Experimental Incubations Elicit Profound Changes in Community Transcription in OMZ Bacterioplankton
Author(s)Stewart, Frank J.; Dalsgaard, Tage; Young, Curtis Robert, III; Thamdrup, Bo; Revsbech, Niels Peter; Ulloa, Osvaldo; DeLong, Edward; Canfield, Don E.; ... Show more Show less
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Sequencing of microbial community RNA (metatranscriptome) is a useful approach for assessing gene expression in microorganisms from the natural environment. This method has revealed transcriptional patterns in situ, but can also be used to detect transcriptional cascades in microcosms following experimental perturbation. Unambiguously identifying differential transcription between control and experimental treatments requires constraining effects that are simply due to sampling and bottle enclosure. These effects remain largely uncharacterized for “challenging” microbial samples, such as those from anoxic regions that require special handling to maintain in situ conditions. Here, we demonstrate substantial changes in microbial transcription induced by sample collection and incubation in experimental bioreactors. Microbial communities were sampled from the water column of a marine oxygen minimum zone by a pump system that introduced minimal oxygen contamination and subsequently incubated in bioreactors under near in situ oxygen and temperature conditions. Relative to the source water, experimental samples became dominated by transcripts suggestive of cell stress, including chaperone, protease, and RNA degradation genes from diverse taxa, with strong representation from SAR11-like alphaproteobacteria. In tandem, transcripts matching facultative anaerobic gammaproteobacteria of the Alteromonadales (e.g., Colwellia) increased 4–13 fold up to 43% of coding transcripts, and encoded a diverse gene set suggestive of protein synthesis and cell growth. We interpret these patterns as taxon-specific responses to combined environmental changes in the bioreactors, including shifts in substrate or oxygen availability, and minor temperature and pressure changes during sampling with the pump system. Whether such changes confound analysis of transcriptional patterns may vary based on the design of the experiment, the taxonomic composition of the source community, and on the metabolic linkages between community members. These data highlight the impressive capacity for transcriptional changes within complex microbial communities, underscoring the need for caution when inferring in situ metabolism based on transcript abundances in experimental incubations.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Public Library of Science
Stewart, Frank J. et al. “Experimental Incubations Elicit Profound Changes in Community Transcription in OMZ Bacterioplankton.” Ed. Francisco Rodriguez-Valera. PLoS ONE 7.5 (2012): e37118.
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