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Genomics, Proteomics & Bioinformatics

Biogeographic and Evolutionary Patterns of Trace Element Utilization in Marine Microbial World

Yinzhen Xu1,2,3,a, Jiayu Cao1,b, Liang Jiang2,3,c, Yan Zhang2,3,d

Shanghai Institute of Nutrition and Health, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 200031, China.


Trace elements are required by all organisms, which are key components of many enzymes catalyzing important biological reactions. Many trace element-dependent proteins have been characterized; however, little is known about their occurrence in microbial communities in diverse environments, especially the global marine ecosystem. Moreover, the relationships between trace element utilization and different types of environmental stressors are unclear. In this study, we used metagenomic data from the Global Ocean Sampling expedition project to identify the biogeographic distribution of genes encoding trace element-dependent proteins (for copper, molybdenum, cobalt, nickel, and selenium) in a variety of marine and non-marine aquatic samples. More than 56,000 metalloprotein and selenoprotein genes corresponding to nearly 100 families were predicted, which have become the largest marine metalloprotein and selenoprotein gene dataset reported to date. In addition, samples with enriched or depleted metalloprotein/selenoprotein genes were identified, suggesting an active or inactive usage of these micronutrients in various sites. Further analysis of interactions among the elements showed significant correlations between some of them, especially those between nickel and selenium or copper. Finally, investigation of the relationships between environmental conditions and metalloprotein/selenoprotein families revealed that many environmental factors might contribute to the evolution of different metalloprotein and/or selenoprotein genes in the marine microbial world. Our data provide new insights into the utilization and biological roles of these trace elements in extant marine microbes, and might also be helpful for the understanding of how these organisms have adapted to their local environments.

Keywords: Trace element, Marine metagenome, Metalloprotein, Selenoprotein, Evolution.

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