Toxic cyanobacterial blooms have persisted in freshwater systems around the world for centuries and appear to be globally increasing in frequency and severity. Toxins produced by bloom-associated cyanobacteria can have drastic impacts on the ecosystem and surrounding communities, and bloom biomass can disrupt aquatic food webs and act as a driver for hypoxia. Little is currently known regarding the genomic content of the Microcystis strains that form blooms or the companion heterotrophic community associated with bloom events. To address these issues, we examined the bloom-associated microbial communities in single samples from Lake Erie (North America), Lake Tai (Taihu, China), and Grand Lakes St. Marys (OH, USA) using comparative metagenomics. Together the Cyanobacteria and Proteobacteriacomprised >90% of each bloom bacterial community sample, although the dominant phylum varied between systems. Relative to the existing Microcystis aeruginosa NIES 843 genome, sequences from Lake Erie and Taihu revealed a number of metagenomic islands that were absent in the environmental samples. Moreover, despite variation in the phylogenetic assignments of bloom-associated organisms, the functional potential of bloom members remained relatively constant between systems. This pattern was particularly noticeable in the genomic contribution of nitrogen assimilation genes. In Taihu, the genetic elements associated with the assimilation and metabolism of nitrogen were predominantly associated withProteobacteria, while these functions in the North American lakes were primarily contributed to by the Cyanobacteria. Our observations build on an emerging body of metagenomic surveys describing the functional potential of microbial communities as more highly conserved than that of their phylogenetic makeup within natural systems.
Steffen MM, Li Z, Effler TC, Hauser LJ, Boyer GL, et al. (2012) Comparative Metagenomics of Toxic Freshwater Cyanobacteria Bloom Communities on Two Continents. PLoS ONE 7(8): e44002. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044002