Use of Whole Genome Shotgun Sequencing for the Analysis of Microbial Communities in Arabidopsis thaliana Leaves

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Dokumentart: Dissertation
Date: 2019-08-06
Language: English
Faculty: 7 Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Department: Biologie
Advisor: Weigel, Detlef (Prof. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2014-07-04
DDC Classifikation: 500 - Natural sciences and mathematics
Keywords: Ackerschmalwand , Schmalwand <Arabidopsis> , Pflanzen , Blatt
Other Keywords: Metagenomik
Arabidopsis thaliana
License: Publishing license including print on demand
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Microorganisms, such as all Bacteria, Archaeae, and some Eukaryotes, inhabit all imaginable habitats in the planet, from water vents in the deep ocean to extreme environments of high temperature and salinity. Microbes also constitute the most diverse group of organisms in terms if genetic information, metabolic function, and taxonomy. Furthermore, many of these microbes establish complex interactions with each others and with many other multicellular organisms. The collection of microbes that share a body space with a plant or animal is called the microbiota, and their genetic information is called the microbiome. The microbiota has emerged as a crucial determinant of a host’s overall health and understanding it has become crucial in many biological fields. In mammals, the gut microbiota has been linked to important diseases such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and dementia. In plants, the microbiota can provide protection against certain pathogens or confer resistance against harsh environmental conditions such as drought. Furthermore, the leaves of plants represent one of the largest surface areas that can potentially be colonized by microbes. The advent of sequencing technologies has let researchers to study microbial communities at unprecedented resolution and scale. By targeting individual loci such as the 16S rDNA locus in bacteria, many species can be studied simultaneously, as well as their properties such as relative abundance without the need of individual isolation of target taxa. Decreasing costs of DNA sequencing has also led to whole shotgun sequencing where instead of targeting a single or a number of loci, random fragments of DNA are sequenced. This effectively renders the entire microbiome accessible to study, referred to as metagenomics. Consequently many more areas of investigation are open, such as the exploration of within host genetic diversity, functional analysis, or assembly of individual genomes from metagenomes. In this study, I described the analysis of metagenomic sequencing data from microbial 11 communities in leaves of wild Arabidopsis thaliana individuals from southwest Germany. As a model organisms, A. thaliana not only is accessible in the wild but also has a rich body of previous research in plant-microbe interactions. In the first section, I describe how whole shotgun sequencing of leaf DNA extracts can be used to accurately describe the taxonomic composition of the microbial community of individual hosts. The nature of whole shotgun sequencing is used to estimate true microbial abundances which can not be done with amplicons sequencing. I show how this community varies across hosts, but some trends are seen, such as the dominance of the bacterial genera Pseudomonas and Sphingomonas . Moreover, even though there is variation between individuals, I explore the influence of site of origin and host genotype. Finally, metagenomic assembly is applied to individual samples, showing the limitations of WGS in plant leaves. In the second section, I explore the genomic diversity of the most abundant genera: Pseudomonas and Sphingomonas . I use a core genome approach where a set of common genes is obtained from previously sequenced and assembled genomes. Thereafter, the gene sequences of the core genome is used as a reference for short genome mapping. Based on these mappings, individual strain mixtures are inferred based on the frequency distribution of non reference bases at each detected single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). Finally, SNP’s are then used to derive population structure of strain mixtures across samples and with known reference genomes. In conclusion, this thesis provides insights into the use of metagenomic sequencing to study microbial populations in wild plants. I identify the strengths and weaknesses of using whole genome sequencing for this purpose. As well as a way to study strain level dynamics of prevalent taxa within a single host.

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