Deciphering a Marine Bone-Degrading Microbiome Reveals a Complex Community Effort
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionmSystems. 2021, 6 (1), 1-19. 10.1128/mSystems.01218-20
The marine bone biome is a complex assemblage of macro- and microorganisms; however, the enzymatic repertoire to access bone-derived nutrients remains unknown. The bone matrix is a composite material made up mainly of organic collagen and inorganic hydroxyapatite. We conducted field experiments to study microbial assemblages that can use organic bone components as nutrient source. Bovine and turkey bones were deposited at 69 m depth in a Norwegian fjord (Byfjorden, Bergen). Metagenomic sequence analysis was used to assess the functional potential of microbial assemblages from bone surface and the bone-eating worm Osedax mucofloris, which is a frequent colonizer of whale falls and known to degrade bone. The bone microbiome displayed a surprising taxonomic diversity revealed by the examination of 59 high-quality metagenome-assembled genomes from at least 23 bacterial families. Over 700 genes encoding enzymes from 12 relevant enzymatic families pertaining to collagenases, peptidases, and glycosidases putatively involved in bone degradation were identified. Metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) of the class Bacteroidia contained the most diverse gene repertoires. We postulate that demineralization of inorganic bone components is achieved by a timely succession of a closed sulfur biogeochemical cycle between sulfur-oxidizing and sulfur-reducing bacteria, causing a drop in pH and subsequent enzymatic processing of organic components in the bone surface communities. An unusually large and novel collagen utilization gene cluster was retrieved from one genome belonging to the gammaproteobacterial genus Colwellia.