Our understanding of the complex interconnected processes performed by microbial communities is hindered by our inability to culture the vast majority of microorganisms. Metagenomics provides a way to bypass this cultivation bottleneck and recent advances in this field now allow us to recover a growing number of genomes representing previously uncultured populations from increasingly complex environments. In this study, a temporal genome-centric metagenomic analysis was performed of lab-scale anaerobic digesters that host complex microbial communities fulfilling a series of interlinked metabolic processes to enable the conversion of cellulose to methane. In total, 101 population genomes that were moderate to near-complete were recovered based primarily on differential coverage binning. These populations span 19 phyla, represent mostly novel species and expand the genomic coverage of several rare phyla. Classification into functional guilds based on their metabolic potential revealed metabolic networks with a high level of functional redundancy as well as niche specialization, and allowed us to identify potential roles such as hydrolytic specialists for several rare, uncultured populations. Genome-centric analyses of complex microbial communities across diverse environments provide the key to understanding the phylogenetic and metabolic diversity of these interactive communities.
© 2016 Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.