Metagenomics is a revolutionary approach to study microbes. Rather than isolating pure cultures, the power of high-throughput sequencing is applied directly to environmental samples to obtain information about the genomes of the prokaryotic cells present in a specific habitat studied. The ocean is an ideal subject of this approach because of its enormous microbiota, whose biomass equals that of all other living organisms on earth is mostly microbial, and also because most of these microbes are extremely fastidious to cultivate.
Craig Venter pioneered these studies and has sampled the surface of the World oceans, but has only scraped the surface. Only one study carried out in Hawaii Ocean Time Series (or HOT) station has analyzed the metagenome of different depths down to 4000m showing the enormous diversity hidden there. This article describes the second study of the bathypelagic region, in this case at a station located over the Ionian abyssal plain, a flat deep basin occupying most of the space between Sicily and Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean. The deep waters of the Mediterranean are special in being free from the intrusion of polar waters that feed most the bottom of the global ocean. The Ionian sample comes from 3000 m deep and is submitted to a continuous pressure of 300 Kg/cm2 but contrastingly to most deep ocean habitats this has a relatively warm temperature of nearly 14C.
In general, a remarkable number of similarities were found with the deep meso-pelagic Pacific and a convergence at the level of taxa found and types of metabolism with the soil microbiota is starting to be perceived. The authors use the term invisible soil paraphrasing the invisible forest coined by Paul Falkowski to refer to the hidden but gigantic primary productivity found in the photic zone. The diversity of metabolic enzymes involved in resilient organic compounds degradation was very high. However, many microbes could complement their heterotrophic m
|Contact: Francisco Rodriguez-Valera|
Public Library of Science