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Processing of grassland soil C-N compounds into soluble and volatile molecules is depth stratified and mediated by genomically novel bacteria and archaea

By Spencer Diamond, Peter Andeer, Zhou Li, Alex Crits-Christoph, David Burstein, Karthik Anantharaman, Katherine R Lane, Brian C Thomas, Chongle Pan, Trent Northen, Jill F Banfield

Posted 17 Oct 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/445817

Soil microbial activity drives the carbon and nitrogen cycles and is an important determinant of atmospheric trace gas turnover, yet most soils are dominated by organisms with unknown metabolic capacities. Even Acidobacteria, among the most abundant bacteria in soil, remain poorly characterized, and functions across groups such as Verrucomicrobia, Gemmatimonadetes, Chloroflexi, Rokubacteria are understudied. Here, we resolved sixty metagenomic, and twenty proteomic datasets from a grassland soil ecosystem and recovered 793 near-complete microbial genomes from 18 phyla, representing around one third of all organisms detected. Importantly, this enabled extensive genomics-based metabolic predictions for these understudied communities. Acidobacteria from multiple previously unstudied classes have genomes that encode large enzyme complements for complex carbohydrate degradation. Alternatively, most organisms we detected encode carbohydrate esterases that strip readily accessible methyl and acetyl groups from polymers like pectin and xylan, forming methanol and acetate, the availability of which could explain high prevalences of C1 metabolism and acetate utilization in genomes. Organism abundances among samples collected at three soil depths and under natural and amended rainfall regimes indicate statistically higher associations of inorganic nitrogen metabolism and carbon degradation in deep and shallow soils, respectively. This partitioning decreased in samples under extended spring rainfall indicating long term climate alteration can affect both carbon and nitrogen cycling. Overall, by leveraging natural and experimental gradients with genome-resolved metabolic profiles, we link organisms lacking prior genomic characterization to specific roles in complex carbon, C1, nitrate, and ammonia transformations and constrain factors that impact their distributions in soil.

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