Understanding the marine sediment microbial community structure is of increasing importance to microbiologists since little is known of the diverse taxonomy that exists within this environment. Quantifying microbial species distribution patterns within marine sanctuaries is necessary to address conservation requirements. The objectives of this study were to characterize the relative abundance and biodiversity of metagenome samples of the sediment microbial community in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS). Related to the need for a comprehensive assessment of the microbial habitat within marine sanctuaries is the increased threat of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, coupled with multi-resistant bacterial strains. This has necessitated a renewed search for bioactive compounds in marine benthic habitat. An additional aim was to initiate quantification of biosynthetic gene clusters in species that have potential for natural product and drug discovery relevant to human health. Surficial sediment from 18 samples was collected in the summer and fall of 2017 from three benthic sites in the SBNMS. Microbial DNA was extracted from samples, and sequencing libraries were prepared for taxonomic analysis. Whole metagenome sequencing (WMGS) in combination with a bioinformatics pipeline was employed to delineate the taxa of bacteria present in each sample. Among all sampling sites, biodiversity was higher for summer compared to fall for class (p = 0.0013; F = 4.5) and genus (p = 0.0219; F = 4.4). Actinobacteria was the fifth most abundant class in both seasons (7.81%). Streptomyces was observed to be the fourth most abundant genus in both seasons with significantly higher prevalence in summer compared to fall samples. In summer, site 3 had the highest percentage of Streptomyces (1.71%) compared to sites 2 (1.62%) and 1 (1.37%). The results enabled preliminary quantification of the sequenced hits from the SBNMS sites with the highest potential for harboring secondary metabolite biosynthetic gene clusters for Streptomyces scabrisporus strain (NF3) genomic regions. This study is one of the first to use a whole metagenomics approach to characterize sediment microbial biodiversity in partnership with the SBNMS and demonstrates the potential for future ecological and biomedical research.
Keywords: National marine sanctuary; Sediment microbial community; Streptomyces; Whole metagenomics.
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