April 21, 2020  |  

In situ enrichment of microbial communities on polarized electrodes deployed in alkaline hot springs

The discovery of the ability of microorganisms to exchange electrons with inert electrodes has triggered new areas in fundamental and applied research. However, the field is currently limited to several known electrochemically active microorganisms enriched and isolated in research laboratories. An alternative strategy is to enrich such microorganisms in their native environment by allowing them to exchange electrons with polarized solid electrodes. The use of this approach is currently limited because of a lack of available tools. We developed a low-cost, battery-operated potentiostat that is capable of controlling the potential of a working electrode and can be deployed and operated remotely, allowing the enrichment of microorganisms on electrodes in their native environment. The device was tested in four alkaline hot springs in Heart Lake Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park (with a temperature ranging from 45 ?C to 91 ?C and a relatively constant pH of 8.5–8.7). Microbial community analysis showed a change in microbial community structure after 32 days of polarization. The impact of polarization on microbial community was most substantial on the electrodes that generated the highest cathodic and anodic currents, suggesting a direct impact of polarization on electrode microbial community.


September 22, 2019  |  

The bacterial microbiome of Dermacentor andersoni ticks influences pathogen susceptibility.

Ticks are of medical importance owing to their ability to transmit pathogens to humans and animals. The Rocky Mountain wood tick, Dermacentor andersoni, is a vector of a number of pathogens, including Anaplasma marginale, which is the most widespread tick-borne pathogen of livestock. Although ticks host pathogenic bacteria, they also harbor bacterial endosymbionts that have a role in tick physiology, survival, as well as pathogen acquisition and transmission. The goal of this study was to characterize the bacterial microbiome and examine the impact of microbiome disruption on pathogen susceptibility. The bacterial microbiome of two populations of D. andersoni with historically different susceptibilities to A. marginale was characterized. In this study, the microbiome was disrupted and then ticks were exposed to A. marginale or Francisella novicida to determine whether the microbiome correlated with pathogen susceptibility. Our study showed that an increase in proportion and quantity of Rickettsia bellii in the microbiome was negatively correlated to A. marginale levels in ticks. Furthermore, a decrease in Francisella endosymbionts was associated with lower F. novicida infection levels, demonstrating a positive pathogen-endosymbiont relationship. We demonstrate that endosymbionts and pathogens have varying interactions, and suggest that microbiome manipulation may provide a possible method for biocontrol by decreasing pathogen susceptibility of ticks.


September 22, 2019  |  

The influence of energy harvesting strategies on performance and microbial community for sediment microbial fuel cells

Sediment microbial fuel cells (SMFCs) are being developed as potential energy sources where remote sensing and monitoring would be useful. Several energy harvesting techniques for SMFCs have emerged, but effects of these different strategies on startup, performance, and microbial community are not well understood. We investigated these effects by comparing a continuous energy harvesting (CEH) strategy with an intermittent energy harvesting (IEH) strategy. During startup, IEH systems immediately produced higher power and were cathode limited. CEH systems exhibited a gradual power increase and were anode-limited during startup. Both system types produced similar amounts of steady-state power, 1.5 mW ft-2 (16 mW m-2) when optimized. However, an IEH system using unoptimized settings could not be subsequently switched to optimal settings and produce expected power levels. The choice of energy harvester did not appear to significantly affect steady-state community structure. Anodes were dominated by ?- and d-proteobacteria while a- and ?-proteobacteria dominated cathodes. The results suggest performance and community structure are unaffected by energy harvesting strategy, but that startup conditions influence the initial amount of harvested energy and steady-state performance, suggesting future investigations into optimizing startup of these systems are critical for rapidly generating maximum power.


September 22, 2019  |  

Scale-up of sediment microbial fuel cells.

Sediment microbial fuel cells (SMFCs) are used as renewable power sources to operate remote sensors. However, increasing the electrode surface area results in decreased power density, which demonstrates that SMFCs do not scale up with size. As an alternative to the physical scale-up of SMFCs, we proposed that it is possible to scale up power by using smaller-sized individually operated SMFCs connected to a power management system that electrically isolates the anodes and cathodes. To demonstrate our electronic scale-up approach, we operated one 0.36-m2 SMFC (called a single-equivalent SMFC) and four independent SMFCs of 0.09 m2 each (called scaled-up SMFCs) and managed the power using an innovative custom-developed power management system. We found that the single-equivalent SMFC and the scaled-up SMFCs produced similar power for the first 155 days. However, in the long term (>155 days) our scaled-up SMFCs generated significantly more power than the single-equivalent SMFC (2.33 mW vs. 0.64 mW). Microbial community analysis of the single-equivalent SMFC and the scaled-up SMFCs showed very similar results, demonstrating that the difference in operation mode had no significant effect on the microbial community. When we compared scaled-up SMFCs with parallel SMFCs, we found that the scaled-up SMFCs generated more power. Our novel approach demonstrates that SMFCs can be scaled up electronically.


September 22, 2019  |  

Laboratory colonization stabilizes the naturally dynamic microbiome composition of field collected Dermacentor andersoni ticks.

Nearly a quarter of emerging infectious diseases identified in the last century are arthropod-borne. Although ticks and insects can carry pathogenic microorganisms, non-pathogenic microbes make up the majority of their microbial communities. The majority of tick microbiome research has had a focus on discovery and description; very few studies have analyzed the ecological context and functional responses of the bacterial microbiome of ticks. The goal of this analysis was to characterize the stability of the bacterial microbiome of Dermacentor andersoni ticks between generations and two populations within a species.The bacterial microbiome of D. andersoni midguts and salivary glands was analyzed from populations collected at two different ecologically distinct sites by comparing field (F1) and lab-reared populations (F1-F3) over three generations. The microbiome composition of pooled and individual samples was analyzed by sequencing nearly full-length 16S rRNA gene amplicons using a Pacific Biosciences CCS platform that allows identification of bacteria to the species level.In this study, we found that the D. andersoni microbiome was distinct in different geographic populations and was tissue specific, differing between the midgut and the salivary gland, over multiple generations. Additionally, our study showed that the microbiomes of laboratory-reared populations were not necessarily representative of their respective field populations. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the microbiome of a few individual ticks does not represent the microbiome composition at the population level.We demonstrated that the bacterial microbiome of D. andersoni was complex over three generations and specific to tick tissue (midgut vs. salivary glands) as well as geographic location (Burns, Oregon vs. Lake Como, Montana vs. laboratory setting). These results provide evidence that habitat of the tick population is a vital component of the complexity of the bacterial microbiome of ticks, and that the microbiome of lab colonies may not allow for comparative analyses with field populations. A broader understanding of microbiome variation will be required if we are to employ manipulation of the microbiome as a method for interfering with acquisition and transmission of tick-borne pathogens.


September 22, 2019  |  

Localized electron transfer rates and microelectrode-based enrichment of microbial communities within a phototrophic microbial mat.

Phototrophic microbial mats frequently exhibit sharp, light-dependent redox gradients that regulate microbial respiration on specific electron acceptors as a function of depth. In this work, a benthic phototrophic microbial mat from Hot Lake, a hypersaline, epsomitic lake located near Oroville in north-central Washington, was used to develop a microscale electrochemical method to study local electron transfer processes within the mat. To characterize the physicochemical variables influencing electron transfer, we initially quantified redox potential, pH, and dissolved oxygen gradients by depth in the mat under photic and aphotic conditions. We further demonstrated that power output of a mat fuel cell was light-dependent. To study local electron transfer processes, we deployed a microscale electrode (microelectrode) with tip size ~20 µm. To enrich a subset of microorganisms capable of interacting with the microelectrode, we anodically polarized the microelectrode at depth in the mat. Subsequently, to characterize the microelectrode-associated community and compare it to the neighboring mat community, we performed amplicon sequencing of the V1-V3 region of the 16S gene. Differences in Bray-Curtis beta diversity, illustrated by large changes in relative abundance at the phylum level, suggested successful enrichment of specific mat community members on the microelectrode surface. The microelectrode-associated community exhibited substantially reduced alpha diversity and elevated relative abundances of Prosthecochloris, Loktanella, Catellibacterium, other unclassified members of Rhodobacteraceae, Thiomicrospira, and Limnobacter, compared with the community at an equivalent depth in the mat. Our results suggest that local electron transfer to an anodically polarized microelectrode selected for a specific microbial population, with substantially more abundance and diversity of sulfur-oxidizing phylotypes compared with the neighboring mat community.


September 22, 2019  |  

Evaluation of long-term performance of sediment microbial fuel cells and the role of natural resources

Sediment microbial fuel cells (SMFCs) are expected to be used as a renewable power source for remote environmental monitoring; therefore, evaluation of their long-term power performance is critical for their usability. In this paper, we present novel data needed to understand the long-term performance of SMFCs. We used 3-D Microemulsion (3DMe)™ doped anodes, which slowly release lactate and its fermented products. During our tests, anode-limited SMFCs with and without 3DMe-doped anodes were operated for more than 18 months with a load simulating a sensor operation. We found that doping an anode with an electron donor reduced startup time and increased maximum power (55 ± 2 µW compared to 46 ± 2 µW) in the control systems. We found that the long-term steady power performance is approximately 33% of the maximum power (~18 µW). Finally, our small-sized SMFCs generated higher power densities than those in the literature (28 mW/m2 versus 4 mW/m2). Using electron donor doped anodes can be practical when a short startup time and initial high power are needed. However, if long-term power is critical, the addition of an electron donor does not provide a practical advantage. In addition, in long-term operation enrichment of the anode surface with electrochemically active bacteria does not provide any advantage.


September 22, 2019  |  

Towards long-read metagenomics: complete assembly of three novel genomes from bacteria dependent on a diazotrophic cyanobacterium in a freshwater lake co-culture.

Here we report three complete bacterial genome assemblies from a PacBio shotgun metagenome of a co-culture from Upper Klamath Lake, OR. Genome annotations and culture conditions indicate these bacteria are dependent on carbon and nitrogen fixation from the cyanobacterium Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, whose genome was assembled to draft-quality. Due to their taxonomic novelty relative to previously sequenced bacteria, we have temporarily designated these bacteria as incertae sedis Hyphomonadaceae strain UKL13-1 (3,501,508 bp and 56.12% GC), incertae sedis Betaproteobacterium strain UKL13-2 (3,387,087 bp and 54.98% GC), and incertae sedis Bacteroidetes strain UKL13-3 (3,236,529 bp and 37.33% GC). Each genome consists of a single circular chromosome with no identified plasmids. When compared with binned Illumina assemblies of the same three genomes, there was ~7% discrepancy in total genome length. Gaps where Illumina assemblies broke were often due to repetitive elements. Within these missing sequences were essential genes and genes associated with a variety of functional categories. Annotated gene content reveals that both Proteobacteria are aerobic anoxygenic phototrophs, with Betaproteobacterium UKL13-2 potentially capable of phototrophic oxidation of sulfur compounds. Both proteobacterial genomes contain transporters suggesting they are scavenging fixed nitrogen from A. flos-aquae in the form of ammonium. Bacteroidetes UKL13-3 has few completely annotated biosynthetic pathways, and has a comparatively higher proportion of unannotated genes. The genomes were detected in only a few other freshwater metagenomes, suggesting that these bacteria are not ubiquitous in freshwater systems. Our results indicate that long-read sequencing is a viable method for sequencing dominant members from low-diversity microbial communities, and should be considered for environmental metagenomics when conditions meet these requirements.


September 22, 2019  |  

Evolution of the U.S. biological select agent Rathayibacter toxicus.

Rathayibacter toxicus is a species of Gram-positive, corynetoxin-producing bacteria that causes annual ryegrass toxicity, a disease often fatal to grazing animals. A phylogenomic approach was employed to model the evolution of R. toxicus to explain the low genetic diversity observed among isolates collected during a 30-year period of sampling in three regions of Australia, gain insight into the taxonomy of Rathayibacter, and provide a framework for studying these bacteria. Analyses of a data set of more than 100 sequenced Rathayibacter genomes indicated that Rathayibacter forms nine species-level groups. R. toxicus is the most genetically distant, and evidence suggested that this species experienced a dramatic event in its evolution. Its genome is significantly reduced in size but is colinear to those of sister species. Moreover, R. toxicus has low intergroup genomic diversity and almost no intragroup genomic diversity between ecologically separated isolates. R. toxicus is the only species of the genus that encodes a clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) locus and that is known to host a bacteriophage parasite. The spacers, which represent a chronological history of infections, were characterized for information on past events. We propose a three-stage process that emphasizes the importance of the bacteriophage and CRISPR in the genome reduction and low genetic diversity of the R. toxicus species.IMPORTANCERathayibacter toxicus is a toxin-producing species found in Australia and is often fatal to grazing animals. The threat of introduction of the species into the United States led to its inclusion in the Federal Select Agent Program, which makes R. toxicus a highly regulated species. This work provides novel insights into the evolution of R. toxicusR. toxicus is the only species in the genus to have acquired a CRISPR adaptive immune system to protect against bacteriophages. Results suggest that coexistence with the bacteriophage NCPPB3778 led to the massive shrinkage of the R. toxicus genome, species divergence, and the maintenance of low genetic diversity in extant bacterial groups. This work contributes to an understanding of the evolution and ecology of an agriculturally important species of bacteria. Copyright © 2018 Davis et al.


July 19, 2019  |  

Analysis of the Campylobacter jejuni genome by SMRT DNA Sequencing identifies restriction-modification motifs.

Campylobacter jejuni is a leading bacterial cause of human gastroenteritis. The goal of this study was to analyze the C. jejuni F38011 strain, recovered from an individual with severe enteritis, at a genomic and proteomic level to gain insight into microbial processes. The C. jejuni F38011 genome is comprised of 1,691,939 bp, with a mol.% (G+C) content of 30.5%. PacBio sequencing coupled with REBASE analysis was used to predict C. jejuni F38011 genomic sites and enzymes that may be involved in DNA restriction-modification. A total of five putative methylation motifs were identified as well as the C. jejuni enzymes that could be responsible for the modifications. Peptides corresponding to the deduced amino acid sequence of the C. jejuni enzymes were identified using proteomics. This work sets the stage for studies to dissect the precise functions of the C. jejuni putative restriction-modification enzymes. Taken together, the data generated in this study contributes to our knowledge of the genomic content, methylation profile, and encoding capacity of C. jejuni.


July 7, 2019  |  

Genomes of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ Haplotype A from New Zealand and the United States Suggest Significant Genome Plasticity in the Species.

‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ contains two solanaceous crop-infecting haplotypes, A and B. Two haplotype A draft genomes were assembled and compared with ZC1 (haplotype B), revealing inversion and relocation genomic rearrangements, numerous single-nucleotide polymorphisms, and differences in phage-related regions. Differences in prophage location and sequence were seen both within and between haplotype comparisons. OrthoMCL and BLAST analyses identified 46 putative coding sequences present in haplotype A that were not present in haplotype B. Thirty-eight of these loci were not found in sequences from other Liberibacter spp. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assays designed to amplify sequences from 15 of these loci were screened against a panel of ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’-positive samples to investigate genetic diversity. Seven of the assays demonstrated within-haplotype diversity; five failed to amplify loci in at least one haplotype A sample while three assays produced amplicons from some haplotype B samples. Eight of the loci assays showed consistent A-B differentiation. Differences in genome arrangements, prophage, and qPCR results suggesting locus diversity within the haplotypes provide more evidence for genetic complexity in this emerging bacterial species.


July 7, 2019  |  

Comparative Analysis of the Shared Sex-Determination Region (SDR) among Salmonid Fishes.

Salmonids present an excellent model for studying evolution of young sex-chromosomes. Within the genus, Oncorhynchus, at least six independent sex-chromosome pairs have evolved, many unique to individual species. This variation results from the movement of the sex-determining gene, sdY, throughout the salmonid genome. While sdY is known to define sexual differentiation in salmonids, the mechanism of its movement throughout the genome has remained elusive due to high frequencies of repetitive elements, rDNA sequences, and transposons surrounding the sex-determining regions (SDR). Despite these difficulties, bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) library clones from both rainbow trout and Atlantic salmon containing the sdY region have been reported. Here, we report the sequences for these BACs as well as the extended sequence for the known SDR in Chinook gained through genome walking methods. Comparative analysis allowed us to study the overlapping SDRs from three unique salmonid Y chromosomes to define the specific content, size, and variation present between the species. We found approximately 4.1 kb of orthologous sequence common to all three species, which contains the genetic content necessary for masculinization. The regions contain transposable elements that may be responsible for the translocations of the SDR throughout salmonid genomes and we examine potential mechanistic roles of each one. © The Author(s) 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.


July 7, 2019  |  

A novel type pathway-specific regulator and dynamic genome environments of solanapyrone biosynthesis gene cluster in the fungus Ascochyta rabiei.

Secondary metabolite genes are often clustered together and situated in particular genomic regions, like the subtelomere, that can facilitate niche adaptation in fungi. Solanapyrones are toxic secondary metabolites produced by fungi occupying different ecological niches. Full-genome sequencing of the ascomycete Ascochyta rabiei revealed a solanapyrone biosynthesis gene cluster embedded in an AT-rich region proximal to a telomere end and surrounded by Tc1/Mariner-type transposable elements. The highly AT-rich environment of the solanapyrone cluster is likely the product of repeat-induced point mutations. Several secondary metabolism-related genes were found in the flanking regions of the solanapyrone cluster. Although the solanapyrone cluster appears to be resistant to repeat-induced point mutations, a P450 monooxygenase gene adjacent to the cluster has been degraded by such mutations. Among the six solanapyrone cluster genes (sol1 to sol6), sol4 encodes a novel type of Zn(II)2Cys6 zinc cluster transcription factor. Deletion of sol4 resulted in the complete loss of solanapyrone production but did not compromise growth, sporulation, or virulence. Gene expression studies with the sol4 deletion and sol4-overexpressing mutants delimited the boundaries of the solanapyrone gene cluster and revealed that sol4 is likely a specific regulator of solanapyrone biosynthesis and appears to be necessary and sufficient for induction of the solanapyrone cluster genes. Despite the dynamic surrounding genomic regions, the solanapyrone gene cluster has maintained its integrity, suggesting important roles of solanapyrones in fungal biology. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

Compact genome of the Antarctic midge is likely an adaptation to an extreme environment.

The midge, Belgica antarctica, is the only insect endemic to Antarctica, and thus it offers a powerful model for probing responses to extreme temperatures, freeze tolerance, dehydration, osmotic stress, ultraviolet radiation and other forms of environmental stress. Here we present the first genome assembly of an extremophile, the first dipteran in the family Chironomidae, and the first Antarctic eukaryote to be sequenced. At 99 megabases, B. antarctica has the smallest insect genome sequenced thus far. Although it has a similar number of genes as other Diptera, the midge genome has very low repeat density and a reduction in intron length. Environmental extremes appear to constrain genome architecture, not gene content. The few transposable elements present are mainly ancient, inactive retroelements. An abundance of genes associated with development, regulation of metabolism and responses to external stimuli may reflect adaptations for surviving in this harsh environment.


July 7, 2019  |  

Complete genome of the switchgrass endophyte Enterobacter clocace P101.

The Enterobacter cloacae complex is genetically very diverse. The increasing number of complete genomic sequences of E. cloacae is helping to determine the exact relationship among members of the complex. E. cloacae P101 is an endophyte of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and is closely related to other E. cloacae strains isolated from plants. The P101 genome consists of a 5,369,929 bp chromosome. The chromosome has 5,164 protein-coding regions, 100 tRNA sequences, and 8 rRNA operons.


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