Transfer of energy pathway genes in microbial enhanced biological phosphorus removal communities.

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Transfer of energy pathway genes in microbial enhanced biological phosphorus removal communities.

BMC Genomics. 2015;16:526

Authors: Wong DH, Beiko RG

BACKGROUND: Lateral gene transfer (LGT) is an important evolutionary process in microbial evolution. In sewage treatment plants, LGT of antibiotic resistance and xenobiotic degradation-related proteins has been suggested, but the role of LGT outside these processes is unknown. Microbial communities involved in Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal (EBPR) have been used to treat wastewater in the last 50 years and may provide insights into adaptation to an engineered environment. We introduce two different types of analysis to identify LGT in EBPR sewage communities, based on identifying assembled sequences with more than one strong taxonomic match, and on unusual phylogenetic patterns. We applied these methods to investigate the role of LGT in six energy-related metabolic pathways.
RESULTS: The analyses identified overlapping but non-identical sets of transferred enzymes. All of these were homologous with sequences from known mobile genetic elements, and many were also in close proximity to transposases and integrases in the EBPR data set. The taxonomic method had higher sensitivity than the phylogenetic method, identifying more potential LGTs. Both analyses identified the putative transfer of five enzymes within an Australian community, two in a Danish community, and none in a US-derived culture.
CONCLUSIONS: Our methods were able to identify sequences with unusual phylogenetic or compositional properties as candidate LGT events. The association of these candidates with known mobile elements supports the hypothesis of transfer. The results of our analysis strongly suggest that LGT has influenced the development of functionally important energy-related pathways in EBPR systems, but transfers may be unique to each community due to different operating conditions or taxonomic composition.

PMID: 26173980 [PubMed - in process]