Research Article: Characterization of spatial distribution of the bacterial community in the South Sea of Korea

Date Published: March 17, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Ji-Hui Seo, Ilnam Kang, Seung-Jo Yang, Jang-Cheon Cho, Luis Angel Maldonado Manjarrez.


In order to investigate the importance of spatial and environmental factors on the structure and diversity of bacterial communities, high-resolution 16S rRNA gene tag pyrosequencing was applied to bacterial communities in the littoral sea. Seawater samples were prepared from seven different stations in the South Sea of Korea, the marginal sea in the western Pacific Ocean, and were divided into three groups according to distances from the coastline. The majority of 19,860 sequences were affiliated with Alphaproteobacteria (58.2%), Gammaproteobacteria (7.9%), and Bacteroidetes (13.9%). The bacterioplankton community at each station was highly diverse and varied among the samples. Major bacterial lineages showed different niche preferences among three locational groups. Alphaproteobacteria was the most abundant bacterial class, and it harbored the most frequently recorded operational taxonomic units (OTUs) in all sampling stations. However, dominant groups at the order levels showed a clear difference among the samples. The SAR11 clade was more abundant in coastal waters while the Roseobacter clade prevailed at stations far away from the coastline. Furthermore, members of Actinobacteria and Cyanobacteria also exhibited spatial variability. The OM1 clade in Actinobacteria constituted a predominant fraction in coastal samples, but it was essentially absent at the distal stations closer to open ocean. In contrast, Synechococcus was the predominant taxon in the distal samples, accounting for 7.1–19.5%, but was hardly detected in coastal waters, representing less than 0.7%. In Bacteroidetes, NS5 and NS9 groups tended to inhabit coastal waters while the genera Polaribacter and Ulvibacter were more abundant in distal stations. Clustering analysis and principle coordinates analysis based on OTU data indicated that bacterial communities in the studied area were separated into three groups that coincided with locational grouping. Statistical analysis showed that phosphate and dissolved oxygen concentration had a significant influence on the bacterial community composition.

Partial Text

Microorganisms are the most abundant and successful organisms on earth, but relatively little is known about the biogeographic distribution patterns of microbial communities within and between major habitats. Microbial biogeographical studies describe spatiotemporal distribution patterns of microbes and elucidate common aspects of the correlations between community composition and characteristics in different environments [1]. Spatiotemporal patterns in microbial community structure are well structured and highly influenced by geographical characteristics and environmental variables [2, 3]. Microbial biogeography can be summarized by the historic phrase “everything is everywhere, but the environment selects.” It implies that despite no limitation on bacterial dispersal in the environment, there is niche differentiation among microbial taxa selected as competitive survivors adapted to distinct environmental conditions. To explain niche-based relationships between major bacterial populations and environmental variation, many studies identified a number of different environmental parameters, such as NH4+ and total organic nitrogen concentration [4], phosphate concentration [5], temperature [5, 6], and salinity [7, 8], affecting the dynamics of bacterioplankton communities.

In this study, we analyzed 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequences obtained from 7 different stations to characterize changes in the marine bacterial community structure that reflect apparent responses to spatial heterogeneity of environmental factors. The 16S rRNA gene abundance of diverse phylogenetic groups in the sampling stations revealed that specific niches were formed according to the distances from coastlines, which led to the prevalence of specific dominant taxonomic groups. Although a restricted number of samples caused limitations in deriving conclusions on bacterial distribution reflecting microbial endemism, there was an obvious taxa distribution pattern both within and between the sampling stations in the South Sea of Korea. Bacterial assemblages at coastal stations were highly dominated by the SAR11 clade, actinobacterial OM1 clade, and NS5 and NS9 groups in the order Flavobacteriales. In contrast, members of Rhodobacterales, Synechococcus, Polaribacter, and Ulvibacter were good indicators for representing the bacterial community of distal stations. These bacterial community structures in the South Sea of Korea showed statistically significant relationships with spatial characteristics of each station and environmental factors such as phosphate. Unfortunately, many indicator taxa identified in this study, belonging to the SAR406, OM1, NS5, and NS9 clades, are as-yet-uncultured. Cultivation of these uncultured groups of bacteria would reveal their physiology in the diverse marine environmental regimes, which will show their spatiotemporal adaptation strategies in the ocean.




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