Dual thermal ecotypes coexist within a nearly genetically identical population of the unicellular marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus
Date of Original Version
The extent and ecological significance of intraspecific functional diversity within marine microbial populations is still poorly understood, and it remains unclear if such strain-level microdiversity will affect fitness and persistence in a rapidly changing ocean environment. In this study, we cultured 11 sympatric strains of the ubiquitous marine picocyanobacterium Synechococcus isolated from a Narragansett Bay (RI) phytoplankton community thermal selection experiment. Thermal performance curves revealed selection at cool and warm temperatures had subdivided the initial population into thermotypes with pronounced differences in maximum growth temperatures. Curiously, the genomes of all 11 isolates were almost identical (average nucleotide identities of >99.99%, with >99% of the genome aligning) and no differences in gene content or single nucleotide variants were associated with either cool or warm temperature phenotypes. Despite a very high level of genomic similarity, sequenced epigenomes for two strains showed differences in methylation on genes associated with photosynthesis. These corresponded to measured differences in photophysiology, suggesting a potential pathway for future mechanistic research into thermal microdiversity. Our study demonstrates that present-day marine microbial populations can harbor cryptic but environmentally relevant thermotypes which may increase their resilience to future rising temperatures.
Publication Title, e.g., Journal
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Kling, Joshua D., Michael D. Lee, Nathan G. Walworth, Eric A. Webb, Jordan T. Coelho, Paul Wilburn, Stephanie I. Anderson, Qianqian Zhou, Chunguang Wang, Megan D. Phan, Feixue Fu, Colin T. Kremer, Elena Litchman, Tatiana A. Rynearson, and David A. Hutchins. "Dual thermal ecotypes coexist within a nearly genetically identical population of the unicellular marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 120, 47 (2023). doi: 10.1073/pnas.2315701120.