A Metagenome-Based Investigation of Gene Relationships for Non-Substrate-Associated Microbial Phosphorus Cycling in the Water Column of Streams and Rivers

  • Erick S. LeBrun
  • Ryan S. King
  • Jeffrey A. Back
  • Sanghoon Kang
Microbiology of Aquatic Systems


Phosphorus (P) is a nutrient of primary importance in all living systems, and it is especially important in streams and rivers which are sensitive to anthropogenic P inputs and eutrophication. Microbes are accepted as the primary mineralizers and solubilizers of P improving bioavailability for organisms at all trophic levels. Here, we use a genomics approach with metagenome sequencing of 24 temperate streams and rivers representing a total P (TP) gradient to identify relationships between functional genes, functional gene groupings, P, and organisms within the P biogeochemical cycle. Combining information from network analyses, functional groupings, and system P levels, we have constructed a System Relational Overview of Gene Groupings (SROGG) which is a cohesive system level representation of P cycle gene and nutrient relationships. Using SROGG analysis in concert with other statistical approaches, we found that the compositional makeup of P cycle genes is strongly correlated to environmental P whereas absolute abundance of P genes shows no significant correlation to environmental P. We also found orthophosphate (PO43−) to be the dominant factor correlating with system P cycle gene composition with little evidence of a strong organic phosphorous correlation present even in more oligotrophic streams.


Metagenome Phosphorus Freshwater Microbial communities MiSeq Nutrient cycling 



The authors thank Morgan Bettcher, Stephen Cook, Stephen Elser, Katherine Hooker, Lauren Housley, and Caleb Robbins for their help in collecting field samples. We also thank Owen Lind and J. Thad Scott for assistance with internal review. We acknowledge the research support by Baylor University Office of Research and Baylor University Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research (CRASR).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

248_2018_1178_MOESM1_ESM.docx (20 kb)
ESM. 1 (DOCX 19 kb)
248_2018_1178_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (2.2 mb)
ESM 2 (PDF 2229 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research, Department of BiologyBaylor UniversityWacoUSA

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