Global biogeography of SAR11 marine bacteria

Mark V. Brown, Federico M. Lauro, Matthew Z. Demaere, Les Muir, David Wilkins, Torsten Thomas, Martin J. Riddle, Jed A. Fuhrman, Cynthia Andrews-Pfannkoch, Jeffrey M. Hoffman, Jeffrey B. McQuaid, Andrew Allen, Stephen R. Rintoul, Ricardo Cavicchioli*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

172 Citations (Scopus)


The ubiquitous SAR11 bacterial clade is the most abundant type of organism in the worldĝ€™s oceans, but the reasons for its success are not fully elucidated. We analysed 128 surface marine metagenomes, including 37 new Antarctic metagenomes. The large size of the data set enabled internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions to be obtained from the Southern polar region, enabling the first global characterization of the distribution of SAR11, from waters spanning temperatures ĝ̂'2 to 30°C. Our data show a stable co-occurrence of phylotypes within both ĝ€̃ tropicalĝ€™ (>20°C) and ĝ€̃ polarĝ€™ (<10°C) biomes, highlighting ecological niche differentiation between major SAR11 subgroups. All phylotypes display transitions in abundance that are strongly correlated with temperature and latitude. By assembling SAR11 genomes from Antarctic metagenome data, we identified specific genes, biases in gene functions and signatures of positive selection in the genomes of the polar SAR11ĝ€"genomic signatures of adaptive radiation. Our data demonstrate the importance of adaptive radiation in the organismĝ€™s ability to proliferate throughout the worldĝ€™s oceans, and describe genomic traits characteristic of different phylotypes in specific marine biomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number595
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Systems Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptive radiation
  • Antarctica
  • metagenome
  • Pelagibacter
  • phylotype distribution


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