Surveys, simulation and single-cell assays relate function and phylogeny in a lake ecosystem

Sarah P. Preheim, Scott W. Olesen, Sarah J. Spencer, Arne Materna, Charuleka Varadharajan, Matthew Blackburn, Jonathan Friedman, Jorge Rodríguez, Harold Hemond, Eric J. Alm*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Much remains unknown about what drives microbial community structure and diversity. Highly structured environments might offer clues. For example, it may be possible to identify metabolically similar species as groups of organisms that correlate spatially with the geochemical processes they carry out. Here, we use a 16S ribosomal RNA gene survey in a lake that has chemical gradients across its depth to identify groups of spatially correlated but phylogenetically diverse organisms. Some groups had distributions across depth that aligned with the distributions of metabolic processes predicted by a biogeochemical model, suggesting that these groups performed biogeochemical functions. A single-cell genetic assay showed, however, that the groups associated with one biogeochemical process, sulfate reduction, contained only a few organisms that have the genes required to reduce sulfate. These results raise the possibility that some of these spatially correlated groups are consortia of phylogenetically diverse and metabolically different microbes that cooperate to carry out geochemical functions.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number16130
JournalNature Microbiology
StatePublished - 15 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature.


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