Single cell genomics yields a wide diversity of small planktonic protists across major ocean ecosystems

© G.Bounaud - C.Sardet / Soixanteseize - Fondation Tara Expéditions

Tara Oceans

M. E. Sieracki, N. J. Poulton, O. Jaillon, P. Wincker, C. de Vargas, L. Rubinat-Ripoll, R. Stepanauskas, R. Logares & R. Massana

Published on 15 April, 2019 -  View online


Marine planktonic protists are critical components of ocean ecosystems and are highly diverse. Molecular sequencing methods are being used to describe this diversity and reveal new associations and metabolisms that are important to how these ecosystems function. We describe here the use of the single cell genomics approach to sample and interrogate the diversity of the smaller (pico- and nano-sized) protists from a range of oceanic samples. We created over 900 single amplified genomes (SAGs) from 8 Tara Ocean samples across the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. We show that flow cytometric sorting of single cells effectively distinguishes plastidic and aplastidic cell types that agree with our understanding of protist phylogeny. Yields of genomic DNA with PCR-identifiable 18S rRNA gene sequence from single cells was low (15% of aplastidic cell sorts, and 7% of plastidic sorts) and tests with alternate primers and comparisons to metabarcoding did not reveal phylogenetic bias in the major protist groups. There was little evidence of significant bias against or in favor of any phylogenetic group expected or known to be present. The four open ocean stations in the Indian Ocean had similar communities, despite ranging from 14°N to 20°S latitude, and they differed from the Mediterranean station. Single cell genomics of protists suggests that the taxonomic diversity of the dominant taxa found in only several hundreds of microliters of surface seawater is similar to that found in molecular surveys where liters of sample are filtered.