14 February 2018
Nitrospirae spp. distantly related to thermophilic, sulfate-reducing Thermodesulfovibrio species are regularly observed in environmental surveys of anoxic marine and freshwater habitats. Here we present a metaproteogenomic analysis of Nitrospirae bacterium Nbg-4 as a representative of this clade. Its genome was assembled from replicated metagenomes of rice paddy soil that was used to grow rice in the presence and absence of gypsum (CaSO 4·2H 2O). Nbg-4 encoded the full pathway of dissimilatory sulfate reduction and showed expression of this pathway in gypsum-amended anoxic bulk soil as revealed by parallel metaproteomics. In addition, Nbg-4 encoded the full pathway of dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonia (DNRA), with expression of its first step being detected in bulk soil without gypsum amendment. The relative abundances of Nbg-4 were similar under both treatments, indicating that Nbg-4 maintained stable populations while shifting its energy metabolism. Whether Nbg-4 is a strict sulfate reducer or can couple sulfur oxidation to DNRA by operating the pathway of dissimilatory sulfate reduction in reverse could not be resolved. Further genome reconstruction revealed the potential to utilize butyrate, formate, H 2, or acetate as an electron donor; the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway was expressed under both treatments. Comparison to publicly available Nitrospirae genome bins revealed the pathway for dissimilatory sulfate reduction also in related Nitrospirae recovered from groundwater. Subsequent phylogenomics showed that such microorganisms form a novel genus within the Nitrospirae, with Nbg-4 as a representative species. Based on the widespread occurrence of this novel genus, we propose for Nbg-4 the name “ Candidatus Sulfobium mesophilum,” gen. nov., sp. nov.
IMPORTANCE Rice paddies are indispensable for the food supply but are a major source of the greenhouse gas methane. If it were not counterbalanced by cryptic sulfur cycling, methane emission from rice paddy fields would be even higher. However, the microorganisms involved in this sulfur cycling are little understood. By using an environmental systems biology approach with Italian rice paddy soil, we could retrieve the population genome of a novel member of the phylum Nitrospirae. This microorganism encoded the full pathway of dissimilatory sulfate reduction and expressed it in anoxic paddy soil under sulfate-enriched conditions. Phylogenomics and comparison to the results of environmental surveys showed that such microorganisms are actually widespread in freshwater and marine environments. At the same time, they represent an undiscovered genus within the little-explored phylum Nitrospirae. Our results will be important for the design of enrichment strategies and postgenomic studies to further understanding of the contribution of these novel Nitrospirae spp. to the global sulfur cycle.