Utilization of low-molecular-weight organic compounds by the filterable fraction of a lotic microbiome

FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2021 Feb 5;97(2):fiaa244. doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiaa244.


Filterable microorganisms participate in dissolved organic carbon (DOC) cycling in freshwater systems, however their exact functional role remains unknown. We determined the taxonomic identity and community dynamics of prokaryotic microbiomes in the 0.22 µm-filtered fraction and unfiltered freshwater from the Conwy River (North Wales, UK) in microcosms and, using targeted metabolomics and 14C-labelling, examined their role in the utilization of amino acids, organic acids and sugars spiked at environmentally-relevant (nanomolar) concentrations. To identify changes in community structure, we used 16S rRNA amplicon and shotgun sequencing. Unlike the unfiltered water samples where the consumption of DOC was rapid, the filtered fraction showed a 3-day lag phase before the consumption started. Analysis of functional categories of clusters of orthologous groups of proteins (COGs) showed that COGs associated with energy production increased in number in both fractions with substrate addition. The filtered fraction utilized low-molecular-weight (LMW) DOC at much slower rates than the whole community. Addition of nanomolar concentrations of LMW DOC did not measurably influence the composition of the microbial community nor the rate of consumption across all substrate types in either fraction. We conclude that due to their low activity, filterable microorganisms play a minor role in LMW DOC processing within a short residence time of lotic freshwater systems.

Keywords: 14C-radioisotope tracking; 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing; dissolved organic matter (DOM); filterable microorganisms; freshwater; metabolomics; microbial ecology; shotgun sequencing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carbon
  • Fresh Water
  • Microbiota*
  • Organic Chemicals*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Rivers


  • Organic Chemicals
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Carbon