The "dark matter of life" describes microbes and even entire divisions of bacterial phyla that have evaded cultivation and have yet to be sequenced. We present a genome from the globally distributed but elusive candidate phylum TM6 and uncover its metabolic potential. TM6 was detected in a biofilm from a sink drain within a hospital restroom by analyzing cells using a highly automated single-cell genomics platform. We developed an approach for increasing throughput and effectively improving the likelihood of sampling rare events based on forming small random pools of single-flow-sorted cells, amplifying their DNA by multiple displacement amplification and sequencing all cells in the pool, creating a "mini-metagenome." A recently developed single-cell assembler, SPAdes, in combination with contig binning methods, allowed the reconstruction of genomes from these mini-metagenomes. A total of 1.07 Mb was recovered in seven contigs for this member of TM6 (JCVI TM6SC1), estimated to represent 90% of its genome. High nucleotide identity between a total of three TM6 genome drafts generated from pools that were independently captured, amplified, and assembled provided strong confirmation of a correct genomic sequence. TM6 is likely a Gram-negative organism and possibly a symbiont of an unknown host (nonfree living) in part based on its small genome, low-GC content, and lack of biosynthesis pathways for most amino acids and vitamins. Phylogenomic analysis of conserved single-copy genes confirms that TM6SC1 is a deeply branching phylum.
Keywords: MDA; genome assembly; metagenomics; single-cell genomics; symbiotic bacteria.