Life in a small cup of seawater

Metagenomics Microbes, from the smallest viruses to the largest unicellular protists, dominate our oceans, playing a central role in ocean food webs and as key drivers of biogeochemical processes, yet the complex interactions and ecological significance of these relationships within and between biomes are largely unknown. Describing and studying the hosts (prokaryotes and eukaryote assemblages) alongside their viruses can help improve our understanding of the roles of microbes in a holistic way.


A Pelagic Microbiome (Viruses to Protists) from a Small Cup of Seawater. Viruses 2017, 9(3): 47 doi: 10.3390/v9030047
The aquatic microbiome is composed of a multi-phylotype community of microbes, ranging from the numerically dominant viruses to the phylogenetically diverse unicellular phytoplankton. They influence key biogeochemical processes and form the base of marine food webs, becoming food for secondary consumers. Due to recent advances in next-generation sequencing, this previously overlooked component of our hydrosphere is starting to reveal its true diversity and biological complexity. We report here that 250 mL of seawater is sufficient to provide a comprehensive description of the microbial diversity in an oceanic environment. We found that there was a dominance of the order Caudovirales (59%), with the family Myoviridae being the most prevalent. The families Phycodnaviridae and Mimiviridae made up the remainder of pelagic double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) virome. Consistent with this analysis, the Cyanobacteria dominate (52%) the prokaryotic diversity. While the dinoflagellates and their endosymbionts, the superphylum Alveolata dominates (92%) the microbial eukaryotic diversity. A total of 834 prokaryotic, 346 eukaryotic and 254 unique virus phylotypes were recorded in this relatively small sample of water. We also provide evidence, through a metagenomic-barcoding comparative analysis, that viruses are the likely source of microbial environmental DNA (meDNA). This study opens the door to a more integrated approach to oceanographic sampling and data analysis.

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One Response to Life in a small cup of seawater

  1. Roberta says:

    Nice description!!

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