Proteomics-inferred genome typing (PIGT) demonstrates inter-population recombination as a strategy for environmental adaptation


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Analyses of ecological and evolutionary processes that shape microbial consortia are facilitated by comprehensive studies of ecosystems with low species richness. In the current study we evaluated the role of recombination in altering the fitness of chemoautotrophic bacteria in their natural environment. Proteomics-inferred genome typing (PIGT) was used to genotype the dominant Leptospirillum group II populations in 27 biofilms sampled from six locations in the Richmond Mine acid mine drainage system (Iron Mountain, CA) over a 4-year period. We observed six distinct genotypes that are recombinants comprised of segments from two ‘parental’ genotypes. Community genomic analyses revealed additional low abundance recombinant variants. The dominance of some genotypes despite a larger available genome pool, and patterns of spatiotemporal distribution within the ecosystem, indicate selection for distinct recombinants. Genes involved in motility, signal transduction and transport were over-represented in the tens to hundreds of kilobase recombinant blocks, whereas core metabolic functions were significantly under-represented. Our findings demonstrate the power of PIGT and reveal that recombination is a mechanism for fine-scale adaptation in this system.