropogenic activities and drought exuberated salinization on microbial communities was tracked in Lake Vrana and its inlets, using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. The lack of precipitation and high water temperatures in summer months introduced an imbalance in the water regime of the lake, allowing for seawater intrusion, mainly via the karst conduit Jugovir. The determined microbial community spatial differences in the lake itself and the main drainage canals were driven by salinity, drought, and nutrient loading. Particle-associated and free-living microorganisms both strongly responded to the ecosystem perturbations, and their co-occurrence was driven by the salinization event. Notably, a bloom of halotolerant taxa, predominant the sulfur-oxidizing genus Sulfurovum, emerged with increased salinity and sulfate concentrations, having the potential to be used as an indicator for salinization of shallow coastal lakes. Following summer salinization, lake water column homogenization took from a couple of weeks up to a few months, while the entire system displayed increased salinity despite increased precipitation. This study represents a valuable contribution to understanding the impact of the Freshwater Salinization Syndrome on Mediterranean lakes' microbial communities and the ecosystem resilience.

  • Interleukin-11 drives human and mouse alcohol-related liver disease

    Effenberger M, Widjaja AA, Grabherr F, Schaefer B, Grander C, Mayr L, Schwaerzler J, Enrich B, Moser P, Fink J, Pedrini A, Jaschke N, Kirchmair A, Pfister A, Hausmann B, Bale R, Putzer D, Zoller H, Schafer S, Pjevac P, Trajanoski Z, Oberhuber G, Adolph T Cook S, Tilg H
    2022 - BMJ, in press

    Abstract: 

    Objective Alcoholic hepatitis (AH) reflects acute exacerbation of alcoholic liver disease (ALD) and is a growing healthcare burden worldwide. Interleukin-11 (IL-11) is a profibrotic, proinflammatory cytokine with increasingly recognised toxicities in parenchymal and epithelial cells. We explored IL-11 serum levels and their prognostic value in patients suffering from AH and cirrhosis of various aetiology and experimental ALD.
    Design IL-11 serum concentration and tissue expression was determined in a cohort comprising 50 patients with AH, 110 patients with cirrhosis and 19 healthy volunteers. Findings were replicated in an independent patient cohort (n=186). Primary human hepatocytes exposed to ethanol were studied in vitro. Ethanol-fed wildtype mice were treated with a neutralising murine IL-11 receptor-antibody (anti-IL11RA) and examined for severity signs and markers of ALD.
    Results IL-11 serum concentration and hepatic expression increased with severity of liver disease, mostly pronounced in AH. In a multivariate Cox-regression, a serum level above 6.4 pg/mL was a model of end-stage liver disease independent risk factor for transplant-free survival in patients with compensated and decompensated cirrhosis. In mice, severity of alcohol-induced liver inflammation correlated with enhanced hepatic IL-11 and IL11RA expression. In vitro and in vivo, anti-IL11RA reduced pathogenic signalling pathways (extracellular signal-regulated kinases, c-Jun N-terminal kinase, NADPH oxidase 4) and protected hepatocytes and murine livers from ethanol-induced inflammation and injury.
    Conclusion Pathogenic IL-11 signalling in hepatocytes plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of ALD and could serve as an independent prognostic factor for transplant-free survival. Blocking IL-11 signalling might be a therapeutic option in human ALD, particularly AH.
  • Ecology and evolution of chlamydial symbionts of arthropods

    Halter T, Koestlbacher S, Collingro A, Sixt BS, Toenshoff ER, Hendrickx F, Kostanjšek R, Horn M
    2022 - ISME Commun., 2: 45

    Abstract: 

    The phylum Chlamydiae consists of obligate intracellular bacteria including major human pathogens and diverse environmental representatives. Here we investigated the Rhabdochlamydiaceae, which is predicted to be the largest and most diverse chlamydial family, with the few described members known to infect arthropod hosts. Using published 16S rRNA gene sequence data we identified at least 388 genus-level lineages containing about 14 051 putative species within this family. We show that rhabdochlamydiae are mainly found in freshwater and soil environments, suggesting the existence of diverse, yet unknown hosts. Next, we used a comprehensive genome dataset including metagenome assembled genomes classified as members of the family Rhabdochlamydiaceae, and we added novel complete genome sequences of Rhabdochlamydia porcellionis infecting the woodlouse Porcellio scaber, and of 'Candidatus R. oedothoracis' associated with the linyphiid dwarf spider Oedothorax gibbosus. Comparative analysis of basic genome features and gene content with reference genomes of well-studied chlamydial families with known host ranges, namely Parachlamydiaceae (protist hosts) and Chlamydiaceae (human and other vertebrate hosts) suggested distinct niches for members of the Rhabdochlamydiaceae. We propose that members of the family represent intermediate stages of adaptation of chlamydiae from protists to vertebrate hosts. Within the genus Rhabdochlamydia, pronounced genome size reduction could be observed (1.49-1.93 Mb). The abundance and genomic distribution of transposases suggests transposable element expansion and subsequent gene inactivation as a mechanism of genome streamlining during adaptation to new hosts. This type of genome reduction has never been described before for any member of the phylum Chlamydiae. This study provides new insights into the molecular ecology, genomic diversity, and evolution of representatives of one of the most divergent chlamydial families.

  • Human follicular mites: Ectoparasites becoming symbionts

    Smith G, Manzano-Marín A, Reyes-Prieto M, Ribeiro Antunes CS, Ashworth V, Goselle ON, Jan AAA, Moya A, Latorre A, Perotti MA, Braig HR
    2022 - Mol Biol Evol, 39: msac125

    Abstract: 

    Most humans carry mites in the hair follicles of their skin for their entire lives. Follicular mites are the only metazoans that continuously live on humans. We propose that Demodex folliculorum (Acari) represents a transitional stage from a host-injuring obligate parasite to an obligate symbiont. Here, we describe the profound impact of this transition on the genome and physiology of the mite. Genome sequencing revealed that the permanent host association of D. folliculorum led to an extensive genome reduction through relaxed selection and genetic drift, resulting in the smallest number of protein-coding genes yet identified among panarthropods. Confocal microscopy revealed that this gene loss coincided with an extreme reduction in the number of cells. Single uninucleate muscle cells are sufficient to operate each of the three segments that form each walking leg. While it has been assumed that the reduction of the cell number in parasites starts early in development, we identified a greater total number of cells in the last developmental stage (nymph) than in the terminal adult stage, suggesting that reduction starts at the adult or ultimate stage of development. This is the first evolutionary step in an arthropod species adopting a reductive, parasitic, or endosymbiotic lifestyle. Somatic nuclei show under-replication at the diploid stage. Novel eye structures or photoreceptors as well as a unique human host melatonin-guided day/night rhythm are proposed for the first time. The loss of DNA repair genes coupled with extreme endogamy might have set this mite species on an evolutionary dead-end trajectory.

  • How low can they go? Aerobic respiration by microorganisms under apparent anoxia

    Berg J, Ahmerkamp S, Pjevac P, Hausmann B, Milucka J, Kuypers MMM
    2022 - FEMS Microbiology Reviews, in press

    Abstract: 

    Oxygen (O2) is the ultimate oxidant on Earth and its respiration confers such an energetic advantage that microorganisms have evolved the capacity to scavenge O2 down to nanomolar concentrations. The respiration of O2 at extremely low levels is proving to be common to diverse microbial taxa, including organisms formerly considered strict anaerobes. Motivated by recent advances in O2 sensing and DNA/RNA sequencing technologies, we performed a systematic review of environmental metatranscriptomes revealing that microbial respiration of O2 at nanomolar concentrations is ubiquitous and drives microbial activity in seemingly anoxic aquatic habitats. These habitats were key to the early evolution of life and are projected to become more prevalent in the near future due to anthropogenic-driven environmental change. Here we summarize our current understanding of aerobic microbial respiration under apparent anoxia, including novel processes, their underlying biochemical pathways, the involved microorganisms, and their environmental importance and evolutionary origin.

  • Multi-strain probiotics show increased protection of intestinal epithelial cells against pathogens in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

    Pillinger M, Weber B, Standen B, Schmid MC, Kesselring JC
    2022 - Aquaculture, 560: 738487

    Abstract: 

    The use of antibiotics to treat bacterial infections in aquaculture facilities adversely affects fish and environmental health, motivating the search for alternative products such as probiotics. The present study investigated the immune modulatory effects of inoculating the intestinal epithelial cells of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) with the probiotic bacteria Enterococcus faeciumPediococcus acidilacticiLactobacillus reuteri, and Bacillus subtilis alone (single-strains) or as mixtures, which either include or exclude B. subtilis (PWBsubtilis or PWOBsubtilis, respectively). To this end, isolated intestinal epithelial cells were either incubated without probiotics or with the single- or multi-strain probiotics and then challenged with common pathogens in aquaculture. The adhesion of probiotic and pathogenic bacteria to the intestinal cells was examined by flow cytometry and confocal microscopy and the relative expression of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine genes was assessed through quantitative real-time PCR. Although the highest inhibition of pathogen adhesion was observed for L. reuteri alone (88%), PWOBsubtilis and PWBsubtilis inhibited 77% and 71% of pathogen attachment, respectively. Single- and multi-strain probiotics were able to elicit an immune response by activation of both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines production in rainbow trout intestinal epithelial cells. This expression was generally highest for multi-strain probiotics, particularly for PWBsubtilis. The tested probiotics present different modes of action, considering their inhibition capability and immunomodulatory effects. Hence the use of multi-strain products may promote a wider range of synergies on pathogens invasion and inhibition, and immunomodulatory effects that can represent an advantage to disease outbreaks prevention in rainbow trout production.

  • Targeting Gut Bacteria Using Inulin-Conjugated Mesoporous Silica Nanoparticles

    von Baeckmann C, Riva A, Guggenberger P, Kählig H, Han SW, Inan D, Del Favero G, Berry D, Kleitz F
    2022 - Adv Mater Interfaces, 9: 202102558

    Abstract: 

    To facilitate the creation of novel nanocarrier systems targeting the intestinal microbiome, inulin-conjugated mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs) are described herein for the first time. Surface functionalization is achieved on either hydrophilic or hydrophobic mesoporous nanoparticles using different conjugation methods. The targeting performance of the resulting materials is assessed and compared upon incubation with human stool. It appears that amide formation is the most favorable coupling method on hydrophilic MSNs to achieve the desired bioconjugate. Remarkably, high affinity of gut bacteria to the conjugated particles can be obtained, paving the way to novel targeted drug delivery systems.

  • Defensive symbiosis against giant viruses in amoebae

    Arthofer P, Delafont V, Willemsen A, Panhölzl F, Horn M
    2022 - PNAS, 119: e2205856119

    Abstract: 

    Protists are important regulators of microbial communities and key components in food webs with impact on nutrient cycling and ecosystem functioning. In turn, their activity is shaped by diverse intracellular parasites, including bacterial symbionts and viruses. Yet, bacteria–virus interactions within protists are poorly understood. Here, we studied the role of bacterial symbionts of free-living amoebae in the establishment of infections with nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses (Nucleocytoviricota). To investigate these interactions in a system that would also be relevant in nature, we first isolated and characterized a giant virus (Viennavirus, family Marseilleviridae) and a sympatric potential Acanthamoeba host infected with bacterial symbionts. Subsequently, coinfection experiments were carried out, using the fresh environmental isolates as well as additional amoeba laboratory strains. Employing fluorescence in situ hybridization and qPCR, we show that the bacterial symbiont, identified as Parachlamydia acanthamoebae, represses the replication of the sympatric Viennavirus in both recent environmental isolates as well as Acanthamoeba laboratory strains. In the presence of the symbiont, virions are still taken up, but viral factory maturation is inhibited, leading to survival of the amoeba host. The symbiont also suppressed the replication of the more complex Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus and Tupanvirus deep ocean (Mimiviridae). Our work provides an example of an intracellular bacterial symbiont protecting a protist host against virus infections. The impact of virus–symbiont interactions on microbial population dynamics and eventually ecosystem processes requires further attention.

  • Limnospira fusiformis harbors dinitrogenase reductase (nifH)-like genes, but does not show N2 fixation activity

    Schagerl M, Angel R, Donabaum U, Gschwandner AM, Woebken D
    2022 - Algal Research, 66: 102771

    Abstract: 

    East African soda lakes (EASLs), some of them world-renowned for their large flocks of flamingos, range amongst the most productive aquatic ecosystems worldwide. The non-heterocytous filamentous cyanobacterium Limnospira fusiformis (formerly Arthrospira fusiformis or Spirulina platensis), forming almost unialgal blooms, is supposed to be a key driver in those ecosystems and is gaining increasing attention because of its nutritional value. Compared to phosphorus and carbon availability, these lakes show reduced nitrogen supply. We studied the possibility of molecular nitrogen (N2) fixation in Limnospira, as contradictory statements have been published, and some closely related taxa were confirmed as N2 fixers (diazotrophs). We cultivated nine isolates originating from various EASLs under nitrate-rich and nitrate-depleted conditions. We detected dinitrogenase reductase (nifH)-like genes in all strains; however, the genes grouped within nifH cluster IV that mostly contains nitrogenases not functioning in N2 fixation. Accordingly, incubations with 15N2 gas did not support N2 fixation activity of the investigated strains. Under laboratory conditions, all strains faded during nitrate-depleted growth after approximately three weeks. Both phycocyanin and chlorophyll-a dropped to a threshold, and chlorophyll fluorescence indicated a severe problem with nitrogen supply. In summary, our data indicate that the investigated Limnospira fusiformis strains are not capable of N2 fixation.

     

  • Impaired Mucosal Homeostasis in Short-Term Fiber Deprivation Is Due to Reduced Mucus Production Rather Than Overgrowth of Mucus-Degrading Bacteria.

    Overbeeke A, Lang M, Hausmann B, Watzka M, Nikolov G, Schwarz J, Kohl G, De Paepe K, Eislmayr K, Decker T, Richter A, Berry D
    2022 - Nutrients, 18: in press

    Abstract: 

    The gut mucosal environment is key in host health; protecting against pathogens and providing a niche for beneficial bacteria, thereby facilitating a mutualistic balance between host and microbiome. Lack of dietary fiber results in erosion of the mucosal layer, suggested to be a result of increased mucus-degrading gut bacteria. This study aimed to use quantitative analyses to investigate the diet-induced imbalance of mucosal homeostasis. Seven days of fiber-deficiency affected intestinal anatomy and physiology, seen by reduced intestinal length and loss of the colonic crypt-structure. Moreover, the mucus layer was diminished, expression decreased, and impaired mucus secretion was detected by stable isotope probing. Quantitative microbiome profiling of the gut microbiota showed a diet-induced reduction in bacterial load and decreased diversity across the intestinal tract, including taxa with fiber-degrading and butyrate-producing capabilities. Most importantly, there was little change in the absolute abundance of known mucus-degrading bacteria, although, due to the general loss of taxa, relative abundance would erroneously indicate an increase in mucus degraders. These findings underscore the importance of using quantitative methods in microbiome research, suggesting erosion of the mucus layer during fiber deprivation is due to diminished mucus production rather than overgrowth of mucus degraders.

  • A look beyond dietary (poly)phenols: The low molecular weight phenolic metabolites and their concentrations in human circulation.

    Carregosa D, Pinto C, Ávila-Gálvez MÁ, Bastos P, Berry D, Santos CN
    2022 - Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf, in press

    Abstract: 

    A large number of epidemiological studies have shown that consumption of fruits, vegetables, and beverages rich in (poly)phenols promote numerous health benefits from cardiovascular to neurological diseases. Evidence on (poly)phenols has been applied mainly to flavonoids, yet the role of phenolic acids has been largely overlooked. Such phenolics present in food combine with those resulting from gut microbiota catabolism of flavonoids and chlorogenic acids and those produced by endogenous pathways, resulting in large concentrations of low molecular weight phenolic metabolites in human circulation. Independently of the origin, in human intervention studies using diets rich in (poly)phenols, a total of 137 low molecular weight phenolic metabolites have been detected and quantified in human circulation with largely unknown biological function. In this review, we will pinpoint two main aspects of the low molecular weight phenolic metabolites: (i) the microbiota responsible for their generation, and (ii) the analysis (quali- and quantitative) in human circulation and their respective pharmacokinetics. In doing so, we aim to drive scientific advances regarding the ubiquitous roles of low molecular weight phenolic metabolites using physiologically relevant concentrations and under (patho)physiologically relevant conditions in humans.

  • Sulfur and methane oxidation by a single microorganism.

    Gwak JH, Awala SI, Nguyen NL, Yu WJ, Yang HY, von Bergen M, Jehmlich N, Kits KD, Loy A, Dunfield PF, Dahl C, Hyun JH, Rhee SK
    2022 - Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 32: e2114799119

    Abstract: 

    Natural and anthropogenic wetlands are major sources of the atmospheric greenhouse gas methane. Methane emissions from wetlands are mitigated by methanotrophic bacteria at the oxic-anoxic interface, a zone of intense redox cycling of carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen compounds. Here, we report on the isolation of an aerobic methanotrophic bacterium, '' strain HY1, which possesses metabolic capabilities never before found in any methanotroph. Most notably, strain HY1 is the first bacterium shown to aerobically oxidize both methane and reduced sulfur compounds for growth. Genomic and proteomic analyses showed that soluble methane monooxygenase and XoxF-type alcohol dehydrogenases are responsible for methane and methanol oxidation, respectively. Various pathways for respiratory sulfur oxidation were present, including the Sox-rDsr pathway and the SI system. Strain HY1 employed the Calvin-Benson-Bassham cycle for CO fixation during chemolithoautotrophic growth on reduced sulfur compounds. Proteomic and microrespirometry analyses showed that the metabolic pathways for methane and thiosulfate oxidation were induced in the presence of the respective substrates. Methane and thiosulfate could therefore be independently or simultaneously oxidized. The discovery of this versatile bacterium demonstrates that methanotrophy and thiotrophy are compatible in a single microorganism and underpins the intimate interactions of methane and sulfur cycles in oxic-anoxic interface environments.

  • Bacterial growth in multicellular aggregates leads to the emergence of complex life cycles.

    Schwartzman JA, Ebrahimi A, Chadwick G, Sato Y, Roller BRK, Orphan VJ, Cordero OX
    2022 - Curr Biol, In press
    Picture credit to Julia Schwartzman, MIT

    Abstract: 

    Facultative multicellular behaviors expand the metabolic capacity and physiological resilience of bacteria. Despite their ubiquity in nature, we lack an understanding of how these behaviors emerge from cellular-scale phenomena. Here, we show how the coupling between growth and resource gradient formation leads to the emergence of multicellular lifecycles in a marine bacterium. Under otherwise carbon-limited growth conditions, Vibrio splendidus 12B01 forms clonal multicellular groups to collectively harvest carbon from soluble polymers of the brown-algal polysaccharide alginate. As they grow, groups phenotypically differentiate into two spatially distinct sub-populations: a static "shell" surrounding a motile, carbon-storing "core." Differentiation of these two sub-populations coincides with the formation of a gradient in nitrogen-source availability within clusters. Additionally, we find that populations of cells containing a high proportion of carbon-storing individuals propagate and form new clusters more readily on alginate than do populations with few carbon-storing cells. Together, these results suggest that local metabolic activity and differential partitioning of resources leads to the emergence of reproductive cycles in a facultatively multicellular bacterium.

  • Phage-host coevolution in natural populations.

    Piel D, Bruto M, Labreuche Y, Blanquart F, Goudenège D, Barcia-Cruz R, Chenivesse S, Le Panse S, James A, Dubert J, Petton B, Lieberman E, Wegner KM, Hussain FA, Kauffman KM, Polz MF, Bikard D, Gandon S, Rocha EPC, Le Roux F
    2022 - Nat Microbiol, 7: 1075-1086

    Abstract: 

    Coevolution between bacteriophages (phages) and their bacterial hosts occurs through changes in resistance and counter-resistance mechanisms. To assess phage-host evolution in wild populations, we isolated 195 Vibrio crassostreae strains and 243 vibriophages during a 5-month time series from an oyster farm and combined these isolates with existing V. crassostreae and phage isolates. Cross-infection studies of 81,926 host-phage pairs delineated a modular network where phages are best at infecting co-occurring hosts, indicating local adaptation. Successful propagation of phage is restricted by the ability to adsorb to closely related bacteria and further constrained by strain-specific defence systems. These defences are highly diverse and predominantly located on mobile genetic elements, and multiple defences are active within a single genome. We further show that epigenetic and genomic modifications enable phage to adapt to bacterial defences and alter host range. Our findings reveal that the evolution of bacterial defences and phage counter-defences is underpinned by frequent genetic exchanges with, and between, mobile genetic elements.

  • A nitrite-oxidising bacterium constitutively consumes atmospheric hydrogen

    Leung PM, Daebeler A, Chiri E, Hanchapola I, Gillett DL, Schittenhelm RB, Daims H, Greening C
    2022 - ISME J, 16: 2213-2219

    Abstract: 

    Chemolithoautotrophic nitrite-oxidising bacteria (NOB) of the genus Nitrospira contribute to nitrification in diverse natural environments and engineered systems. Nitrospira are thought to be well-adapted to substrate limitation owing to their high affinity for nitrite and capacity to use alternative energy sources. Here, we demonstrate that the canonical nitrite oxidiser Nitrospira moscoviensis oxidises hydrogen (H2) below atmospheric levels using a high-affinity group 2a nickel-iron hydrogenase [Km(app) = 32 nM]. Atmospheric H2 oxidation occurred under both nitrite-replete and nitrite-deplete conditions, suggesting low-potential electrons derived from H2 oxidation promote nitrite-dependent growth and enable survival during nitrite limitation. Proteomic analyses confirmed the hydrogenase was abundant under both conditions and indicated extensive metabolic changes occur to reduce energy expenditure and growth under nitrite-deplete conditions. Thermodynamic modelling revealed that H2 oxidation theoretically generates higher power yield than nitrite oxidation at low substrate concentrations and significantly contributes to growth at elevated nitrite concentrations. Collectively, this study suggests atmospheric H2 oxidation enhances the growth and survival of NOB amid variability of nitrite supply, extends the phenomenon of atmospheric H2 oxidation to an eighth phylum (Nitrospirota), and reveals unexpected new links between the global hydrogen and nitrogen cycles. Long classified as obligate nitrite oxidisers, our findings suggest H2 may primarily support growth and survival of certain NOB in natural environments.

  • SRS-FISH: A high-throughput platform linking microbiome metabolism to identity at the single-cell level

    Gea X, Pereira FC, Mitteregger M, Berry D, Zhanga M, Hausmann B, Zhange J, Schintlmeister A, Wagner M, Cheng J-X
    2022 - Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 119: e2203519119
    Stimulated Raman Spectroscopy

    Abstract: 

    One of the biggest challenges in microbiome research in environmental and medicalsamples is to better understand functional properties of microbial community membersat a single-cell level. Single-cell isotope probing has become a key tool for this purpose,but the current detection methods for determination of isotope incorporation into singlecells do not allow high-throughput analyses. Here, we report on the development of animaging-based approach termed stimulated Raman scattering–two-photon fluorescencein situ hybridization (SRS-FISH) for high-throughput metabolism and identity analysesof microbial communities with single-cell resolution. SRS-FISH offers an imaging speedof 10 to 100 ms per cell, which is two to three orders of magnitude faster than achievableby state-of-the-art methods. Using this technique, we delineated metabolic responses of 30,000 individual cells to various mucosal sugars in the human gut microbiome viaincorporation of deuterium from heavy water as an activity marker. Application of SRS-FISH to investigate the utilization of host-derived nutrients by two major human gutmicrobiome taxa revealed that response to mucosal sugars tends to be dominated byBacteroidales, with an unexpected finding that Clostridia can outperform Bacteroidalesat foraging fucose. With high sensitivity and speed, SRS-FISH will enable researchers toprobe the fine-scale temporal, spatial, and individual activity patterns of microbial cellsin complex communities with unprecedented detail.

  • Early-life chemical exposome and gut microbiome development: African research perspectives within a global environmental health context.

    Ayeni KI, Berry D, Wisgrill L, Warth B, Ezekiel CN
    2022 - Trends Microbiol, in press

    Abstract: 

    The gut microbiome of neonates, infants, and toddlers (NITs) is very dynamic, and only begins to stabilize towards the third year of life. Within this period, exposure to xenobiotics may perturb the gut environment, thereby driving or contributing to microbial dysbiosis, which may negatively impact health into adulthood. Despite exposure of NITs globally, but especially in Africa, to copious amounts and types of xenobiotics - such as mycotoxins, pesticide residues, and heavy metals - little is known about their influence on the early-life microbiome or their effects on acute or long-term health. Within the African context, the influence of fermented foods, herbal mixtures, and the delivery environment on the early-life microbiome are often neglected, despite being potentially important factors that influence the microbiome. Consequently, data on in-depth understanding of the microbiome-exposome interactions is lacking in African cohorts. Collecting and evaluating such data is important because exposome-induced gut dysbiosis could potentially favor disease progression.

  • Individual Sweet Taste Perception Influences Salivary Characteristics After Orosensory Stimulation With Sucrose and Noncaloric Sweeteners.

    Karl CM, Vidakovic A, Pjevac P, Hausmann B, Schleining G, Ley JP, Berry D, Hans J, Wendelin M, König J, Somoza V, Lieder B
    2022 - Front Nutr, 831726

    Abstract: 

    Emerging evidence points to a major role of salivary flow and viscoelastic properties in taste perception and mouthfeel. It has been proposed that sweet-tasting compounds influence salivary characteristics. However, whether perceived differences in the sensory properties of structurally diverse sweet-tasting compounds contribute to salivary flow and saliva viscoelasticity as part of mouthfeel and overall sweet taste perception remains to be clarified. In this study, we hypothesized that the sensory diversity of sweeteners would differentially change salivary characteristics in response to oral sweet taste stimulation. Therefore, we investigated salivary flow and saliva viscoelasticity from 21 healthy test subjects after orosensory stimulation with sucrose, rebaudioside M (RebM), sucralose, and neohesperidin dihydrochalcone (NHDC) in a crossover design and considered the basal level of selected influencing factors, including the basal oral microbiome. All test compounds enhanced the salivary flow rate by up to 1.51 ± 0.12 g/min for RebM compared to 1.10 ± 0.09 g/min for water within the 1st min after stimulation. The increase in flow rate was moderately correlated with the individually perceived sweet taste ( = 0.3, < 0.01) but did not differ between the test compounds. The complex viscosity of saliva was not affected by the test compounds, but the analysis of covariance showed that it was associated ( < 0.05) with mucin 5B (Muc5B) concentration. The oral microbiome was of typical composition and diversity but was strongly individual-dependent (permutational analysis of variance (PERMANOVA): = 0.76, < 0.001) and was not associated with changes in salivary characteristics. In conclusion, this study indicates an impact of individual sweet taste impressions on the flow rate without measurable changes in the complex viscosity of saliva, which may contribute to the overall taste perception and mouthfeel of sweet-tasting compounds.

  • Elucidating the role of the gut microbiota in the physiological effects of dietary fiber.

    Deehan EC, Zhang Z, Riva A, Armet AM, Perez-Muñoz ME, Nguyen NK, Krysa JA, Seethaler B, Zhao YY, Cole J, Li F, Hausmann B, Spittler A, Nazare JA, Delzenne NM, Curtis JM, Wismer WV, Proctor SD, Bakal JA, Bischoff SC, Knights D, Field CJ, Berry D, Prado CM, Walter J
    2022 - Microbiome, 1: 77

    Abstract: 

    Dietary fiber is an integral part of a healthy diet, but questions remain about the mechanisms that underlie effects and the causal contributions of the gut microbiota. Here, we performed a 6-week exploratory trial in adults with excess weight (BMI: 25-35 kg/m) to compare the effects of a high-dose (females: 25 g/day; males: 35 g/day) supplement of fermentable corn bran arabinoxylan (AX; n = 15) with that of microbiota-non-accessible microcrystalline cellulose (MCC; n = 16). Obesity-related surrogate endpoints and biomarkers of host-microbiome interactions implicated in the pathophysiology of obesity (trimethylamine N-oxide, gut hormones, cytokines, and measures of intestinal barrier integrity) were assessed. We then determined whether clinical outcomes could be predicted by fecal microbiota features or mechanistic biomarkers.
    AX enhanced satiety after a meal and decreased homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), while MCC reduced tumor necrosis factor-α and fecal calprotectin. Machine learning models determined that effects on satiety could be predicted by fecal bacterial taxa that utilized AX, as identified by bioorthogonal non-canonical amino acid tagging. Reductions in HOMA-IR and calprotectin were associated with shifts in fecal bile acids, but correlations were negative, suggesting that the benefits of fiber may not be mediated by their effects on bile acid pools. Biomarkers of host-microbiome interactions often linked to bacterial metabolites derived from fiber fermentation (short-chain fatty acids) were not affected by AX supplementation when compared to non-accessible MCC.
    This study demonstrates the efficacy of purified dietary fibers when used as supplements and suggests that satietogenic effects of AX may be linked to bacterial taxa that ferment the fiber or utilize breakdown products. Other effects are likely microbiome independent. The findings provide a basis for fiber-type specific therapeutic applications and their personalization.
    Clinicaltrials.gov, NCT02322112 , registered on July 3, 2015. Video Abstract.

  • Next-generation biomonitoring of the early-life chemical exposome in neonatal and infant development.

    Jamnik T, Flasch M, Braun D, Fareed Y, Wasinger D, Seki D, Berry D, Berger A, Wisgrill L, Warth B
    2022 - Nat Commun, 1: 2653

    Abstract: 

    Exposure to synthetic and natural chemicals is a major environmental risk factor in the etiology of many chronic diseases. Investigating complex co-exposures is necessary for a holistic assessment in exposome-wide association studies. In this work, a sensitive liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry approach was developed and validated. The assay enables the analysis of more than 80 highly-diverse xenobiotics in urine, serum/plasma, and breast milk; with detection limits generally in the pg-ng mL range. In plasma of extremely-premature infants, 27 xenobiotics are identified; including contamination with plasticizers, perfluorinated alkylated substances and parabens. In breast milk samples collected longitudinally over the first 211 days post-partum, 29 analytes are detected, including pyrrolizidine- and tropane alkaloids which have not been identified in this matrix before. A preliminary estimation of daily toxicant intake via breast milk is conducted. In conclusion, we observe significant early-life co-exposure to multiple toxicants, and demonstrate the method's applicability for large-scale exposomics-type cohort studies.

  • Differential Modulation of the European Sea Bass Gut Microbiota by Distinct Insect Meals.

    Rangel F, Enes P, Gasco L, Gai F, Hausmann B, Berry D, Oliva-Teles A, Serra CR, Pereira FC
    2022 - Front Microbiol, 831034

    Abstract: 

    The aquaculture industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors in animal food production. However, farming of carnivorous fish strongly relies on the use of wild fish-based meals, a practice that is environmentally and economically unsustainable. Insect-based diets constitute a strong candidate for fishmeal substitution, due to their high nutritional value and low environmental footprint. Nevertheless, data on the impact of insect meal (IM) on the gut microbiome of farmed fish are so far inconclusive, and very scarce in what concerns modulation of microbial-mediated functions. Here we use high-throughput 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing and quantitative PCR to evaluate the impact of different IMs on the composition and chitinolytic potential of the European sea bass gut digesta- and mucosa-associated communities. Our results show that insect-based diets of distinct origins differently impact the gut microbiota of the European sea bass (). We detected clear modulatory effects of IM on the gut microbiota, which were more pronounced in the digesta, where communities differed considerably among the diets tested. Major community shifts were associated with the use of black soldier fly larvae (, HM) and pupal exuviae (HEM) feeds and were characterized by an increase in the relative abundance of the Firmicutes families , , and and the Actinobacteria family , which all include taxa considered beneficial for fish health. Modulation of the digesta community by HEM was characterized by a sharp increase in and a decrease of several Gammaproteobacteria and Bacteroidota members. In turn, a mealworm larvae-based diet (, TM) had only a modest impact on microbiota composition. Further, using quantitative PCR, we demonstrate that shifts induced by HEM were accompanied by an increase in copy number of chitinase ChiA-encoding genes, predominantly originating from species with effective chitinolytic activity. Our study reveals an HEM-driven increase in chitin-degrading taxa and associated chitinolytic activity, uncovering potential benefits of adopting exuviae-supplemented diets, a waste product of insect rearing, as a functional ingredient.

  • Individuality of the Extremely Premature Infant Gut Microbiota Is Driven by Ecological Drift.

    Seki D, Schauberger C, Hausmann B, Berger A, Wisgrill L, Berry D
    2022 - mSystems, e0016322

    Abstract: 

    The initial contact between humans and their colonizing gut microbiota after birth is thought to have expansive and long-lasting consequences for physiology and health. Premature infants are at high risk of suffering from lifelong impairments, due in part to aberrant development of gut microbiota that can contribute to early-life infections and inflammation. Despite their importance to health, the ecological assembly and succession processes governing gut microbiome composition in premature infants remained incompletely understood. Here, we quantified these ecological processes in a spatiotemporally resolved 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing data set of 60 extremely premature neonates using an established mathematical framework. We found that gut colonization during the first months of life is predominantly stochastic, whereby interindividual diversification of microbiota is driven by ecological drift. Dispersal limitations are initially small but have increasing influence at later stages of succession. Furthermore, we find similar trends in a cohort of 32 healthy term-born infants. These results suggest that the uniqueness of individual gut microbiota of extremely premature infants is largely due to stochastic assembly. Our knowledge concerning the initial gut microbiome assembly in human neonates is limited, and scientific progression in this interdisciplinary field is hindered due to the individuality in composition of gut microbiota. Our study addresses the ecological processes that result in the observed individuality of microbes in the gastrointestinal tract between extremely premature and term-born infants. We find that initial assembly is mainly driven by neutral ecological processes. Interestingly, while this progression is predominantly random, limitations to the dispersal of microbiota between infants become increasingly important with age and are concomitant features of gut microbiome stability. This indicates that while we cannot predict gut microbiota assembly due to its random nature, we can expect the establishment of certain ecological features that are highly relevant for neonatal health.

  • Ecological Processes Shaping Microbiomes of Extremely Low Birthweight Infants.

    Zioutis C, Seki D, Bauchinger F, Herbold C, Berger A, Wisgrill L, Berry D
    2022 - Front Microbiol, 812136

    Abstract: 

    The human microbiome has been implicated in affecting health outcomes in premature infants, but the ecological processes governing early life microbiome assembly remain poorly understood. Here, we investigated microbial community assembly and dynamics in extremely low birth weight infants (ELBWI) over the first 2 weeks of life. We profiled the gut, oral cavity and skin microbiomes over time using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing and evaluated the ecological forces shaping these microbiomes. Though microbiomes at all three body sites were characterized by compositional instability over time and had low body-site specificity (PERMANOVA, = 0.09, = 0.001), they could nonetheless be clustered into four discrete community states. Despite the volatility of these communities, deterministic assembly processes were detectable in this period of initial microbial colonization. To further explore these deterministic dynamics, we developed a probabilistic approach in which we modeled microbiome state transitions in each ELBWI as a Markov process, or a "memoryless" shift, from one community state to another. This analysis revealed that microbiomes from different body sites had distinctive dynamics as well as characteristic equilibrium frequencies. Time-resolved microbiome sampling of premature infants may help to refine and inform clinical practices. Additionally, this work provides an analysis framework for microbial community dynamics based on Markov modeling that can facilitate new insights, not only into neonatal microbiomes but also other human-associated or environmental microbiomes.

  • The novel genus, 'Candidatus Phosphoribacter', previously identified as Tetrasphaera, is the dominant polyphosphate accumulating lineage in EBPR wastewater treatment plants worldwide.

    Singleton CM, Petriglieri F, Wasmund K, Nierychlo M, Kondrotaite Z, Petersen JF, Peces M, Dueholm MS, Wagner M, Nielsen PH
    2022 - ISME J, 6: 1605-1616
    Phosphoribacter

    Abstract: 

    The bacterial genus Tetrasphaera encompasses abundant polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs) that are responsible for enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) in wastewater treatment plants. Recent analyses of genomes from pure cultures revealed that 16S rRNA genes cannot resolve the lineage, and that Tetrasphaera spp. are from several different genera within the Dermatophilaceae. Here, we examine 14 recently recovered high-quality metagenome-assembled genomes from wastewater treatment plants containing full-length 16S rRNA genes identified as Tetrasphaera, 11 of which belong to the uncultured Tetrasphaera clade 3. We find that this clade represents two distinct genera, named here Ca. Phosphoribacter and Ca. Lutibacillus, and reveal that the widely used model organism Tetrasphaera elongata is less relevant for physiological predictions of this uncultured group. Ca. Phosphoribacter incorporates species diversity unresolved at the 16S rRNA gene level, with the two most abundant and often co-occurring species encoding identical V1-V3 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequence variants but different metabolic capabilities, and possibly, niches. Both Ca. P. hodrii and Ca. P. baldrii were visualised using fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH), and PAO capabilities were confirmed with FISH-Raman microspectroscopy and phosphate cycling experiments. Ca. Phosphoribacter represents the most abundant former Tetrasphaera lineage and PAO in EPBR systems in Denmark and globally.

  • Persistence of the antagonistic effects of a natural mixture of Alternaria mycotoxins on the estrogen-like activity of human feces after anaerobic incubation.

    Crudo F, Aichinger G, Dellafiora L, Kiss E, Mihajlovic J, Del Favero G, Berry D, Dall'Asta C, Marko D
    2022 - Toxicol Lett, 88-99

    Abstract: 

    Several Alternaria mycotoxins are believed to act as endocrine disruptive chemicals (EDCs), since they are reported to bind estrogen receptors in several experimental models. After ingestion of contaminated food commodities, the mycotoxins reach the intestine, where they come into direct contact with food constituents as well as the gut microbiota. Thus, the aim of the present work was to evaluate the modulatory potential of a complex extract of cultured Alternaria fungi (CE; containing eleven chemically characterized compounds) on the estrogenic signaling cascade of mammalian cells before and after anaerobic incubation with fecal slurries, in order to simulate an in vivo-like condition in the gut. Assessing alkaline phosphatase expression in Ishikawa cells as a measure for estrogenicity, we found the CE to partially quench the intrinsic estrogenic properties of fecal slurries and fecal waters, even after 3 h of fecal incubation. Investigation of the mechanisms underlying the effects observed carried out through an in vitro/in silico approach revealed the ability of the extract to decrease the ERα/ERβ nuclear ratio, while a possible action of the mycotoxins as ER-antagonists was excluded. Our results suggest that Alternaria mycotoxins might act as EDCs in vivo, and warrant further investigation in animal models.

  • Resolving the structure of phage-bacteria interactions in the context of natural diversity.

    Kauffman KM, Chang WK, Brown JM, Hussain FA, Yang J, Polz MF, Kelly L
    2022 - Nat Commun, 1: 372

    Abstract: 

    Microbial communities are shaped by viral predators. Yet, resolving which viruses (phages) and bacteria are interacting is a major challenge in the context of natural levels of microbial diversity. Thus, fundamental features of how phage-bacteria interactions are structured and evolve in the wild remain poorly resolved. Here we use large-scale isolation of environmental marine Vibrio bacteria and their phages to obtain estimates of strain-level phage predator loads, and use all-by-all host range assays to discover how phage and host genomic diversity shape interactions. We show that lytic interactions in environmental interaction networks (as observed in agar overlay) are sparse-with phage predator loads being low for most bacterial strains, and phages being host-strain-specific. Paradoxically, we also find that although overlap in killing is generally rare between tailed phages, recombination is common. Together, these results suggest that recombination during cryptic co-infections is an important mode of phage evolution in microbial communities. In the development of phages for bioengineering and therapeutics it is important to consider that nucleic acids of introduced phages may spread into local phage populations through recombination, and that the likelihood of transfer is not predictable based on lytic host range.

  • The life cycle-dependent transcriptional profile of the obligate intracellular amoeba symbiont Amoebophilus asiaticus.

    Selberherr E, Penz T, König L, Conrady B, Siegl A, Horn M, Schmitz-Esser S
    2022 - FEMS Microbiol Ecol, in press

    Abstract: 

    Free-living amoebae often harbor obligate intracellular bacterial symbionts. Amoebophilus (A.) asiaticus is a representative of a lineage of amoeba symbionts in the phylum Bacteroidota. Here, we analyze the transcriptome of A. asiaticus strain 5a2 at four time points during its infection cycle and replication within the Acanthamoeba host using RNA sequencing. Our results reveal a dynamic transcriptional landscape throughout different A. asiaticus life cycle stages. Many intracellular bacteria and pathogens utilize eukaryotic-like proteins (ELPs) for host cell interaction and the A. asiaticus 5a2 genome shows a particularly high abundance of ELPs. We show the expression of all genes encoding ELPs and found many ELPs to be differentially expressed. At the replicative stage of A. asiaticus, ankyrin repeat proteins and tetratricopeptide/Sel1-like repeat proteins were upregulated. At the later time points, high expression levels of a type 6 secretion system that likely prepares for a new infection cycle after lysing its host, were found. This study reveals comprehensive insights into the intracellular lifestyle of A. asiaticus and highlights candidate genes for host cell interaction. The results from this study have implications for other intracellular bacteria such as other amoeba-associated bacteria and the arthropod symbionts forming the sister lineage of A. asiaticus.

  • Genus-specific carbon fixation activity measurements reveal distinct responses to oxygen among hydrothermal vent Campylobacteria

    McNichol J, Dyksma S, Mussmann M, Seewald JS, Sylva SP, Sievert SM
    2022 - Appl Environ Microbiol, 2: e0208321

    Abstract: 

    Molecular surveys of low temperature deep-sea hydrothermal vent fluids have shown that Campylobacteria (previously Epsilonproteobacteria) often dominate the microbial community and that three genera, ArcobacterSulfurimonas, and Sulfurovum, frequently coexist. In this study, we used replicated radiocarbon incubations of deep-sea hydrothermal fluids to investigate activity of each genus under three experimental conditions. To quantify genus-specific radiocarbon incorporation, we used newly designed oligonucleotide probes for ArcobacterSulfurimonas, and Sulfurovum to quantify their activity using catalyzed-reporter deposition fluorescence in situhybridization (CARD-FISH) combined with fluorescence-activated cell sorting. All three genera actively fixed CO2 in short-term (∼ 20 h) incubations, but responded differently to the additions of nitrate and oxygen. Oxygen additions had the largest effect on community composition, and caused a pronounced shift in community composition at the amplicon sequence variant (ASV) level after only 20 h of incubation. The effect of oxygen on carbon fixation rates appeared to depend on the initial starting community. The presented results support the hypothesis that these chemoautotrophic genera possess functionally redundant core metabolic capabilities, but also reveal finer-scale differences in growth likely reflecting adaptation of physiologically-distinct phylotypes to varying oxygen concentrations in situ. Overall, our study provides new insights into how oxygen controls community composition and total chemoautotrophic activity, and underscores how quickly deep-sea vent microbial communities respond to disturbances. IMPORTANCE Sulfidic environments worldwide are often dominated by sulfur-oxidizing, carbon-fixing Campylobacteria. Environmental factors associated with this group's dominance are now understood, but far less is known about the ecology and physiology of members of subgroups of chemoautotrophic Campylobacteria. In this study, we used a novel method to differentiate the genus-specific chemoautotrophic activity of three subtypes of Campylobacteria. In combination with evidence from microscopic counts, chemical consumption/production during incubations, and DNA-based measurements, our data show that oxygen concentration affects both community composition and chemoautotrophic function in situ. These results help us better understand factors controlling microbial diversity at deep-sea hydrothermal vents, and provide first-order insights into the ecophysiological differences between these distinct microbial taxa.

  • Lipid synthesis at the trophic base as the source for energy management to build complex structures.

    Schnorr SL, Berry D
    2022 - Curr Opin Biotechnol, 364-373

    Abstract: 

    The review explores the ecological basis for bacterial lipid metabolism in marine and terrestrial ecosystems. We discuss ecosystem stressors that provoked early organisms to modify their lipid membrane structures, and where these stressors are found across a variety of environments. A major role of lipid membranes is to manage cellular energy utility, including how energy is used for signal propagation. As different environments are imbued with properties that necessitate variation in energy regulation, bacterial lipid synthesis has undergone incalculable permutations of functional trial and error. This may hold clues for how biotechnology can improvise a short-hand version of the evolutionary gauntlet to stimulate latent functional competences for the synthesis of rare lipids. Reducing human reliance on marine resources and deriving solutions for production of essential nutrients is a pressing problem in sustainable agriculture and aquaculture, as well as timely considering the increasing fragility of human health in an aging population.

  • Ammonia-oxidizing archaea possess a wide range of cellular ammonia affinities.

    Jung MY, Sedlacek CJ, Kits KD, Mueller AJ, Rhee SK, Hink L, Nicol GW, Bayer B, Lehtovirta-Morley L, Wright C, De La Torre JR, Herbold CW, Pjevac P, Daims H, Wagner M
    2022 - ISME J, 16: 272-283
    Kinetics of nitrifiers

    Abstract: 

    Nitrification, the oxidation of ammonia to nitrate, is an essential process in the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle. The first step of nitrification, ammonia oxidation, is performed by three, often co-occurring guilds of chemolithoautotrophs: ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB), archaea (AOA), and complete ammonia oxidizers (comammox). Substrate kinetics are considered to be a major niche-differentiating factor between these guilds, but few AOA strains have been kinetically characterized. Here, the ammonia oxidation kinetic properties of 12 AOA representing all major cultivated phylogenetic lineages were determined using microrespirometry. Members of the genus Nitrosocosmicus have the lowest affinity for both ammonia and total ammonium of any characterized AOA, and these values are similar to previously determined ammonia and total ammonium affinities of AOB. This contrasts previous assumptions that all AOA possess much higher substrate affinities than their comammox or AOB counterparts. The substrate affinity of ammonia oxidizers correlated with their cell surface area to volume ratios. In addition, kinetic measurements across a range of pH values supports the hypothesis that-like for AOB-ammonia and not ammonium is the substrate for the ammonia monooxygenase enzyme of AOA and comammox. Together, these data will facilitate predictions and interpretation of ammonia oxidizer community structures and provide a robust basis for establishing testable hypotheses on competition between AOB, AOA, and comammox.

  • Evolutionarily recent dual obligatory symbiosis among adelgids indicates a transition between fungus- and insect-associated lifestyles.

    Szabó G, Schulz F, Manzano-Marín A, Toenshoff ER, Horn M
    2022 - ISME J, 1: 247-256

    Abstract: 

    Adelgids (Insecta: Hemiptera: Adelgidae) form a small group of insects but harbor a surprisingly diverse set of bacteriocyte-associated endosymbionts, which suggest multiple replacement and acquisition of symbionts over evolutionary time. Specific pairs of symbionts have been associated with adelgid lineages specialized on different secondary host conifers. Using a metagenomic approach, we investigated the symbiosis of the Adelges laricis/Adelges tardus species complex containing betaproteobacterial ("Candidatus Vallotia tarda") and gammaproteobacterial ("Candidatus Profftia tarda") symbionts. Genomic characteristics and metabolic pathway reconstructions revealed that Vallotia and Profftia are evolutionary young endosymbionts, which complement each other's role in essential amino acid production. Phylogenomic analyses and a high level of genomic synteny indicate an origin of the betaproteobacterial symbiont from endosymbionts of Rhizopus fungi. This evolutionary transition was accompanied with substantial loss of functions related to transcription regulation, secondary metabolite production, bacterial defense mechanisms, host infection, and manipulation. The transition from fungus to insect endosymbionts extends our current framework about evolutionary trajectories of host-associated microbes.

Book chapters and other publications

1 Publication found
  • Editorial: Acidobacteriota-Towards unraveling the secrets of a widespread though enigmatic phylum

    Huber KJ, Pester M, Eichorst SA, Navarrete AA, Fösel BU
    2022 - Front Microbiol., 13: 960602