Preservation of microbial DNA in marine sediments: insights from extracellular DNA pools

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DOI

Marine sediments harbour extracellular DNA (exDNA) not associated with currently living organisms. Including this exDNA in genetic surveys may distort abundance and diversity estimates of living prokaryotic communities. We separately extract exDNA and intracellular DNA (inDNA) from 11 horizons in a 10-m deep sediment core from Aarhus Bay (Denmark) that spans > 9000 years of Holocene sedimentation. We compare depth profiles of bacterial and archaeal 16S rRNA gene compositions to those of macrofaunal activity (bioturbation), sulfate and methane concentrations, sediment age and lithology. Among these variables, bioturbation shows the strongest relationship with the two DNA pools. In bioturbated surface sediments, the majority of Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) present in exDNA is absent from inDNA, thus belonging to microorganisms that were not alive at the time of sampling. Below the bioturbation zone, the two DNA pools display a much higher phylogenetic similarity. At all depths, the majority of exDNA and inDNA sequences show highest sequence similarities to sediment microorganisms, a finding that is additionally supported by separate analyses on low- and high-molecular weight exDNA. Our results indicate that in Aarhus Bay the vast majority of prokaryotic exDNA is turned over, thus not contributing to a genetic archive of past environmental change.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Volume20
Issue12
Pages (from-to)4526-4542
Number of pages17
ISSN1462-2912
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

    Research areas

  • ORGANIC-MATTER, INTRACELLULAR DNA, ARENICOLA-MARINA, BACTERIAL, SEA, RNA, DEGRADATION, EVOLUTION, SURVIVAL, RATES

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