Environmental microbiology. 2022-11-01; 24.11: 5408-5424.

Illuminating the dark metabolome of Pseudo-nitzschia-microbiome associations

Koester I, Quinlan ZA, Nothias LF, White ME, Rabines A, Petras D, Brunson JK, Dührkop K, Ludwig M, Böcker S, Azam F, Allen AE, Dorrestein PC, Aluwihare LI

PMID: 36222155


The exchange of metabolites mediates algal and bacterial interactions that maintain ecosystem function. Yet, while thousands of metabolites are produced, only a few molecules have been identified in these associations. Using the ubiquitous microalgae Pseudo-nitzschia sp., as a model, we employed an untargeted metabolomics strategy to assign structural characteristics to the metabolites that distinguished specific diatom-microbiome associations. We cultured five species of Pseudo-nitzschia, including two species that produced the toxin domoic acid, and examined their microbiomes and metabolomes. A total of 4826 molecular features were detected by tandem mass spectrometry. Only 229 of these could be annotated using available mass spectral libraries, but by applying new in silico annotation tools, characterization was expanded to 2710 features. The metabolomes of the Pseudo-nitzschia-microbiome associations were distinct and distinguished by structurally diverse nitrogen compounds, ranging from simple amines and amides to cyclic compounds such as imidazoles, pyrrolidines and lactams. By illuminating the dark metabolomes, this study expands our capacity to discover new chemical targets that facilitate microbial partnerships and uncovers the chemical diversity that underpins algae-bacteria interactions.