Understanding of the ecological roles and evolutionary histories of marine bacterial taxa can be complicated by mismatches in genome content between wild populations and their better-studied cultured relatives. We used computed patterns of non-synonymous (amino acid-altering) nucleotide diversity in marine metagenomic data to provide high-confidence identification of DNA fragments from uncultivated members of the Roseobacter clade, an abundant taxon of heterotrophic marine bacterioplankton in the world's oceans. Differences in gene stoichiometry in the Global Ocean Survey metagenomic data set compared with 39 sequenced isolates indicated that natural Roseobacter populations differ systematically in several genomic attributes from their cultured representatives, including fewer genes for signal transduction and cell surface modifications but more genes for Sec-like protein secretion systems, anaplerotic CO(2) incorporation, and phosphorus and sulfate uptake. Several of these trends match well with characteristics previously identified as distinguishing r- versus K-selected ecological strategies in bacteria, suggesting that the r-strategist model assigned to cultured roseobacters may be less applicable to their free-living oceanic counterparts. The metagenomic Roseobacter DNA fragments revealed several traits with evolutionary histories suggestive of horizontal gene transfer from other marine bacterioplankton taxa or viruses, including pyrophosphatases and glycosylation proteins.
© 2011 Society for Applied Microbiology and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.