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Genomic evidence of functional diversity in DPANN archaea, from oxic species to anoxic vampiristic consortia

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Springer Nature on behalf of the International Society for Microbial Ecology
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DPANN archaea account for half of the archaeal diversity of the biosphere, but with few cultivated representatives, their metabolic potential and environmental functions are poorly understood. The extreme geochemical and environmental conditions in meromictic ice-capped Lake A, in the Canadian High Arctic, provided an isolated, stratified model ecosystem to resolve the distribution and metabolism of uncultured aquatic DPANN archaea living across extreme redox and salinity gradients, from freshwater oxygenated conditions, to saline, anoxic, sulfidic waters. We recovered 28 metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) of DPANN archaea that provided genetic insights into their ecological function. Thiosulfate oxidation potential was detected in aerobic Woesearchaeota, whereas diverse metabolic functions were identified in anaerobic DPANN archaea, including degradation and fermentation of cellular compounds, and sulfide and polysulfide reduction. We also found evidence for “vampiristic” metabolism in several MAGs, with genes coding for pore-forming toxins, peptidoglycan degradation, and RNA scavenging. The vampiristic MAGs co-occurred with other DPANNs having complementary metabolic capacities, leading to the possibility that DPANN form interspecific consortia that recycle microbial carbon, nutrients and complex molecules through a DPANN archaeal shunt, adding hidden novel complexity to anaerobic microbial food webs.

ISME Communications, Vol. 2 (4) (2022)
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article de recherche