Evolution and adaptation of SAR11 and cyanobium in a saline Tibetan lake

Seungdae Oh, Rui Zhang, Qinglong L. Wu, Wen Tso Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lake Qinghai is a unique lacustrine ecosystem located on the Tibetan Plateau and exhibits oligotrophic, alkaline, and saline conditions. Previous studies have focused on the community phylogenetic diversity of bacterioplankton in the ecosystem. This study aimed to address the ecotype diversity of bacterioplankton populations in the unique microbial habitat, using metagenomic sequencing and analysis. Phylogenetic analysis revealed two major bacterial populations: SAR11 IIIa (14% of the total) and Cyanobium (14%). Although the two populations shared high 16S rRNA gene sequence identity (> 98% identity) with their closest marine counterparts, they displayed substantial genomic divergence (≤ 80% average amino acid sequence identity). Comparative genomic analysis identified conservation of carbon and energy storage metabolism (biosynthesis of polyphosphate and polyhydroxyalkanoate) gene operons in the SAR11 IIIa and a cyanate (potential nitrogen source in alkaline conditions) transporter gene operon in the Cyanobium. We further identified genetic signature of positive selection acting on an exodeoxyribonuclease gene of the SAR11 IIIa population, which is potentially associated with DNA repair responsive to strong UV radiation on the high altitude mountain. Taken together, our results revealed the ecosystem-specific gene content of the bacterioplankton populations and provided new insights into their adaptations unique to the Tibetan lake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-604
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology Reports
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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