© The Author(s), 2019. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. The definitive version was published in mSystems 4(1), (2019): 4:e00317-18, doi:10.1128/mSystems.00317-18.
Two-component sensory (TCS) systems link microbial physiology to the environment and thus may play key roles in biogeochemical cycles. In this study, we surveyed the TCS systems of 328 diverse marine bacterial species. We identified lifestyle traits such as copiotrophy and diazotrophy that are associated with larger numbers of TCS system genes within the genome. We compared marine bacterial species with 1,152 reference bacterial species from a variety of habitats and found evidence of extra response regulators in marine genomes. Examining the location of TCS genes along the circular bacterial genome, we also found that marine bacteria have a large number of “orphan” genes, as well as many hybrid histidine kinases. The prevalence of “extra” response regulators, orphan genes, and hybrid TCS systems suggests that marine bacteria break with traditional understanding of how TCS systems operate. These trends suggest prevalent regulatory networking, which may allow coordinated physiological responses to multiple environmental signals and may represent a specific adaptation to the marine environment. We examine phylogenetic and lifestyle traits that influence the number and structure of two-component systems in the genome, finding, for example, that a lack of two-component systems is a hallmark of oligotrophy. Finally, in an effort to demonstrate the importance of TCS systems to marine biogeochemistry, we examined the distribution of Prochlorococcus/Synechococcus response regulator PMT9312_0717 in metaproteomes of the tropical South Pacific. We found that this protein’s abundance is related to phosphate concentrations, consistent with a putative role in phosphate regulation.
We thank Joe Jennings at Oregon State University and Chris Dupont at the J. Craig Venter Institute for providing nutrient and metagenomic analyses, respectively, for the KM1128 METZYME research expedition. We also thank our anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments.
This material is based on work supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under grant number 1122274 (N. A. Held). It was also supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (grant number 3782 [M. Saito]) and by the National Science Foundation (grant numbers OCE-1657766, EarthCube 1639714, OCE-1658030, and OCE-1260233).
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