Vigil-Stenman T, Ininbergs K, Bergman B, Ekman M
ISME J 11 (11) 2611-2623 [2017-11-00; online 2017-07-21]
Transposases are mobile genetic elements suggested to have an important role in bacterial genome plasticity and host adaptation but their transcriptional activity in natural bacterial communities is largely unexplored. Here we analyzed metagenomes and -transcriptomes of size fractionated (0.1-0.8, 0.8-3.0 and 3.0-200 μm) bacterial communities from the brackish Baltic Sea, and adjacent marine waters. The Baltic Sea transposase levels, up to 1.7% of bacterial genes and 2% of bacterial transcripts, were considerably higher than in marine waters and similar to levels reported for extreme environments. Large variations in expression were found between transposase families and groups of bacteria, with a two-fold higher transcription in Cyanobacteria than in any other phylum. The community-level results were corroborated at the genus level by Synechococcus transposases reaching up to 5.2% of genes and 6.9% of transcripts, which is in contrast to marine Synechococcus that largely lack these genes. Levels peaked in Synechococcus from the largest size fraction, suggesting high frequencies of lateral gene transfer and high genome plasticity in colony-forming picocyanobacteria. Together, the results support an elevated rate of transposition-based genome change and adaptation in bacterial populations of the Baltic Sea, and possibly also of other highly dynamic estuarine waters.