Exploring Mechanisms of Bacterial Adaptation to Seasonal Temperature Change


This research examines three potential mechanisms by which bacteria can adapt to different temperatures: changes in strain-level population structure, gene regulation and particle colonization. For the first two mechanisms, I utilize bacterial strains from the Vibrionaceae family due to their ease of culturability, ubiquity in coastal environments and status as a model system for marine bacteria. I first examine vibrio seasonal dynamics in temperate, coastal water and compare the thermal performance of strains that occupy different thermal environments. Our results suggest that there are tradeoffs in adaptation to specific temperatures and that thermal specialization can occur at a very fine phylogenetic scale. The observed thermal specialization over relatively short evolutionary time-scales indicates that few genes or cellular processes may limit expansion to a different thermal niche. I then compare the genomic and transcriptional changes associated with thermal adaptation in closely-related vibrio strains under heat and cold stress. The two vibrio strains have very similar genomes and overall exhibit similar transcriptional profiles in response to temperature stress but their temperature preferences are determined by differential transcriptional responses in shared genes as well as temperature-dependent regulation of unique genes. Finally, I investigate the temporal dynamics of particle-attached and free-living bacterial community in coastal seawater and find that microhabitats exert a stronger forcing on microbial communities than environmental variability, suggesting that particle-attachment could buffer the impacts of environmental changes and particle-associated communities likely respond to the presence of distinct eukaryotes rather than commonly-measured environmental parameters. Integrating these results will offer new perspectives on the mechanisms by which bacteria respond to seasonal temperature changes as well as potential adaptations to climate change-driven warming of the surface oceans.





Yung, Cheuk Man (2016). Exploring Mechanisms of Bacterial Adaptation to Seasonal Temperature Change. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/12207.


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