The diversity and distribution of methylotrophic bacteria have been investigated in the oceans and lakes using the methanol dehydrogenase mxaF gene as a functional marker. However, pelagic marine (OM43) and freshwater (LD28 and PRD01a001B) methylotrophs within the Betaproteobacteria lack mxaF, instead possessing a related xoxF4-encoded methanol dehydrogenase. Here, we developed and employed xoxF4 as a complementary functional gene marker to mxaF for studying methylotrophs in aquatic environment. Using xoxF4, we detected OM43-related and LD28-related methylotrophs in the ocean and freshwaters of North America, respectively, and showed the coexistence of these two lineages in a large estuarine system (St Lawrence Estuary). Gene expression patterns of xoxF4 supported a positive relationship between xoxF4-containing methylotroph activity and spring time productivity, suggesting phytoplankton blooms are a source of methylotrophic substrates. Further investigation of methanol dehydrogenase diversity in pelagic ecosystems using comparative metagenomics provided strong support for a widespread distribution of xoxF4 (as well as several distinct xoxF5) containing methylotrophs in marine and freshwater surface waters. In total, these results demonstrate a geographical distribution of OM43/LD28-related methylotrophs that includes marine and freshwaters and suggest that methylotrophy occurring in the water column is an important component of lake and estuary carbon cycling and biogeochemistry.
Keywords: C1 metabolism; LD28; marine OM43 clade; metagenomics; methanol oxidation; methylotrophy.
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