Infoscience

Journal article

Ecological strategies and metabolic trade-offs of complex environmental biofilms

Microorganisms aggregated into matrix-enclosed biofilms dominate microbial life in most natural, engineered, and medical systems. Despite this, the ecological adaptations and metabolic trade-offs of the formation of complex biofilms are currently poorly understood. Here, exploring the dynamics of bacterial ribosomal RNA operon (rrn) copy numbers, we unravel the genomic underpinning of the formation and success of stream biofilms that contain hundreds of bacterial taxa. Experimenting with stream biofilms, we found that nascent biofilms in eutrophic systems had reduced lag phases and higher growth rates, and more taxa with higher rrn copy number than biofilms from oligotrophic systems. Based on these growth-related traits, our findings suggest that biofilm succession was dominated by slow-but-efficient bacteria likely with leaky functions, such as the production of extracellular polymeric substances at the cost of rapid growth. Expanding our experimental findings to biofilms from 140 streams, we found that rrn copy number distribution reflects functional trait allocation and ecological strategies of biofilms to be able to thrive in fluctuating environments. These findings suggest that alternative trade-offs dominating over rate-yield trade-offs contribute to the evolutionary success of stream biofilms.

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