New Paper: Depth drives the distribution of microbial ecological functions in the coastal western Antarctic Peninsula

Congrats to Avishek Dutta and the team for their recent paper in Frontiers in Microbiology. Here’s the abstract…

The Antarctic marine environment is a dynamic ecosystem where microorganisms play an important role in key biogeochemical cycles. Despite the role that microbes play in this ecosystem, little is known about the genetic and metabolic diversity of Antarctic marine microbes. In this study we leveraged DNA samples collected by the Palmer Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project to sequence shotgun metagenomes of 48 key samples collected across the marine ecosystem of the western Antarctic Peninsula (wAP). 

We developed an in silico metagenomics pipeline (iMAGine) for processing metagenomic data and constructing metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs), identifying a diverse genomic repertoire related to the carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen cycles. A novel analytical approach based on gene coverage was used to understand the differences in microbial community functions across depth and region.

Our results showed that microbial community functions were partitioned based on depth. Bacterial members harbored diverse genes for carbohydrate transformation, indicating the availability of processes to convert complex carbons into simpler bioavailable forms. We generated 137 dereplicated MAGs giving us a new perspective on the role of prokaryotes in the coastal wAP. In particular, the presence of mixotrophic prokaryotes capable of autotrophic and heterotrophic lifestyles indicated a metabolically flexible community, which we hypothesize enables survival under rapidly changing conditions.

Overall, the study identified key microbial community functions and created a valuable sequence library collection for future Antarctic genomics research. 

Dutta, A., Connors, E., Trinh, R., Erazo, N., Dasarathy, S., Ducklow, H. W., et al. (2023). Depth drives the distribution of microbial ecological functions in the coastal western Antarctic Peninsula. Frontiers in Microbiology14, 1168507.