Saturday, 4 June 2016

Ancestry in soil communities of bacteria

Researchers at Northern Arizona University have looked at the relationship between lineage and behavior in microorganisms by using a new tool--quantitative stable isotope probing. Quantitative stable isotope probing (qSIP) is an improvement over existing qualitative methods because it measures more than just the presence or absence of certain types of bacterial activity in soil--it measures the rate of that activity. Activity rate can then be linked to the DNA of a specific bacterial strain to look for patterns of behavior at a much finer scale.

The results have implications for how much may be lost when strains of bacteria are lost from a soil community. The results run counter to the idea that unrelated bacteria typically overlap each other's functions, providing the same ecosystem services--a concept known as functional redundancy.

Bacteria sharing a closer evolutionary history showed similar population growth rates and carbon use. Bacteria farther apart by lineage differed in these behaviors. The rates that different types of bacteria grow and assimilate carbon both affect how an ecosystem functions. This suggests that different types of bacteria may not always be able to substitute for each other's contribution to important processes.

For further details, see:

Ember M Morrissey, Rebecca L Mau, Egbert Schwartz, J Gregory Caporaso, Paul Dijkstra, Natasja van Gestel, Benjamin J Koch, Cindy M Liu, Michaela Hayer, Theresa A McHugh, Jane C Marks, Lance B Price, Bruce A Hungate. Phylogenetic organization of bacterial activity.The ISME Journal, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/ismej.2016.28

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle