Genome characteristics of a generalist marine bacterial lineage

ISME J. 2010 Jun;4(6):784-98. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2009.150. Epub 2010 Jan 14.


Members of the marine Roseobacter lineage have been characterized as ecological generalists, suggesting that there will be challenges in assigning well-delineated ecological roles and biogeochemical functions to the taxon. To address this issue, genome sequences of 32 Roseobacter isolates were analyzed for patterns in genome characteristics, gene inventory, and individual gene/pathway distribution using three predictive frameworks: phylogenetic relatedness, lifestyle strategy and environmental origin of the isolate. For the first framework, a phylogeny containing five deeply branching clades was obtained from a concatenation of 70 conserved single-copy genes. Somewhat surprisingly, phylogenetic tree topology was not the best model for organizing genome characteristics or distribution patterns of individual genes/pathways, although it provided some predictive power. The lifestyle framework, established by grouping isolates according to evidence for heterotrophy, photoheterotrophy or autotrophy, explained more of the gene repertoire in this lineage. The environment framework had a weak predictive power for the overall genome content of each strain, but explained the distribution of several individual genes/pathways, including those related to phosphorus acquisition, chemotaxis and aromatic compound degradation. Unassembled sequences in the Global Ocean Sampling metagenomic data independently verified this global-scale geographical signal in some Roseobacter genes. The primary findings emerging from this comparative genome analysis are that members of the lineage cannot be easily collapsed into just a few ecologically differentiated clusters (that is, there are almost as many clusters as isolates); the strongest framework for predicting genome content is trophic strategy, but no single framework gives robust predictions; and previously unknown homologs to genes for H(2) oxidation, proteorhodopsin-based phototrophy, xanthorhodpsin-based phototrophy, and CO(2) fixation by Form IC ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RuBisCO) expand the possible mechanisms for energy and carbon acquisition in this remarkably versatile bacterial lineage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cluster Analysis
  • Comparative Genomic Hybridization
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Metagenomics
  • Phylogeny*
  • Roseobacter / classification
  • Roseobacter / genetics*
  • Seawater / microbiology