Charting the Complexity of the Marine Microbiome through Single-Cell Genomics

Marine bacteria and archaea play key roles in global biogeochemistry. To improve our understanding of this complex microbiome, we employed single-cell genomics and a randomized, hypothesis-agnostic cell selection strategy to recover 12,715 partial genomes from the tropical and subtropical euphotic ocean. A substantial fraction of known prokaryoplankton coding potential was recovered from a single, 0.4 mL ocean sample, which indicates that genomic information disperses effectively across the globe. Yet, we found each genome to be unique, implying limited clonality within prokaryoplankton populations. Light harvesting and secondary metabolite biosynthetic pathways were numerous across lineages, highlighting the value of single-cell genomics to advance the identification of ecological roles and biotechnology potential of uncultured microbial groups. This genome collection enabled functional annotation and genus-level taxonomic assignments for >80% of individual metagenome reads from the tropical and subtropical surface ocean, thus offering a model to improve reference genome databases for complex microbiomes.

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