April 21, 2020  |  

Biogeography and Microscale Diversity Shape the Biosynthetic Potential of Fungus-growing Ant-associated Pseudonocardia

The geographic and phylogenetic scale of ecologically relevant microbial diversity is still poorly understood. Using a model mutualism, fungus-growing ants and their defensive bacterial associate Pseudonocardia, we analyzed genetic diversity and biosynthetic potential in 46 strains isolated from ant colonies in a 20km transect near Barro Colorado Island in Panama. Despite an average pairwise core genome similarity of greater than 99%, population genomic analysis revealed several distinct bacterial populations matching ant host geographic distribution. We identified both genetic diversity signatures and divergent genes distinct to each lineage. We also identify natural product biosynthesis clusters specific to isolation locations. These geographic patterns were observable despite the populations living in close proximity to each other and provides evidence of ongoing genetic exchange. Our results add to the growing body of literature suggesting that variation in traits of interest can be found at extremely fine phylogenetic scales.


April 21, 2020  |  

A microbial factory for defensive kahalalides in a tripartite marine symbiosis.

Chemical defense against predators is widespread in natural ecosystems. Occasionally, taxonomically distant organisms share the same defense chemical. Here, we describe an unusual tripartite marine symbiosis, in which an intracellular bacterial symbiont (“Candidatus Endobryopsis kahalalidefaciens”) uses a diverse array of biosynthetic enzymes to convert simple substrates into a library of complex molecules (the kahalalides) for chemical defense of the host, the alga Bryopsis sp., against predation. The kahalalides are subsequently hijacked by a third partner, the herbivorous mollusk Elysia rufescens, and employed similarly for defense. “Ca E. kahalalidefaciens” has lost many essential traits for free living and acts as a factory for kahalalide production. This interaction between a bacterium, an alga, and an animal highlights the importance of chemical defense in the evolution of complex symbioses.Copyright © 2019 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works.


April 21, 2020  |  

Plantibacter flavus, Curtobacterium herbarum, Paenibacillus taichungensis, and Rhizobium selenitireducens Endophytes Provide Host-Specific Growth Promotion of Arabidopsis thaliana, Basil, Lettuce, and Bok Choy Plants.

A collection of bacterial endophytes isolated from stem tissues of plants growing in soils highly contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons were screened for plant growth-promoting capabilities. Twenty-seven endophytic isolates significantly improved the growth of Arabidopsis thaliana plants in comparison to that of uninoculated control plants. The five most beneficial isolates, one strain each of Curtobacterium herbarum, Paenibacillus taichungensis, and Rhizobium selenitireducens and two strains of Plantibacter flavus were further examined for growth promotion in Arabidopsis, lettuce, basil, and bok choy plants. Host-specific plant growth promotion was observed when plants were inoculated with the five bacterial strains. P. flavus strain M251 increased the total biomass and total root length of Arabidopsis plants by 4.7 and 5.8 times, respectively, over that of control plants and improved lettuce and basil root growth, while P. flavus strain M259 promoted Arabidopsis shoot and root growth, lettuce and basil root growth, and bok choy shoot growth. A genome comparison between P. flavus strains M251 and M259 showed that both genomes contain up to 70 actinobacterial putative plant-associated genes and genes involved in known plant-beneficial pathways, such as those for auxin and cytokinin biosynthesis and 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate deaminase production. This study provides evidence of direct plant growth promotion by Plantibacter flavusIMPORTANCE The discovery of new plant growth-promoting bacteria is necessary for the continued development of biofertilizers, which are environmentally friendly and cost-efficient alternatives to conventional chemical fertilizers. Biofertilizer effects on plant growth can be inconsistent due to the complexity of plant-microbe interactions, as the same bacteria can be beneficial to the growth of some plant species and neutral or detrimental to others. We examined a set of bacterial endophytes isolated from plants growing in a unique petroleum-contaminated environment to discover plant growth-promoting bacteria. We show that strains of Plantibacter flavus exhibit strain-specific plant growth-promoting effects on four different plant species.Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.


April 21, 2020  |  

Advantage of the F2:A1:B- IncF Pandemic Plasmid over IncC Plasmids in In Vitro Acquisition and Evolution of blaCTX-M Gene-Bearing Plasmids in Escherichia coli.

Despite a fitness cost imposed on bacterial hosts, large conjugative plasmids play a key role in the diffusion of resistance determinants, such as CTX-M extended-spectrum ß-lactamases. Among the large conjugative plasmids, IncF plasmids are the most predominant group, and an F2:A1:B- IncF-type plasmid encoding a CTX-M-15 variant was recently described as being strongly associated with the emerging worldwide Escherichia coli sequence type 131 (ST131)-O25b:H4 H30Rx/C2 sublineage. In this context, we investigated the fitness cost of narrow-range F-type plasmids, including the F2:A1:B- IncF-type CTX-M-15 plasmid, and of broad-range C-type plasmids in the K-12-like J53-2 E. coli strain. Although all plasmids imposed a significant fitness cost to the bacterial host immediately after conjugation, we show, using an experimental-evolution approach, that a negative impact on the fitness of the host strain was maintained throughout 1,120 generations with the IncC-IncR plasmid, regardless of the presence or absence of cefotaxime, in contrast to the F2:A1:B- IncF plasmid, whose cost was alleviated. Many chromosomal and plasmid rearrangements were detected after conjugation in transconjugants carrying the IncC plasmids but not in transconjugants carrying the F2:A1:B- IncF plasmid, except for insertion sequence (IS) mobilization from the fliM gene leading to the restoration of motility of the recipient strains. Only a few mutations occurred on the chromosome of each transconjugant throughout the experimental-evolution assay. Our findings indicate that the F2:A1:B- IncF CTX-M-15 plasmid is well adapted to the E. coli strain studied, contrary to the IncC-IncR CTX-M-15 plasmid, and that such plasmid-host adaptation could participate in the evolutionary success of the CTX-M-15-producing pandemic E. coli ST131-O25b:H4 lineage.Copyright © 2019 Mahérault et al.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genome mining identifies cepacin as a plant-protective metabolite of the biopesticidal bacterium Burkholderia ambifaria.

Beneficial microorganisms are widely used in agriculture for control of plant pathogens, but a lack of efficacy and safety information has limited the exploitation of multiple promising biopesticides. We applied phylogeny-led genome mining, metabolite analyses and biological control assays to define the efficacy of Burkholderia ambifaria, a naturally beneficial bacterium with proven biocontrol properties but potential pathogenic risk. A panel of 64 B.?ambifaria strains demonstrated significant antimicrobial activity against priority plant pathogens. Genome sequencing, specialized metabolite biosynthetic gene cluster mining and metabolite analysis revealed an armoury of known and unknown pathways within B.?ambifaria. The biosynthetic gene cluster responsible for the production of the metabolite cepacin was identified and directly shown to mediate protection of germinating crops against Pythium damping-off disease. B.?ambifaria maintained biopesticidal protection and overall fitness in the soil after deletion of its third replicon, a non-essential plasmid associated with virulence in Burkholderia?cepacia complex bacteria. Removal of the third replicon reduced B.?ambifaria persistence in a murine respiratory infection model. Here, we show that by using interdisciplinary phylogenomic, metabolomic and functional approaches, the mode of action of natural biological control agents related to pathogens can be systematically established to facilitate their future exploitation.


April 21, 2020  |  

Mitochondrial DNA and their nuclear copies in the parasitic wasp Pteromalus puparum: A comparative analysis in Chalcidoidea.

Chalcidoidea (chalcidoid wasps) are an abundant and megadiverse insect group with both ecological and economical importance. Here we report a complete mitochondrial genome in Chalcidoidea from Pteromalus puparum (Pteromalidae). Eight tandem repeats followed by 6 reversed repeats were detected in its 3308?bp control region. This long and complex control region may explain failures of amplifying and sequencing of complete mitochondrial genomes in some chalcidoids. In addition to 37 typical mitochondrial genes, an extra identical isoleucine tRNA (trnI) was detected at the opposite end of the control region. This recent mitochondrial gene duplication indicates that gene arrangements in chalcidoids are ongoing. A comparison among available chalcidoid mitochondrial genomes reveals rapid gene order rearrangements overall and high protein substitution rates in most chalcidoid taxa. In addition, we identified 24 nuclear sequences of mitochondrial origin (NUMTs) in P. puparum, summing up to 9989?bp, with 3617?bp of these NUMTs originating from mitochondrial coding regions. NUMTs abundance in P. puparum is only one-twelfth of that in its relative, Nasonia vitripennis. Based on phylogenetic analysis, we provide evidence that a faster nuclear degradation rate contributes to the reduced NUMT numbers in P. puparum. Overall, our study shows unusually high rates of mitochondrial evolution and considerable variation in NUMT accumulation in Chalcidoidea. Copyright © 2018. Published by Elsevier B.V.


April 21, 2020  |  

Finding Nemo’s Genes: A chromosome-scale reference assembly of the genome of the orange clownfish Amphiprion percula.

The iconic orange clownfish, Amphiprion percula, is a model organism for studying the ecology and evolution of reef fishes, including patterns of population connectivity, sex change, social organization, habitat selection and adaptation to climate change. Notably, the orange clownfish is the only reef fish for which a complete larval dispersal kernel has been established and was the first fish species for which it was demonstrated that antipredator responses of reef fishes could be impaired by ocean acidification. Despite its importance, molecular resources for this species remain scarce and until now it lacked a reference genome assembly. Here, we present a de novo chromosome-scale assembly of the genome of the orange clownfish Amphiprion percula. We utilized single-molecule real-time sequencing technology from Pacific Biosciences to produce an initial polished assembly comprised of 1,414 contigs, with a contig N50 length of 1.86 Mb. Using Hi-C-based chromatin contact maps, 98% of the genome assembly were placed into 24 chromosomes, resulting in a final assembly of 908.8 Mb in length with contig and scaffold N50s of 3.12 and 38.4 Mb, respectively. This makes it one of the most contiguous and complete fish genome assemblies currently available. The genome was annotated with 26,597 protein-coding genes and contains 96% of the core set of conserved actinopterygian orthologs. The availability of this reference genome assembly as a community resource will further strengthen the role of the orange clownfish as a model species for research on the ecology and evolution of reef fishes. © 2018 The Authors. Molecular Ecology Resources Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


April 21, 2020  |  

Phylogenetic barriers to horizontal transfer of antimicrobial peptide resistance genes in the human gut microbiota.

The human gut microbiota has adapted to the presence of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), which are ancient components of immune defence. Despite its medical importance, it has remained unclear whether AMP resistance genes in the gut microbiome are available for genetic exchange between bacterial species. Here, we show that AMP resistance and antibiotic resistance genes differ in their mobilization patterns and functional compatibilities with new bacterial hosts. First, whereas AMP resistance genes are widespread in the gut microbiome, their rate of horizontal transfer is lower than that of antibiotic resistance genes. Second, gut microbiota culturing and functional metagenomics have revealed that AMP resistance genes originating from phylogenetically distant bacteria have only a limited potential to confer resistance in Escherichia coli, an intrinsically susceptible species. Taken together, functional compatibility with the new bacterial host emerges as a key factor limiting the genetic exchange of AMP resistance genes. Finally, our results suggest that AMPs induce highly specific changes in the composition of the human microbiota, with implications for disease risks.


April 21, 2020  |  

Nephromyces encodes a urate metabolism pathway and predicted peroxisomes, demonstrating that these are not ancient losses of apicomplexans.

The phylum Apicomplexa is a quintessentially parasitic lineage, whose members infect a broad range of animals. One exception to this may be the apicomplexan genus Nephromyces, which has been described as having a mutualistic relationship with its host. Here we analyze transcriptome data from Nephromyces and its parasitic sister taxon, Cardiosporidium, revealing an ancestral purine degradation pathway thought to have been lost early in apicomplexan evolution. The predicted localization of many of the purine degradation enzymes to peroxisomes, and the in silico identification of a full set of peroxisome proteins, indicates that loss of both features in other apicomplexans occurred multiple times. The degradation of purines is thought to play a key role in the unusual relationship between Nephromyces and its host. Transcriptome data confirm previous biochemical results of a functional pathway for the utilization of uric acid as a primary nitrogen source for this unusual apicomplexan.


April 21, 2020  |  

Symbiotic organs shaped by distinct modes of genome evolution in cephalopods.

Microbes have been critical drivers of evolutionary innovation in animals. To understand the processes that influence the origin of specialized symbiotic organs, we report the sequencing and analysis of the genome of Euprymna scolopes, a model cephalopod with richly characterized host-microbe interactions. We identified large-scale genomic reorganization shared between E. scolopes and Octopus bimaculoides and posit that this reorganization has contributed to the evolution of cephalopod complexity. To reveal genomic signatures of host-symbiont interactions, we focused on two specialized organs of E. scolopes: the light organ, which harbors a monoculture of Vibrio fischeri, and the accessory nidamental gland (ANG), a reproductive organ containing a bacterial consortium. Our findings suggest that the two symbiotic organs within E. scolopes originated by different evolutionary mechanisms. Transcripts expressed in these microbe-associated tissues displayed their own unique signatures in both coding sequences and the surrounding regulatory regions. Compared with other tissues, the light organ showed an abundance of genes associated with immunity and mediating light, whereas the ANG was enriched in orphan genes known only from E. scolopes Together, these analyses provide evidence for different patterns of genomic evolution of symbiotic organs within a single host. Copyright © 2019 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.


April 21, 2020  |  

Toxin and genome evolution in a Drosophila defensive symbiosis.

Defenses conferred by microbial symbionts play a vital role in the health and fitness of their animal hosts. An important outstanding question in the study of defensive symbiosis is what determines long term stability and effectiveness against diverse natural enemies. In this study, we combine genome and transcriptome sequencing, symbiont transfection and parasite protection experiments, and toxin activity assays to examine the evolution of the defensive symbiosis between Drosophila flies and their vertically transmitted Spiroplasma bacterial symbionts, focusing in particular on ribosome-inactivating proteins (RIPs), symbiont-encoded toxins that have been implicated in protection against both parasitic wasps and nematodes. Although many strains of Spiroplasma, including the male-killing symbiont (sMel) of Drosophila melanogaster, protect against parasitic wasps, only the strain (sNeo) that infects the mycophagous fly Drosophila neotestacea appears to protect against parasitic nematodes. We find that RIP repertoire is a major differentiating factor between strains that do and do not offer nematode protection, and that sMel RIPs do not show activity against nematode ribosomes in vivo. We also discovered a strain of Spiroplasma infecting a mycophagous phorid fly, Megaselia nigra. Although both the host and its Spiroplasma are distantly related to D. neotestacea and its symbiont, genome sequencing revealed that the M. nigra symbiont encodes abundant and diverse RIPs, including plasmid-encoded toxins that are closely related to the RIPs in sNeo. Our results suggest that distantly related Spiroplasma RIP toxins may perform specialized functions with regard to parasite specificity and suggest an important role for horizontal gene transfer in the emergence of novel defensive phenotypes.


April 21, 2020  |  

Complete Assembly of the Genome of an Acidovorax citrulli Strain Reveals a Naturally Occurring Plasmid in This Species.

Acidovorax citrulli is the causal agent of bacterial fruit blotch (BFB), a serious threat to cucurbit crop production worldwide. Based on genetic and phenotypic properties, A. citrulli strains are divided into two major groups: group I strains have been generally isolated from melon and other non-watermelon cucurbits, while group II strains are closely associated with watermelon. In a previous study, we reported the genome of the group I model strain, M6. At that time, the M6 genome was sequenced by MiSeq Illumina technology, with reads assembled into 139 contigs. Here, we report the assembly of the M6 genome following sequencing with PacBio technology. This approach not only allowed full assembly of the M6 genome, but it also revealed the occurrence of a ~53 kb plasmid. The M6 plasmid, named pACM6, was further confirmed by plasmid extraction, Southern-blot analysis of restricted fragments and obtention of M6-derivative cured strains. pACM6 occurs at low copy numbers (average of ~4.1 ± 1.3 chromosome equivalents) in A. citrulli M6 and contains 63 open reading frames (ORFs), most of which (55.6%) encoding hypothetical proteins. The plasmid contains several genes encoding type IV secretion components, and typical plasmid-borne genes involved in plasmid maintenance, replication and transfer. The plasmid also carries an operon encoding homologs of a Fic-VbhA toxin-antitoxin (TA) module. Transcriptome data from A. citrulli M6 revealed that, under the tested conditions, the genes encoding the components of this TA system are among the highest expressed genes in pACM6. Whether this TA module plays a role in pACM6 maintenance is still to be determined. Leaf infiltration and seed transmission assays revealed that, under tested conditions, the loss of pACM6 did not affect the virulence of A. citrulli M6. We also show that pACM6 or similar plasmids are present in several group I strains, but absent in all tested group II strains of A. citrulli.


April 21, 2020  |  

Metabolite-based mutualism enhances hydrogen production in a two-species microbial consortium

Sustainable hydrogen production from renewable and low-cost substrates is very important to mitigate environmental and energy-related issues. Microbial consortia are promising for diverse bioenergy and environmental applications, yet microbial interactions are not fully understood. Here, we present comprehensive investigation on how two species in an artificial microbial consortium, consisting of Bacillus cereus A1 and Brevundimonas naejangsanensis B1, mutually cooperate to achieve an overall enhancement in hydrogen production and starch utilization. In this consortium, strains A1 and B1 secrete a-amylase and glucoamylase that are functionally complementary in starch hydrolysis. Moreover, strain A1 converts starch into lactate as a carbon source and electron donor, supporting the cell growth and hydrogen generation of strain B1. In return, strain B1 produces formate as an electron shuttle to strain A1 to enhance hydrogen production. The co-culture re-directs the overall metabolic flux, facilitates the cell growth, and up-regulates the key genes of hydrogen production and starch hydrolysis.


April 21, 2020  |  

Resource Concentration Modulates the Fate of Dissimilated Nitrogen in a Dual-Pathway Actinobacterium.

Respiratory ammonification and denitrification are two evolutionarily unrelated dissimilatory nitrogen (N) processes central to the global N cycle, the activity of which is thought to be controlled by carbon (C) to nitrate (NO3-) ratio. Here we find that Intrasporangium calvum C5, a novel dual-pathway denitrifier/respiratory ammonifier, disproportionately utilizes ammonification rather than denitrification when grown under low C concentrations, even at low C:NO3- ratios. This finding is in conflict with the paradigm that high C:NO3- ratios promote ammonification and low C:NO3- ratios promote denitrification. We find that the protein atomic composition for denitrification modules (NirK) are significantly cost minimized for C and N compared to ammonification modules (NrfA), indicating that limitation for C and N is a major evolutionary selective pressure imprinted in the architecture of these proteins. The evolutionary precedent for these findings suggests ecological importance for microbial activity as evidenced by higher growth rates when I. calvum grows predominantly using its ammonification pathway and by assimilating its end-product (ammonium) for growth under ammonium-free conditions. Genomic analysis of I. calvum further reveals a versatile ecophysiology to cope with nutrient stress and redox conditions. Metabolite and transcriptional profiles during growth indicate that enzyme modules, NrfAH and NirK, are not constitutively expressed but rather induced by nitrite production via NarG. Mechanistically, our results suggest that pathway selection is driven by intracellular redox potential (redox poise), which may be lowered when resource concentrations are low, thereby decreasing catalytic activity of upstream electron transport steps (i.e., the bc1 complex) needed for denitrification enzymes. Our work advances our understanding of the biogeochemical flexibility of N-cycling organisms, pathway evolution, and ecological food-webs.


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