Nat Commun 8(1) , 1507 (Nov 15 2017)
Microbial communities drive biogeochemical cycles through networks of metabolite exchange that are structured along energetic gradients. As energy yields become limiting, these networks favor co-metabolic interactions to maximize energy disequilibria. Here we apply single-cell genomics, metagenomics, and metatranscriptomics to study bacterial populations of the abundant “microbial dark matter” phylum Marinimicrobia along defined energy gradients. We show that evolutionary diversification of major Marinimicrobia clades appears to be closely related to energy yields, with increased co-metabolic interactions in more deeply branching clades. Several of these clades appear to participate in the biogeochemical cycling of sulfur and nitrogen, filling previously unassigned niches in the ocean. Notably, two Marinimicrobia clades, occupying different energetic niches, express nitrous oxide reductase, potentially acting as a global sink for the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.