The genus of Marinobacter is one of the most ubiquitous in the global oceans and assumed to significantly impact various biogeochemical cycles. The genome structure and content of Marinobacter aquaeolei VT8 was analyzed and compared with those from other organisms with diverse adaptive strategies. Here, we report the many “opportunitrophic” genetic characteristics and strategies that M. aquaeolei has adopted to promote survival under various environmental conditions. Genome analysis revealed its metabolic potential to utilize oxygen and nitrate as terminal electron acceptors, iron as an electron donor, and urea, phosphonate, and various hydrocarbons as alternative N, P, and C sources, respectively. Miscellaneous sensory and defense mechanisms, apparently acquired via horizontal gene transfer, are involved in the perception of environmental fluctuations and antibiotic, phage, toxin, and heavy metal resistance, enabling survival under adverse conditions, such as oil-polluted water. Multiple putative integrases, transposases, and plasmids appear to have introduced additional metabolic potential, such as phosphonate degradation. The genomic potential of M. aquaeolei and its similarity to other opportunitrophs are consistent with its cosmopolitan occurrence in diverse environments and highly variable lifestyles.
Since the days of Darwin, scientists have used the framework of the theory of evolution to explore the interconnectedness of life on Earth and adaptation of organisms to the ever-changing environment. The advent of molecular biology has advanced and accelerated the study of evolution by allowing direct examination of the genetic material that ultimately determines the phenotypes upon which selection acts. The study of evolution has been furthered through examination of microbial evolution, with large population numbers, short generation times, and easily extractable DNA. Such work has spawned the study of microbial biogeography, with the realization that concepts developed in population genetics may be applicable to microbial genomes (Martiny et al., 2006; Manhes and Velicer, 2011). Microbial biogeography and adaptation has been examined in many different environments. Here we argue that the deep biosphere is a unique environment for the study of evolution and list specific factors that can be considered and where the studies may be performed. This publication is the result of the NSF-funded Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) theme team on Evolution (www.darkenergybiosphere.org).
Mariprofundus ferrooxydans PV-1 has provided the first genome of the recently discovered Zetaproteobacteria subdivision. Genome analysis reveals a complete TCA cycle, the ability to fix CO2, carbon-storage proteins and a sugar phosphotransferase system (PTS). The latter could facilitate the transport of carbohydrates across the cell membrane and possibly aid in stalk formation, a matrix composed of exopolymers and/or exopolysaccharides, which is used to store oxidized iron minerals outside the cell. Two-component signal transduction system genes, including histidine kinases, GGDEF domain genes, and response regulators containing CheY-like receivers, are abundant and widely distributed across the genome. Most of these are located in close proximity to genes required for cell division, phosphate uptake and transport, exopolymer and heavy metal secretion, flagellar biosynthesis and pilus assembly suggesting that these functions are highly regulated. Similar to many other motile, microaerophilic bacteria, genes encoding aerotaxis as well as antioxidant functionality (e.g., superoxide dismutases and peroxidases) are predicted to sense and respond to oxygen gradients, as would be required to maintain cellular redox balance in the specialized habitat where M. ferrooxydans resides. Comparative genomics with other Fe(II) oxidizing bacteria residing in freshwater and marine environments revealed similar content, synteny, and amino acid similarity of coding sequences potentially involved in Fe(II) oxidation, signal transduction and response regulation, oxygen sensation and detoxification, and heavy metal resistance. This study has provided novel insights into the molecular nature of Zetaproteobacteria.