Brindefalk B, Ekman M, Ininbergs K, Dupont CL, Yooseph S, Pinhassi J, Bergman B
Environ. Microbiol. 18 (12) 4442-4455 [2016-12-00; online 2016-07-14]
Rhodopsins are light-driven ion-pumping membrane proteins found in many organisms and are proposed to be of global importance for oceanic microbial energy generation. Several studies have focused on marine environments, with less exploration of rhodopsins in brackish waters. We investigated microbial rhodopsins in the Baltic Sea using size-fractionated metagenomic and metatranscriptomic datasets collected along a salinity gradient spanning from ∼0 to 35 PSU. The normalised genomic abundance of rhodopsins in Bacteria, as well as rhodopsin gene expression, was highest in the smallest size fraction (0.1-0.8 μm), relative to the medium (0.8-3.0 μm) and large (>3.0 μm) size fractions. The abundance of rhodopsins in the two smaller size fractions displayed a positive correlation with salinity. Proteobacteria and Bacteroidetes rhodopsins were the most abundant while Actinobacteria rhodopsins, or actinorhodopsins, were common at lower salinities. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that rhodopsins have adapted independently to the marine-brackish transition on multiple occasions, giving rise to green light-adapted variants from ancestral blue light-adapted ones. A notable diversity of viral-like rhodopsins was also detected in the dataset and potentially linked with eukaryotic phytoplankton blooms. Finally, a new clade of likely proton-pumping rhodopsin with non-canonical amino acids in the spectral tuning and proton accepting site was identified.