Genes encoding reverse transcriptases (RTs) are found in most eukaryotes, often as a component of retrotransposons, as well as in retroviruses and in prokaryotic retroelements. We investigated the abundance, classification and transcriptional status of RTs based on Tara Oceans marine metagenomes and metatranscriptomes encompassing a wide organism size range. Our analyses revealed that RTs predominate large-size fraction metagenomes (>5 μm), where they reached a maximum of 13.5% of the total gene abundance. Metagenomic RTs were widely distributed across the phylogeny of known RTs, but many belonged to previously uncharacterized clades. Metatranscriptomic RTs showed distinct abundance patterns across samples compared with metagenomic RTs. The relative abundances of viral and bacterial RTs among identified RT sequences were higher in metatranscriptomes than in metagenomes and these sequences were detected in all metatranscriptome size fractions. Overall, these observations suggest an active proliferation of various RT-assisted elements, which could be involved in genome evolution or adaptive processes of plankton assemblage.
KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01