Environ Microbiol; co-auth.: GTF

Environ Microbiol. 2013 Mar 28. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.12125. [Epub ahead of print]

Genome-wide transposon insertion scanning of environmental survival functions in the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon degrading bacterium Sphingomonas wittichii RW1.


Department of Fundamental Microbiology, University of Lausanne, 1015, Lausanne, Switzerland.


Sphingomonas wittichii RW1 is a dibenzofuran and dibenzodioxin-degrading bacterium with potentially interesting properties for bioaugmentation of contaminated sites. In order to understand the capacity of the microorganism to survive in the environment we used a genome-wide transposon scanning approach. RW1 transposon libraries were generated with around 22 000 independent insertions. Libraries were grown for an average of 50 generations (five successive passages in batch liquid medium) with salicylate as sole carbon and energy source in presence or absence of salt stress at -1.5 MPa. Alternatively, libraries were grown in sand with salicylate, at 50% water holding capacity, for 4 and 10 days (equivalent to 7 generations). Library DNA was recovered from the different growth conditions and scanned by ultrahigh throughput sequencing for the positions and numbers of inserted transposed kanamycin resistance gene. No transposon reads were recovered in 579 genes (10% of all annotated genes in the RW1 genome) in any of the libraries, suggesting those to be essential for survival under the used conditions. Libraries recovered from sand differed strongly from those incubated in liquid batch medium. In particular, important functions for survival of cells in sand at the short term concerned nutrient scavenging, energy metabolism and motility. In contrast to this, fatty acid metabolism and oxidative stress response were essential for longer term survival of cells in sand. Comparison to transcriptome data suggested important functions in sand for flagellar movement, pili synthesis, trehalose and polysaccharide synthesis and putative cell surface antigen proteins. Interestingly, a variety of genes were also identified, interruption of which cause significant increase in fitness during growth on salicylate. One of these was an Lrp family transcription regulator and mutants in this gene covered more than 90% of the total library after 50 generations of growth on salicylate. Our results demonstrate the power of genome-wide transposon scanning approaches for analysis of complex traits.

© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd and Society for Applied Microbiology.