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Mayali, X, Palenik B, Burton RS.  2010.  Dynamics of marine bacterial and phytoplankton populations using multiplex liquid bead array technology. Environmental Microbiology. 12:975-989.   10.1111/j.1462-2920.2009.02142.x   AbstractWebsite

Heterotrophic bacteria and phytoplankton dominate the biomass and play major roles in the biogeochemical cycles of the surface ocean. Here, we designed and tested a fast, high-throughput and multiplexed hybridization-based assay to detect populations of marine heterotrophic bacteria and phytoplankton based on their small subunit ribosomal DNA sequences. The assay is based on established liquid bead array technology, an approach that is gaining acceptance in biomedical research but remains underutilized in ecology. End-labelled PCR products are hybridized to taxon-specific oligonucleotide probes attached to fluorescently coded beads followed by flow cytometric detection. We used ribosomal DNA environmental clone libraries (a total of 450 clones) and cultured isolates to design and test 26 bacterial and 10 eukaryotic probes specific to various ribotypes and genera of heterotrophic bacteria and eukaryotic phytoplankton. Pure environmental clones or cultures were used as controls and demonstrated specificity of the probes to their target taxa. The quantitative nature of the assay was demonstrated by a significant relationship between the number of target molecules and fluorescence signal. Clone library sequencing and bead array fluorescence from the same sample provided consistent results. We then applied the assay to a 37-day time series of coastal surface seawater samples from the Southern California Bight to examine the temporal dynamics of microbial communities on the scale of days to weeks. As expected, several bacterial phylotypes were positively correlated with total bacterial abundances and chlorophyll a concentrations, but others were negatively correlated. Bacterial taxa belonging to the same broad taxonomic groups did not necessarily correlate with one another, confirming recent results suggesting that inferring ecological role from broad taxonomic identity may not always be accurate.

Dupont, CL, Neupane K, Shearer J, Palenik B.  2008.  Diversity, function and evolution of genes coding for putative Ni-containing superoxide dismutases. Environmental Microbiology. 10:1831-1843.   10.1111/j.1462-2920.2008.01604.x   AbstractWebsite

We examined the phylogenetic distribution, functionality and evolution of the sodN gene family, which has been shown to code for a unique Ni-containing isoform of superoxide dismutase (Ni-SOD) in Streptomyces. Many of the putative sodN sequences retrieved from public domain genomic and metagenomic databases are quite divergent from structurally and functionally characterized Ni-SOD. Structural bioinformatics studies verified that the divergent members of the sodN protein family code for similar three-dimensional structures and identified evolutionarily conserved amino acid residues. Structural and biochemical studies of the N-terminus 'Ni-hook' motif coded for by the putative sodN sequences confirmed both Ni (II) ligating and superoxide dismutase activity. Both environmental and organismal genomes expanded the previously noted phylogenetic distribution of sodN, and the sequences form four well-separated clusters, with multiple subclusters. The phylogenetic distribution of sodN suggests that the gene has been acquired via horizontal gene transfer by numerous organisms of diverse phylogenetic background, including both Eukaryotes and Prokaryotes. The presence of sodN correlates with the genomic absence of the gene coding for Fe-SOD, a structurally and evolutionarily distinct isoform of SOD. Given the low levels of Fe found in the marine environment from where many sequences were attained, we suggest that the replacement of Fe-SOD with Ni-SOD may be an evolutionary adaptation to reduce iron requirements.

Ma, YF, Allen LZ, Palenik B.  2014.  Diversity and genome dynamics of marine cyanophages using metagenomic analyses. Environmental Microbiology Reports. 6:583-594.   10.1111/1758-2229.12160   AbstractWebsite

Cyanophages are abundant in the oceanic environment and directly impact cyanobacterial distributions, physiological processes and evolution. Two samples collected from coastal Maine in July and September 2009 were enriched for Synechococcus cells using flow cytometry and examined through metagenomic sequencing. Homology-based sequence prediction indicated cyanophages, largely myoviruses, accounted for almost half the reads and provided insights into environmental infection events. T4-phage core-gene phylogenetic reconstruction revealed unique diversity among uncultured cyanophages and reference isolates resulting in identification of a new phylogenetic cluster. Genomic comparison of reference cyanophage strains S-SM2 and Syn1 with putative homologous contigs recovered from metagenomes provided evidence that gene insertion, deletion and recombination have occurred among, and are likely important for diversification of, natural populations. Identification of putative genetic exchange between cyanophage and non-cyanophage viruses, i.e. Micromonas virus and Pelagibacter phage, supports hypotheses related to a significant role for viruses in mediating transfer of genetic material between taxonomically diverse organisms with overlapping ecological niches.

Palenik, B, Kieber DJ, Morel FMM.  1989.  Dissolved organic nitrogen use by phytoplankton: The role of cell-surface enzymes. Biological Oceanography. 6:347-354. AbstractWebsite
Urbano, R, Palenik B, Gaston CJ, Prather KA.  2011.  Detection and phylogenetic analysis of coastal bioaerosols using culture dependent and independent techniques. Biogeosciences. 8:301-309.   10.5194/bg-8-301-2011   AbstractWebsite

Bioaerosols are emerging as important yet poorly understood players in atmospheric processes. Microorganisms can impact atmospheric chemistry through metabolic reactions and can potentially influence physical processes by participating in ice nucleation and cloud droplet formation. Microbial roles in atmospheric processes are thought to be species-specific and potentially dependent on cell viability. Using a coastal pier monitoring site as a sampling platform, culture-dependent (i.e. agar plates) and culture-independent (i.e. DNA clone libraries from filters) approaches were combined with 18S rRNA and 16S rRNA gene targeting to obtain insight into the local atmospheric microbial composition. From 13 microbial isolates and 42 DNA library clones, a total of 55 sequences were obtained representing four independent sampling events. Sequence analysis revealed that in these coastal samples two fungal phyla, Ascomycota and Basidiomycota, predominate among eukaryotes while Firmicutes and Proteobacteria predominate among bacteria. Furthermore, our culture-dependent study verifies the viability of microbes from all four phyla detected through our culture-independent study. Contrary to our expectations and despite oceanic air mass sources, common marine planktonic bacteria and phytoplankton were not typically found. The abundance of terrestrial and marine sediment-associated microorganisms suggests a potential importance for bioaerosols derived from beaches and/or coastal erosion processes.

Palenik, B, Morel FMM.  1988.  Dark production of hydrogen peroxide in the Sargasso Sea. Limnology and Oceanography. 33:1606-1611. AbstractWebsite