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mSphere. 2017 Aug 2;2(4). pii: e00237-17. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00237-17. eCollection 2017 Jul-Aug.

Hiding in Plain Sight: Mining Bacterial Species Records for Phenotypic Trait Information.

Author information

1
Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA.
2
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, USA.
3
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA.
4
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA.

Abstract

Cultivation in the laboratory is essential for understanding the phenotypic characteristics and environmental preferences of bacteria. However, basic phenotypic information is not readily accessible. Here, we compiled phenotypic and environmental tolerance information for >5,000 bacterial strains described in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology (IJSEM) with all information made publicly available in an updatable database. Although the data span 23 different bacterial phyla, most entries described aerobic, mesophilic, neutrophilic strains from Proteobacteria (mainly Alpha- and Gammaproteobacteria), Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, and Bacteroidetes isolated from soils, marine habitats, and plants. Most of the routinely measured traits tended to show a significant phylogenetic signal, although this signal was weak for environmental preferences. We demonstrated how this database could be used to link genomic attributes to differences in pH and salinity optima. We found that adaptations to high salinity or high-pH conditions are related to cell surface transporter genes, along with previously uncharacterized genes that might play a role in regulating environmental tolerances. Together, this work highlights the utility of this database for associating bacterial taxonomy, phylogeny, or specific genes to measured phenotypic traits and emphasizes the need for more comprehensive and consistent measurements of traits across a broader diversity of bacteria. IMPORTANCE Cultivation in the laboratory is key for understanding the phenotypic characteristics, growth requirements, metabolism, and environmental preferences of bacteria. However, oftentimes, phenotypic information is not easily accessible. Here, we compiled phenotypic and environmental tolerance information for >5,000 bacterial strains described in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology (IJSEM). We demonstrate how this database can be used to link bacterial taxonomy, phylogeny, or specific genes to measured phenotypic traits and environmental preferences. The phenotypic database can be freely accessed (https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.4272392), and we have included instructions for researchers interested in adding new entries or curating existing ones.

KEYWORDS:

pH; phenotypes; phylogeny; salinity; traits

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