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Using metagenomic and metatranscriptomic observations to test a thermodynamic-based model of community metabolic expression over time and space

Joe Vallino
Marine Biological Laboratory
The Ecosystems Center- Woods Hole, MA
Marine Sciences Bldg., rm 261


Marine biogeochemistry is orchestrated by a complex and dynamic community of microorganisms that attempt to maximize their own fecundity through a combination of competition and cooperation.  At a systems level, the community can be described as a distributed metabolic network, where different species contribute their own unique set of metabolic capabilities.  Our current project attempts to understand the governing principles that describe amplification or attenuation of metabolic pathways within the network through a combination of modeling and metagenomic, metatranscriptomic and biogeochemical observations.  We will describe and present results from our thermodynamic-based model that determines optimal pathway expression from available resources based on the principle of maximum entropy production (MEP); that is, based on the hypothesis that non-equilibrium systems organize to maximize energy dissipation. The MEP model currently predicts metabolic pathway expression over time, and one spatial dimension.  Model predictions will be compared to biogeochemical observations and gene presence and expression from samples collected over time and space from a costal meromictic basin (Siders Pond) located in Falmouth MA, US.  Siders Pond permanent stratification, caused by occasional seawater intrusion, results in steep chemoclines and redox gradients, which supports both aerobic and anaerobic phototrophs as well as sulfur, Fe and Mn redox cycles.  The diversity of metabolic capability and expression we have observed over depth makes it an ideal system to test our thermodynamic-based model.

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