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Hydrogen-based metabolism - An ancestral trait in lineages sibling to the Cyanobacteria

By Paula B. Matheus Carnevali, Frederik Schulz, Cindy J Castelle, Rose Kantor, Patrick Shih, Itai Sharon, Joanne M Santini, Matthew Olm, Yuki Amano, Brian C Thomas, Karthik Anantharaman, David Burstein, Eric D. Becraft, Ramunas Stepanauskas, Tanja Woyke, Jill F Banfield

Posted 25 May 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/328856 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-08246-y)

The metabolic machinery from which microbial aerobic respiration evolved is tightly linked to the origins of oxygenic Cyanobacteria (Oxyphotobacteria). Even though the majority of Oxyphotobacteria are photoautotrophs and can use carbohydrates with oxygen (O2) as the electron acceptor, all are fermenters under dark anoxic conditions. Studies suggest that the ancestor of Oxyphotobacteria may have used hydrogen (H2) as an electron donor and that two types of NiFe hydrogenases are essential for its oxidation. Melainabacteria and Sericytochromatia, close phylogenetic neighbors to Oxyphotobacteria comprise fermentative and aerobic representatives, or organisms capable of both. Margulisbacteria (candidate divisions RBX-1 and ZB3) and Saganbacteria (candidate division WOR-1), a novel cluster of bacteria phylogenetically related to Melainabacteria, Sericytochromatia and Oxyphotobacteria may further constrain the metabolic platform in which oxygenic photosynthesis and aerobic respiration arose. Here, we predict the metabolisms of Margulisbacteria and Saganbacteria from new and published metagenome-assembled genomes (MAG) and single amplified genomes (SAG), and compare them to their phylogenetic neighbors. Sediment-associated Margulisbacteria are predicted to have a fermentation-based metabolism featuring a variety of hydrogenases, a nitrogenase for nitrogen (N2) fixation, and electron bifurcating complexes involved in cycling of ferredoxin and NAD(P)H. Overall, the genomic features suggest the capacity for metabolic fine-tuning under strictly anoxic conditions. In contrast, the genomes of Margulisbacteria from the ocean ecosystem encode an electron transport chain that supports aerobic growth. Similarly, some Saganbacteria genomes encode various hydrogenases, and others may have the ability to use O2 under certain conditions via a putative novel type of heme copper O2 reductase. Like Melainabacteria and Sericytochromatia, Margulisbacteria and Saganbacteria have diverse energy metabolisms capable of fermentation, and aerobic or anaerobic respiration. In summary, our findings support the hypothesis that the ancestor of these groups was an anaerobe in which fermentation and H2 metabolism were central metabolic features. Our genomic data also suggests that contemporary lineages sibling to the Oxyphotobacteria may have acquired the ability to use O2 as a terminal electron acceptor under certain environmental conditions.

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