Metagenomic methylation patterns resolve bacterial genomes of unusual size and structural complexity


The plasticity of bacterial and archaeal genomes makes examining their ecological and evolutionary dynamics both exciting and challenging. The same mechanisms that enable rapid genomic change and adaptation confound current approaches for recovering complete genomes from metagenomes. Here, we use strain-specific patterns of DNA methylation to resolve complex bacterial genomes from long-read metagenomic data of a marine microbial consortium, the “pink berries” of the Sippewissett Marsh (USA). Unique combinations of restriction-modification (RM) systems encoded by the bacteria produced distinctive methylation profiles that were used to accurately bin and classify metagenomic sequences. Using this approach, we finished the largest and most complex circularized bacterial genome ever recovered from a metagenome (7.9 Mb with >600 transposons), the finished genome of Thiohalocapsa sp. PB-PSB1 the dominant bacteria in the consortia. From genomes binned by methylation patterns, we identified instances of horizontal gene transfer between sulfur-cycling symbionts (Thiohalocapsa sp. PB-PSB1 and Desulfofustis sp. PB-SRB1), phage infection, and strain-level structural variation. We also linked the methylation patterns of each metagenome-assembled genome with encoded DNA methyltransferases and discovered new RM defense systems, including novel associations of RM systems with RNase toxins.


ICB Affiliated Authors

Elizabeth G. Wilbanks, Hugo Doré, Meredith H. Ashby, Cheryl Heiner, Richard J. Roberts and Jonathan A. Eisen
Peer-Reviewed Article
The ISME Journal