Publications in peer reviewed journals

28 Publications found
  • Reevaluation and novel insights into amino sugar and neutral sugar necromass biomarkers in archaea, bacteria, fungi, and plants

    Salas E, Gorfer M, Bandian D, Eichorst SA, Schmidt H, Horak J, Rittmann SKMR, Schleper C, Reischl B, Pribasnig T, Jansa J, Kaiser C, Wanek W
    2024 - Sci. Total Environ, 906: 167463


    Soil microbial necromass is an important contributor to soil organic matter (>50%) and it is largely composed of microbial residues. In soils, fragmented cell wall residues are mostly found in their polysaccharide forms of fungal chitin and bacterial peptidoglycan. Microbial necromass biomarkers, particularly amino sugars (AS) such as glucosamine (GlcN) and muramic acid (MurA) have been used to trace fungal and bacterial residues in soils, and to distinguish carbon (C) found in microbial residues from non-microbial organic C. Neutral sugars (NS), particularly the hexose/pentose ratio, have also been proposed as tracers of plant polysaccharides in soils. In our study, we extended the range of biomarkers to include AS and NS compounds in the biomass of 120 species belonging to archaea, bacteria, fungi, or plants. GlcN was the most common AS found in all taxa, contributing 42–91% to total AS content, while glucose was the most common NS found, contributing 56–79% to total NS. We identified talosaminuronic acid, found in archaeal pseudopeptidoglycan, as a new potential biomarker specific for Euryarchaeota. We compared the variability of these compounds between the different taxonomic groups using multivariate approaches, such as non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) and partial least squares discriminant analysis (PLS-DA) and statistically evaluated their biomarker potential via indicator species analysis. Both NMDS and PLS-DA showcased the variability in the AS and NS contents between the different taxonomic groups, highlighting their potential as necromass residue biomarkers and allowing their extension from separating bacterial and fungal necromass to separating microbes from plants. Finally, we estimated new conversion factors where fungal GlcN is converted to fungal C by multiplying by 10 and MurA is converted to bacterial C by multiplying by 54. Conversion factors for talosaminuronic acid and galactosamine are also proposed to allow estimation of archaeal or all-microbial necromass residue C, respectively.

  • The breakthrough paradox - how focusing on one form of innovation jeopardizes the advancement of science

    Falkenberg F, Fochler M, Sigl L, Bürstmayr, Eichorst SA, Michel S, Oburger E, Staudinger C, Steiner B, Woebken D
    2022 - EMBO Reports, e54772


    Science is about venturing into the unknown to find unexpected insights and establish new knowledge. Increasingly, academic institutions and funding agencies such as the European Research Council (ERC) explicitly encourage and support scientists to foster risky and hopefully ground-breaking research. Such incentives are important and have been greatly appreciated by the scientific community. However, the success of the ERC has had its downsides, as other actors in the funding ecosystem have adopted the ERC’s focus on “breakthrough science” and respective notions of scientific excellence. We argue that these tendencies are concerning since disruptive breakthrough innovation is not the only form of innovation in research. While continuous, gradual innovation is often taken for granted, it could become endangered in a research and funding ecosystem that places ever higher value on breakthrough science. This is problematic since, paradoxically, breakthrough potential in science builds on gradual innovation. If the value of gradual innovation is not better recognized, the potential for breakthrough innovation may well be stifled.

  • Microaerobic lifestyle at nanomolar O2 concentrations mediated by low-affinity terminal oxidases in abundant soil bacteria.

    Trojan D, Garcia-Robledo E, Meier DV, Hausmann B, Revsbech NP, Eichorst SA, Woebken D
    2021 - mSystems, e0025021


    High-affinity terminal oxidases (TOs) are believed to permit microbial respiration at low oxygen (O2) levels. Genes encoding such oxidases are widespread and their existence in microbial genomes are taken as an indicator for microaerobic respiration. We combined respiratory kinetics determined via highly sensitive optical trace O2 sensors, genomics and transcriptomics to test the hypothesis that high-affinity TOs are a prerequisite to respire micro- and nanooxic concentrations of O2 in environmentally relevant, model soil organisms – acidobacteria. Members of the Acidobacteria harbor branched respiratory chains terminating in low- (caa3-type cytochrome c oxidases) as well as high-affinity (cbb3-type cytochrome c oxidases and/or bd-type quinol oxidases) TOs, potentially enabling them to cope with varying O2 concentrations. The measured Km(app) values for O2 of selected strains ranged from 37–288 nmol O2 L-1, comparable to values previously assigned to low-affinity TOs. Surprisingly, we could not detect expression of the conventional high-affinity TO (cbb3-type) at micro- and nano-molar O2 concentrations, but of low-affinity TOs. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first observation of microaerobic respiration imparted by low-affinity TOs at O2 concentrations as low as 1 nanomolar. This challenges the standing hypothesis that a microaerobic lifestyle is exclusively imparted by the presence of high-affinity TOs. As low-affinity TOs are more efficient at generating ATP than high-affinity TOs, their utilization could provide a great benefit, even at low-nanomolar O2 levels. Our findings highlight energy conservation strategies that could promote the success of Acidobacteria in soil but might also be important for yet unrevealed microorganisms.

  • Acidobacteria are active and abundant members of diverse atmospheric H2-oxidizing communities detected in temperate soils

    Giguere AT, Eichorst SA, Meier D, Herbold CW, Richter A, Greening C, Woebken D
    2021 - ISME J, 2: 363-376


    Significant rates of atmospheric H2 consumption have been observed in temperate soils due to the activity of high-affinity enzymes, such as the group 1h [NiFe]-hydrogenase. We designed broadly inclusive primers targeting the large subunit gene (hhyL) of group 1h [NiFe]-hydrogenases for long-read sequencing to explore its taxonomic distribution across soils. This approach revealed a diverse collection of microorganisms harboring hhyL, including previously unknown groups and taxonomically not assignable sequences. Acidobacterial group 1h [NiFe]-hydrogenases genes were abundant and expressed in temperate soils. To support the participation of acidobacteria in H2 consumption, we studied two representative mesophilic soil acidobacteria, which expressed group 1h [NiFe]-hydrogenases and consumed atmospheric H2 during carbon starvation. This is the first time mesophilic acidobacteria, which are abundant in ubiquitous temperate soils, have been shown to oxidize H2 down to below atmospheric concentrations. As this physiology allows bacteria to survive periods of carbon starvation, it could explain the success of soil acidobacteria. With our long-read sequencing approach of group 1h [NiFe]-hydrogenases genes, we show that the ability to oxidize atmospheric levels of His more widely distributed among soil bacteria than previously recognized and could represent a common mechanism enabling bacteria to persist during periods of carbon deprivation.

  • Complementary Metagenomic Approaches Improve Reconstruction of Microbial Diversity in a Forest Soil.

    Alteio LV, Schulz F, Seshadri R, Varghese N, Rodriguez-Reillo W, Ryan E, Goudeau D, Eichorst SA, Malmstrom RR, Bowers RM, Katz LA, Blanchard JL, Woyke T
    2020 - mSystems, 2: in press


    Soil ecosystems harbor diverse microorganisms and yet remain only partially characterized as neither single-cell sequencing nor whole-community sequencing offers a complete picture of these complex communities. Thus, the genetic and metabolic potential of this "uncultivated majority" remains underexplored. To address these challenges, we applied a pooled-cell-sorting-based mini-metagenomics approach and compared the results to bulk metagenomics. Informatic binning of these data produced 200 mini-metagenome assembled genomes (sorted-MAGs) and 29 bulk metagenome assembled genomes (MAGs). The sorted and bulk MAGs increased the known phylogenetic diversity of soil taxa by 7.2% with respect to the Joint Genome Institute IMG/M database and showed clade-specific sequence recruitment patterns across diverse terrestrial soil metagenomes. Additionally, sorted-MAGs expanded the rare biosphere not captured through MAGs from bulk sequences, exemplified through phylogenetic and functional analyses of members of the phylum Analysis of 67 sorted-MAGs showed conserved patterns of carbon metabolism across four clades. These results indicate that mini-metagenomics enables genome-resolved investigation of predicted metabolism and demonstrates the utility of combining metagenomics methods to tap into the diversity of heterogeneous microbial assemblages. Microbial ecologists have historically used cultivation-based approaches as well as amplicon sequencing and shotgun metagenomics to characterize microbial diversity in soil. However, challenges persist in the study of microbial diversity, including the recalcitrance of the majority of microorganisms to laboratory cultivation and limited sequence assembly from highly complex samples. The uncultivated majority thus remains a reservoir of untapped genetic diversity. To address some of the challenges associated with bulk metagenomics as well as low throughput of single-cell genomics, we applied flow cytometry-enabled mini-metagenomics to capture expanded microbial diversity from forest soil and compare it to soil bulk metagenomics. Our resulting data from this pooled-cell sorting approach combined with bulk metagenomics revealed increased phylogenetic diversity through novel soil taxa and rare biosphere members. In-depth analysis of genomes within the highly represented phylum provided insights into conserved and clade-specific patterns of carbon metabolism.

  • Soil multifunctionality is affected by the soil environment and by microbial community composition and diversity.

    Zheng Q, Hu Y, Zhang S, Noll L, Böckle T, Dietrich M, Herbold CW, Eichorst SA, Woebken D, Richter A, Wanek W
    2019 - Soil Biol. Biochem., 107521


    Microorganisms are critical in mediating carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling processes in soils. Yet, it has long been debated whether the processes underlying biogeochemical cycles are affected by the composition and diversity of the soil microbial community or not. The composition and diversity of soil microbial communities can be influenced by various environmental factors, which in turn are known to impact biogeochemical processes. The objectives of this study were to test effects of multiple edaphic drivers individually and represented as the multivariate soil environment interacting with microbial community composition and diversity, and concomitantly on multiple soil functions (i.e. soil enzyme activities, soil C and N processes). We employed high-throughput sequencing (Illumina MiSeq) to analyze bacterial/archaeal and fungal community composition by targeting the 16S rRNA gene and the ITS1 region of soils collected from three land uses (cropland, grassland and forest) deriving from two bedrock forms (silicate and limestone). Based on this data set we explored single and combined effects of edaphic variables on soil microbial community structure and diversity, as well as on soil enzyme activities and several soil C and N processes. We found that both bacterial/archaeal and fungal communities were shaped by the same edaphic factors, with most single edaphic variables and the combined soil environment representation exerting stronger effects on bacterial/archaeal communities than on fungal communities, as demonstrated by (partial) Mantel tests. We also found similar edaphic controls on the bacterial/archaeal/fungal richness and diversity. Soil C processes were only directly affected by the soil environment but not affected by microbial community composition. In contrast, soil N processes were significantly related to bacterial/archaeal community composition and bacterial/archaeal/fungal richness/diversity but not directly affected by the soil environment. This indicates direct control of the soil environment on soil C processes and indirect control of the soil environment on soil N processes by structuring the microbial communities. The study further highlights the importance of edaphic drivers and microbial communities (i.e. composition and diversity) on important soil C and N processes.

  • Rapid transfer of plant photosynthates to soil bacteria via ectomycorrhizal hyphae and its interaction with nitrogen availability.

    Gorka S, Dietrich M, Mayerhofer W, Gabriel R, Wiesenbauer J, Martin V, Zheng Q, Imai B, Prommer J, Weidinger M, Schweiger P, Eichorst SA, Wagner M, Richter A, Schintlmeister A, Woebken D, Kaiser C
    2019 - Front Microbiol, 168


    Plant roots release recent photosynthates into the rhizosphere, accelerating decomposition of organic matter by saprotrophic soil microbes ("rhizosphere priming effect") which consequently increases nutrient availability for plants. However, about 90% of all higher plant species are mycorrhizal, transferring a significant fraction of their photosynthates directly to their fungal partners. Whether mycorrhizal fungi pass on plant-derived carbon (C) to bacteria in root-distant soil areas, i.e., incite a "hyphosphere priming effect," is not known. Experimental evidence for C transfer from mycorrhizal hyphae to soil bacteria is limited, especially for ectomycorrhizal systems. As ectomycorrhizal fungi possess enzymatic capabilities to degrade organic matter themselves, it remains unclear whether they cooperate with soil bacteria by providing photosynthates, or compete for available nutrients. To investigate a possible C transfer from ectomycorrhizal hyphae to soil bacteria, and its response to changing nutrient availability, we planted young beech trees () into "split-root" boxes, dividing their root systems into two disconnected soil compartments. Each of these compartments was separated from a litter compartment by a mesh penetrable for fungal hyphae, but not for roots. Plants were exposed to a C-CO-labeled atmosphere, while N-labeled ammonium and amino acids were added to one side of the split-root system. We found a rapid transfer of recent photosynthates via ectomycorrhizal hyphae to bacteria in root-distant soil areas. Fungal and bacterial phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) biomarkers were significantly enriched in hyphae-exclusive compartments 24 h after C-CO-labeling. Isotope imaging with nanometer-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) allowed for the first time visualization of plant-derived C and N taken up by an extraradical fungal hypha, and in microbial cells thriving on hyphal surfaces. When N was added to the litter compartments, bacterial biomass, and the amount of incorporated C strongly declined. Interestingly, this effect was also observed in adjacent soil compartments where added N was only available for bacteria through hyphal transport, indicating that ectomycorrhizal fungi were acting on soil bacteria. Together, our results demonstrate that (i) ectomycorrhizal hyphae rapidly transfer plant-derived C to bacterial communities in root-distant areas, and (ii) this transfer promptly responds to changing soil nutrient conditions.

  • Evaluation of primers targeting the diazotroph functional gene and development of NifMAP – a bioinformatics pipeline for analyzing nifH amplicon data

    Angel R, Nepel M, Panhölzl C, Schmidt H, Herbold CW, Eichorst SA, Woebken D
    2018 - Front Microbiol, 9: 1-15


    Diazotrophic microorganisms introduce biologically available nitrogen (N) to the global N cycle through the activity of the nitrogenase enzyme. The genetically conserved dinitrogenase reductase (nifH) gene is phylogenetically distributed across four clusters (I-IV) and is widely used as a marker gene for N2 fixation, permitting investigators to study the genetic diversity of diazotrophs in nature and target potential participants in N2 fixation. To date there have been limited, standardized pipelines for the nifH functional gene, which is in stark contrast to the rRNA gene. Here we present a bioinformatics pipeline for processing nifH amplicon datasets – NifMAP (“NifH MiSeq Illumina amplicon Analysis Pipeline”), which as a novel aspect uses Hidden-Markov models to filter out homologous genes to nifH. By using this pipeline, we evaluated the broadly inclusive primer pairs (Ueda19F-R6, IGK3-DVV, F2-R6) that target the nifH gene. To evaluate any systematic biases, the nifH gene was amplified with the aforementioned primer pairs in a diverse collection of environmental samples (soils, rhizosphere and roots samples, biological soil crusts and estuarine samples), in addition to a nifH mock community consisting of six phylogenetically diverse members. We noted that all primer pairs co-amplified nifH homologs to varying degrees; up to 90% of the amplicons were nifH homologs with IGK3-DVV in some samples (rhizosphere and roots from tall oat-grass). In regards to specificity, we observed some degree of bias across the primer pairs. For example, primer pair F2-R6 discriminated against cyanobacteria (amongst others), yet captured many sequences from subclusters IIIE and IIIL-N. These aforementioned subclusters were largely missing by the primer pair IGK3-DVV, which also tended to discriminate against Alphaproteobacteria, but amplified sequences within clusters IIIC (affiliated with Clostridia) and clusters IVB and IVC. Primer pair Ueda19F-R6 exhibited the least bias and successfully captured diazotrophs in cluster I and subclusters IIIE, IIIL, IIIM and IIIN, but discriminated against Firmicutes and subcluster IIIC. Taken together, our newly established bioinformatics pipeline, NifMAP, along with our systematic evaluations of nifH primer pairs permit more robust, high-throughput investigations of diazotrophs in diverse environments. 

  • Peatland Acidobacteria with a dissimilatory sulfur metabolism

    Hausmann B, Pelikan C, Herbold CW, Köstlbacher S, Albertsen M, Eichorst SA, Glavina del Rio T, Huemer M, Nielsen PH, Rattei T, Stingl U, Tringe SG, Trojan D, Wentrup C, Woebken D, Pester M, Loy A
    2018 - ISME J, 12: 1729-1742


    Sulfur-cycling microorganisms impact organic matter decomposition in wetlands and consequently greenhouse gas emissions from these globally relevant environments. However, their identities and physiological properties are largely unknown. By applying a functional metagenomics approach to an acidic peatland, we recovered draft genomes of seven novel Acidobacteria species with the potential for dissimilatory sulfite (dsrAB, dsrC, dsrD, dsrN, dsrT, dsrMKJOP) or sulfate respiration (sat, aprBA, qmoABC plus dsr genes). Surprisingly, the genomes also encoded DsrL, which so far was only found in sulfur-oxidizing microorganisms. Metatranscriptome analysis demonstrated expression of acidobacterial sulfur-metabolism genes in native peat soil and their upregulation in diverse anoxic microcosms. This indicated an active sulfate respiration pathway, which, however, might also operate in reverse for dissimilatory sulfur oxidation or disproportionation as proposed for the sulfur-oxidizing Desulfurivibrio alkaliphilus. Acidobacteria that only harbored genes for sulfite reduction additionally encoded enzymes that liberate sulfite from organosulfonates, which suggested organic sulfur compounds as complementary energy sources. Further metabolic potentials included polysaccharide hydrolysis and sugar utilization, aerobic respiration, several fermentative capabilities, and hydrogen oxidation. Our findings extend both, the known physiological and genetic properties of Acidobacteria and the known taxonomic diversity of microorganisms with a DsrAB-based sulfur metabolism, and highlight new fundamental niches for facultative anaerobic Acidobacteria in wetlands based on exploitation of inorganic and organic sulfur molecules for energy conservation.

  • Genomic insights into the Acidobacteria reveal strategies for their success in terrestrial environments

    Eichorst SA, Trojan D, Roux S, Herbold CW, Rattei T, Woebken D
    2018 - Environ Microbiol, 20: 1041-1063


    Members of the phylum Acidobacteria are abundant and ubiquitous across soils. We performed the largest (to date) comparative genome analysis spanning subdivisions 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, and 23 (n=24) with the goal to identify features to help explain their prevalence in soils and understand their ecophysiology. In contrast to earlier studies, our analysis revealed that bacteriophage integration events along with transposable and mobile elements influenced the structure and plasticity of these genomes. Low- and high-affinity respiratory oxygen reductases were detected in multiple genomes, suggesting the capacity for growing across different oxygen gradients. Amongst many genomes, the capacity to use a diverse collection of carbohydrates, as well as inorganic and organic N sources (such as extracellular peptidases), were detected – both advantageous traits in environments with fluctuating nutrient environments. We also identified multiple soil acidobacteria with the potential to scavenge atmospheric concentrations of H2, now encompassing mesophilic soil strains within the subdivision 1 and 3, in addition to a previously identified thermophilic strain in subdivision 4. This large-scale acidobacteria genome analysis reveals traits that provide genomic, physiological and metabolic versatility, presumably allowing flexibility and versatility in the challenging and fluctuating soil environment.

  • A bacterial pioneer produces cellulase complexes that persist through community succession

    Kolinko S, Wu YW, Tachea F, Denzel E, Hiras J, Gabriel R, Bäcker N, Chan LJG, Eichorst SA, Frey D, Chen Q, Azadi P, Adams PD, Pray TR, Tanjore D, Petzold CJ, Gladden JM, Simmons BA, Singer SW
    2018 - Nat Microbiol, 3: 99-107
  • Application of stable-isotope labelling techniques for the detection of active diazotrophs

    Angel R, Panhölzl C, Gabriel R, Herbold CW, Wanek W, Richter A, Eichorst SA, Woebken D
    2018 - Environmental Microbiology, 20: 44-61


    Investigating active participants in the fixation of dinitrogen gas is vital as N is often a limiting factor for primary production. Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) is performed by a diverse guild of bacteria and archaea (diazotrophs), which can be free-living or symbionts. Free-living diazotrophs are widely distributed in the environment, yet our knowledge about their identity and ecophysiology is still limited. A major challenge in investigating this guild is inferring activity from genetic data as this process is highly regulated. To address this challenge, we evaluated and improved several 15N-based methods for detecting N2 fixation activity (with a focus on soil samples) and studying active diazotrophs. We compared the acetylene reduction assay and the 15N2 tracer method and demonstrated that the latter is more sensitive in samples with low activity. Additionally, tracing 15N into microbial RNA provides much higher sensitivity compared to bulk soil analysis. Active soil diazotrophs were identified with a 15N-RNA-SIP approach optimized for environmental samples and benchmarked to 15N-DNA-SIP. Lastly, we investigated the feasibility of using SIP-Raman microspectroscopy for detecting 15N-labelled cells. Taken together, these tools allow identifying and investigating active free-living diazotrophs in a highly sensitive manner in diverse environments, from bulk to the single-cell level.

  • Refining the phylum Chlorobi by resolving the phylogeny and metabolic potential of the representative of a deeply branching, uncultivated lineage

    Hiras J, Wu YW, Eichorst SA, Simmons BA, Singer SW
    2016 - ISME Journal, 10: 833-845
  • Soil microbial carbon use efficiency and biomass turnover in a long-term fertilization experiment in a temperate grassland

    Spohn M, Pötsch EM, Eichorst SA, Woebken D, Wanek W, Richter A
    2016 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 97: 168-175


    Soil microbial carbon use efficiency (CUE), defined as the ratio of organic C allocated to growth over organic C taken up, strongly affects soil carbon (C) cycling. Despite the importance of the microbial CUE for the terrestrial C cycle, very little is known about how it is affected by nutrient availability. Therefore, we studied microbial CUE and microbial biomass turnover time in soils of a long-term fertilization experiment in a temperate grassland comprising five treatments (control, PK, NK, NP, NPK). Microbial CUE and the turnover of microbial biomass were determined using a novel substrate-independent method based on incorporation of 18O from labeled water into microbial DNA. Microbial respiration was 28–37% smaller in all three N treatments (NK, NP, and NPK) compared to the control, whereas the PK treatment did not affect microbial respiration. N-fertilization decreased microbial C uptake, while the microbial growth rate was not affected. Microbial CUE ranged between 0.31 and 0.45, and was 1.3- to 1.4-fold higher in the N-fertilized soils than in the control. The turnover time ranged between 80 and 113 days and was not significantly affected by fertilization. Net primary production (NPP) and the abundance of legumes differed strongly across the treatments, and the fungal:bacterial ratio was very low in all treatments. Structural equation modeling revealed that microbial CUE was exclusively controlled by N fertilization and that neither the abundance of legumes (as a proxy for the quality of the organic matter inputs) nor NPP (as a proxy for C inputs) had an effect on microbial CUE. Our results show that N fertilization did not only decrease microbial respiration, but also microbial C uptake, indicating that less C was intracellularly processed in the N fertilized soils. The reason for reduced C uptake and increased CUE in the N-fertilization treatments is likely an inhibition of oxidative enzymes involved in the degradation of aromatic compounds by N in combination with a reduced energy requirement for microbial N acquisition in the fertilized soils. In conclusion, the study shows that N availability can control soil C cycling by affecting microbial CUE, while plant community-mediated changes in organic matter inputs and P and K availability played no important role for C partitioning of the microbial community in this temperate grassland.

  • Genomic Analysis of Xylose Metabolism in Members of the Deinoccocus-Thermus Phylum from Thermophilic Biomass-Deconstructing Bacterial Consortia

    Wu YW, Joshua C, Eichorst SA, Gladden JM, Simmons BA, Singer SW
    2015 - BioEnergy Research, 8: 1031-1038
  • Advancements in the application of NanoSIMS and Raman microspectroscopy to investigate the activity of microbial cells in soils

    Eichorst SA, Strasser F, Woyke T, Schintlmeister A, Wagner M, Woebken D
    2015 - FEMS Microbiology Ecology - *Editor's Choice Article*, in press


    The combined approach of incubating environmental samples with stable isotope-labeled substrates followed by single-cell analyses through high-resolution secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) or Raman microspectroscopy provides insights into the in situ function of microorganisms. This approach has found limited application in soils presumably due to the dispersal of microbial cells in a large background of particles. We developed a pipeline for the efficient preparation of cell extracts from soils for subsequent single-cell methods by combining cell detachment with separation of cells and soil particles followed by cell concentration. The procedure was evaluated by examining its influence on cell recoveries and microbial community composition across two soils. This approach generated a cell fraction with considerably reduced soil particle load and of sufficient small size to allow single-cell analysis by NanoSIMS, as shown when detecting active N2-fixing and cellulose-responsive microorganisms via 15N2 and 13C-UL-cellulose incubations, respectively. The same procedure was also applicable for Raman microspectroscopic analyses of soil microorganisms, assessed via microcosm incubations with a 13C-labeled carbon source and deuterium oxide (D2O, a general activity marker). The described sample preparation procedure enables single-cell analysis of soil microorganisms using NanoSIMS and Raman microspectroscopy, but should also facilitate single-cell sorting and sequencing.

  • Nitrogen fertilization has a stronger effect on soil nitrogen-fixing bacterial communities than elevated atmospheric CO2

    Berthrong ST, Yeager CM, Gallegos-Graves L, Steven B, Eichorst SA, Jackson RB, Kuske CR
    2014 - Appl Environ Microbiol, 80: 3103-3112


    Biological nitrogen fixation is the primary supply of N to most ecosystems, yet there is considerable uncertainty about how N-fixing bacteria will respond to global change factors such as increasing atmospheric CO2 and N deposition. Using the nifH gene as a molecular marker, we studied how the community structure of N-fixing soil bacteria from temperate pine, aspen, and sweet gum stands and a brackish tidal marsh responded to multiyear elevated CO2conditions. We also examined how N availability, specifically, N fertilization, interacted with elevated CO2 to affect these communities in the temperate pine forest. Based on data from Sanger sequencing and quantitative PCR, the soil nifHcomposition in the three forest systems was dominated by species in the Geobacteraceae and, to a lesser extent, Alphaproteobacteria. The N-fixing-bacterial-community structure was subtly altered after 10 or more years of elevated atmospheric CO2, and the observed shifts differed in each biome. In the pine forest, N fertilization had a stronger effect on nifH community structure than elevated CO2 and suppressed the diversity and abundance of N-fixing bacteria under elevated atmospheric CO2 conditions. These results indicate that N-fixing bacteria have complex, interacting responses that will be important for understanding ecosystem productivity in a changing climate.

  • Substrate-specific development of thermophilic bacteria consortia using chemically pretreated switchgrass

    Eichorst SA, Joshua C, Sathitsuksanoh N, Singh S, Simmons BA, Singer SW
    2014 - Appl Environ Microbiol., 80: 7423-7432


    Microbial communities that deconstruct plant biomass have broad relevance in biofuel production and global carbon cycling. Biomass pretreatments reduce plant biomass recalcitrance for increased efficiency of enzymatic hydrolysis. We exploited these chemical pretreatments to study howthermophilic bacterial consortia adapt to deconstruct switchgrass (SG) biomass of varying compositions. Microbial communities were adapted to untreated, ammonium fiber expansion (AFEX)-pretreated, and ionic liquid (IL)-pretreated SG under aerobic, thermophilic conditions using green waste compost as the inoculum to study biomass deconstruction by microbial consortia. After microbial cultivation, gravimetric analysis of the residual biomass demonstrated that both AFEX- and IL-pretreatment enhanced the deconstruction of the SG biomass by approximately 2-fold. 2D-NMR experiments and acetyl bromide-reactive lignin analysis indicated that polysaccharide hydrolysis was the dominant process occurring during microbial biomass deconstruction and lignin remaining in the residual biomass was largely unmodified. SSU rRNA gene amplicon libraries revealed that although the dominant taxa across these chemical pretreatments were consistently represented by members of the Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Deinococcus-Thermus phyla, the abundance of select OTUs varied suggesting adaptations to the different substrates. Combining the observations of differences in the community structure and the chemical and physical structure of the biomass, we hypothesize specific roles for individual community members in biomass deconstruction.

  • Community dynamics of cellulose-adapted thermophilic bacterial consortia

    Eichorst SA, Varanasi P, Stavila V, Zemla M, Auer M, Singh S, Simmons BA, Singer SW
    2013 - Environmental Microbiology, 15: 2573-2587


    Enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose is a key process in the global carbon cycle and the industrial conversion of biomass to biofuels. In natural environments, cellulose hydrolysis is predominately performed by microbial communities. However, detailed understanding of bacterial cellulose hydrolysis is primarily confined to a few model isolates. Developing models for cellulose hydrolysis by mixed microbial consortia will complement these isolate studies and may reveal new mechanisms for cellulose deconstruction. Microbial communities were adapted to microcrystalline cellulose under aerobic, thermophilic conditions using green waste compost as the inoculum to study cellulose hydrolysis in a microbial consortium. This adaptation selected for three dominant taxa – the Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes and Thermus. A high-resolution profile of community development during the enrichment demonstrated a community transition from Firmicutes to a novel Bacteroidetes population that clusters in the Chitinophagaceae family. A representative strain of this population, strain NYFB, was successfully isolated, and sequencing of a nearly full-length 16S rRNA gene demonstrated that it was only 86% identical compared with other validated strains in the phylum Bacteroidetes. Strain NYFB grew well on soluble polysaccharide substrates, but grew poorly on insoluble polysaccharide substrates. Similar communities were observed in companion thermophilic enrichments on insoluble wheat arabinoxylan, a hemicellulosic substrate, suggesting a common model for deconstruction of plant polysaccharides. Combining observations of community dynamics and the physiology of strain NYFB, a cooperative successional model for polysaccharide hydrolysis by the Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes in the thermophilic cellulolytic consortia is proposed.

  • Accurate, rapid taxonomic classification of fungal large-subunit rRNA genes

    Liu KL, Porras-Alfaro A, Kuske CR, Eichorst SA, Xie G
    2012 - Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 78: 1523-1533


    Taxonomic and phylogenetic fingerprinting based on sequence analysis of gene fragments from the large-subunit rRNA (LSU) gene or the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region is becoming an integral part of fungal classification. The lack of an accurate and robust classification tool trained by a validated sequence database for taxonomic placement of fungal LSU genes is a severe limitation in taxonomic analysis of fungal isolates or large data sets obtained from environmental surveys. Using a hand-curated set of 8,506 fungal LSU gene fragments, we determined the performance characteristics of a naïve Bayesian classifier across multiple taxonomic levels and compared the classifier performance to that of a sequence similarity-based (BLASTN) approach. The naïve Bayesian classifier was computationally more rapid (>460-fold with our system) than the BLASTN approach, and it provided equal or superior classification accuracy. Classifier accuracies were compared using sequence fragments of 100 bp and 400 bp and two different PCR primer anchor points to mimic sequence read lengths commonly obtained using current high-throughput sequencing technologies. Accuracy was higher with 400-bp sequence reads than with 100-bp reads. It was also significantly affected by sequence location across the 1,400-bp test region. The highest accuracy was obtained across either the D1 or D2 variable region. The naïve Bayesian classifier provides an effective and rapid means to classify fungal LSU sequences from large environmental surveys. The training set and tool are publicly available through the Ribosomal Database Project (

  • A robust PCR primer design platform applied to the detection of Acidobacteria group 1 in soil

    Gans JS, Dunbar J, Eichorst SA, Gallegos-Graves L, Wolinsky M, Kuske CR
    2012 - Nucleic Acids Research, 40: e96
  • Identification of cellulose-responsive bacterial and fungal communities in geographically and edaphically different soils by using stable isotope probing

    Eichorst SA, Kuske CR
    2012 - Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 78: 2316-2327


    Many bacteria and fungi are known to degrade cellulose in culture, but their combined response to cellulose in different soils is unknown. Replicate soil microcosms amended with [13C]cellulose were used to identify bacterial and fungal communities responsive to cellulose in five geographically and edaphically different soils. The diversity and composition of the cellulose-responsive communities were assessed by DNA-stable isotope probing combined with Sanger sequencing of small-subunit and large-subunit rRNA genes for the bacterial and fungal communities, respectively. In each soil, the 13C-enriched, cellulose-responsive communities were of distinct composition compared to the original soil community or 12C-nonenriched communities. The composition of cellulose-responsive taxa, as identified by sequence operational taxonomic unit (OTU) similarity, differed in each soil. When OTUs were grouped at the bacterial order level, we found that members of the BurkholderialesCaulobacterialesRhizobialesSphingobacterialesXanthomonadales, and the subdivision 1 Acidobacteria were prevalent in the 13C-enriched DNA in at least three of the soils. The cellulose-responsive fungi were identified as members of the TrichocladiumChaetomiumDactylaria, and Arthrobotrys genera, along with two novel Ascomycota clusters, unique to one soil. Although similarities were identified in higher-level taxa among some soils, the composition of cellulose-responsive bacteria and fungi was generally unique to a certain soil type, suggesting a strong potential influence of multiple edaphic factors in shaping the community.

  • Common bacterial response in six ecosystems exposed to 10 years of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide

    Dunbar J, Eichorst SA, Gallegos-Graves L, Silva S, Xie G, Hengartner NW, Evans RD, Hungate BA, Jackson RB, Megonigal JP, Schadt CW, Vilgalys R, Zak DR, Kuske CR
    2012 - Environmental Microbiology, 14: 1145-1158


    Six terrestrial ecosystems in the USA were exposed to elevated atmospheric CO2 in single or multifactorial experiments for more than a decade to assess potential impacts. We retrospectively assessed soil bacterial community responses in all six-field experiments and found ecosystem-specific and common patterns of soil bacterial community response to elevated CO2. Soil bacterial composition differed greatly across the six ecosystems. No common effect of elevated atmospheric CO2 on bacterial biomass, richness and community composition across all of the ecosystems was identified, although significant responses were detected in individual ecosystems. The most striking common trend across the sites was a decrease of up to 3.5-fold in the relative abundance of Acidobacteria Group 1 bacteria in soils exposed to elevated CO2 or other climate factors. The Acidobacteria Group 1 response observed in exploratory 16S rRNA gene clone library surveys was validated in one ecosystem by 100-fold deeper sequencing and semi-quantitative PCR assays. Collectively, the 16S rRNA gene sequencing approach revealed influences of elevated CO2 on multiple ecosystems. Although few common trends across the ecosystems were detected in the small surveys, the trends may be harbingers of more substantive changes in less abundant, more sensitive taxa that can only be detected by deeper surveys.

  • Substrate perturbation alters the glycoside hydrolase activities and community composition of switchgrass-adapted bacterial consortia

    Gladden JM, Eichorst SA, Hazen TC, Simmons BA, Singer SW
    2012 - Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 109: 1140-1145


    Bacteria modulate glycoside hydrolase expression in response to the changes in the composition of lignocellulosic biomass. The response of switchgrass-adapted thermophilic bacterial consortia to perturbation with a variety of biomass substrates was characterized to determine if bacterial consortia also responded to changes in biomass composition. Incubation of the switchgrass-adapted consortia with these alternative substrates produced shifts in glycoside hydrolase activities and bacterial community composition. Substantially increased endoglucanase activity was observed upon incubation with microcrystalline cellulose and trifluororacetic acid-pretreated switchgrass. In contrast, culturing the microbial consortia with ionic liquid-pretreated switchgrass increased xylanase activity dramatically. Microbial community analyses of these cultures indicated that the increased endoglucanase activity correlated with an increase in bacteria related to Rhodothermus marinus. Inclusion of simple organic substrates in the culture medium abrogated glycoside hydrolase activity and enriched for bacteria related to Thermus thermophilus. These results demonstrate that the composition of biomass substrates influences the glycoside hydrolase activities and community composition of biomass-deconstructing bacterial consortia.

  • Influence of plant polymers on the distribution and cultivation of bacteria in the phylum Acidobacteria

    Eichorst SA, Kuske CR, Schmidt TM
    2011 - Appl Environ Microbiol, 77: 586-596


    Members of the phylum Acidobacteria are among the most abundant bacteria in soil. Although they have been characterized as versatile heterotrophs, it is unclear if the types and availability of organic resources influence their distribution in soil. The potential for organic resources to select for different acidobacteria was assessed using molecular and cultivation-based approaches with agricultural and managed grassland soils in Michigan. The distribution of acidobacteria varied with the carbon content of soil: the proportion of subdivision 4 sequences was highest in agricultural soils (ca. 41%) that contained less carbon than grassland soils, where the proportions of subdivision 1, 3, 4, and 6 sequences were similar. Either readily oxidizable carbon or plant polymers were used as the sole carbon and energy source to isolate heterotrophic bacteria from these soils. Plant polymers increased the diversity of acidobacteria cultivated but decreased the total number of heterotrophs recovered compared to readily oxidizable carbon. Two phylogenetically novel Acidobacteria strains isolated on the plant polymer medium were characterized. Strains KBS 83 (subdivision 1) and KBS 96 (subdivision 3) are moderate acidophiles with pH optima of 5.0 and 6.0, respectively. Both strains grew slowly (μ = 0.01 h−1) and harbored either 1 (strain KBS 83) or 2 (strain KBS 96) copies of the 16S rRNA encoding gene—a genomic characteristic typical of oligotrophs. Strain KBS 83 is a microaerophile, growing optimally at 8% oxygen. These metabolic characteristics help delineate the niches that acidobacteria occupy in soil and are consistent with their widespread distribution and abundance.

  • Biological consequences of ancient gene acquisition and duplication in the large genome of Candidates Solibacter usitatus Ellin6076

    Challacombe JF, Eichorst SA, Hauser L, Land M, Xie G, Kuske CR
    2011 - PLoS One, 6: e24882


    Members of the bacterial phylum Acidobacteria are widespread in soils and sediments worldwide, and are abundant in many soils. Acidobacteria are challenging to culture in vitro,and many basic features of their biology and functional roles in the soil have not been determined. Candidatus Solibacter usitatus strain Ellin6076 has a 9.9 Mb genome that is approximately 2–5 times as large as the other sequenced Acidobacteria genomes. Bacterial genome sizes typically range from 0.5 to 10 Mb and are influenced by gene duplication, horizontal gene transfer, gene loss and other evolutionary processes. Our comparative genome analyses indicate that the Ellin6076 large genome has arisen by horizontal gene transfer via ancient bacteriophage and/or plasmid-mediated transduction, and widespread small-scale gene duplications, resulting in an increased number of paralogs. Low amino acid sequence identities among functional group members, and lack of conserved gene order and orientation in regions containing similar groups of paralogs, suggest that most of the paralogs are not the result of recent duplication events. The genome sizes of additional cultured Acidobacteria strains were estimated using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis to determine the prevalence of the large genome trait within the phylum. Members of subdivision 3 had larger genomes than those of subdivision 1, but none were as large as the Ellin6076 genome. The large genome of Ellin6076 may not be typical of the phylum, and encodes traits that could provide a selective metabolic, defensive and regulatory advantage in the soil environment.

  • Isolation and characterization of soil bacteria that define Terriglobus gen. nov., in the phylum Acidobacteria

    Eichorst SA, Breznak JA, Schmidt TM
    2007 - Appl Environ Microbiol, 73: 2708-2717


    Bacteria in the phylum Acidobacteria are widely distributed and abundant in soils, but their ecological roles are poorly understood, owing in part to a paucity of cultured representatives. In a molecular survey of acidobacterial diversity at the Michigan State University Kellogg Biological Station Long-Term Ecological Research site, 27% of acidobacterial 16S rRNA gene clones in a never-tilled, successional plant community belonged to subdivision 1, whose relative abundance varied inversely with soil pH. Strains of subdivision 1 were isolated from these never-tilled soils using low-nutrient medium incubated for 3 to 4 weeks under elevated levels of carbon dioxide, which resulted in a slightly acidified medium that matched the pH optima of the strains (between 5 and 6). Colonies were approximately 1 mm in diameter and either white or pink, the latter due to a carotenoid(s) that was synthesized preferentially under 20% instead of 2% oxygen. Strains were gram-negative, aerobic, chemo-organotrophic, nonmotile rods that produced an extracellular matrix. All strains contained either one or two copies of the 16S rRNA encoding gene, which along with a relatively slow doubling time (10 to 15 h at ca. 23°C) is suggestive of an oligotrophic lifestyle. Six of the strains are sufficiently similar to one another, but distinct from previously named Acidobacteria, to warrant creation of a new genus, Terriglobus, with Terriglobus roseus defined as the type species. The physiological and nutritional characteristics of Terriglobus are consistent with its potential widespread distribution in soil.

  • New strategies for cultivation and detection of previously uncultured microbes

    Stevenson BS, Eichorst SA, Wertz JT, Schmidt TM, Breznak JA
    2004 - Appl Environ Microbiol, 70: 4748-4755


    An integrative approach was used to obtain pure cultures of previously uncultivated members of the divisions Acidobacteria and Verrucomicrobia from agricultural soil and from the guts of wood-feeding termites. Some elements of the cultivation procedure included the following: the use of agar media with little or no added nutrients; relatively long periods of incubation (more than 30 days); protection of cells from exogenous peroxides; and inclusion of humic acids or a humic acid analogue (anthraquinone disulfonate) and quorum-signaling compounds (acyl homoserine lactones) in growth media. The bacteria were incubated in the presence of air and in hypoxic (1 to 2% O2 [vol/vol]) and anoxic atmospheres. Some bacteria were incubated with elevated concentrations of CO2(5% [vol/vol]). Significantly more Acidobacteria were found on isolation plates that had been incubated with 5% CO2. A simple, high-throughput, PCR-based surveillance method (plate wash PCR) was developed. This method greatly facilitated detection and ultimate isolation of target bacteria from as many as 1,000 colonies of nontarget microbes growing on the same agar plates. Results illustrate the power of integrating culture methods with molecular techniques to isolate bacteria from phylogenetic groups underrepresented in culture.

Book chapters and other publications

4 Publications found
  • Editorial: Acidobacteriota-Towards unraveling the secrets of a widespread though enigmatic phylum

    Huber KJ, Pester M, Eichorst SA, Navarrete AA, Fösel BU
    2022 - Front Microbiol., 13: 960602
  • One complete and seven draft genome sequences of subdivision 1 and 3 Acidobacteria from soil

    Eichorst SA, Trojan D, Huntemann M, Clum A, Pillay M, Palaniappan K, Varghese N, Mikhailova N, Stamatis D, Reddy TBK, Daum C, Goodwin LA, Shapiro N, Ivanova N, Kyrpides N, Woyke T, Woebken D
    2020 - Microbiology Resource Announcements, 9: 1-4


    We report eight genomes from representatives of the phylum Acidobacteriasubdivisions 1 and 3, isolated from soils. The genome sizes range from 4.9 to 6.7 Mb. Genomic analysis reveals putative genes for low- and high-affinity respiratory oxygen reductases, high-affinity hydrogenases, and the capacity to use a diverse collection of carbohydrates.

  • Terriglobus

    2017 - in Bergey's Manual of Systematics of Archaea and Bacteria.. (Whitman WB, Rainey F, Kämpfer P, Trujillo M, Chun J, DeVos P, Hedlund B, Dedysh S)


    Terriglobus is a genus in the phylum Acidobacteria in the family Acidobacteriaceae, order Acidobacteriales, class Acidobacteriia, subdivision 1. It currently comprises five species - Terriglobus roseus, Terriglobus saanensis, Terriglobus tenax, Terriglobus aquaticus, and Terriglobus albidus. Members of the genus are widely distributed in soils including rhizosphere soils and the phyllosphere, but is also found in freshwater and in association with insects. This genus encompasses bacteria that are chemo-organotrophs and have obligatory aerobic metabolism with an optimal growth in mildly acidic (pH ~5 to 6) and mesophilic (ca. 25 to 30°C) conditions. Colonies of Terriglobus are typically circular in form with a convex elevation and can be with or without pink pigmentation. These bacteria can use a range of different carbon sources, and nitrogen is attained by exogenous amino acids or ammonium chloride. Cells are non-motile, Gram-stain-negative with a length and width ranging from 0.8 to 2.5 µm and 0.4 to 0.9 µm, respectively. Some strains produce extracellular material, which can be visualized by microscopy or in liquid culture, generating a floc/clumping phenotype. The dominant fatty acids are iso-C15:0 and C16:1 ω7c/ C16:1 ω6c. The DNA G+C content (mol%) ranges from 57.3 to 63.2%.

  • Investigation of microorganisms at the single-cell level using Raman Microspectroscopy and Nanometer-scale Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry.

    2014 - pp. 203-211. in Molecular Methods and Applications in Microbiology. (Skovhus TL, Caffrey S, Hubert CRJ). Caister Academic Press, Norfolk, UK


    The field of single-cell ecophysiology has taken an exciting turn with the introduction of two powerful techniques, nanometer-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) and Raman microspectroscopy. These techniques allow the investigation of microorganisms and their associated activity at the single-cell level. When combined with stable isotope tracers and/or identification of the targeted cell using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), they have the potential to link the identity of a microorganism with its in situ activity. Raman microspectroscopy detects the scattering of light due to interaction with chemical bonds of cell constituents thereby providing compound specific information, which can also be used for bacterial identification. NanoSIMS permits highly sensitive analysis of multiple elements or isotopes with sub-micrometer spatial resolution, allowing the measurements of microbial activity when used in stable-isotope tracer experiments. In this chapter we present the principle for each technique, discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and document their applicability with particular emphasis on microbial ecology research. The integration of these single-cell techniques in the field of microbial ecology will improve our understanding of the ecophysiology of (novel) microorganisms across a multitude of environments.