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Letzel, AC, Li J, Amos GCA, Millan-Aguinaga N, Ginigini J, Abdelmohsen UR, Gaudencio SP, Ziemert N, Moore BS, Jensen PR.  2017.  Genomic insights into specialized metabolism in the marine actinomycete Salinispora. Environmental Microbiology. 19:3660-3673.   10.1111/1462-2920.13867   AbstractWebsite

Comparative genomics is providing new opportunities to address the diversity and distributions of genes encoding the biosynthesis of specialized metabolites. An analysis of 119 genome sequences representing three closely related species of the marine actinomycete genus Salinispora reveals extraordinary biosynthetic diversity in the form of 176 distinct biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) of which only 24 have been linked to their products. Remarkably, more than half of the BGCs were observed in only one or two strains, suggesting they were acquired relatively recently in the evolutionary history of the genus. These acquired gene clusters are concentrated in specific genomic islands, which represent hot spots for BGC acquisition. While most BGCs are stable in terms of their chromosomal position, others migrated to different locations or were exchanged with unrelated gene clusters suggesting a plug and play type model of evolution that provides a mechanism to test the relative fitness effects of specialized metabolites. Transcriptome analyses were used to address the relationships between BGC abundance, chromosomal position and product discovery. The results indicate that recently acquired BGCs can be functional and that complex evolutionary processes shape the micro-diversity of specialized metabolism observed in closely related environmental bacteria.

Millan-Aguinaga, N, Chavarria KL, Ugalde JA, Letzel AC, Rouse GW, Jensen PR.  2017.  Phylogenomic Insight into Salinispora (Bacteria, Actinobacteria) Species Designations. Scientific Reports. 7   10.1038/s41598-017-02845-3   AbstractWebsite

Bacteria represent the most genetically diverse kingdom of life. While great progress has been made in describing this diversity, it remains difficult to identify the phylogenetic and ecological characteristics that delineate groups of bacteria that possess species-like properties. One major challenge associated with species delineations is that not all shared genes have the same evolutionary history, and thus the choice of loci can have a major impact on phylogenetic reconstruction. Sequencing the genomes of large numbers of closely related strains provides new opportunities to distinguish ancestral from acquired alleles and assess the effects of recombination on phylogenetic inference. Here we analyzed the genomes of 119 strains of the marine actinomycete genus Salinispora, which is currently comprised of three named species that share 99% 16S rRNA gene sequence identity. While 63% of the core genome showed evidence of recombination, this had no effect on species-level phylogenomic resolution. Recombination did however blur intra-species relationships and biogeographic resolution. The genome-wide average nucleotide identity provided a new perspective on Salinispora diversity, revealing as many as seven new species. Patterns of orthologous group distributions reveal a genetic basis to delineation the candidate taxa and insight into the levels of genetic cohesion associated with bacterial species.