Publications

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Publications in peer reviewed journals

11 Publications found
  • Growth explains microbial carbon use efficiency across soils differing in land use and geology

    Zheng Q, Hu Y, zhang S, Noll L, Boeckle T, Richter A, Wanek W
    2019 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 128: 45-55

    Abstract: 

    The ratio of carbon (C) that is invested into microbial growth to organic C taken up is known as microbial carbon use efficiency (CUE), which is influenced by environmental factors such as soil temperature and soil moisture. How microbes will physiologically react to short-term environmental changes is not well understood, primarily due to methodological restrictions. Here we report on two independent laboratory experiments to explore short-term temperature and soil moisture effects on soil microbial physiology(i.e. respiration, growth, CUE, and microbial biomass turnover): (i) a temperature experiment with 1-day pre-incubation at 5, 15 and 25 °C at 60% water holding capacity (WHC), and (ii) a soil moisture/oxygen (O2) experiment with 7-day pre-incubation at 20 °C at 30%, 60% WHC (both at 21% O2) and 90% WHC at 1% O2. Experiments were conducted with soils from arable, pasture and forest sites derived from both silicate and limestone bedrocks. We found that microbial CUE responded heterogeneously though overall positively to short-term temperature changes, and decreased significantly under high moisture level (90% WHC)/suboxic conditions due to strong decreases in microbial growth. Microbial biomass turnover time decreased dramatically with increasing temperature, and increased significantly at high moisture level (90% WHC)/suboxic conditions. Our findings reveal that the responses of microbial CUE and microbial biomass turnover to short-term temperature and moisture/O2 changes depended mainly on microbial growth responses and less on respiration responses to the environmental cues, which were consistent across soils differing in land use and geology.

  • Root exudation of primary metabolites: mechanisms and their roles in plant responses to environmental stimuli

    Canarini A, Wanek W, Merchant A, Richter A, Kaiser C
    2019 - Frontiers in Plant Science, in press

    Abstract: 

    Root exudation is an important process determining plant interactions with the soil environment. Many studies have linked this process to soil nutrient mobilization. Yet, it remains unresolved how exudation is controlled and how exactly and under what circumstances plants benefit from exudation. The majority of root exudates include primary metabolites (sugars, amino acids and organic acids) believed to be passively lost from the root and used by rhizosphere-dwelling microbes. In this review, we synthetize recent advances in ecology and plant biology to explain and propose mechanisms by which root exudation of primary metabolites is controlled, and what role their exudation plays in plant nutrient acquisition strategies. Specifically, we propose a novel conceptual framework for root exudates. This framework is built upon two main concepts: (i) root exudation of primary metabolites is driven by diffusion, with plants and microbes both modulating concentration gradients and therefore diffusion rates to soil depending on their nutritional status; (ii) exuded metabolite concentrations can be sensed at the root tip and signals are translated to modify root architecture. The flux of primary metabolites through root exudation is mostly located at the root tip, where the lack of cell differentiation favors diffusion of metabolites to the soil. We show examples of how the root tip senses concentration changes of exuded metabolites and translate that into signals to modify root growth. Plants can modify the concentration of metabolites either by controlling source/sink processes or by expressing and regulating efflux carriers, therefore challenging the idea of root exudation as a purely unregulated passive process. Through root exudate flux, plants can locally enhance concentrations of many common metabolites which can serve as sensors and integrators of the plant nutritional status and of the nutrient availability in the surrounding environment. Plant-associated micro-organisms also constitute a strong sink for plant carbon thereby increasing concentration gradients of metabolites and affecting root exudation. Understanding the mechanisms of, and the effects that, environmental stimuli have on the magnitude and type of root exudation will ultimately improve our knowledge of processes determining soil CO2 emissions, ecosystem functioning and how to improve the sustainability of agricultural production.

  • 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 - Frontiers in microbiology, in press

    Abstract: 

    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 (Fagus sylvatica) 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 13C-CO2–labeled atmosphere, while 15N-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 13C-CO2–labeling. Isotope imaging with nanometer-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) allowed for the first time in situ visualization of plant-derived C and N taken up by extraradical fungal hyphae, and in microbial cells thriving on hyphal surfaces. When N was added to the litter compartments, bacterial biomass and the amount of incorporated 13C strongly declined. Interestingly, this effect was also observed in adjacent soil compartments where added N was only available for bacteria throughhyphal 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.

  • Novel high-throughput approach to determine key processes of soil organic nitrogen cycling: Gross protein depolymerization and microbial amino acid uptake

    Noll L, zhang S, Wanek W
    2019 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 130: 73-81

    Abstract: 

    Proteins comprise the largest soil N reservoir but cannot be taken up directly by microorganisms and plants due to size constraints and stabilization of proteins in organo-mineral associations. Therefore the cleavage of this high molecular weight organic N to smaller soluble compounds as amino acids is a key step in the terrestrial N cycle. In the last years two isotope pool dilution approaches have been successfully established to measure gross rates of protein depolymerization and microbial amino acid uptake in soils. However, both require laborious sample preparation and analyses, which limits sample throughput. Therefore, we here present a novel isotope pool dilution approach based on the addition of 15N-labeled amino acids to soils and subsequent concentration and 15N analysis by the oxidation of α-amino groups to NO2 and further reduction to N2O, followed by purge-and-trap isotope ratio mass spectrometry (PT-IRMS). We applied this method in mesocosm experiments with forest and meadow soils as well as with a cropland soil amended with either organic C (cellulose) or organic N (bovine serum albumin). To measure direct organic N mineralization to NH4+, the latter was captured in acid traps and analyzed by an elemental analyzer coupled to an isotope ratio mass spectrometer (EA-IRMS). Our results demonstrate that the proposed method provides fast and precise measurements of at%15N even at low amino acid concentrations, allows high sample throughput and enables parallel estimations of instantaneous organic N mineralization rates.

  • 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 - Frontiers Microbioly, in press

    Abstract: 

    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 (Fagus sylvatica) 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 13C-CO2–labeled atmosphere, while 15N-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 13C-CO2–labeling. Isotope imaging with nanometer-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) allowed for the first time in situ visualization of plant-derived C and N taken up by extraradical fungal hyphae, and in microbial cells thriving on hyphal surfaces. When N was added to the litter compartments, bacterial biomass and the amount of incorporated 13C 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.

  • Combination of techniques to quantify the distribution of bacteria in their soil microhabitats at different spatial scales

    Juyal A, Otten W, Falconer R, Hapca S, Schmidt H, Baveye PC, Eickhorst T
    2019 - Geoderma, 334: 165-174

    Abstract: 

    To address a number of issues of great societal concern at the moment, like the sequestration of carbon, information is direly needed about interactions between soil architecture and microbial dynamics. Unfortunately, soils are extremely complex, heterogeneous systems comprising highly variable and dynamic micro-habitats that have significant impacts on the growth and activity of inhabiting microbiota. Data remain scarce on the influence of soil physical parameters characterizing the pore space on the distribution and diversity of bacteria. In this context, the objective of the research described in this article was to develop a method where X-ray microtomography, to characterize the soil architecture, is combined with fluorescence microscopy to visualize and quantify bacterial distributions in resin-impregnated soil sections. The influence of pore geometry (at a resolution of 13.4 μm) on the distribution of Pseudomonas fluorescens was analysed at macro- (5.2 mm × 5.2 mm), meso- (1 mm × 1 mm) and microscales (0.2 mm × 0.2 mm) based on an experimental setup simulating different soil architectures. The cell density of P. fluorescenswas 5.59 x 107(SE 2.6 x 106) cells g−1 soil in 1–2 mm and 5.84 x 107(SE 2.4 x 106) cells g−1 in 2–4 mm size aggregates soil. Solid-pore interfaces influenced bacterial distribution at micro- and macroscale, whereas the effect of soil porosity on bacterial distribution varied according to three observation scales in different soil architectures. The influence of soil porosity on the distribution of bacteria in different soil architectures was observed mainly at the macroscale, relative to micro- and mesoscales. Experimental data suggest that the effect of pore geometry on the distribution of bacteria varied with the spatial scale, thus highlighting the need to consider an “appropriate spatial scale” to understand the factors that regulate the distribution of microbial communities in soils. The results obtained to date also indicate that the proposed method is a significant step towards a full mechanistic understanding of microbial dynamics in structured soils.

  • Historical factors associated with past environments influence the biogeography of thermophilic endospores in Arctic marine sediments

    Hanson CH, Müller AL, Loy A, Dona C, Appel R, Jørgensen BB, Hubert CRJ
    2019 - Front Microbiol, In press

    Abstract: 

    Selection by the local, contemporary environment plays a prominent role in shaping the biogeography of microbes. However, the importance of historical factors in microbial biogeography is more debatable. Historical factors include past ecological and evolutionary circumstances that may have influenced present-day microbial diversity, such as dispersal and past environmental conditions. Diverse thermophilic sulphate-reducing Desulfotomaculum are present as dormant endospores in marine sediments worldwide where temperatures are too low to support their growth. Therefore, they are dispersed to here from elsewhere, presumably a hot, anoxic habitat. While dispersal through ocean currents must influence their distribution in cold marine sediments, it is not clear whether even earlier historical factors, related to the source habitat where these organisms were once active, also have an effect. We investigated whether these historical factors may have influenced the diversity and distribution of thermophilic endospores by comparing their diversity in 10 Arctic fjord surface sediments. Although community composition varied spatially, clear biogeographic patterns were only evident at a high level of taxonomic resolution (>97% sequence similarity of the 16S rRNA gene) achieved with oligotyping. In particular, the diversity and distribution of oligotypes differed for the two most prominent OTUs (defined using a standard 97% similarity cutoff). One OTU was dominated by a single ubiquitous oligotype, while the other OTU consisted of ten more spatially localised oligotypes that decreased in compositional similarity with geographic distance. These patterns are consistent with differences in historical factors that occurred when and where the taxa were once active, prior to sporulation. Further, the influence of history on biogeographic patterns was only revealed by analysing microdiversity within OTUs, suggesting that populations within standard OTU-level groupings do not necessarily share a common ecological and evolutionary history.

  • Long-term transcriptional activity at zero growth by a cosmopolitan rare biosphere member

    Hausmann B, Pelikan C, Rattei T, Loy A, Pester M
    2019 - mBio, 10: e02189-18

    Abstract: 

    Microbial diversity in the environment is mainly concealed within the rare biosphere (all species with <0.1% relative abundance). While dormancy explains a low-abundance state very well, the mechanisms leading to rare but active microorganisms remain elusive. We used environmental systems biology to genomically and transcriptionally characterise Candidatus Desulfosporosinus infrequens, a low-abundance sulfate-reducing microorganism cosmopolitan to freshwater wetlands, where it contributes to cryptic sulfur cycling. We obtained its near-complete genome by metagenomics of acidic peat soil. In addition, we analyzed anoxic peat soil incubated under in situ-like conditions for 50 days by Desulfosporosinus-targeted qPCR and metatranscriptomics. The Desulfosporosinus population stayed at a constant low abundance under all incubation conditions, averaging 1.2 × 10⁶ 16S rRNA gene copies per cm³ soil. In contrast, transcriptional activity of Ca.D. infrequens increased at day 36 by 56- to 188-fold when minor amendments of acetate, propionate, lactate, or butyrate were provided with sulfate, as compared to the no-substrate-control. Overall transcriptional activity was driven by expression of genes encoding ribosomal proteins, energy metabolism and stress response but not by expression of genes encoding cell growth-associated processes. Since our results did not support growth of these highly active microorganisms in terms of biomass increase or cell division, they had to invest their sole energy for maintenance, most likely counterbalancing acidic pH conditions. This finding explains how a rare biosphere member can contribute to a biogeochemically relevant process while remaining in a zero growth state over a period of 50 days.

  • Plasmid DNA contaminant in molecular reagents.

    Wally N, Schneider M, Thannesberger J, Kastner MT, Bakonyi T, Indik S, Rattei T, Bedarf J, Hildebrand F, Law J, Jovel J, Steininger C
    2019 - Sci Rep, 1: 1652

    Abstract: 

    Background noise in metagenomic studies is often of high importance and its removal requires extensive post-analytic, bioinformatics filtering. This is relevant as significant signals may be lost due to a low signal-to-noise ratio. The presence of plasmid residues, that are frequently present in reagents as contaminants, has not been investigated so far, but may pose a substantial bias. Here we show that plasmid sequences from different sources are omnipresent in molecular biology reagents. Using a metagenomic approach, we identified the presence of the (pol) of equine infectious anemia virus in human samples and traced it back to the expression plasmid used for generation of a commercial reverse transcriptase. We found fragments of multiple other expression plasmids in human samples as well as commercial polymerase preparations. Plasmid contamination sources included production chain of molecular biology reagents as well as contamination of reagents from environment or human handling of samples and reagents. Retrospective analyses of published metagenomic studies revealed an inaccurate signal-to-noise differentiation. Hence, the plasmid sequences that seem to be omnipresent in molecular biology reagents may misguide conclusions derived from genomic/metagenomics datasets and thus also clinical interpretations. Critical appraisal of metagenomic data sets for the possibility of plasmid background noise is required to identify reliable and significant signals.

  • Dark aerobic sulfide oxidation by anoxygenic phototrophs in anoxic waters.

    Berg JS, Pjevac P, Sommer T, Buckner CRT, Philippi M, Hach PF, Liebeke M, Holtappels M, Danza F, Tonolla M, Sengupta A, Schubert CJ, Milucka J, Kuypers MMM
    2019 - Environ. Microbiol., in press

    Abstract: 

    Anoxygenic phototrophic sulfide oxidation by green and purple sulfur bacteria (PSB) plays a key role in sulfide removal from anoxic shallow sediments and stratified waters. Although some PSB can also oxidize sulfide with nitrate and oxygen, little is known about the prevalence of this chemolithotrophic lifestyle in the environment. In this study, we investigated the role of these phototrophs in light-independent sulfide removal in the chemocline of Lake Cadagno. Our temporally resolved, high-resolution chemical profiles indicated that dark sulfide oxidation was coupled to high oxygen consumption rates of ~9 μM O ·h . Single-cell analyses of lake water incubated with CO in the dark revealed that Chromatium okenii was to a large extent responsible for aerobic sulfide oxidation and it accounted for up to 40 % of total dark carbon fixation. The genome of Chr. okenii reconstructed from the Lake Cadagno metagenome confirms its capacity for microaerophilic growth and provides further insights into its metabolic capabilities. Moreover, our genomic and single-cell data indicated that other PSB grow microaerobically in these apparently anoxic waters. Altogether, our observations suggest that aerobic respiration may not only play an underappreciated role in anoxic environments, but also that organisms typically considered strict anaerobes may be involved. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

  • Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy of microorganisms: limitations and applicability on the single-cell level.

    Weiss R, Palatinszky M, Wagner M, Niessner R, Elsner M, Seidel M, Ivleva NP
    2019 - Analyst, 3: 943-953
    Raman single cell isotope imaging

    Abstract: 

    Detection and characterization of microorganisms is essential for both clinical diagnostics and environmental studies. An emerging technique to analyse microbes at single-cell resolution is surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (surface-enhanced Raman scattering: SERS). Optimised SERS procedures enable fast analytical read-outs with specific molecular information, providing insight into the chemical composition of microbiological samples. Knowledge about the origin of microbial SERS signals and parameter(s) affecting their occurrence, intensity and/or reproducibility is crucial for reliable SERS-based analyses. In this work, we explore the feasibility and limitations of the SERS approach for characterizing microbial cells and investigate the applicability of SERS for single-cell sorting as well as for three-dimensional visualization of microbial communities. Analyses of six different microbial species (an archaeon, two Gram-positive bacteria, three Gram-negative bacteria) showed that for several of these organisms distinct features in their SERS spectra were lacking. As additional confounding factor, the physiological conditions of the cells (as influenced by e.g., storage conditions or deuterium-labelling) were systematically addressed, for which we conclude that the respective SERS signal at the single-cell level is strongly influenced by the metabolic activity of the analysed cells. While this finding complicates the interpretation of SERS data, it may on the other hand enable probing of the metabolic state of individual cells within microbial populations of interest.

Book chapters and other publications

2 Publications found
  • Mikrobiome – Wissensstand und Perspektiven

    Wagner M
    2019 - 17-29. in Die unbekannte 
Welt der Mikrobiome; Rundgespräche Forum Ökologie Bd. 47. (Bauer J & von Mutius E). Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften; Verlag Dr. Friedrich Pfeil
  • Up-close-and-personal with the human microbiome

    Berry D
    2019 - Environ Microbiol Rep, 1: 17-19
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