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Bowman, JS.  2018.  Identification of microbial dark matter in Antarctic environments. Frontiers in Microbiology. 9   10.3389/fmicb.2018.03165   AbstractWebsite

Numerous studies have applied molecular techniques to understand the diversity, evolution, and ecological function of Antarctic bacteria and archaea. One common technique is sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene, which produces a nearly quantitative profile of community membership. However, the utility of this and similar approaches is limited by what is known about the evolution, physiology, and ecology of surveyed taxa. When representative genomes are available in public databases some of this information can be gleaned from genomic studies, and automated pipelines exist to carry out this task. Here the paprica metabolic inference pipeline was used to assess how well Antarctic microbial communities are represented by the available completed genomes. The NCBI's Sequence Read Archive (SRA) was searched for Antarctic datasets that used one of the Illumine platforms to sequence the 16S rRNA gene. These data were quality controlled and denoised to identify unique reads, then analyzed with paprica to determine the degree of overlap with the closest phylogenetic neighbor with a completely sequenced genome. While some unique reads had perfect mapping to 16S rRNA genes from completed genomes, the mean percent overlap for all mapped reads was 86.6%. When samples were grouped by environment, some environments appeared more or less well represented by the available genomes. For the domain Bacteria, seawater was particularly poorly represented with a mean overlap of 80.2%, while for the domain Archaea glacial ice was particularly poorly represented with an overlap of only 48.0% for a single sample. These findings suggest that a considerable effort is needed to improve the representation of Antarctic microbes in genome sequence databases.

Webb, SJ, Rabsattt T, Erazo N, Bowman JS.  2019.  Impacts of Zostera eelgrasses on microbial community structure in San Diego coastal waters. Elementa-Science of the Anthropocene. 7   10.1525/elementa.350   AbstractWebsite

Marine eelgrasses are influential to their surrounding environments through their many ecosystem services, ranging from the provisioning of food and shelter for marine life to serving as a natural defense against pollution and pathogenic bacteria. In the marine waters of San Diego, CA, USA, eelgrass beds comprised of Zostera spp. are an integral part of the coastal ecosystem. To evaluate the impact of eelgrass on bacterial and archaeal community structure we collected water samples in San Diego Bay and sequenced the 16S rRNA gene from paired eelgrass-present and eelgrass-absent sites. To test the hypothesis that microbial community structure is influenced by the presence of eelgrass we applied mixed effects models to these data and to bacterial abundance data derived by flow cytometry. This approach allowed us to identify specific microbial taxa that were differentially present at eelgrass-present and eelgrass-absent sites. Principal coordinate analysis organized the samples by location (inner vs. outer bay) along the first axis, where the first two axes accounted for a 90.8% of the variance in microbial community structure among the samples. Differentially present bacterial taxa included members of the order Rickettsiales, family Flavobacteriaceae, genus Tenacibaculum and members of the order Pseudomonadales. These findings constitute a unique look into the microbial composition of San Diego Bay and examine how eelgrasses contribute to marine ecosystem health, e.g., by supporting specific microbial communities and by filtering and trapping potentially harmful bacteria to the benefit of marine organisms.