School of Geography, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences - Research Publications

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    From legacy contamination to watershed systems science: a review of scientific insights and technologies developed through DOE-supported research in water and energy security
    Dwivedi, D ; Steefel, C ; Arora, B ; Banfield, J ; Bargar, J ; Boyanov, M ; Brooks, SC ; Chen, X ; Hubbard, SS ; Kaplan, D ; Kemner, KM ; Nico, PS ; O'Loughlin, EJ ; Pierce, EM ; Painter, SL ; Scheibe, TD ; Wainwright, HM ; Williams, KH ; Zavarin, M (IOP Publishing Ltd, 2022-04-01)
    Abstract Water resources, including groundwater and prominent rivers worldwide, are under duress because of excessive contaminant and nutrient loads. To help mitigate this problem, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) has supported research since the late 1980s to improve our fundamental knowledge of processes that could be used to help clean up challenging subsurface problems. Problems of interest have included subsurface radioactive waste, heavy metals, and metalloids (e.g. uranium, mercury, arsenic). Research efforts have provided insights into detailed groundwater biogeochemical process coupling and the resulting geochemical exports of metals and nutrients to surrounding environments. Recently, an increased focus has been placed on constraining the exchanges and fates of carbon and nitrogen within and across bedrock to canopy compartments of a watershed and in river–floodplain settings, because of their important role in driving biogeochemical interactions with contaminants and the potential of increased fluxes under changing precipitation regimes, including extreme events. While reviewing the extensive research that has been conducted at DOE’s representative sites and testbeds (such as the Oyster Site in Virginia, Savannah River Site in South Carolina, Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee, Hanford in Washington, Nevada National Security Site in Nevada, Riverton in Wyoming, and Rifle and East River in Colorado), this review paper explores the nature and distribution of contaminants in the surface and shallow subsurface (i.e. the critical zone) and their interactions with carbon and nitrogen dynamics. We also describe state-of-the-art, scale-aware characterization approaches and models developed to predict contaminant fate and transport. The models take advantage of DOE leadership-class high-performance computers and are beginning to incorporate artificial intelligence approaches to tackle the extreme diversity of hydro-biogeochemical processes and measurements. Recognizing that the insights and capability developments are potentially transferable to many other sites, we also explore the scientific implications of these advances and recommend future research directions.
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    Global genomic analysis of microbial biotransformation of arsenic highlights the importance of arsenic methylation in environmental and human microbiomes
    Keren, R ; Méheust, R ; Santini, JM ; Thomas, A ; West-Roberts, J ; Banfield, JF ; Alvarez-Cohen, L (Elsevier BV, 2022-01-01)
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    DNA interference states of the hypercompact CRISPR-CasΦ effector.
    Pausch, P ; Soczek, KM ; Herbst, DA ; Tsuchida, CA ; Al-Shayeb, B ; Banfield, JF ; Nogales, E ; Doudna, JA (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2021-08)
    CRISPR-CasΦ, a small RNA-guided enzyme found uniquely in bacteriophages, achieves programmable DNA cutting as well as genome editing. To investigate how the hypercompact enzyme recognizes and cleaves double-stranded DNA, we determined cryo-EM structures of CasΦ (Cas12j) in pre- and post-DNA-binding states. The structures reveal a streamlined protein architecture that tightly encircles the CRISPR RNA and DNA target to capture, unwind and cleave DNA. Comparison of the pre- and post-DNA-binding states reveals how the protein rearranges for DNA cleavage upon target recognition. On the basis of these structures, we created and tested mutant forms of CasΦ that cut DNA up to 20-fold faster relative to wild type, showing how this system may be naturally attenuated to improve the fidelity of DNA interference. The structural and mechanistic insights into how CasΦ binds and cleaves DNA should allow for protein engineering for both in vitro diagnostics and genome editing.
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    Microcoleus (Cyanobacteria) form watershed-wide populations without strong gradients in population structure
    Bouma-Gregson, K ; Crits-Christoph, A ; Olm, MR ; Power, ME ; Banfield, JF (WILEY, 2021-10-21)
    The relative importance of separation by distance and by environment to population genetic diversity can be conveniently tested in river networks, where these two drivers are often independently distributed over space. To evaluate the importance of dispersal and environmental conditions in shaping microbial population structures, we performed genome-resolved metagenomic analyses of benthic Microcoleus-dominated cyanobacterial mats collected in the Eel and Russian River networks (California, USA). The 64 Microcoleus genomes were clustered into three species that shared >96.5% average nucleotide identity (ANI). Most mats were dominated by one strain, but minor alleles within mats were often shared, even over large spatial distances (>300 km). Within the most common Microcoleus species, the ANI between the dominant strains within mats decreased with increasing spatial separation. However, over shorter spatial distances (tens of kilometres), mats from different subwatersheds had lower ANI than mats from the same subwatershed, suggesting that at shorter spatial distances environmental differences between subwatersheds in factors like canopy cover, conductivity, and mean annual temperature decreases ANI. Since mats in smaller creeks had similar levels of nucleotide diversity (π) as mats in larger downstream subwatersheds, within-mat genetic diversity does not appear to depend on the downstream accumulation of upstream-derived strains. The four-gamete test and sequence length bias suggest recombination occurs between almost all strains within each species, even between populations separated by large distances or living in different habitats. Overall, our results show that, despite some isolation by distance and environmental conditions, sufficient gene-flow occurs among cyanobacterial strains to prevent either driver from producing distinctive population structures across the watershed.
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    Structure of the bacterial ribosome at 2 Å resolution.
    Watson, ZL ; Ward, FR ; Méheust, R ; Ad, O ; Schepartz, A ; Banfield, JF ; Cate, JH (eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd, 2020-09-14)
    Using cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), we determined the structure of the Escherichia coli 70S ribosome with a global resolution of 2.0 Å. The maps reveal unambiguous positioning of protein and RNA residues, their detailed chemical interactions, and chemical modifications. Notable features include the first examples of isopeptide and thioamide backbone substitutions in ribosomal proteins, the former likely conserved in all domains of life. The maps also reveal extensive solvation of the small (30S) ribosomal subunit, and interactions with A-site and P-site tRNAs, mRNA, and the antibiotic paromomycin. The maps and models of the bacterial ribosome presented here now allow a deeper phylogenetic analysis of ribosomal components including structural conservation to the level of solvation. The high quality of the maps should enable future structural analyses of the chemical basis for translation and aid the development of robust tools for cryo-EM structure modeling and refinement.
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    Alum Addition Triggers Hypoxia in an Engineered Pit Lake.
    Jessen, GL ; Chen, L-X ; Mori, JF ; Nelson, TEC ; Slater, GF ; Lindsay, MBJ ; Banfield, JF ; Warren, LA (MDPI AG, 2022-02-26)
    Here, we examine the geobiological response to a whole-lake alum (aluminum sulfate) treatment (2016) of Base Mine Lake (BML), the first pilot-scale pit lake established in the Alberta oil sands region. The rationale for trialing this management amendment was based on its successful use to reduce internal phosphorus loading to eutrophying lakes. Modest increases in water cap epilimnetic oxygen concentrations, associated with increased Secchi depths and chlorophyll-a concentrations, were co-incident with anoxic waters immediately above the fluid fine tailings (FFT) layer post alum. Decreased water cap nitrate and detectable sulfide concentrations, as well as increased hypolimnetic phospholipid fatty acid abundances, signaled greater anaerobic heterotrophic activity. Shifts in microbial community to groups associated with greater organic carbon degradation (i.e., SAR11-LD12 subclade) and the SRB group Desulfuromonodales emerged post alum and the loss of specialist groups associated with carbon-limited, ammonia-rich restricted niches (i.e., MBAE14) also occurred. Alum treatment resulted in additional oxygen consumption associated with increased autochthonous carbon production, watercap anoxia and sulfide generation, which further exacerbate oxygen consumption associated with on-going FFT mobilized reductants. The results illustrate the importance of understanding the broader biogeochemical implications of adaptive management interventions to avoid unanticipated outcomes that pose greater risks and improve tailings reclamation for oil sands operations and, more broadly, the global mining sector.
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    Soils and sediments host Thermoplasmata archaea encoding novel copper membrane monooxygenases (CuMMOs).
    Diamond, S ; Lavy, A ; Crits-Christoph, A ; Matheus Carnevali, PB ; Sharrar, A ; Williams, KH ; Banfield, JF (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2022-05)
    Copper membrane monooxygenases (CuMMOs) play critical roles in the global carbon and nitrogen cycles. Organisms harboring these enzymes perform the first, and rate limiting, step in aerobic oxidation of ammonia, methane, or other simple hydrocarbons. Within archaea, only organisms in the order Nitrososphaerales (Thaumarchaeota) encode CuMMOs, which function exclusively as ammonia monooxygenases. From grassland and hillslope soils and aquifer sediments, we identified 20 genomes from distinct archaeal species encoding divergent CuMMO sequences. These archaea are phylogenetically clustered in a previously unnamed Thermoplasmatota order, herein named the Ca. Angelarchaeales. The CuMMO proteins in Ca. Angelarchaeales are more similar in structure to those in Nitrososphaerales than those of bacteria, and contain all functional residues required for general monooxygenase activity. Ca. Angelarchaeales genomes are significantly enriched in blue copper proteins (BCPs) relative to sibling lineages, including plastocyanin-like electron carriers and divergent nitrite reductase-like (nirK) 2-domain cupredoxin proteins co-located with electron transport machinery. Ca. Angelarchaeales also encode significant capacity for peptide/amino acid uptake and degradation and share numerous electron transport mechanisms with the Nitrososphaerales. Ca. Angelarchaeales are detected at high relative abundance in some of the environments where their genomes originated from. While the exact substrate specificities of the novel CuMMOs identified here have yet to be determined, activity on ammonia is possible given their metabolic and ecological context. The identification of an archaeal CuMMO outside of the Nitrososphaerales significantly expands the known diversity of CuMMO enzymes in archaea and suggests previously unaccounted organisms contribute to critical global nitrogen and/or carbon cycling functions.
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    Detection and enumeration of Lak megaphages in microbiome samples by endpoint and quantitative PCR.
    Crisci, MA ; Corsini, PM ; Bordin, N ; Chen, L-X ; Banfield, JF ; Santini, JM (Elsevier BV, 2022-03-18)
    Lak megaphages are prevalent across diverse gut microbiomes and may potentially impact animal and human health through lysis of Prevotella. Given their large genome size (up to 660 kbp), Lak megaphages are difficult to culture, and their identification relies on molecular techniques. Here, we present optimized protocols for identifying Lak phages in various microbiome samples, including procedures for DNA extraction, followed by detection and quantification of genes encoding Lak structural proteins using diagnostic endpoint and SYBR green-based quantitative PCR, respectively. For complete details on the use and execution of this protocol, please refer to Crisci et al., (2021).
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    Metabolome-proteome differentiation coupled to microbial divergence.
    Wilmes, P ; Bowen, BP ; Thomas, BC ; Mueller, RS ; Denef, VJ ; VerBerkmoes, NC ; Hettich, RL ; Northen, TR ; Banfield, JF ; Handelsman, J (American Society for Microbiology, 2010-10-26)
    Tandem high-throughput proteomics and metabolomics were employed to functionally characterize natural microbial biofilm communities. Distinct molecular signatures exist for each analyzed sample. Deconvolution of the high-resolution molecular data demonstrates that identified proteins and detected metabolites exhibit organism-specific correlation patterns. These patterns are reflective of the functional differentiation of two bacterial species that share the same genus and that co-occur in the sampled microbial communities. Our analyses indicate that the two species have similar niche breadths and are not in strong competition with one another.
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    CRISPR immunity drives rapid phage genome evolution in Streptococcus thermophilus.
    Paez-Espino, D ; Sharon, I ; Morovic, W ; Stahl, B ; Thomas, BC ; Barrangou, R ; Banfield, JF ; Jansson, JK (American Society for Microbiology, 2015-04-21)
    UNLABELLED: Many bacteria rely on CRISPR-Cas systems to provide adaptive immunity against phages, predation by which can shape the ecology and functioning of microbial communities. To characterize the impact of CRISPR immunization on phage genome evolution, we performed long-term bacterium-phage (Streptococcus thermophilus-phage 2972) coevolution experiments. We found that in this species, CRISPR immunity drives fixation of single nucleotide polymorphisms that accumulate exclusively in phage genome regions targeted by CRISPR. Mutation rates in phage genomes highly exceed those of the host. The presence of multiple phages increased phage persistence by enabling recombination-based formation of chimeric phage genomes in which sequences heavily targeted by CRISPR were replaced. Collectively, our results establish CRISPR-Cas adaptive immunity as a key driver of phage genome evolution under the conditions studied and highlight the importance of multiple coexisting phages for persistence in natural systems. IMPORTANCE: Phages remain an enigmatic part of the biosphere. As predators, they challenge the survival of host bacteria and archaea and set off an "arms race" involving host immunization countered by phage mutation. The CRISPR-Cas system is adaptive: by capturing fragments of a phage genome upon exposure, the host is positioned to counteract future infections. To investigate this process, we initiated massive deep-sequencing experiments with a host and infective phage and tracked the coevolution of both populations over hundreds of days. In the present study, we found that CRISPR immunity drives the accumulation of phage genome rearrangements (which enable longer phage survival) and escape mutations, establishing CRISPR as one of the fundamental drivers of phage evolution.