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Phototrophic Co-cultures From Extreme Environments: Community Structure and Potential Value for Fundamental and Applied Research.

  • Author(s): Shaw, Claire;
  • Brooke, Charles;
  • Hawley, Erik;
  • Connolly, Morgan P;
  • Garcia, Javier A;
  • Harmon-Smith, Miranda;
  • Shapiro, Nicole;
  • Barton, Michael;
  • Tringe, Susannah G;
  • Glavina Del Rio, Tijana;
  • Culley, David E;
  • Castenholz, Richard;
  • Hess, Matthias
  • et al.

Cyanobacteria are found in most illuminated environments and are key players in global carbon and nitrogen cycling. Although significant efforts have been made to advance our understanding of this important phylum, still little is known about how members of the cyanobacteria affect and respond to changes in complex biological systems. This lack of knowledge is in part due to our dependence on pure cultures when determining the metabolism and function of a microorganism. We took advantage of the Culture Collection of Microorganisms from Extreme Environments (CCMEE), a collection of more than 1,000 publicly available photosynthetic co-cultures maintained at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and assessed via 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing if samples readily available from public culture collection could be used in the future to generate new insights into the role of microbial communities in global and local carbon and nitrogen cycling. Results from this work support the existing notion that culture depositories in general hold the potential to advance fundamental and applied research. Although it remains to be seen if co-cultures can be used at large scale to infer roles of individual organisms, samples that are publicly available from existing co-cultures depositories, such as the CCMEE, might be an economical starting point for such studies. Access to archived biological samples, without the need for costly field work, might in some circumstances be one of the few remaining ways to advance the field and to generate new insights into the biology of ecosystems that are not easily accessible. The current COVID-19 pandemic, which makes sampling expeditions almost impossible without putting the health of the participating scientists on the line, is a very timely example.

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