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Bacterial Communities Associated with the Surfaces of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Jonathan W. Leff, Noah Fierer
PLOS ONE , 2013, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059310
Abstract: Fresh fruits and vegetables can harbor large and diverse populations of bacteria. However, most of the work on produce-associated bacteria has focused on a relatively small number of pathogenic bacteria and, as a result, we know far less about the overall diversity and composition of those bacterial communities found on produce and how the structure of these communities varies across produce types. Moreover, we lack a comprehensive view of the potential effects of differing farming practices on the bacterial communities to which consumers are exposed. We addressed these knowledge gaps by assessing bacterial community structure on conventional and organic analogs of eleven store-bought produce types using a culture-independent approach, 16 S rRNA gene pyrosequencing. Our results demonstrated that the fruits and vegetables harbored diverse bacterial communities, and the communities on each produce type were significantly distinct from one another. However, certain produce types (i.e., sprouts, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries) tended to share more similar communities as they all had high relative abundances of taxa belonging to the family Enterobacteriaceae when compared to the other produce types (i.e., apples, peaches, grapes, and mushrooms) which were dominated by taxa belonging to the Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, and Proteobacteria phyla. Although potentially driven by factors other than farming practice, we also observed significant differences in community composition between conventional and organic analogs within produce types. These differences were often attributable to distinctions in the relative abundances of Enterobacteriaceae taxa, which were generally less abundant in organically-grown produce. Taken together, our results suggest that humans are exposed to substantially different bacteria depending on the types of fresh produce they consume with differences between conventionally and organically farmed varieties contributing to this variation.
A Direct PCR Approach to Accelerate Analyses of Human-Associated Microbial Communities
Gilberto E. Flores, Jessica B. Henley, Noah Fierer
PLOS ONE , 2012, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044563
Abstract: Since the composition of the human microbiome is highly variable both within and between individuals, researchers are increasingly reliant on high-throughput molecular approaches to identify linkages between the composition of these communities and human health. While new sequencing technologies have made it increasingly feasible to analyze large numbers of human-associated samples, the extraction of DNA from samples often remains a bottleneck in the process. Here we tested a direct PCR approach using the Extract-N-Amp Plant PCR Kit to accelerate the 16S rRNA gene-based analyses of human-associated bacterial communities, directly comparing this method to a more commonly-used approach whereby DNA is first extracted and purified from samples using a series of steps prior to PCR amplification. We used both approaches on replicate samples collected from each of five body habitats (tongue surface, feces, forehead skin, underarm skin, and forearm skin) from four individuals. With the exception of the tongue samples, there were few significant differences in the estimates of taxon richness or phylogenetic diversity obtained using the two approaches. Perhaps more importantly, there were no significant differences between the methods in their ability resolve body habitat differences or inter-individual differences in bacterial community composition and the estimates of the relative abundances of individual taxa were nearly identical with the two methods. Overall, the two methods gave very similar results and the direct PCR approach is clearly advantageous for many studies exploring the diversity and composition of human-associated bacterial communities given that large numbers of samples can be processed far more quickly and efficiently.
Metamorphosis of a Butterfly-Associated Bacterial Community
Tobin J. Hammer, W. Owen McMillan, Noah Fierer
PLOS ONE , 2014, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086995
Abstract: Butterflies are charismatic insects that have long been a focus of biological research. They are also habitats for microorganisms, yet these microbial symbionts are little-studied, despite their likely importance to butterfly ecology and evolution. In particular, the diversity and composition of the microbial communities inhabiting adult butterflies remain uncharacterized, and it is unknown how the larval (caterpillar) and adult microbiota compare. To address these knowledge gaps, we used Illumina sequencing of 16S rRNA genes from internal bacterial communities associated with multiple life stages of the neotropical butterfly Heliconius erato. We found that the leaf-chewing larvae and nectar- and pollen-feeding adults of H. erato contain markedly distinct bacterial communities, a pattern presumably rooted in their distinct diets. Larvae and adult butterflies host relatively small and similar numbers of bacterial phylotypes, but few are common to both stages. The larval microbiota clearly simplifies and reorganizes during metamorphosis; thus, structural changes in a butterfly's bacterial community parallel those in its own morphology. We furthermore identify specific bacterial taxa that may mediate larval and adult feeding biology in Heliconius and other butterflies. Although male and female Heliconius adults differ in reproductive physiology and degree of pollen feeding, bacterial communities associated with H. erato are not sexually dimorphic. Lastly, we show that captive and wild individuals host different microbiota, a finding that may have important implications for the relevance of experimental studies using captive butterflies.
A Cross-Taxon Analysis of Insect-Associated Bacterial Diversity
Ryan Thomas Jones, Leticia Gonzales Sanchez, Noah Fierer
PLOS ONE , 2013, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061218
Abstract: Although it is well known that plants and animals harbor microbial symbionts that can influence host traits, the factors regulating the structure of these microbial communities often remain largely undetermined. This is particularly true for insect-associated microbial communities, as few cross-taxon comparisons have been conducted to date. To address this knowledge gap and determine how host phylogeny and ecology affect insect-associated microbial communities, we collected 137 insect specimens representing 39 species, 28 families, and 8 orders, and characterized the bacterial communities associated with each specimen via 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Bacterial taxa within the phylum Proteobacteria were dominant in nearly all insects sampled. On average, the insect-associated bacterial communities were not very diverse, with individuals typically harboring fewer than 8 bacterial phylotypes. Bacterial communities also tended to be dominated by a single phylotype; on average, the most abundant phylotype represented 54.7% of community membership. Bacterial communities were significantly more similar among closely related insects than among less-related insects, a pattern driven by within-species community similarity but detected at every level of insect taxonomy tested. Diet was a poor predictor of bacterial community composition. Individual insect species harbored remarkably unique communities: the distribution of 69.0% of bacterial phylotypes was limited to unique insect species, whereas only 5.7% of phylotypes were detected in more than five insect species. Together these results suggest that host characteristics strongly regulate the colonization and assembly of bacterial communities across insect lineages, patterns that are driven either by co-evolution between insects and their symbionts or by closely related insects sharing conserved traits that directly select for similar bacterial communities.
Distinct root-associated bacterial communities on three wild plant species growing in a common field
Kristin Aleklett,Jonathan W Leff,Noah Fierer,Miranda Hart
PeerJ , 2015, DOI: 10.7287/peerj.preprints.548v1
Abstract: Plant roots are known to harbor large and diverse communities of bacteria. It has been suggested that plant identity can structure these root-associated communities, but few studies have specifically assessed how the composition of root microbiota varies within and between plant species growing under natural conditions. We sampled endophytic and epiphytic bacteria in root tissues from a population of a wild, clonal plant (Orange hawkweed – Pilosella aurantiaca) as well as two neighboring plant species (Oxeye daisy – Leucanthemum vulgare and Alsike clover – Trifolium hybridum) to determine if plant species hosted unique root microbiota. Our results show that plants of different species host distinct bacterial communities in their roots. In terms of community composition, Betaproteobacteria (especially the family Oxalobacteraceae) were found to dominate in the root microbiota of L. vulgare and T. hybridum samples, whereas the root microbiota of P. aurantiaca had a more heterogeneous distribution of bacterial abundances where gamma Proteobacteria and Acidobacteria occupied a larger portion of the community. Whether all plant species host their own distinct root microbiota and plants more closely related to each other share more similar bacterial communities still remains to be explored.
Ectomycorrhizal-Dominated Boreal and Tropical Forests Have Distinct Fungal Communities, but Analogous Spatial Patterns across Soil Horizons
Krista L. McGuire, Steven D. Allison, Noah Fierer, Kathleen K. Treseder
PLOS ONE , 2013, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068278
Abstract: Fungi regulate key nutrient cycling processes in many forest ecosystems, but their diversity and distribution within and across ecosystems are poorly understood. Here, we examine the spatial distribution of fungi across a boreal and tropical ecosystem, focusing on ectomycorrhizal fungi. We analyzed fungal community composition across litter (organic horizons) and underlying soil horizons (0–20 cm) using 454 pyrosequencing and clone library sequencing. In both forests, we found significant clustering of fungal communities by site and soil horizons with analogous patterns detected by both sequencing technologies. Free-living saprotrophic fungi dominated the recently-shed leaf litter and ectomycorrhizal fungi dominated the underlying soil horizons. This vertical pattern of fungal segregation has also been found in temperate and European boreal forests, suggesting that these results apply broadly to ectomycorrhizal-dominated systems, including tropical rain forests. Since ectomycorrhizal and free-living saprotrophic fungi have different influences on soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics, information on the spatial distribution of these functional groups will improve our understanding of forest nutrient cycling.
Home Life: Factors Structuring the Bacterial Diversity Found within and between Homes
Robert R. Dunn, Noah Fierer, Jessica B. Henley, Jonathan W. Leff, Holly L. Menninger
PLOS ONE , 2013, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064133
Abstract: Most of our time is spent indoors where we are exposed to a wide array of different microorganisms living on surfaces and in the air of our homes. Despite their ubiquity and abundance, we have a limited understanding of the microbial diversity found within homes and how the composition and diversity of microbial communities change across different locations within the home. Here we examined the diversity of bacterial communities found in nine distinct locations within each of forty homes in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, USA, using high-throughput sequencing of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene. We found that each of the sampled locations harbored bacterial communities that were distinct from one another with surfaces that are regularly cleaned typically harboring lower levels of diversity than surfaces that are cleaned infrequently. These location-specific differences in bacterial communities could be directly related to usage patterns and differences in the likely sources of bacteria dispersed onto these locations. Finally, we examined whether the variability across homes in bacterial diversity could be attributed to outdoor environmental factors, indoor habitat structure, or the occupants of the home. We found that the presence of dogs had a significant effect on bacterial community composition in multiple locations within homes as the homes occupied by dogs harbored more diverse communities and higher relative abundances of dog-associated bacterial taxa. Furthermore, we found a significant correlation between the types of bacteria deposited on surfaces outside the home and those found inside the home, highlighting that microbes from outside the home can have a direct effect on the microbial communities living on surfaces within our homes. Together this work provides the first comprehensive analysis of the microbial communities found in the home and the factors that shape the structure of these communities both within and between homes.
Changes in Bacterial and Fungal Communities across Compost Recipes, Preparation Methods, and Composting Times
Deborah A. Neher, Thomas R. Weicht, Scott T. Bates, Jonathan W. Leff, Noah Fierer
PLOS ONE , 2013, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0079512
Abstract: Compost production is a critical component of organic waste handling, and compost applications to soil are increasingly important to crop production. However, we know surprisingly little about the microbial communities involved in the composting process and the factors shaping compost microbial dynamics. Here, we used high-throughput sequencing approaches to assess the diversity and composition of both bacterial and fungal communities in compost produced at a commercial-scale. Bacterial and fungal communities responded to both compost recipe and composting method. Specifically, bacterial communities in manure and hay recipes contained greater relative abundances of Firmicutes than hardwood recipes with hay recipes containing relatively more Actinobacteria and Gemmatimonadetes. In contrast, hardwood recipes contained a large relative abundance of Acidobacteria and Chloroflexi. Fungal communities of compost from a mixture of dairy manure and silage-based bedding were distinguished by a greater relative abundance of Pezizomycetes and Microascales. Hay recipes uniquely contained abundant Epicoccum, Thermomyces, Eurotium, Arthrobotrys, and Myriococcum. Hardwood recipes contained relatively abundant Sordariomycetes. Holding recipe constant, there were significantly different bacterial and fungal communities when the composting process was managed by windrow, aerated static pile, or vermicompost. Temporal dynamics of the composting process followed known patterns of degradative succession in herbivore manure. The initial community was dominated by Phycomycetes, followed by Ascomycota and finally Basidiomycota. Zygomycota were associated more with manure-silage and hay than hardwood composts. Most commercial composters focus on the thermophilic phase as an economic means to insure sanitation of compost from pathogens. However, the community succeeding the thermophilic phase begs further investigation to determine how the microbial dynamics observed here can be best managed to generate compost with the desired properties.
Microbial Biogeography of Public Restroom Surfaces
Gilberto E. Flores, Scott T. Bates, Dan Knights, Christian L. Lauber, Jesse Stombaugh, Rob Knight, Noah Fierer
PLOS ONE , 2011, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028132
Abstract: We spend the majority of our lives indoors where we are constantly exposed to bacteria residing on surfaces. However, the diversity of these surface-associated communities is largely unknown. We explored the biogeographical patterns exhibited by bacteria across ten surfaces within each of twelve public restrooms. Using high-throughput barcoded pyrosequencing of the 16 S rRNA gene, we identified 19 bacterial phyla across all surfaces. Most sequences belonged to four phyla: Actinobacteria, Bacteriodetes, Firmicutes and Proteobacteria. The communities clustered into three general categories: those found on surfaces associated with toilets, those on the restroom floor, and those found on surfaces routinely touched with hands. On toilet surfaces, gut-associated taxa were more prevalent, suggesting fecal contamination of these surfaces. Floor surfaces were the most diverse of all communities and contained several taxa commonly found in soils. Skin-associated bacteria, especially the Propionibacteriaceae, dominated surfaces routinely touched with our hands. Certain taxa were more common in female than in male restrooms as vagina-associated Lactobacillaceae were widely distributed in female restrooms, likely from urine contamination. Use of the SourceTracker algorithm confirmed many of our taxonomic observations as human skin was the primary source of bacteria on restroom surfaces. Overall, these results demonstrate that restroom surfaces host relatively diverse microbial communities dominated by human-associated bacteria with clear linkages between communities on or in different body sites and those communities found on restroom surfaces. More generally, this work is relevant to the public health field as we show that human-associated microbes are commonly found on restroom surfaces suggesting that bacterial pathogens could readily be transmitted between individuals by the touching of surfaces. Furthermore, we demonstrate that we can use high-throughput analyses of bacterial communities to determine sources of bacteria on indoor surfaces, an approach which could be used to track pathogen transmission and test the efficacy of hygiene practices.
A Jungle in There: Bacteria in Belly Buttons are Highly Diverse, but Predictable
Jiri Hulcr, Andrew M. Latimer, Jessica B. Henley, Nina R. Rountree, Noah Fierer, Andrea Lucky, Margaret D. Lowman, Robert R. Dunn
PLOS ONE , 2012, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047712
Abstract: The belly button is one of the habitats closest to us, and yet it remains relatively unexplored. We analyzed bacteria and arachaea from the belly buttons of humans from two different populations sampled within a nation-wide citizen science project. We examined bacterial and archaeal phylotypes present and their diversity using multiplex pyrosequencing of 16S rDNA libraries. We then tested the oligarchy hypothesis borrowed from tropical macroecology, namely that the frequency of phylotypes in one sample of humans predicts its frequency in another independent sample. We also tested the predictions that frequent phylotypes (the oligarchs) tend to be common when present, and tend to be more phylogenetically clustered than rare phylotypes. Once rarefied to four hundred reads per sample, bacterial communities from belly buttons proved to be at least as diverse as communities known from other skin studies (on average 67 bacterial phylotypes per belly button). However, the belly button communities were strongly dominated by a few taxa: only 6 phylotypes occurred on >80% humans. While these frequent bacterial phylotypes (the archaea were all rare) are a tiny part of the total diversity of bacteria in human navels (<0.3% of phylotypes), they constitute a major portion of individual reads (~1/3), and are predictable among independent samples of humans, in terms of both the occurrence and evolutionary relatedness (more closely related than randomly drawn equal sets of phylotypes). Thus, the hypothesis that “oligarchs” dominate diverse assemblages appears to be supported by human-associated bacteria. Although it remains difficult to predict which species of bacteria might be found on a particular human, predicting which species are most frequent (or rare) seems more straightforward, at least for those species living in belly buttons.
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