Gene expansion and positive selection as bacterial adaptations to oligotrophic conditions

Ruben Props, Pieter Monsieurs, Peter Vandamme, Natalie Leys, Vincent J. Denef, Nico Boon

    Research outputpeer-review


    We examined the genomic adaptations of prevalent bacterial taxa in a highly nutrient- and ion-depleted freshwater environment located in the secondary cooling water system of a nuclear research reactor. Using genome-centric metagenomics, we found that none of the prevalent bacterial taxa were related to typical freshwater bacterial lineages. We also did not identify strong signatures of genome streamlining, which has been shown to be one of the ecoevolutionary forces shaping the genome characteristics of bacterial taxa in nutrient-depleted environments. Instead, focusing on the dominant taxon, a novel Ramlibacter sp. which we propose to name Ramlibacter aquaticus, we detected extensive positive selection on genes involved in phosphorus and carbon scavenging pathways. These genes were involved in the high-affinity phosphate uptake and storage into polyphosphate granules, metabolism of nitrogen-rich organic matter, and carbon/energy storage into polyhydroxyalkanoate. In parallel, comparative genomics revealed a high number of paralogs and an accessory genome significantly enriched in environmental sensing pathways (i.e., chemotaxis and motility), suggesting extensive gene expansions in R. aquaticus. The type strain of R. aquaticus (LMG 30558T) displayed optimal growth kinetics and productivity at low nutrient concentrations, as well as substantial cell size plasticity. Our findings with R. aquaticus LMG 30558T demonstrate that positive selection and gene expansions may represent successful adaptive strategies to oligotrophic environments that preserve high growth rates and cellular productivity
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere00011-19 + Correction: e01143-20
    Number of pages16
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - 6 Feb 2019

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