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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Thiocyanate and Organic Carbon Inputs Drive Convergent Selection for Specific Autotrophic Afipia and Thiobacillus Strains Within Complex Microbiomes.

  • Author(s): Huddy, Robert J
  • Sachdeva, Rohan
  • Kadzinga, Fadzai
  • Kantor, Rose S
  • Harrison, Susan TL
  • Banfield, Jillian F
  • et al.

Thiocyanate (SCN-) contamination threatens aquatic ecosystems and pollutes vital freshwater supplies. SCN--degrading microbial consortia are commercially adapted for remediation, but the impact of organic amendments on selection within SCN--degrading microbial communities has not been investigated. Here, we tested whether specific strains capable of degrading SCN- could be reproducibly selected for based on SCN- loading and the presence or absence of added organic carbon. Complex microbial communities derived from those used to treat SCN--contaminated water were exposed to systematically increased input SCN concentrations in molasses-amended and -unamended reactors and in reactors switched to unamended conditions after establishing the active SCN--degrading consortium. Five experiments were conducted over 790 days, and genome-resolved metagenomics was used to resolve community composition at the strain level. A single Thiobacillus strain proliferated in all reactors at high loadings. Despite the presence of many Rhizobiales strains, a single Afipia variant dominated the molasses-free reactor at moderately high loadings. This strain is predicted to break down SCN- using a novel thiocyanate desulfurase, oxidize resulting reduced sulfur, degrade product cyanate to ammonia and CO2 via cyanate hydratase, and fix CO2 via the Calvin-Benson-Bassham cycle. Removal of molasses from input feed solutions reproducibly led to dominance of this strain. Although sustained by autotrophy, reactors without molasses did not stably degrade SCN- at high loading rates, perhaps due to loss of biofilm-associated niche diversity. Overall, convergence in environmental conditions led to convergence in the strain composition, although reactor history also impacted the trajectory of community compositional change.

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