The others: our biased perspective of eukaryotic genomes


Published at Trends in Ecology and Evolution

The others: our biased perspective of eukaryotic genomes

Javier del Campo, Michael E. Sieracki, Robert Molestina, Patrick Keeling, Ramon Massana, Iñaki Ruiz-Trillo

Understanding the origin and evolution of the eukaryotic cell and the full diversity of eukaryotes is relevant to many biological disciplines. However, our current understanding of eukaryotic genomes is extremely biased, leading to a skewed view of eukaryotic biology. We argue that a phylogeny-driven initiative to cover the full eukaryotic diversity is needed to overcome this bias. We encourage the community: (i) to sequence a representative of the neglected groups available at public culture collections, (ii) to increase our culturing efforts, and (iii) to embrace single cell genomics to access organisms refractory to propagation in culture. We hope that the community will welcome this proposal, explore the approaches suggested, and join efforts to sequence the full diversity of eukaryotes.

Media coverage

Exploring the uncultured microeukaryote majority in the oceans

Published a month ago at The ISME Journal

Exploring the uncultured microeukaryote majority in the oceans: reevaluation of ribogroups within stramenopiles

Ramon Massana, Javier del Campo, Michael E Sieracki, Stéphane Audic and Ramiro Logares

Molecular surveys in planktonic marine systems have unveiled a large novel diversity of small protists. A large part of this diversity belongs to basal heterotrophic stramenopiles and is distributed in a set of polyphyletic ribogroups (described from rDNA sequences) collectively named as MAST (MArine STramenopiles). In the few groups investigated, MAST cells are globally distributed and abundant bacterial grazers, therefore having a putatively large impact on marine ecosystem functioning. The main aim of this study is to reevaluate the MAST ribogroups described so far and to determine whether additional groups can be found. For this purpose, we used traditional and state-of-the-art molecular tools, combining 18S rDNA sequences from publicly available clone libraries, single amplified genomes (SAGs) of planktonic protists, and a pyrosequencing survey from coastal waters and sediments. Our analysis indicated a final set of 18 MAST groups plus 5 new ribogroups within Ochrophyta (named as MOCH). The MAST ribogroups were then analyzed in more detail. Seven were typical of anoxic systems and one of oxic sediments. The rest were clearly members of oxic marine picoplankton. We characterized the genetic diversity within each MAST group and defined subclades for the more diverse (46 subclades in 8 groups). The analyses of sequences within subclades revealed further ecological specializations. Our data provide a renovated framework for phylogenetic classification of the numerous MAST ribogroups and support the notion of a tight link between phylogeny and ecological distribution. These diverse and largely uncultured protists are widespread and ecologically relevant members of marine microbial assemblages.

Culturing Bias in Marine Heterotrophic Flagellates Analyzed Through Seawater Enrichment Incubations

Published this weeks ago at Microbial Ecology

Culturing Bias in Marine Heterotrophic Flagellates Analyzed Through Seawater Enrichment Incubations

Javier del Campo, Vanessa Balagué, Irene Forn, Itziar Lekunberri and Ramon Massana

The diversity of heterotrophic flagellates is generally based on cultivated strains, on which ultrastructural, physiological, and molecular studies have been performed. However, the relevance of these cultured strains as models of the dominant heterotrophic flagellates in the marine planktonic environment is unclear. In fact, molecular surveys typically recover novel eukaryotic lineages that have refused cultivation so far. This study was designed to directly address the culturing bias in planktonic marine heterotrophic flagellates. Several microcosms were established adding increasing amounts and sources of organic matter to a confined natural microbial community pre-filtered by 3 μm. Growth dynamics were followed by epifluorescence microscopy and showed the expected higher yield of bacteria and heterotrophic flagellates at increased organic matter additions. Moreover, protist diversity analyzed by molecular tools showed a clear substitution in the community, which differed more and more from the initial sample as the organic matter increased. Within this gradient, there was also an increase of sequences related to cultured organisms as well as a decrease in diversity. Culturing bias is partly explained by the use of organic matter in the isolation process, which drives a shift in the community to conditions closer to laboratory cultures. An intensive culturing effort using alternative isolation methods is necessary to allow the access to the missing heterotrophic flagellates that constitute the abundant and active taxa in marine systems.