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León-Sobrino, C., Ramond, J-B., Maggs-Kölling, G. and Cowan, D.A. 2018. Nutrient acquisition, rather than stress response over diel cycles, drives microbial transcription in a dessicated Namib Desert soil. bioRxiv, 10.1101/432427


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Nutrient acquisition, rather than stress response over diel cycles, drives microbial transcription in a dessicated Namib Desert soil.

Summary / Notes:

Hot desert surface soils are characterised by extremely low water activities for large parts of any annual cycle. It is widely assumed that microbial processes in such soils are very limited. Here we present the first metatranscriptomic survey of microbial community function in a low water activity hyperarid desert soil. Sequencing of total mRNA revealed a diverse and active community, dominated by Actinobacteria. Metatranscriptomic analysis of samples taken at different times over three days indicated that most functions did not fluctuate on a diel basis, except for a eukaryotic subpopulation which was induced during the cooler night hours. High levels of transcription of chemoautotrophic carbon fixation genes contrasted with limited expression of photosynthetic genes, indicating that chemoautotrophy is an important alternative to photosynthesis for carbon cycling in desiccated desert soils. Analysis of the transcriptional levels of key N-cycling genes provided strong evidence that soil nitrate was the dominant nitrogen input source. Transcriptional network analyses and taxon-resolved functional profiling suggested that nutrient acquisition processes, and not diurnal environmental variation, were the main drivers of community activity in hyperarid Namib Desert soil. While we also observed significant levels of expression of common stress response genes, these genes were not dominant hubs in the co-occurrence network.

Year: 2018

Type: Journal Article

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