Characterization of the first cultured free-living representative of Candidatus Izimaplasma uncovers its unique biology

Candidatus Izimaplasma, an intermediate in the reductive evolution from Firmicutes to Mollicutes, was proposed to represent a novel class of free-living wall-less bacteria within the phylum Tenericutes found in deep-sea methane seeps. Unfortunately, the paucity of marine isolates currently available has limited further insights into their physiological and metabolic features as well as ecological roles.

Here, we present a detailed description of the phenotypic traits, genomic data and central metabolisms tested in both laboratorial and deep-sea environments of the novel strain zrk13, which allows for the first time the reconstruction of the metabolic potential and lifestyle of a member of the tentatively defined Candidatus Izimaplasma. On the basis of the description of strain zrk13, the novel species and genus Xianfuyuplasma coldseepsis is proposed.

Notably, DNA degradation driven by X. coldseepsis zrk13 was detected in both laboratorial and in situ conditions, strongly indicating it is indeed a key DNA degrader. Moreover, the putative genes determining degradation broadly distribute in the genomes of other Izimaplasma members.

Given extracellular DNA is a particularly crucial phosphorus as well as nitrogen and carbon source for microorganisms in the seafloor, Izimaplasma bacteria are thought to be important contributors to the biogeochemical cycling in the deep ocean.

Authors: Rikuan Zheng, Rui Liu, Yeqi Shan, Ruining Cai, Ge Liu, Chaomin Sun