Comparison of Niskin vs. in situ approaches for analysis of gene expression in deep Mediterranean Sea water samples Academic Article uri icon


  • Obtaining an accurate picture of microbial processes occurring in situ is essential for our understanding of marine biogeochemical cycles of global importance. Water samples are typically collected at depth and returned to the sea surface for processing and downstream experiments. Metatranscriptome analysis is one powerful approach for investigating metabolic activities of microorganisms in their habitat and which can be informative for determining responses of microbiota to disturbances such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. For studies of microbial processes occurring in the deep sea, however, sample handling, pressure, and other changes during sample recovery can subject microorganisms to physiological changes that alter the expression profile of labile messenger RNA. Here we report a comparison of gene expression profiles for whole microbial communities in a bathypelagic water column sample collected in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea using Niskin bottle sample collection and a new water column sampler for studies of marine microbial ecology, the Microbial Sampler – In Situ Incubation Device (MS-SID). For some taxa, gene expression profiles from samples collected and preserved 33 in situ were significantly different from potentially more stressful Niskin sampling and 34 preservation on deck. Some categories of transcribed genes also appear to be affected by sample 35 handling more than others. This suggests that for future studies of marine microbial ecology, 36 particularly targeting deep sea samples, an in situ sample collection and preservation approach 37 should be considered.

publication date

  • July 2016