Department of Genetics and Evolution, University of Geneva, , 1211 Geneve 4, Switzerland.
Deep-sea subsurface sediments are the most important archives of marine biodiversity. Until now, these archives were studied mainly using the microfossil record, disregarding large amounts of DNA accumulated on the deep-sea floor. Accessing ancient DNA (aDNA) molecules preserved down-core would offer unique insights into the history of marine biodiversity, including both fossilized and non-fossilized taxa. Here, we recover aDNA of eukaryotic origin across four cores collected at abyssal depths in the South Atlantic, in up to 32.5 thousand-year-old sediment layers. Our study focuses on Foraminifera and Radiolaria, two major groups of marine microfossils also comprising diverse non-fossilized taxa. We describe their assemblages in down-core sediment layers applying both micropalaeontological and environmental DNA sequencing approaches. Short fragments of the foraminiferal and radiolarian small subunit rRNA gene recovered from sedimentary DNA extracts provide evidence that eukaryotic aDNA is preserved in deep-sea sediments encompassing the last glacial maximum. Most aDNA were assigned to non-fossilized taxa that also dominate in molecular studies of modern environments. Our study reveals the potential of aDNA to better document the evolution of past marine ecosystems and opens new horizons for the development of deep-sea palaeogenomics.
(a) Department of Genetics and Evolution, University of Geneva, Sciences III, 30, Quai Ernest Ansermet, CH 1211 Genève 4, Switzerland
(b) Department of Invertebrate Zoology, Faculty of Biology and...
Metagenetics represents an efficient and rapid tool to describe environmental diversity patterns of microbial eukaryotes based on ribosomal DNA sequences. However, the results of metagenetic studies are often biased by the presence of extracellular DNA molecules that are persistent in the environment, especially in deep-sea sediment. As an alternative, short-lived RNA molecules constitute a good proxy for the detection of active species. Here, we used a metatranscriptomic approach based on RNA-derived (cDNA) sequences to study the diversity of the deep-sea benthic foraminifera and compared it to the metagenetic approach. We analyzed 257 ribosomal DNA and cDNA sequences obtained from seven sediments samples collected in the Sea of Japan at depths ranging from 486 to 3665 m. The DNA and RNA-based approaches gave a similar view of the taxonomic composition of foraminiferal assemblage, but differed in some important points. First, the cDNA dataset was dominated by sequences of rotaliids and robertiniids, suggesting that these calcareous species, some of which have been observed in Rose Bengal stained samples, are the most active component of foraminiferal community. Second, the richness of monothalamous (single-chambered) foraminifera was particularly high in DNA extracts from the deepest samples, confirming that this group of foraminifera is abundant but not necessarily very active in the deep-sea sediments. Finally, the high divergence of undetermined sequences in cDNA dataset indicate the limits of our database and lack of knowledge about some active but possibly rare species. Our study demonstrates the capability of the metatranscriptomic approach to detect active foraminiferal species and prompt its use in future high-throughput sequencing-based environmental surveys.
Department of Genetics and Evolution, University of Geneva, CH-1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland.
Deep-sea floors represent one of the largest and most complex ecosystems on Earth but remain essentially unexplored. The vastness and remoteness of this ecosystem make deep-sea sampling difficult, hampering traditional taxonomic observations and diversity assessment. This problem is particularly true in the case of the deep-sea meiofauna, which largely comprises small-sized, fragile, and difficult-to-identify metazoans and protists. Here, we introduce an ultra-deep sequencing-based metagenetic approach to examine the richness of benthic foraminifera, a principal component of deep-sea meiofauna. We used Illumina sequencing technology to assess foraminiferal richness in 31 unsieved deep-sea sediment samples from five distinct oceanic regions. We sequenced an extremely short fragment (36 bases) of the small subunit ribosomal DNA hypervariable region 37f, which has been shown to accurately distinguish foraminiferal species. In total, we obtained 495,978 unique sequences that were grouped into 1,643 operational taxonomic units, of which about half (841) could be reliably assigned to foraminifera. The vast majority of the operational taxonomic units (nearly 90%) were either assigned to early (ancient) lineages of soft-walled, single-chambered (monothalamous) foraminifera or remained undetermined and yet possibly belong to unknown early lineages. Contrasting with the classical view of multichambered taxa dominating foraminiferal assemblages, our work reflects an unexpected diversity of monothalamous lineages that are as yet unknown using conventional micropaleontological observations. Although we can only speculate about their morphology, the immense richness of deep-sea phylotypes revealed by this study suggests that ultra-deep sequencing can improve understanding of deep-sea benthic diversity considered until now as unknowable based on a traditional taxonomic approach.
Ecologie Microbienne, UMR CNRS, USC INRA, Universite de Lyon, Universite Lyon 1, 43, Boulevard du 11 Novembre 1918, F 69622 Villeurbanne, France.
Summary Environmental SSU rDNA-based surveys are contributing to the dramatic revision of eukaryotic high-level diversity and phylogeny as the number of sequence data increases. This ongoing revolution gives the opportunity to test for the presence of some eukaryotic taxa in environments where they have not been found using classical microscopic observations. Here, we test whether the foraminifera, a group of single-celled eukaryotes, considered generally as typical for the marine ecosystems are present in soil. We performed foraminiferal-specific nested PCR on 20 soil DNA samples collected in contrasted environments. Unexpectedly, we found that the majority of the samples contain foraminiferal SSU rDNA sequences. In total, we obtained 49 sequences from 17 localities. Phylogenetic analysis clusters them in four groups branching among the radiation of early foraminiferal lineages. Three of these groups also include sequences originated from previous freshwater surveys, suggesting that there were up to four independent colonization events of terrestrial and/or freshwater ecosystems by ancestral foraminifera. As shown by our data, foraminifera are a widespread and diverse component of soil microbial communities. Yet, identification of terrestrial foraminiferal species and understanding of their ecological role represent an exciting challenge for future research.