Species-specific responses of marine bacteria to environmental perturbation
Peña-Montenegro TD, Kleindienst S, Allen AE, Eren AM, McCrow JP, Sánchez-Calderón JD, Arnold J, Joye SB
Environmental perturbations shape the structure and function of microbial communities. Oil spills are a major perturbation and resolving spills often requires active measures like dispersant application that can exacerbate the initial disturbance. Species-specific responses of microorganisms to oil and dispersant exposure during such perturbations remain largely unknown. We merged metatranscriptomic libraries with pangenomes to generate Core-Accessory Metatranscriptomes (CA-Metatranscriptomes) for two microbial hydrocarbon degraders that played important roles in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Colwellia CA-Metatranscriptome illustrated pronounced dispersant-driven acceleration of core (~41%) and accessory gene (~59%) transcription, suggesting an opportunistic strategy. Marinobacter responded to oil exposure by expressing mainly accessory genes (~93%), suggesting an effective hydrocarbon-degrading lifestyle. The CA-Metatranscriptome approach offers a robust way to identify the underlying mechanisms of key microbial functions and highlights differences of specialist-vs-opportunistic responses to environmental disturbance.