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In FEMS microbiology ecology

Discovering widespread microbial processes that create variation in soil carbon (C) cycling within ecosystems may improve soil C modeling. Toward this end, we screened 206 soil communities decomposing plant litter in a common garden microcosm environment and examined features linked to divergent patterns of C flow. C flow was measured as carbon dioxide (CO2) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from 44-days of litter decomposition. Two large groups of microbial communities representing 'high' and 'low' DOC phenotypes from original soil and 44-day microcosm samples were down-selected for fungal and bacterial profiling. Metatranscriptomes were also sequenced from a smaller subset of communities in each group. The two groups exhibited differences in average rate of CO2 production, demonstrating that the divergent patterns of C flow arose from innate functional constraints on C metabolism, not a time-dependent artefact. To infer functional constraints, we identified features-traits at the organism, pathway, or gene level-linked to the high and low DOC phenotypes using RNA-Seq approaches and machine learning approaches. Substrate use differed across the high and low DOC phenotypes. Additional features suggested that divergent patterns of C flow may be driven in part by differences in organism interactions that affect DOC abundance directly or indirectly by controlling community structure.

Albright Michaeline B N, Thompson Jaron, Kroeger Marie E, Johansen Renee, Ulrich Danielle E M, Gallegos-Graves La Verne, Munsky Brian, Dunbar John


bacteriovores, carbon cycling, carbon dioxide, dissolved organic carbon, effect traits, fungivores, machine learning, metatranscriptome, microbiome, oligotrophs, physiology, soil