Mining the Microbiome of Lake Afdera to Gain Insights into Microbial Diversity and Biosynthetic Potential

Balcha, Ermias Sissay; Macey, Michael C.; Gemeda, Mesfin Tafesse; Cavalazzi, Barbara and Woldesemayat, Adugna Abdi (2024). Mining the Microbiome of Lake Afdera to Gain Insights into Microbial Diversity and Biosynthetic Potential. FEMS Microbes, 5, article no. xtae008.



Microorganisms inhabiting hypersaline environments have received significant attention due to their ability to thrive under poly-extreme conditions, including high salinity, elevated temperatures and heavy metal stress. They are believed to possess biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) that encode secondary metabolites as survival strategy and offer potential biotechnological applications. In this study, we mined BGCs in shotgun metagenomic sequences generated from Lake Afdera, a hypersaline lake in the Afar Depression, Ethiopia. The microbiome of Lake Afdera is predominantly bacterial, with Acinetobacter (18.6%) and Pseudomonas (11.8%) being ubiquitously detected. A total of 94 distinct BGCs were identified in the metagenomic data. These BGCs are found to encode secondary metabolites with two main categories of functions: (i) potential pharmaceutical applications (nonribosomal peptide synthase NRPs, polyketide synthase, others) and (ii) miscellaneous roles conferring adaptation to extreme environment (bacteriocins, ectoine, others). Notably, NRPs (20.6%) and bacteriocins (10.6%) were the most abundant. Furthermore, our metagenomic analysis predicted gene clusters that enable microbes to defend against a wide range of toxic metals, oxidative stress and osmotic stress. These findings suggest that Lake Afdera is a rich biological reservoir, with the predicted BGCs playing critical role in the survival and adaptation of extremophiles.

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