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Diversity of hopanoids and squalene-hopene cyclases across a tropical land-sea gradient


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Bacterial hopanoids are ubiquitous in Earth surface environments. They hold promise as environmental and ecological biomarkers, if the phylogeny and physiological drivers of hopanoid biosynthesis can be linked with the distribution of hopanoids observed across a breadth of samples. Here we survey the diversity of hopanoid cyclases from a land-sea gradient across the island of San Salvador, in the easternmost part of the Bahamas. The distribution of lipids was determined for the same sites, for the first time overlaying quantification of bacteriohopanepolyols with sqhC phylogeny. The results are similar to previous reports: environmental sqhCs average < 65% translated amino acid identity to their closest named relatives, and sequences from putative Proteobacteria dominate. Additionally, a new and apparently ubiquitous group of marine hopanoid producers is identified; it has no identifiable close relatives. The greatest diversity of hopanoid lipids occurs in soil, but hopanoids represent a minor fraction of total soil-derived lipids. Marine samples contain fewer identifiable hopanoids, but they are more abundant as a fraction of the total extractable lipids. In soil, the dominant compounds are 35-aminobacteriohopane-32,33,34-triol and adenosylhopane. In an upper estuarine sample, bacteriohopanetetrol and 32,35-anhydrobacteriohopanetetrol dominate; while in lower estuarine and open marine samples, the most abundant are bacteriohopanetetrol and bacteriohopaneribonolactone. Cyclitol ethers are trace components in the soil, absent in the estuary, and of moderate abundance in the open marine setting, suggesting a dominant marine source. Conversely, aminotriol and aminotetrol decrease in abundance or disappear completely from land to ocean, while 2-methyldiplopterol shows the opposite trend. Small quantities of 2-methylbacteriohopanepolyols are detectable in all samples. The overall hopanoid distributions may correlate to the major phylogenetic families of hopanoid producers or to the environments in which they are found.