BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

PI-Submitted Research Highlights for
Subsurface Biogeochemical Research Program

Insights into the Ecology, Evolution, and Metabolism of the Widespread Woesearchaeotal Lineages

Jillian Banfield


May 29, 2019

Genome analyses and metabolic reconstructions of Woesearchaeota suggest heterotrophic lifestyles that are dependent on metabolic complementarity with other microbes.

The Science
Genomic analysis reveals the distribution of Woesearchaea across multiple habitat types. Metabolic reconstructions support an anaerobic, heterotrophic lifestyle albeit one with conspicuous deficiencies consistent with their inferred dependence on other microbes.

The Impact
The findings provide an ecological and evolutionary framework for Woesearchaeota at a global scale and indicate their potential ecological roles, especially in methanogenesis.

A large group of genomes for Woesearchaeota were analyzed and the organisms grouped into sublineages based on their DNA sequences. These archaea were found to be widely distributed in different types of environments, but they are primarily found in anaerobic terrestrial environments. Ecological patterns analysis and ancestor state reconstruction for specific subgroups reveal that the presence of oxygen is the key factor driving the distribution and evolutionary diversity of Woesearchaeota. A selective distribution to different biotopes and an adaptive colonization from oxygen free environments is proposed and supported by evidence of the presence of ferredoxin-dependent pathways in the genomes derived from anaerobic environments. Metabolic reconstructions support heterotrophic lifestyles, with conspicuous metabolic deficiencies, suggesting the requirement for metabolic complementarity with other microbes. Lineage abundance, distribution, and co-occurrence network analyses across diverse environments confirmed metabolic complementation and revealed a potential syntrophic relationship between Woesearchaeota and methanogens.

BER Program Manager
Paul Bayer
Department of Energy

Principal Investigator
Jillian Banfield
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

This work was supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.

X. Liu, M. Li, C.J. Castelle, A.I. Probst, Z. Zhou, J. Pan, Y. Liu, J.F. Banfield, J.D. Gu “Insights into the ecology, evolution, and metabolism of the widespread Woesearchaeotal lineages” Microboime, 6, 102 (2018). [DOI:10.1186/s40168-018-0488-2].

LBNL Watershed Function SFA

Search SBR PI-Submitted Highlights

  • Search

Highlight Submission