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MBio. 2013 May 28;4(3):e00569-12. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00569-12.

Metagenomic de novo assembly of an aquatic representative of the verrucomicrobial class Spartobacteria.

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Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde, Rostock, Germany.


The verrucomicrobial subdivision 2 class Spartobacteria is one of the most abundant bacterial lineages in soil and has recently also been found to be ubiquitous in aquatic environments. A 16S rRNA gene study from samples spanning the entire salinity range of the Baltic Sea indicated that, in the pelagic brackish water, a phylotype of the Spartobacteria is one of the dominating bacteria during summer. Phylogenetic analyses of related 16S rRNA genes indicate that a purely aquatic lineage within the Spartobacteria exists. Since no aquatic representative from the Spartobacteria has been cultured or sequenced, the metabolic capacity and ecological role of this lineage are yet unknown. In this study, we reconstructed the genome and metabolic potential of the abundant Baltic Sea Spartobacteria phylotype by metagenomics. Binning of genome fragments by nucleotide composition and a self-organizing map recovered the near-complete genome of the organism, the gene content of which suggests an aerobic heterotrophic metabolism. Notably, we found 23 glycoside hydrolases that likely allow the use of a variety of carbohydrates, like cellulose, mannan, xylan, chitin, and starch, as carbon sources. In addition, a complete pathway for sulfate utilization was found, indicating catabolic processing of sulfated polysaccharides, commonly found in aquatic phytoplankton. The high frequency of glycoside hydrolase genes implies an important role of this organism in the aquatic carbon cycle. Spatiotemporal data of the phylotype's distribution within the Baltic Sea indicate a connection to Cyanobacteria that may be the main source of the polysaccharide substrates.

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