Microbial functional signature in the atmospheric boundary layer

Tignat-Perrier, Romie; Dommergue, Aurélien; Thollot, Alban; Magand, Olivier; Vogel, Timothy M.; Larose, Catherine

Microorganisms are ubiquitous in the atmosphere, and some airborne microbial cells were shown to be particularly resistant to atmospheric physical and chemical conditions (e.g., ultraviolet – UV – radiation, desiccation and the presence of radicals). In addition to surviving, some cultivable microorganisms of airborne origin were shown to be able to grow on atmospheric chemicals in laboratory experiments. Metagenomic investigations have been used to identify specific signatures of microbial functional potential in different ecosystems. We conducted a comparative metagenomic study on the overall microbial functional potential and specific metabolic and stress-related microbial functions of atmospheric microorganisms in order to determine whether airborne microbial communities possess an atmosphere-specific functional potential signature as compared to other ecosystems (i.e., soil, sediment, snow, feces, surface seawater etc.). In the absence of a specific atmospheric signature, the atmospheric samples collected at nine sites around the world were similar to their underlying ecosystems. In addition, atmospheric samples were characterized by a relatively high proportion of fungi. The higher proportion of sequences annotated as genes involved in stress-related functions (i.e., functions related to the response to desiccation, UV radiation, oxidative stress etc.) resulted in part from the high concentrations of fungi that might resist and survive atmospheric physical stress better than bacteria.

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Tignat-Perrier, Romie / Dommergue, Aurélien / Thollot, Alban / et al: Microbial functional signature in the atmospheric boundary layer. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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