(American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2023-02-22)
Kiefl, Evan; Esen, Ozcan C.; Miller, Samuel E.; Kroll, Kourtney L.; Willis, Amy D.; Rappé, Michael S.; Pan, Tao; Eren, A. Murat
Comprehensive sampling of natural genetic diversity with metagenomics enables highly resolved insights into the interplay between ecology and evolution. However, resolving adaptive, neutral, or purifying processes of evolution from intrapopulation genomic variation remains a challenge, partly due to the sole reliance on gene sequences to interpret variants. Here, we describe an approach to analyze genetic variation in the context of predicted protein structures and apply it to a marine microbial population within the SAR11 subclade 1a.3.V, which dominates low-latitude surface oceans. Our analyses reveal a tight association between genetic variation and protein structure. In a central gene in nitrogen metabolism, we observe decreased occurrence of nonsynonymous variants from ligand-binding sites as a function of nitrate concentrations, revealing genetic targets of distinct evolutionary pressures maintained by nutrient availability. Our work yields insights into the governing principles of evolution and enables structure-aware investigations of microbial population genetics.