Harnessing long-read amplicon sequencing to uncover NRPS and Type I PKS gene sequence diversity in polar desert soils.
The severity of environmental conditions at Earth’s frigid zones present attractive opportunities for microbial biomining due to their heightened potential as reservoirs for novel secondary metabolites. Arid soil microbiomes within the Antarctic and Arctic circles are remarkably rich in Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria, bacterial phyla known to be prolific producers of natural products. Yet the diversity of secondary metabolite genes within these cold, extreme environments remain largely unknown. Here, we employed amplicon sequencing using PacBio RS II, a third generation long-read platform, to survey over 200 soils spanning twelve east Antarctic and high Arctic sites for natural product-encoding genes, specifically targeting non-ribosomal peptides (NRPS) and Type I polyketides (PKS). NRPS-encoding genes were more widespread across the Antarctic, whereas PKS genes were only recoverable from a handful of sites. Many recovered sequences were deemed novel due to their low amino acid sequence similarity to known protein sequences, particularly throughout the east Antarctic sites. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that a high proportion were most similar to antifungal and biosurfactant-type clusters. Multivariate analysis showed that soil fertility factors of carbon, nitrogen and moisture displayed significant negative relationships with natural product gene richness. Our combined results suggest that secondary metabolite production is likely to play an important physiological component of survival for microorganisms inhabiting arid, nutrient-starved soils. © FEMS 2019.