Marine biofilms constitute a bank of hidden microbial diversity and functional potential

Weipeng Zhang, Wei Ding, Yong Xin Li, Chunkit Tam, Salim Bougouffa, Ruojun Wang, Bite Pei, Hoyin Chiang, Pokman Leung, Yanhong Lu, Jin Sun, He Fu, Vladimir B. Bajic, Hongbin Liu, Nicole S. Webster, Pei Yuan Qian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Recent big data analyses have illuminated marine microbial diversity from a global perspective, focusing on planktonic microorganisms. Here, we analyze 2.5 terabases of newly sequenced datasets and the Tara Oceans metagenomes to study the diversity of biofilm-forming marine microorganisms. We identify more than 7,300 biofilm-forming ‘species’ that are undetected in seawater analyses, increasing the known microbial diversity in the oceans by more than 20%, and provide evidence for differentiation across oceanic niches. Generation of a gene distribution profile reveals a functional core across the biofilms, comprised of genes from a variety of microbial phyla that may play roles in stress responses and microbe-microbe interactions. Analysis of 479 genomes reconstructed from the biofilm metagenomes reveals novel biosynthetic gene clusters and CRISPR-Cas systems. Our data highlight the previously underestimated ocean microbial diversity, and allow mining novel microbial lineages and gene resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number517
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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