Elevational constraints on the composition and genomic attributes of microbial communities in Antarctic soils

TitleElevational constraints on the composition and genomic attributes of microbial communities in Antarctic soils
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsDragone, NB, Henley, JB, Holland-Moritz, H, Diaz, MA, Hogg, ID, W. Lyons, B, Wall, DH, Adams, B, Fierer, N
Secondary AuthorsMackelprang, R
Date Published01/2022
KeywordsAntarctica, microbial ecology, soil microbiology, soils

The inland soils found on the Antarctic continent represent one of the more challenging environments for microbial life on Earth. Nevertheless, Antarctic soils harbor unique bacterial and archaeal (prokaryotic) communities able to cope with extremely cold and dry conditions. These communities are not homogeneous, and the taxonomic composition and functional capabilities (genomic attributes) of these communities across environmental gradients remain largely undetermined. We analyzed the prokaryotic communities in soil samples collected from across the Shackleton Glacier region of Antarctica by coupling quantitative PCR, marker gene amplicon sequencing, and shotgun metagenomic sequencing. We found that elevation was the dominant factor explaining differences in the structures of the soil prokaryotic communities, with the drier and saltier soils found at higher elevations harboring less diverse communities and unique assemblages of cooccurring taxa. The higher-elevation soil communities also had lower maximum potential growth rates (as inferred from metagenome-based estimates of codon usage bias) and an overrepresentation of genes associated with trace gas metabolism. Together, these results highlight the utility of assessing community shifts across pronounced environmental gradients to improve our understanding of the microbial diversity found in Antarctic soils and the strategies used by soil microbes to persist at the limits of habitability.