Latest publications

  • Sulfate is transported at significant rates through the symbiosome membrane and is crucial for nitrogenase biosynthesis.

    Legume-rhizobia symbioses play a major role in food production for an ever growing human population. In this symbiosis, dinitrogen is reduced ("fixed") to ammonia by the rhizobial nitrogenase enzyme complex and is secreted to the plant host cells, whereas dicarboxylic acids derived from photosynthetically produced sucrose are transported into the symbiosomes and serve as respiratory substrates for the bacteroids. The symbiosome membrane contains high levels of SST1 protein, a sulfate transporter. Sulfate is an essential nutrient for all living organisms, but its importance for symbiotic nitrogen fixation and nodule metabolism has long been underestimated. Using chemical imaging, we demonstrate that the bacteroids take up 20-fold more sulfate than the nodule host cells. Furthermore, we show that nitrogenase biosynthesis relies on high levels of imported sulfate, making sulfur as essential as carbon for the regulation and functioning of symbiotic nitrogen fixation. Our findings thus establish the importance of sulfate and its active transport for the plant-microbe interaction that is most relevant for agriculture and soil fertility.

    Schneider S, Schintlmeister A, Becana M, Wagner M, Woebken D, Wienkoop S
    2019 - Plant Cell Environ., 4: 1180-1189
  • Rapid transfer of plant photosynthates to soil bacteria via ectomycorrhizal hyphae and its interaction with nitrogen availability

    Plant roots release recent photosynthates into the rhizosphere, accelerating decomposition of organic matter by saprotrophic soil microbes ("rhizosphere priming effect") which consequently increases nutrient availability for plants. However, about 90% of all higher plant species are mycorrhizal, transferring a significant fraction of their photosynthates directly to their fungal partners. Whether mycorrhizal fungi pass on plant-derived carbon (C) to bacteria in root-distant soil areas, i.e., incite a "hyphosphere priming effect," is not known. Experimental evidence for C transfer from mycorrhizal hyphae to soil bacteria is limited, especially for ectomycorrhizal systems. As ectomycorrhizal fungi possess enzymatic capabilities to degrade organic matter themselves, it remains unclear whether they cooperate with soil bacteria by providing photosynthates, or compete for available nutrients. To investigate a possible C transfer from ectomycorrhizal hyphae to soil bacteria, and its response to changing nutrient availability, we planted young beech trees () into "split-root" boxes, dividing their root systems into two disconnected soil compartments. Each of these compartments was separated from a litter compartment by a mesh penetrable for fungal hyphae, but not for roots. Plants were exposed to a C-CO-labeled atmosphere, while N-labeled ammonium and amino acids were added to one side of the split-root system. We found a rapid transfer of recent photosynthates via ectomycorrhizal hyphae to bacteria in root-distant soil areas. Fungal and bacterial phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) biomarkers were significantly enriched in hyphae-exclusive compartments 24 h after C-CO-labeling. Isotope imaging with nanometer-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) allowed for the first time visualization of plant-derived C and N taken up by an extraradical fungal hypha, and in microbial cells thriving on hyphal surfaces. When N was added to the litter compartments, bacterial biomass, and the amount of incorporated C strongly declined. Interestingly, this effect was also observed in adjacent soil compartments where added N was only available for bacteria through hyphal transport, indicating that ectomycorrhizal fungi were acting on soil bacteria. Together, our results demonstrate that (i) ectomycorrhizal hyphae rapidly transfer plant-derived C to bacterial communities in root-distant areas, and (ii) this transfer promptly responds to changing soil nutrient conditions.

    Gorka S, Dietrich M, Mayerhofer W, Gabriel R, Wiesenbauer J, Martin V, Zheng Q, Imai B, Prommer J, Weidinger M, Schweiger P, Eichorst SA, Wagner M, Richter A, Schintlmeister A, Woebken D, Kaiser C
    2019 - Front Microbiol, 168
  • Widespread soil bacterium that oxidizes atmospheric methane.

    The global atmospheric level of methane (CH), the second most important greenhouse gas, is currently increasing by ∼10 million tons per year. Microbial oxidation in unsaturated soils is the only known biological process that removes CH from the atmosphere, but so far, bacteria that can grow on atmospheric CH have eluded all cultivation efforts. In this study, we have isolated a pure culture of a bacterium, strain MG08 that grows on air at atmospheric concentrations of CH [1.86 parts per million volume (p.p.m.v.)]. This organism, named , is globally distributed in soils and closely related to uncultured members of the upland soil cluster α. CH oxidation experiments and C-single cell isotope analyses demonstrated that it oxidizes atmospheric CH aerobically and assimilates carbon from both CH and CO Its estimated specific affinity for CH (a) is the highest for any cultivated methanotroph. However, growth on ambient air was also confirmed for and , close relatives with a lower specific affinity for CH, suggesting that the ability to utilize atmospheric CH for growth is more widespread than previously believed. The closed genome of MG08 encodes a single particulate methane monooxygenase, the serine cycle for assimilation of carbon from CH and CO, and CO fixation via the recently postulated reductive glycine pathway. It also fixes dinitrogen and expresses the genes for a high-affinity hydrogenase and carbon monoxide dehydrogenase, suggesting that atmospheric CH oxidizers harvest additional energy from oxidation of the atmospheric trace gases carbon monoxide (0.2 p.p.m.v.) and hydrogen (0.5 p.p.m.v.).

    Tveit AT, Hestnes AG, Robinson SL, Schintlmeister A, Dedysh SN, Jehmlich N, von Bergen M, Herbold C, Wagner M, Richter A, Svenning MM
    2019 - Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 17: 8515-8524
  • Microbial nitrogen limitation in the mammalian large intestine

    Resource limitation is a fundamental factor governing the composition and function of ecological communities. However, the role of resource supply in structuring the intestinal microbiome has not been established and represents a challenge for mammals that rely on microbial symbionts for digestion: too little supply might starve the microbiome while too much might starve the host. We present evidence that microbiota occupy a habitat that is limited in total nitrogen supply within the large intestines of 30 mammal species. Lowering dietary protein levels in mice reduced their faecal concentrations of bacteria. A gradient of stoichiometry along the length of the gut was consistent with the hypothesis that intestinal nitrogen limitation results from host absorption of dietary nutrients. Nitrogen availability is also likely to be shaped by host-microbe interactions: levels of host-secreted nitrogen were altered in germ-free mice and when bacterial loads were reduced via experimental antibiotic treatment. Single-cell spectrometry revealed that members of the phylum Bacteroidetes consumed nitrogen in the large intestine more readily than other commensal taxa did. Our findings support a model where nitrogen limitation arises from preferential host use of dietary nutrients. We speculate that this resource limitation could enable hosts to regulate microbial communities in the large intestine. Commensal microbiota may have adapted to nitrogen-limited settings, suggesting one reason why excess dietary protein has been associated with degraded gut-microbial ecosystems.

    Reese AT, Pereira FC, Schintlmeister A, Berry D, Wagner M, Hale LP, Wu A, Jiang S, Durand HK, Zhou X, Premont RT, Diehl AM, O'Connell TM, Alberts SC, Kartzinel TR, Pringle RM, Dunn RR, Wright JP, David LA
    2018 - Nat Microbiol, 12: 1441-1450