Biological Microbial Interactions from Cooccurrence Networks in a High Mountain Lacustrine District

Vicente J. Ontiveros, Rüdiger Ortiz-Álvarez, José A. Capitán, Albert Barberán, David Alonso, Emilio O. Casamayor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


A fundamental question in biology is why some species tend to occur together in the same locations, while others are never observed coexisting. This question becomes particularly relevant for microorganisms thriving in the highly diluted waters of high mountain lakes, where biotic interactions might be required to make the most of an extreme environment. We studied a high-throughput gene data set of alpine lakes (.220 Pyrenean lakes) with cooccurrence network analysis to infer potential biotic interactions, using the combination of a probabilistic method for determining significant cooccurrences and coexclusions between pairs of species and a conceptual framework for classifying the nature of the observed cooccurrences and coexclusions. This computational approach (i) determined and quantified the importance of environmental variables and spatial distribution and (ii) defined potential interacting microbial assemblages. We determined the properties and relationships between these assemblages by examining node properties at the taxonomic level, indicating associations with their potential habitat sources (i.e., aquatic versus terrestrial) and their functional strategies (i.e., parasitic versus mixotrophic). Environmental variables explained fewer pairs in bacteria than in microbial eukaryotes for the alpine data set, with pH alone explaining the highest proportion of bacterial pairs. Nutrient composition was also relevant for explaining association pairs, particularly in microeukaryotes. We identified a reduced subset of pairs with the highest probability of species interactions (“interacting guilds”) that significantly reached higher occupancies and lower mean relative abundances in agreement with the carrying capacity hypothesis. The interacting bacterial guilds could be more related to habitat and microdispersal processes (i.e., aquatic versus soil microbes), whereas for microeukaryotes trophic roles (osmotrophs, mixotrophs, and parasitics) could potentially play a major role. Overall, our approach may add helpful information to guide further efforts for a mechanistic understanding of microbial interactions in situ.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • cell-cell interaction
  • microbes
  • networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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