Microbial diversity, genomics, and phage–host interactions of cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms

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The occurrence of cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (cyanoHABs) is related to their physical and chemical environment. However, less is known about their associated microbial interactions and processes. In this study, cyanoHABs were analyzed as a microbial ecosystem, using 1 year of 16S rRNA sequencing and 70 metagenomes collected during the bloom season from Lake Okeechobee (Florida, USA). Biogeographical patterns observed in microbial community composition and function reflected ecological zones distinct in their physical and chemical parameters that resulted in bloom “hotspots” near major lake inflows. Changes in relative abundances of taxa within multiple phyla followed increasing bloom severity. Functional pathways that correlated with increasing bloom severity encoded organic nitrogen and phosphorus utilization, storage of nutrients, exchange of genetic material, phage defense, and protection against oxidative stress, suggesting that microbial interactions may promote cyanoHAB resilience. Cyanobacterial communities were highly diverse, with picocyanobacteria ubiquitous and oftentimes most abundant, especially in the absence of blooms. The identification of novel bloom-forming cyanobacteria and genomic comparisons indicated a functionally diverse cyanobacterial community with differences in its capability to store nitrogen using cyanophycin and to defend against phage using CRISPR and restriction-modification systems. Considering blooms in the context of a microbial ecosystem and their interactions in nature, physiologies and interactions supporting the proliferation and stability of cyanoHABs are proposed, including a role for phage infection of picocyanobacteria. This study displayed the power of “-omics” to reveal important biological processes that could support the effective management and prediction of cyanoHABs.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Microbial diversity, genomics, and phage–host interactions of cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms
Series title mSystems
DOI 10.1128/msystems.00709-23
Edition Online First
Year Published 2024
Language English
Publisher American Society of Microbiology
Contributing office(s) Caribbean-Florida Water Science Center
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