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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Vertical stratification patterns of methanotrophs and their genetic controllers in water columns of oxygen-stratified boreal lakes

Rissanen, Antti J.; Saarela, Taija; Jantti, Helena; Buck, Moritz; Peura, Sari; Aalto, Sanni L.; Ojala, Anne; Pumpanen, Jukka; Tiirola, Marja; Elvert, Marcus; Nykanen, Hannu


The vertical structuring of methanotrophic communities and its genetic controllers remain understudied in the water columns of oxygen-stratified lakes. Therefore, we used 16S rRNA gene sequencing to study the vertical stratification patterns of methanotrophs in two boreal lakes, Lake Kuivajarvi and Lake Lovojarvi. Furthermore, metagenomic analyses were performed to assess the genomic characteristics of methanotrophs in Lovojarvi and the previously studied Lake Alinen Mustajarvi. The methanotroph communities were vertically structured along the oxygen gradient. Alphaproteobacterial methanotrophs preferred oxic water layers, while Methylococcales methanotrophs, consisting of putative novel genera and species, thrived, especially at and below the oxic-anoxic interface and showed distinct depth variation patterns, which were not completely predictable by their taxonomic classification. Instead, genomic differences among Methylococcales methanotrophs explained their variable vertical depth patterns. Genes in clusters of orthologous groups (COG) categories L (replication, recombination and repair) and S (function unknown) were relatively high in metagenome-assembled genomes representing Methylococcales clearly thriving below the oxic-anoxic interface, suggesting genetic adaptations for increased stress tolerance enabling living in the hypoxic/anoxic conditions. By contrast, genes in COG category N (cell motility) were relatively high in metagenome-assembled genomes of Methylococcales thriving at the oxic-anoxic interface, which suggests genetic adaptations for increased motility at the vertically fluctuating oxic-anoxic interface.


methanotroph; Methylococcales; vertical structuring; 16S rRNA; metagenomics; genetic potential

Published in

FEMS Microbiology Ecology
2021, Volume: 97, number: 2, article number: fiaa252