Publications in peer reviewed journals

10 Publications found
  • Ecophysiology and interactions of a taurine-respiring bacterium in the mouse gut.

    Ye H, Borusak S, Eberl C, Krasenbrink J, Weiss AS, Chen SC, Hanson BT, Hausmann B, Herbold CW, Pristner M, Zwirzitz B, Warth B, Pjevac P, Schleheck D, Stecher B, Loy A
    2023 - Nat Commun, 1: 5533


    Taurine-respiring gut bacteria produce HS with ambivalent impact on host health. We report the isolation and ecophysiological characterization of a taurine-respiring mouse gut bacterium. Taurinivorans muris strain LT0009 represents a new widespread species that differs from the human gut sulfidogen Bilophila wadsworthia in its sulfur metabolism pathways and host distribution. T. muris specializes in taurine respiration in vivo, seemingly unaffected by mouse diet and genotype, but is dependent on other bacteria for release of taurine from bile acids. Colonization of T. muris in gnotobiotic mice increased deconjugation of taurine-conjugated bile acids and transcriptional activity of a sulfur metabolism gene-encoding prophage in other commensals, and slightly decreased the abundance of Salmonella enterica, which showed reduced expression of galactonate catabolism genes. Re-analysis of metagenome data from a previous study further suggested that T. muris can contribute to protection against pathogens by the commensal mouse gut microbiota. Together, we show the realized physiological niche of a key murine gut sulfidogen and its interactions with selected gut microbiota members.

  • The Fish Pathogen "Candidatus Clavichlamydia salmonicola"-A Missing Link in the Evolution of Chlamydial Pathogens of Humans.

    Collingro A, Köstlbacher S, Siegl A, Toenshoff ER, Schulz F, Mitchell SO, Weinmaier T, Rattei T, Colquhoun DJ, Horn M
    2023 - Genome Biol Evol, 8: evad147


    Chlamydiae like Chlamydia trachomatis and Chlamydia psittaci are well-known human and animal pathogens. Yet, the chlamydiae are a much larger group of evolutionary ancient obligate intracellular bacteria that includes predominantly symbionts of protists and diverse animals. This makes them ideal model organisms to study evolutionary transitions from symbionts in microbial eukaryotes to pathogens of humans. To this end, comparative genome analysis has served as an important tool. Genome sequence data for many chlamydial lineages are, however, still lacking, hampering our understanding of their evolutionary history. Here, we determined the first high-quality draft genome sequence of the fish pathogen "Candidatus Clavichlamydia salmonicola", representing a separate genus within the human and animal pathogenic Chlamydiaceae. The "Ca. Clavichlamydia salmonicola" genome harbors genes that so far have been exclusively found in Chlamydia species suggesting that basic mechanisms important for the interaction with chordate hosts have evolved stepwise in the history of chlamydiae. Thus, the genome sequence of "Ca. Clavichlamydia salmonicola" allows to constrain candidate genes to further understand the evolution of chlamydial virulence mechanisms required to infect mammals.

  • Genome dynamics and temperature adaptation during experimental evolution of obligate intracellular bacteria

    Herrera P, Schuster L, Zojer M, Na H, Schwarz J, Wascher F, Kempinger T, Regner A, Rattei T, Horn M
    2023 - Genome Biol Evol, 8: evad139


    Evolution experiments with free-living microbes have radically improved our understanding of genome evolution and how microorganisms adapt. Yet there is a paucity of such research focusing on strictly host-associated bacteria, even though they are widespread in nature. Here, we used the Acanthamoeba symbiont Protochlamydia amoebophila, a distant relative of the human pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis and representative of a large group of protist-associated environmental chlamydiae, as a model to study how obligate intracellular symbionts evolve and adapt to elevated temperature, a prerequisite for the pivotal evolutionary leap from protist to endothermic animal hosts. We established 12 replicate populations under two temperatures (20 °C, 30 °C) for 510 bacterial generations (38 months). We then used infectivity assays and pooled whole-genome resequencing to identify any evolved phenotypes and the molecular basis of adaptation in these bacteria. We observed an overall reduction in infectivity of the symbionts evolved at 30 °C, and we identified numerous nonsynonymous mutations and small indels in these symbiont populations, with several variants persisting throughout multiple time points and reaching high frequencies. This suggests that many mutations may have been beneficial and played an adaptive role. Mutated genes within the same temperature regime were more similar than those between temperature regimes. Our results provide insights into the molecular evolution of intracellular bacteria under the constraints of strict host dependance and highly structured populations and suggest that for chlamydial symbionts of protists, temperature adaptation was facilitated through attenuation of symbiont infectivity as a tradeoff to reduce host cell burden.

  • Colocalization and potential interactions of and chlamydiae in microbial aggregates of the coral Pocillopora acuta

    Maire J, Tandon K, Collingro A, van de Meene A, Damjanovic K, Gotze CR, Stephenson S, Philip GK, Horn M, Cantin NE, Blackall LL, van Oppen MJH
    2023 - Sci Adv, 20: eadg0773


    Corals are associated with a variety of bacteria, which occur in the surface mucus layer, gastrovascular cavity, skeleton, and tissues. Some tissue-associated bacteria form clusters, termed cell-associated microbial aggregates (CAMAs), which are poorly studied. Here, we provide a comprehensive characterization of CAMAs in the coral . Combining imaging techniques, laser capture microdissection, and amplicon and metagenome sequencing, we show that (i) CAMAs are located in the tentacle tips and may be intracellular; (ii) CAMAs contain (Gammaproteobacteria) and (Chlamydiota) bacteria; (iii) may provide vitamins to its host and use secretion systems and/or pili for colonization and aggregation; (iv) and occur in distinct, but adjacent, CAMAs; and (v) may receive acetate and heme from neighboring . Our study provides detailed insight into coral endosymbionts, thereby improving our understanding of coral physiology and health and providing important knowledge for coral reef conservation in the climate change era.

  • Taurine as a key intermediate for host-symbiont interaction in the tropical sponge Ianthella basta.

    Moeller FU, Herbold CW, Schintlmeister A, Mooshammer M, Motti C, Glasl B, Kitzinger K, Behnam F, Watzka M, Schweder T, Albertsen M, Richter A, Webster NS, Wagner M
    2023 - ISME J, in press
    sponge Ianthella basta microbiome


    Marine sponges are critical components of marine benthic fauna assemblages, where their filter-feeding and reef-building capabilities provide bentho-pelagic coupling and crucial habitat. As potentially the oldest representation of a metazoan-microbe symbiosis, they also harbor dense, diverse, and species-specific communities of microbes, which are increasingly recognized for their contributions to dissolved organic matter (DOM) processing. Recent omics-based studies of marine sponge microbiomes have proposed numerous pathways of dissolved metabolite exchange between the host and symbionts within the context of the surrounding environment, but few studies have sought to experimentally interrogate these pathways. By using a combination of metaproteogenomics and laboratory incubations coupled with isotope-based functional assays, we showed that the dominant gammaproteobacterial symbiont, 'Candidatus Taurinisymbion ianthellae', residing in the marine sponge, Ianthella basta, expresses a pathway for the import and dissimilation of taurine, a ubiquitously occurring sulfonate metabolite in marine sponges. 'Candidatus Taurinisymbion ianthellae' incorporates taurine-derived carbon and nitrogen while, at the same time, oxidizing the dissimilated sulfite into sulfate for export. Furthermore, we found that taurine-derived ammonia is exported by the symbiont for immediate oxidation by the dominant ammonia-oxidizing thaumarchaeal symbiont, 'Candidatus Nitrosospongia ianthellae'. Metaproteogenomic analyses also suggest that 'Candidatus Taurinisymbion ianthellae' imports DMSP and possesses both pathways for DMSP demethylation and cleavage, enabling it to use this compound as a carbon and sulfur source for biomass, as well as for energy conservation. These results highlight the important role of biogenic sulfur compounds in the interplay between Ianthella basta and its microbial symbionts.

  • One to host them all: genomics of the diverse bacterial endosymbionts of the spider Oedothorax gibbosus

    Halter T, Köstlbacher S, Rattei T, Hendrickx F, Manzano-Marín A, Horn M
    2023 - Microb. Genomics, 9: 10.1099/mgen.0.00094


    Bacterial endosymbionts of the groups Wolbachia, Cardinium and Rickettsiaceae are well known for their diverse effects on their arthropod hosts, ranging from mutualistic relationships to reproductive phenotypes. Here, we analysed a unique system in which the dwarf spider Oedothorax gibbosus is co-infected with up to five different endosymbionts affiliated with Wolbachia, ‘Candidatus Tisiphia’ (formerly Torix group Rickettsia), Cardinium and Rhabdochlamydia. Using short-read genome sequencing data, we show that the endosymbionts are heterogeneously distributed among O. gibbosus populations and are frequently found co-infecting spider individuals. To study this intricate host–endosymbiont system on a genome-resolved level, we used long-read sequencing to reconstruct closed genomes of the Wolbachia, ‘Ca. Tisiphia’ and Cardinium endosymbionts. We provide insights into the ecology and evolution of the endosymbionts and shed light on the interactions with their spider host. We detected high quantities of transposable elements in all endosymbiont genomes and provide evidence that ancestors of the Cardinium, ‘Ca. Tisiphia’ and Wolbachia endosymbionts have co-infected the same hosts in the past. Our findings contribute to broadening our knowledge about endosymbionts infecting one of the largest animal phyla on Earth and show the usefulness of transposable elements as an evolutionary ‘contact-tracing’ tool.

  • Secondary Metabolite Production Potential in a Microbiome of the Freshwater Sponge Spongilla lacustris

    Graffius S, Garzón JFG, Zehl M, Pjevac P, Kirkegaard R, Flieder M, Loy A, Rattei T, Ostrovsky A, Zotchev SB
    2023 - Microbiol Spectr, e0435322


    Marine and freshwater sponges harbor diverse communities of bacteria with vast potential to produce secondary metabolites that may play an important role in protecting the host from predators and infections. In this work, we initially used cultivation and metagenomics to investigate the microbial community of the freshwater sponge Spongilla lacustris collected in an Austrian lake. Representatives of 41 bacterial genera were isolated from the sponge sample and classified according to their 16S rRNA gene sequences. The genomes of 33 representative isolates and the 20 recovered metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) contained in total 306 secondary metabolite biosynthesis gene clusters (BGCs). Comparative 16S rRNA gene and genome analyses showed very little taxon overlap between the recovered isolates and the sponge community as revealed by cultivation-independent methods. Both culture-independent and -dependent analyses suggested high biosynthetic potential of the S. lacustris microbiome, which was confirmed experimentally even at the subspecies level for two isolates. To our knowledge, this is the most thorough description of the secondary metabolite production potential of a freshwater sponge microbiome to date. A large body of research is dedicated to marine sponges, filter-feeding animals harboring rich bacterial microbiomes believed to play an important role in protecting the host from predators and infections. Freshwater sponges have received so far much less attention with respect to their microbiomes, members of which may produce bioactive secondary metabolites with potential to be developed into drugs to treat a variety of diseases. In this work, we investigated the potential of bacteria associated with the freshwater sponge to biosynthesize diverse secondary metabolites. Using culture-dependent and -independent methods, we discovered over 300 biosynthetic gene clusters in sponge-associated bacteria and proved production of several compounds by selected isolates using genome mining. Our results illustrate the importance of a complex approach when dealing with microbiomes of multicellular organisms that may contain producers of medically important secondary metabolites.

  • The microbiome of kidney stones and urine of patients with nephrolithiasis.

    Lemberger U, Pjevac P, Hausmann B, Berry D, Moser D, Jahrreis V, Özsoy M, Shariat SF, Veser J
    2023 - Urolithiasis, 1: 27


    The incidence of nephrolithiasis is rising worldwide. Although it is a multifactorial disease, lifestyle plays a major role in its etiology. Another considerable factor could be an aberrant microbiome. In our observational single-center study, we aimed to investigate the composition of bacteria in kidney stones and urine focusing on patients with features of metabolic syndrome. Catheterized urine and kidney stones were collected prospectively from 100 consecutive patients undergoing endoscopic nephrolithotomy between 2020 and 2021 at our clinic. Microbiome composition was analyzed via 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. Detection of bacteria was successful in 24% of the analyzed kidney stones. These patients had a prolonged length of stay compared to patients without verifiable bacteria in their stones (2.9 vs 1.5 days). Patients with features of metabolic syndrome were characterized by kidney stones colonized with classical gastrointestinal bacteria and displayed a significant enrichment of Enterococcaceae and Enterobacteriaceae. Stones of patients without features of metabolic syndrome characterized by Ureaplasma and Staphylococcaceae. Patients with bacteria in their kidney stones exhibit a longer length of stay, possibly due to more complex care. Patients presenting with features of metabolic syndrome displayed a distinct stone microbiome compared to metabolically fit patients. Understanding the role of bacteria in stone formation could enable targeted therapy, prevention of post-operative complications and new therapeutic strategies.

  • Gene gain facilitated endosymbiotic evolution of Chlamydiae.

    Dharamshi JE, Köstlbacher S, Schön ME, Collingro A, Ettema TJG, Horn M
    2023 - Nat Microbiol, 1: 40-54


    Chlamydiae is a bacterial phylum composed of obligate animal and protist endosymbionts. However, other members of the Planctomycetes-Verrucomicrobia-Chlamydiae superphylum are primarily free living. How Chlamydiae transitioned to an endosymbiotic lifestyle is still largely unresolved. Here we reconstructed Planctomycetes-Verrucomicrobia-Chlamydiae species relationships and modelled superphylum genome evolution. Gene content reconstruction from 11,996 gene families suggests a motile and facultatively anaerobic last common Chlamydiae ancestor that had already gained characteristic endosymbiont genes. Counter to expectations for genome streamlining in strict endosymbionts, we detected substantial gene gain within Chlamydiae. We found that divergence in energy metabolism and aerobiosis observed in extant lineages emerged later during chlamydial evolution. In particular, metabolic and aerobic genes characteristic of the more metabolically versatile protist-infecting chlamydiae were gained, such as respiratory chain complexes. Our results show that metabolic complexity can increase during endosymbiont evolution, adding an additional perspective for understanding symbiont evolutionary trajectories across the tree of life.

  • Metabolic reconstruction of the near complete microbiome of the model sponge Ianthella basta.

    Engelberts JP, Robbins SJ, Herbold CW, Moeller FU, Jehmlich N, Laffy PW, Wagner M, Webster NS
    2023 - Environ Microbiol, 3: 646-660
    Ianthella basta microbiome


    Many marine sponges host highly diverse microbiomes that contribute to various aspects of host health. Although the putative function of individual groups of sponge symbionts has been increasingly described, the extreme diversity has generally precluded in-depth characterization of entire microbiomes, including identification of syntrophic partnerships. The Indo-Pacific sponge Ianthella basta is emerging as a model organism for symbiosis research, hosting only three dominant symbionts: a Thaumarchaeotum, a Gammaproteobacterium, and an Alphaproteobacterium and a range of other low abundance or transitory taxa. Here, we retrieved metagenome assembled genomes (MAGs) representing >90% of I. basta's microbial community, facilitating the metabolic reconstruction of the sponge's near complete microbiome. Through this analysis, we identified metabolic complementarity between microbes, including vitamin sharing, described the importance of low abundance symbionts, and characterized a novel microbe-host attachment mechanism in the Alphaproteobacterium. We further identified putative viral sequences, highlighting the role viruses can play in maintaining symbioses in I. basta through the horizontal transfer of eukaryotic-like proteins, and complemented this data with metaproteomics to identify active metabolic pathways in bacteria, archaea, and viruses. This data provide the framework to adopt I. basta as a model organism for studying host-microbe interactions and provide a basis for in-depth physiological experiments.

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