1. Cell Biology
  2. Ecology
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Quantitative 3D-imaging for cell biology and ecology of environmental microbial eukaryotes

  1. Sebastien Colin Is a corresponding author
  2. Luis Pedro Coelho
  3. Shinichi Sunagawa
  4. Chris Bowler
  5. Eric Karsenti
  6. Peer Bork
  7. Rainer Pepperkok
  8. Colomban de Vargas Is a corresponding author
  1. Centre Nationnal de la Recherche Scientifique, France
  2. Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Sorbonne Universités, France
  3. European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Germany
  4. Paris Sciences et Lettres Research University, France
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Cite as: eLife 2017;6:e26066 doi: 10.7554/eLife.26066

Abstract

We present a 3D-fluorescence imaging and classification tool for high throughput analysis of microbial eukaryotes in environmental samples. It entails high-content feature extraction that permits accurate automated taxonomic classification and quantitative data about organism ultrastructures and interactions. Using plankton samples from the Tara Oceans expeditions, we validate its applicability to taxonomic profiling and ecosystem analyses, and discuss its potential for future integration of eukaryotic cell biology into evolutionary and ecological studies.

https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.26066.001

eLife digest

Our planet’s ecosystems – from its oceans to its forests – are teeming with microbes. DNA analysis of environmental samples shows that many of these microbes belong to a group known as protists. This group consists of single-celled organisms that are close relatives of fungi, plants and animals. Though protists are a widespread and diverse group, scientists know little about them. One reason for this is the lack of high-throughput ways to recognize and count protists in environmental samples.

Colin, Coelho et al. set out to tackle this blind spot in ecology and cell biology by developing an automated imaging system. The system needed to image many kinds of protist cells in enough detail to see the features inside. The end-result was a 3D-imaging technique called e-HCFM – which is short for “environmental high content fluorescence microscopy”. Colin, Coelho et al. went on to use the technique on 72 samples collected on an expedition across the world’s oceans. This allowed them to automatically image, recognize and classify over 330,000 organisms.

This approach and new dataset will benefit researchers working in many fields, from cell biology to ecology, computational biology and beyond. In the future, this imaging method might integrate with techniques that can analyze the DNA in individual cells. This would allow scientists to link protists’ visible features to their genetic information, in a way that will scale from single cells up to entire ecosystems.

https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.26066.002

Introduction

Studies of organismal diversity have traditionally focused on plants and animals, and more recently on prokaryotes and viruses, while much less attention has been given to microbial eukaryotes (Pawlowski et al., 2012; del Campo et al., 2014) (mostly unicellular protists, plus small multicellular organisms between 0.5 µm and 1 mm in size). On the other hand, genetics together with molecular, cell, and developmental biology have used a limited number of model organisms to reveal over the past 40 years key principles underpinning the organization of living matter (Alberts, 2014). However, recent holistic meta-omics surveys of biodiversity across the full spectrum of life (Bork et al., 2015) are revealing nowadays a massive amount of unknown taxa and genes in microbial eukaryotes (de Vargas et al., 2015) implying that much more eukaryotic diversity and functions need to be explored. Phylogenomics (Burki et al., 2016), geological (Knoll, 2014; Falkowski and Knoll, 2007), and ecological (de Vargas et al., 2015; Mahe et al., 2016) records also show how intense symbiogenesis and diversification in protists have shaped the evolution of eukaryotes together with that of biogeochemical cycles. In order to better understand how such processes have led to the complexification of life and the Earth system, it is necessary to bridge contemporary diversity studies to environmental eukaryotic cell biology in an ecological context. As a first step, we need new automated high-content 3D-imaging systems that can cope with the broad size, abundance, and complexity ranges characterizing environmental microbial eukaryotes.

Automated imaging techniques to tackle the diversity of uncultivated aquatic organisms include in-flow systems that couple high-throughput low-resolution imaging with feature extraction from single micro-organisms (Sieracki et al., 1998; Sosik and Olson, 2007), and widefield microscope-based methods applied to phytoplankton recognition and quantification (Embleton et al., 2003; Rodenacker et al., 2006; Schulze et al., 2013). These approaches can characterize eukaryotic organisms from low contrast bright field images acquired at a single focal plane, sometimes in association with auto-fluorescence measurements of photosynthetic pigments (Schulze et al., 2013; Hense et al., 2008). The identification and classification of eukaryotes is then based on semi-automated machine learning approaches for a few to tens of taxonomic classes (Benfield et al., 2007) with a peak performance at 70–90% accuracy, which is comparable to what trained annotators can achieve (MacLeod et al., 2010; Culverhouse, 2007). None of these tools provide images of sufficient quality and resolution to assess the structural complexity of eukaryotic cells whose diversity peaks in the 5 to 50 μm size-range (de Vargas et al., 2015).

To improve both information content and the automated capture of morphological complexity of microbial eukaryotes over a broad size-range, we developed a 3D multichannel imaging workflow denoted e-HCFM (environmental High Content Fluorescence Microscopy) (Figure 1a). Here, we introduce this new method, which adapts recent protocols developed in model cell biology (Pepperkok and Ellenberg, 2006; Eliceiri et al., 2012) to the large diversity of scattered objects that characterizes environmental samples (organisms, debris, aggregates, abiotic objects, etc.). We then apply e-HCFM to 72 plankton samples collected during the Tara Oceans expeditions (Karsenti et al., 2011) (Figure 1—source data 1), containing communities of planktonic organisms in the 5–20 µm size range, which are typically analyzed automatically by flow cytometry with a very low morpho-taxonomic resolution (Marie et al., 2014; Zubkov et al., 2007). We show that e-HCFM allows its users (i) to obtain accurate 3D images of micro-eukaryotes over a broad taxonomic range; (ii) to enrich significantly the information content of each imaged organism; (iii) to segregate automatically the high diversity of planktonic micro-particles, and (iv) to archive annotated digital images of perishable samples. These advances allow linking identification and quantification of uncultured eukaryotes with ecological and functional traits.

Figure 1 with 9 supplements see all
Environmental high-content fluorescence microscopy (e-HCFM): automated, 3D, and multichannel imaging for aquatic micro-eukaryotes.

(a) e-HCFM workflow applied to Tara Oceans samples: (1) 72 nano-plankton (size range 5–20 μm) samples collected during the Tara Oceans expedition (Pesant et al., 2015) were fixed in paraformaldehyde-glutaraldehyde buffer onboard and kept at 4°C for up to several years; (2) Samples were mounted in optical multiwell plates. Then, a 4-steps preparation allowed to stain all eukaryotic cells; (3) A commercial confocal laser scanning microscope was used to automatically image samples (40X NA1.1 water lens; 5 channels) generating 2.5 Tb of raw data (acquisition details in Figure 1—source data 1); (4) In total, 336,655 objects were processed for individual extraction of 480 descriptors (3D biovolumes, intensity distribution, shape descriptors and texture features, details in Figure 1—source data 2), and the reconstruction of various images for visual inspection (c); (5) A training set based on 18,103 manually curated images (5.4% of the dataset) classified into 155 categories, was used for automated recognition (Random Forest). (b) Examples of e-HCFM 3D-images and movies from a wide phylogenetic diversity of planktonic eukaryotes (see also Figure 1—figure supplements 1 and 2). Left panel: a chain of diatoms (Asterionellopsis sp., Heterokonta) (Figure 1—video 1); right panel, top left to bottom right: radiolarian (Rhizaria), ciliate (Alveolata), amoeba (Amoebozoa), choanoflagellate (Opisthokonta), dinoflagellate (Alveolata), coccolithophore (Haptophyta). Key cellular features are labelled with various dyes: DNA/nuclei (blue, Hoechst33342); (intra)cellular membranes (green, DiOC6(3)); cell covers and extensions (cyan, PLL-AF546, a home-made conjugation between α-poly-L-lysine (PLL) and Alexa Fluor 546 (AF546)); chloroplasts (red, chlorophyll autofluorescence). Scale bar 5 µm. (c) The confocal microscope is automated for acquiring multicolor Z-stacks over a mosaic of positions for each sample. Each field of view (fov) overlaps neighboring ones for detection of entire cells even if their position crossed one fov edge (see also Figure 1—figure supplement 4a). The imaging volume along the Z-axis comprises the space between the coverglass/sample interface plane and an upper limit corresponding to the theoretical thickest cell (Figure 1—figure supplement 3b). The fovs are then processed automatically and sequentially for detecting organisms without redundancy and for generating various images and Z-stack animations for visual inspection (Figure 1—videos 2 and 3).

https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.26066.003

Results and discussion

Size-fractionated plankton communities collected across the world oceans during the Tara Oceans expeditions (Pesant et al., 2015) (Figure 1a) and fixed onboard were used as starting material. Prior to imaging, sample aliquots are loaded into an optical chamber coverglass slide, which is centrifuged to concentrate the organisms onto the glass-bottom of the well, coated for promoting cell adherence (Figure 1a, Figure 1—figure supplement 3). Subsequent preparation steps (rinsing/staining/washing) are minimized to avoid cell loss and manipulations, and thus preserve fragile bodies for reliable quantification. Two environmental samples are prepared manually in 1 hr. Key cellular features were targeted with a combination of fluorescent dyes and auto-fluorescence (Figure 1b, Figure 1—video 1): (i) DNA content; (ii) (intra)cellular membranes and hydrophobic bodies; (iii) chloroplasts and potential photosymbionts, and (iv) the overall contour of eukaryotic cells including cell walls and external matrices. For this last purpose, we specifically designed the PLL-AF546 dye (conjugation between α-poly-L-lysine and Alexa Fluor 546, see method section below) that labels a wide range of exoskeletons made of polysaccharides, proteins, carbonate, silicate, etc., abundant in marine microbial eukaryotes (Figure 1b and Figure 1—figure supplements 1 and 2). The fluorochrome moiety can be easily adapted for other multicolor labeling protocols, and the staining strategy can be applied to either live (Figure 1—figure supplement 2) or fixed cells in suspension (Figure 1—figure supplement 1). Overall, our protocol is highly effective at revealing internal and external cellular structures in organisms representing the known phylogenetic diversity of eukaryotes (Figure 1—figure supplement 1), including their diverse biotic interactions (Figure 2, Figure 2—video 1, and Figure 2—figure supplement 1).

Figure 2 with 2 supplements see all
e-HCFM-staining strategy is effective in revealing symbiotic interactions in marine protists.

These seven cells, fixed on board Tara and kept at 4°C for several years, were imaged manually using the e-HCFM workflow (Figure 1). Each cell is illustrated by two panels: the left side overlays all available fluorescent channels whereas the right side displays only the chlorophyll and the Hoechst fluorescence. Four fluorescent channels were recorded: (i) Green: cellular membranes (DiOC6(3)) indicate the core cell bodies; it also stains loricas of tintinnid ciliates (g); (ii) Blue: DNA (Hoechst) identifies nuclei; it also stains the cell-wall of thecate dinoflagellate (a, c); (iii) Red: chlorophyll autofluorescence resolves chloroplasts; (iv) Cyan: PLL-A546 is a generic counterstain for visualizing eukaryotic cells’ surface (not used in a, (c). 3D reconstructions were conducted with the software Imaris (Bitplane). Scale bar is 10 µm. (a) Association between the heterotrophic dinoflagellate Amphisolenia and unidentified cyanobacteria hosted inside the cell wall (arrow head). (b) The diatom Corethron sp. (Figure 2—video 1) harbors several epiphytic nanoflagellates living in small lorica and attached onto the diatom frustule (arrow head). These have been observed in association with different diatom species (see Figure 2—figure supplement 1). (c) The dinoflagellate Citharistes sp. has developed a chamber (phaeosome) for housing cyanobacteria (arrow head). (d) The diatom Thalassiosira sp. is surrounded by a belt chain of 14 coccolithophores (Reticulofenestra sessilis, arrow head). (e) A juvenile pelagic foraminifer hosts endosymbiotic microalgae (arrowhead), likely Pelagodinium dinoflagellates. (f) Colonies of Fragillariopsis sp. diatoms are regularly observed in close interaction with tintinnid Salpingella sp. ciliate (arrowhead). The tintinnid lorica is inserted inside the groove of the barrel formed by the diatom chain. (g) The lorica of the ciliate Tintinnopsis sp. aggregates several epiphyte pennate diatoms, which were still alive prior to fixation as chloroplast and nuclei are visible (arrow head).

https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.26066.016

We used a confocal microscope (Leica Microsystem SP8) equipped for automated high-content imaging. The magnification and resolution are adjusted by selecting a suitable lens for the size-range of the organisms and structures of interest. While the XY size range (1 to 1500 µm) is limited by the fields of view (fov) of the lenses (Figure 1c), the range in the Z-axis (thickness) is constrained by the transparency of the object. Objects are optically sectioned to spatially resolve the fluorescence signal, resulting in sharp images of the entire cells. For each imaged position, five channels are recorded (bright field and four fluorescent signals) and the raw imaged Z-stacks are then segmented to extract single planktonic particles (Figure 1c, Figure 1—figure supplement 4). Particles are further processed individually to sub-segment regions of biological interest (e.g. nuclei or chloroplasts) for each fluorescent channel. A collection of 480 numeric 2D/3D features (Figure 1—source data 2) is computed for each captured particle, including biovolumes, intensity distribution, shape descriptors and texture features. The features were used in combination with a visually curated learning set (see below) to build a machine learning model (Boland et al., 1998), which associates each particle to a category (taxonomic or morphological) of the training set (Figure 3a; Figure 3—source data 1).

Figure 3 with 4 supplements see all
Analysis of e-HCFM images and their descriptors.

(a) Overview of the training set as a hierarchical pie chart. The size of the slices scales with the number of elements in the training set (details in Figure 3—source data 1). Accuracy values (%) show the recall for each of the 5-high level groupings considered (see also Figure 3—figure supplements 1, 2 and 4 and Figure 3—source data 1 and 2). (b) Relative abundances of recovered ‘live’ cells (cells with preserved organellar content, see Figure 1—figure supplement 5), per high-level group and per ocean basin (see also Figure 3—figure supplement 3, and Figure 3—source data 3 and 4). (c) Distribution of total cell biovolumes stratified per major taxonomic group. (d) Relationship between phosphate concentration and plankton concentration (in counts per liter); black line: total concentration of living organisms in the sample; colored line: total concentration in that taxonomic group (displayed p-values are Spearman correlations, lines are least-squares best-fits, see Methods and Figure 3—source data 57). [For reviewers - list of information supplements and legends]. (Tables cannot be included in the manuscript and they are provided as separated files).

https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.26066.019

Imaging and processing of each sample with a 40x lens lasted 8 hr, leading to 396 fovs (Figure 1a,c), over a 22 µm Z-range. Overall, e-HCFM imaging of the 72 Tara Oceans plankton samples (Figure 1—source data 1) produced ~2.5 Tb of raw data, corresponding to 336,655 planktonic particles, each of them associated with a series of derived images for visual inspection including summary thumbnails (Figure 1c, Figure 1—figure supplements 4 and 5), Z-stack animations, 3D segmentation masks, and 3D reconstructions. The segmentation performance of each particle is enhanced by the sharp contrast generated by the fluorescent signals. In particular, the thin transparent biomineral and/or organic structures shaping many groups of eukaryotic taxa can be precisely detected (Figure 1—figure supplement 5), generating more accurate computed features.

We then generated a reference training set to build an automated classifier. A total of 18,103 objects (5.4% of the whole dataset) were manually curated and classified into a 4-level hierarchical framework including 155 categories (taxonomic lineage for organisms and morphological types for other particles, Figure 3a; Figure 3—source data 1). A random forest classifier was empirically determined to perform the best, combining high accuracy and fast computation time. We estimate the overall accuracy of the classifier at 82.2% at the finest taxo-morphological level (corresponding often to genus level), rising to 93.8% at the phylum/class level (Figure 3a, Figure 3—source datas 1 and 2 and Figure 3—figure supplement 1). This shows that our cell descriptors provide efficient segregation of the main plankton taxonomic groups, despite considerable intra-group morphological diversity. The same method applied on image descriptors obtained only from the bright field channel (which are a subset of the 480 features used in this study) resulted in only 56.8% accuracy. This further demonstrates the added value of fluorescence labeling for revealing common taxonomic traits. The method also provides a confidence score that can be used to filter only high-confidence predictions for in-depth analysis, or to focus on the weakest predictions to generate additional curation efforts (Figure 3—figure supplement 2). To further evaluate the value of the features, we computed the classification accuracy using a reduced number of features. We observed that at least 400 features are needed to push accuracy above 82% (see Figure 3—figure supplement 4).

Beyond automated assessment of abundance and diversity of micro-eukaryotes across large geographic and taxonomic scales (Figure 3b, Figure 3—figure supplement 3, Figure 3—source datas 34), e-HCFM images and descriptors can be used to link fundamental cell biology features to both taxonomy and ecology. For example, whereas organismal biomasses are usually extrapolated from 2D fingerprints for investigating their relationship to nutrient uptake or to carbon flux, our method enables to use 3D biovolumes and/or sub-cellular structures which can be stratified by taxonomy (Figure 3c). We further show how concentration of a few major taxa increases differentially with the concentration of phosphate (Figure 3d, Figure 3—source datas 57). These results add global support to previous reports that purely photosynthetic organisms (e.g., Bacillaryophyta) are more dependent on exogenous phosphate than mixotrophic or heterotrophic (e.g., Holodinophyta) populations (Lin et al., 2016). A further potential of e-HCFM that complements DNA sequence-based inferences is the ability to directly detect and quantify biotic interactions (Figure 2), such as the finding of an unknown nanoflagellate attached to the diatom Chaeoteros simplex (Figure 2—figure supplement 1).

Conclusion

The main advantage of e-HCFM is the use of 3D fluorescence microscopy in an automated and quantitative manner for environmental microbiology. The relative slowness of the CSLM acquisition can be overcome by widefield microscopy with deconvolution or spinning-disk scanning microscopy, which can both benefit from the high sensitivity and dynamical range of recent cameras. Overall, e-HCFM can be applied to samples from any aquatic environment and be adapted for other habitats. For the sake of taxonomic comprehensiveness we have used a limited set of fluorescent markers highlighting the broad features of eukaryotic cells. However, many other subcellular structures or expressed genes (FISH) can potentially be visualized and quantified by e-HCFM, to provide information about their variation and evolution across the diversity of understudied microbial eukaryotic clades (del Campo et al., 2014; de Vargas et al., 2015), thus filling the gap between cell biology, evolution, and ecosystem structure and function. A key future challenge will be to combine automated, 3D multicolor fluorescent imaging of complex natural assemblages of eukaryotic cells with online detection of cells of interest and their isolation for single-cell –omics (Kolisko et al., 2014). This will allow bridging the deluge of novel environmental eukaryotic genetic data to the complex cellular structure, shape, and behaviour of eukaryotic biota, while scaling up the information, through global meta-omics datasets, to the level of the ecosystems.

Materials and methods

Eukaryotic cells sampling and preservation

The environmental samples used in this study were collected during the Tara Oceans expeditions (Pesant et al., 2015; Tara Oceans Consortium, Coordinators and Tara Oceans Expedition, Participants, 2017). At each station, an identical sampling protocol was used to collect and preserve organisms in the 5 to 20 µm size range from surface (5 m depth) and/or deep chlorophyll maximum (DCM) depths. A dedicated net with a 5 µm mesh size was gently towed for 10 min to avoid net saturation and preserve plankton morphology. A flowmeter at net’s mouth allowed quantification of the volume of filtered marine water. Concentrated plankton sample in the cod-end was then carefully recovered and poured through a 20 µm sieve to remove larger organisms. The filtrate was resuspended with 0.2 µm-filtered seawater up to 3 L, providing enough material for the various Tara Oceans morpho-genetic protocols (Pesant et al., 2015). For e-HCFM, 45 ml were poured into a 50 ml tube pre-aliquoted with 5 ml of 10% monomeric formaldehyde (1% final concentration) buffered at pH7.5 (prepared from paraformaldehyde powder) and 500 μl of 25% EM grade glutaraldehyde (0.25% final concentration) (Marie et al., 1999). After a gentle homogenization, the samples were kept at 4°C. This combination of formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde balances fixative penetration and cell stiffening (Kiernan, 2000). Live imaging was based on both cultures of marine protist from the Roscoff Culture Collection (RCC) and specimen isolated from the environment (Villefranche-sur-mer, France).

Cells’ mounting and fluorescent labeling

The labeling/mounting protocol was optimized to minimize operational steps and cell manipulations. After a gentle resuspension of the cells in the sample tube, an aliquot was loaded into a 8-well Lab-Tek II chambered cover glass (Nunc 155382; Thermo Fisher Scientific, MA, USA), with bottom pre-coated with Poly-L-lysine (Sigma-Aldricht P4707; Merck, Germany). This optical multi-well plate allows loading about 1 ml of sample per cm². In particular, two Tara Oceans samples were placed in separated wells of the same plate. Four other wells were dedicated to fluorescent beads as internal calibration standards of fluorescent signals (see below). A gentle centrifugation (1,000 rpm) of the plate on a swinging bucket rotor allowed settling down of planktonic particles onto the sticky poly-L-lysine layer. This concentrated the objects on the well bottom while decreasing their orientation variability in relation to the optical axis (Figure 1—figure supplement 3a). The volume of sample in each well was empirically adjusted by visual inspection of the wells for avoiding cell saturation (Figure 1—figure supplement 3c).

The sample was then washed for 5 min with 1 ml of artificial seawater (AS media recipe (Berges et al., 2001) without vitamins and trace metals) to remove the fixative. All washing steps were performed using pipette tips capped by a 1 µm mesh piece to avoid cell losses. AS washing maintains medium buffering capacity and an ionic composition close to natural seawater (without any organic material), thus preventing modifications of cell shape and dissolution of mineral covering. The cells were first stained with 0.1 mg.ml−1 of a Poly-L-lysine conjugated with Alexa Fluor 546 (see below) in 500 µl of AS for 15 min, and then washed with 1 ml of AS for 5 min. Further fluorescent labeling was performed, for at least 30 min, with 500 µl of an AS solution containing 10 µM of Hoechst33342 (Invitrogen H21492; Thermo Fisher Scientific, MA, USA) and 1.5 µM of DiOC6(3) (Invitrogen D273; Thermo Fisher Scientific, MA, USA). These dyes do not require washing, reducing again sample manipulations.

A universal fluorescent dye for eukaryotic cell cover

We developed a fluorescent labeling compound able to delineate the fine structures of all protist surfaces independently of their biochemistry. The poly-L-lysine (PLL) conjugated with Alexa Fluor 546 (see below) was found to be an effective probe for this task. α-poly-L-lysine is a cationic polymer under neutral pH conditions, but the length of the lysine aliphatic side chain confers a slight amphiphilic behavior to this polymer. Electrostatic binding occurs thus with both mineral (e.g. silica, calcium carbonate, strontium sulfate) and organic (e.g. DNA, proteins, or polysaccharides) materials. Furthermore, the glutaraldehyde used to fix the plankton sample contributes to crosslink PLL to cellular proteins. Examples of the labeling efficiency of Alexa-PLL are shown in Figures 1 and 2 and Figure 1—figure supplements 1, 2 and 5 and Figure 2—figure supplement 1. Note that a broad choice of dye are available for protein conjugation (e.g. the Alexa Fluor family), allowing selection of spectrally relevant fluorochromes, a convenient feature for combination with other dyes in multi-channel methods.

Conjugation protocol

The fluorescent dye moiety is an Alexa Fluor 546 succinimidyl ester (AF546SE, Invitrogen A20002; Thermo Fisher Scientific, MA, USA), providing an efficient way to selectively link the Alexa Fluor dyes to primary amines (R-NH2) located on the lysine side chain. The PLL (Sigma-Aldrich P5899; Merck, Germany) polymer was selected for its high size range (>300,000 mol wt/2,340 lysine unit), limiting penetration of the dye into the cell. The conjugation reaction was performed according to the AF546 provider’s protocol for protein conjugation. Briefly, AF546SE was prepared in dry DMSO at 10 mM, and 5 µl of this solution was mixed with 1 ml of a 10 mg.ml−1 PLL solution (in NaHCO3 solution at 0.1M pH8.3) for 1 hr at 20°C under gentle shaking. The ratio [R-NH2]/[AF546SE] was calculated to generate the statistical binding of one AF546 per 1500 lysine units. Such a ratio, combined with the average size of PLL (>2340 lysine units) should generate a minimal labeling rate of 1 AF546 per PLL molecule. The stock solution of this conjugate was kept at −20°C.

Automated 3D fluorescence microscopy

High throughput imaging leads to a trade-off between time constraints, the amount of region of interest, and the precision of information that can be extracted for each of them. In this study, we optimized settings for an increased throughput rather than spatial resolution. Microscopy was conducted using a commercially available inverted SP8 laser scanning confocal microscope (Leica Microsystem, Germany) equipped with a compact supply unit which integrates a LIAchroic scan head and several laser lines (405 nm, 488 nm, 552 nm, 638 nm). A two-step sequential acquisition was designed to collect the signal from five channels. The first step aims at recording DiOC6(3) signal (Ex488 nm/Em505-520 nm) simultaneously with the chlorophyll autofluorescence signal (Ex638 nm/Em680-720 nm), and the transmitted light channel. The second step is then dedicated to acquisition of the Hoechst signal (Ex405 nm/Em415-475 nm) and the AF546 signal (Ex552 nm/Em570-590 nm). AF546 is poorly excited by 488 nm and 638 nm beam lines and its emission was not detected between 505 and 520 nm, and between 680 and 720 nm. The chlorophyll fluorescence was recorded in the spectral range 680–720 nm where AF546 and Hoechst do not emit with 488 nm and 638 nm illumination. Chlorophyll is also excited at 405 nm but it does not emit in both the hoechst (415–475 nm) and AF456 (570–590 nm) channels. The hoechst fluorescence spectrum is broad and may slightly bleed through the AF546 channel. However the brightness of AF546 signal imposed low sensitivity settings which reduced the impact of other dim signals that might bleed through this channel. The potential signal from Hoechst was finally not subtracted because the AF546 fluorescence was mostly used to delineate cell edges.

The laser power and exposure settings were tuned to reach a tradeoff between the dimmest and brightest object of interest whereas the limited dynamic range of our photomultiplier tube detector (PMT) cannot avoid some signal saturation (the variability of environmental samples cannot be anticipated). Signals were not averaged. The automation was piloted through the HCS A module of the LASAF software (Leica Microsystem). We used the water immersion lens HC PL APO 40x/1,10 mot CORR CS2. The scanning was bidirectional with a speed set at 600 Hz. The pinhole was adjusted to 1 Airy unit for all channels. Each square field of view (fov) is 385.62 µm wide and 21.80 µm thick. Field of views were organized in a rectangular mosaic with 10% overlapped in X and Y axes. The spatial sampling frequency was 0.188*0.188*1.090 µm voxel size (2048*2048*per frame). The Z-stack steps match the full width half maximum as a measure of the optical slice thickness at our lower signal emission wavelength (415 nm, refractive index 1.33, numerical aperture 1.1, 1 Airy unit) while the pixel size matches the objective XY resolution. This is larger than the Niquist sampling rate (75*75*300 nm, with λemission at 415 nm) to maximize throughput. A software autofocus procedure estimated the interface plane separating the sample from the coverslip. Based on this estimate, we initiated the Z-stack at a −1 µm offset.

Monitoring of the microscope performance

Since we processed the Tara Oceans samples sequentially in multiple runs, we monitored the stability of the illumination (laser sources), optics and the PMTs by using fluorescent beads (Invitrogen I7225, InSpeck deep-red, lot1267301; Thermo Fisher Scientific, MA, USA) as internal calibration standards which were included in each multi-well plate prior to running image acquisition (see mounting details above). We show in the Figure 1—figure supplement 6 (see also Figure 1—figure supplement 6—source data 1) the distribution of fluorescence intensity for 3 types of beads (0.32%; 1.41%; 4.10% fluorophore concentration) emitting in the chlorophyll channel (average intensity after sum projection of corresponding z-stacks, segmentation and size filtering). Further normalization of the chlorophyll fluorescence quantification were not required for comparing samples as the intensities measured looked very stable.

Automated image analysis

At a high-level, image analysis proceeds in three steps: (1) identification of objects, (2) computation of per-object features, and (3) classification of objects.

Identification of objects

First, an estimate of background intensity is computed. For each fluorescence channel, we compute the average voxel value and the standard deviation of voxel intensities. A per-channel threshold is then defined as the mean plus one-and-a-half standard deviation (or the intensity value 1, if the result of the computation is below 1). This method was chosen based on previous work which identified the mean as a good threshold for fluorescence microscopy images (Coelho et al., 2009). Tests with Otsu thresholding led to fewer objects being detected (231,610 compared to 336,655 with the chosen method). Objects are then identified in a two-dimensional projection of the image. For this projection, we use a robust variation of the traditional max-projection method (which we called the almost-max projection). Namely, from a three dimensional image I(x,y,z), we build a two-dimensional project P(x,y) by taking all the pixels I(x,y,z), sorting them and taking the second highest value. The vignettes used for display are also generated using the almost-max projection. This projection is then median filtered to reduce noise and thresholded using the previously computed threshold to obtain a binary masks for each channel.

Binary masks from all channels are combined (using the OR operation), morphologically filtered to reduce noise and labeled to identify objects (an open and a close operation are sequentially performed with a 4-connected structuring element; followed by morphologically closing holes). These objects are then size filtered to remove objects smaller in area than particles of interest (here 12.6 µm² as this corresponds to a circle of 5 µm diameter). Objects touching any of the four image borders are also removed. Finally, because the imaging was performed in overlapping fields, it is possible to detect the same object in multiple fields, thus we assign it to its canonical field based on the geometry and remove it from all other fields (see Figure 1—figure supplement 4a). Image analysis was performed using the mahotas package (Coelho, 2013).

Computation of per object features

Each object is processed independently to extract sub-objects and features. Sub-objects are identified using the same thresholding procedure as above (however, this is now applied on the three dimensional volume after median filtering). Sub-objects are filtered to remove any object whose volume is smaller than 0.5 µm3 (circa the volume of a sphere of radius 0.5 µm). Features are computed on both the projected images (computing Haralick textures, linear binary patterns, Zernike moments, and morphological features) and on the three dimensional volumes (for the estimation of bio-volumes and overlap features). See Figure 1—source data 2 for a complete list of features.

Object classification

A hand-labeled dataset of 18,103 objects (5.4% of the whole dataset) was used for training an automated classifier. For maximizing the diversity of the training set, the entire dataset was explored, similar objects were categorized and 155 categories with more than 30 specimens were kept. We did not overweight classes of very abundant object and considered that few hundreds of representative objects were enough to define a class statistically. These categories were organized into a four-level hierarchical framework (Figure 3a; Figure 3—source data 1) reflecting taxonomic lineage for organisms and particle types for other objects. The goal of this hierarchical pattern of classification was to evaluate the classifier performance at different granularities. A random-forest classifier, using 500 trees (Breiman, 2001) was used for classification. This classification method was chosen empirically as the best combination of accuracy and computational performance among several methods tested (support-vector machine with diverse set of kernels, logistic regression, and random forests). This step of the pipeline was implemented using the scikit-learn package (Pedregosa, 2011). At classification time, the software returns, for each object, a probability estimate for each class. The object is assigned to the class with the highest probability; a confidence score is defined as the difference between the highest and the second-highest probability values. Feature importance was computed by the scikit-learn package as the Gini importance (Breiman, 2001). We report a normalized version where the reported importance values were divided by the average importance so that values above one correspond to features with higher than average importance and values below one to features less important than average (Figure 1—source data 2). To test the effect of reducing the number of features, we used cross-validation, computing the feature importance independently in each cross-validation fold.

Computational costs and distributed computation

In total, it takes circa 40 CPU hours to process one acquisition (which consists of two wells, 768 data fovs, and 48 control fovs). However, after the background estimation step, the process is embarrassingly parallel as each fov can be processed in parallel (a computationally inexpensive post-processing of the data relabels all objects so that they are numbered sequentially within each sample). Our software is designed to take advantage of a multi-core machine computer cluster by automatically splitting the computation across available CPUs. Image analyses of one microscopy run are performed in 20 min with sufficient resources.

Statistical analysis of relationship between phosphate concentration and organism counts

All organisms from a single sample were considered (data points from multiple technical replicates of the same sample, when available, were concatenated). Counts were normalized by the volume of seawater represented by the imaged sample(s). Correlations were evaluated using Spearman correlation (implemented by Python's scipy.stats module). Samples which do not contain the relevant taxonomic group were excluded from each taxonomic-specific analysis.

Accession URLs for software and data sharing purposes

The software code is made available under an open source license (https://git.embl.de/coelho/eHCFM). All raw images and preprocessed thumbnails are publicly available at EBI-BioStudies (accession ID: S-BSST51, https://www.ebi.ac.uk/biostudies/studies/S-BSST51). Images can also be explored through the Image Data Resource platform (Williams et al., 2017https://doi.org/10.17867/10000108). The preprocessed thumbnails will be released for online expert annotations at EcoTaxa (http://ecotaxa.sb-roscoff.fr), and taxonomically and ecologically informed thumbnails will be available for public exploration. The inventory of experiment metadata, samples and their associated contextual data from the Tara Oceans expedition are available at PANGAEA (Tara Oceans Consortium, Coordinators and Tara Oceans Expedition, Participants, 2017https://doi.org/10.1594/PANGAEA.881193). The eHCFM dataset presented herein constitutes an additional Tara Oceans global resource available for the wider community, and complementing other eco-morpho-genetic datasets generated in the project toward a holistic understanding of the world plankton (Pesant et al., 2015).

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Decision letter

  1. Paul G Falkowski
    Reviewing Editor; Rutgers University, United States

In the interests of transparency, eLife includes the editorial decision letter and accompanying author responses. A lightly edited version of the letter sent to the authors after peer review is shown, indicating the most substantive concerns; minor comments are not usually included.

Thank you for submitting your article "Quantitative 3D-Imaging for Cell Biology and Ecology of Environmental Microbial Eukaryotes" for consideration by eLife. Your article has been reviewed by two peer reviewers, and the evaluation has been overseen by a Reviewing Editor and Wendy Garrett as the Senior Editor. The following individual involved in review of your submission has agreed to reveal her identity: Heidi Sosik (Reviewer #1).

The reviewers have discussed the reviews with one another and the Reviewing Editor has drafted this decision to help you prepare a revised submission.

The reviewers made a number of constructive comments, which you should carefully address. These include:

Essential Revisions:

1) At the review stage, it was extremely difficult to find, understand, and evaluate the supplementary tables and videos. In place of the links on the download page, the editorial office sent me a zip file of the tables and videos with filenames that match the designations in the main manuscript and in your supplementary information, but some of those appear to be mislabeled or to contain the wrong information. For example, the file "Figure 3D—source data 1" looks like it just contains the statistical values listed for Figure 3—figure supplement 3—source data 1; whereas that latter file contains the principal component values from the figure. These all need to be checked and their contents appropriately described.

2) Samples were fixed in a high concentration of glutaradehyde (25%) which contributes strong autofluorescence, especially in the green region of the spectrum, that may confound the specific (dye-based) fluorescent signals. Have the authors compared the current images to images of samples fixed only with paraformaldehyde? Please comment.

3) The authors extract a large number of features from each sample. Have they performed a simple principal component analysis to determine which features are most informative? I would suspect that most of the discrimination power is contained within a relatively small subset of these parameters. Please discuss.

4) The thresholding procedure ("mean + 1.5 standard deviations") is arbitrary and depends on the density of fluorescent objects in the image as well as the level of the background. How is the fidelity of the classification impacted by the threshold level? Classification results using at least one other threshold level (e.g. mean+3 standard deviations) or an automated thresholding algorithm should be presented and discussed.

5) The authors claim to have imaged the "entire extent" of each well. However, the bright-field images will be strongly degraded near the edges of the wells due to the cone of transmitted light hitting the vertical edges of the chambers and thus missing the condenser. How was this issue addressed? If this is a simple case of over-statement, then a more accurate description should be used.

6) In terms of throughput, did the authors assess the utility of simple widefield microscopy (with deconvolution) as an alternative to confocal? This will allow for much faster data acquisition. This warrants some discussion.

7) Did the authors correct for channel bleed-through in the 4-color images? This is especially the case when using DiO and AF546. This combination may introduce some cross talk, confounding the classifier.

8) Did the authors compare the static threshold of 1.5 standard deviation above average with a more robust/sophisticated algorithm such as Otsu's method?

9) Very often, classifiers are built such that 50% of the data set is used to train, while the remaining 50% is used to test. Was there a reason the training set was such a small portion of the total data? Was this limited by manually classifying the organisms?

In summary, the reviewers generally appreciated this paper and we look forward to receiving a revised manuscript.

https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.26066.042

Author response

Essential Revisions:

1) At the review stage, it was extremely difficult to find, understand, and evaluate the supplementary tables and videos. In place of the links on the download page, the editorial office sent me a zip file of the tables and videos with filenames that match the designations in the main manuscript and in your supplementary information, but some of those appear to be mislabeled or to contain the wrong information. For example, the file "Figure 3D—source data 1" looks like it just contains the statistical values listed for Figure 3—figure supplement 3—source data 1; whereas that latter file contains the principal component values from the figure. These all need to be checked and their contents appropriately described.

We have cross-checked all caption and files. Reviewer was correct that we had incorrectly labeled the data files corresponding to “Figure 3—figure supplement 3”. We have now both corrected the labeling and added the full relative abundance matrix. We have also two additional tables with the averaged measurements depicted in the panel 3D of Figure 3. Note that the full raw data (including the assignment of each object to a taxonomic group and the raw feature measurements) is, as before, provided through EcoTaxa due to its large size.

2) Samples were fixed in a high concentration of glutaradehyde (25%) which contributes strong autofluorescence, especially in the green region of the spectrum, that may confound the specific (dye-based) fluorescent signals. Have the authors compared the current images to images of samples fixed only with paraformaldehyde? Please comment.

Reviewer is right in mentioning the green/yellow emitted fluorescence induced by the formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde fixative which occurs mainly under blue and green excitation [see Lee, K., Choi, S., Yang, C., Wu, H. C., and Yu, J. Autofluorescence generation and elimination: a lesson from glutaraldehyde. Chemical Communications, 49(29), 3028-3030 (2013)]. However, we did not use a final concentration of 25% Glutaraldehyde, but a mix of 1% formaldehyde (prepared from paraformaldehyde) and only 0.25% Glutaraldehyde, as mentioned in the first version. We have modified the sentence to avoid confusion between stock concentration and working concentration: “For e-HCFM, 45 ml were poured into a 50 ml tube pre-aliquoted with 5 ml of 10% monomeric formaldehyde (1% final concentration) buffered at pH7.5 (prepared from paraformaldehyde powder) and 500 μl of 25% EM grade glutaraldehyde (0.25% final concentration) [Maria et al., 1999].”

We did not compare our low-glutaraldehyde protocol to a protocol using paraformaldehyde only, as it is anyways very hard to disentangle signals from native autofluorescences (e.g. green autofluorescence or fluorescence from photosynthetic pigments like phycobiliproteins), which can be strong and out of prediction/control in environmental samples. However, we strongly decreased the impact of glutaraldehyde autofluorescence by minimizing its final concentration. In addition, both the DiOC6 and AlexaFluor546 staining overlap the glutaraldehyde excitation/emission spectra, but they generate much brighter fluorescence signal than the glutaraldehyde autofluorescence, further reducing its overall contribution. Note that the signal quantification of these two channels was mostly used for classification rather than function quantification.

In order to quench the autofluorescence from glutaraldehyde (coming from double bond with primary amines and free aldehyde groups), the fixative could also be reduced by a NaBH4 treatment. However, this treatment would negatively impact other critical parts of our protocol: the generation of H2 gas bubble can interfere with cell attachment to the bottom of the well; preserving free aldehyde groups contributes to cross-link poly-L-lysine with cellular proteins.

3) The authors extract a large number of features from each sample. Have they performed a simple principal component analysis to determine which features are most informative? I would suspect that most of the discrimination power is contained within a relatively small subset of these parameters. Please discuss.

We thank the reviewer for this question as it prompted us to quantitatively address it. We used the random forest method to select features that are most discriminative and to test increasing number of features (selected from most informative to least informative). The results demonstrate that almost 200 feature are necessary until accuracy similar to the full dataset is reached and that even after 400 features there is still some improvement observed.

Note too that features are computed in groups and features from the same group may have differing discriminatory power. We find overlap features (features computed from the overlap of fluorescence between channels) to be present both among the most discriminative and least discriminative features. Similarly, the zero-th Zernike moments (effectively, average fluorescence after normalization) are not very discriminative, but other Zernike moments are much more important.

We have now summarized this analysis in the main text (Results and Discussion, fourth paragraph) and added Figure 3—figure supplement 4 as a supplemental figure (with its corresponding source data, Figure 3—figure supplement 4—source data 1).

4) The thresholding procedure ("mean + 1.5 standard deviations") is arbitrary and depends on the density of fluorescent objects in the image as well as the level of the background. How is the fidelity of the classification impacted by the threshold level? Classification results using at least one other threshold level (e.g. mean+3 standard deviations) or an automated thresholding algorithm should be presented and discussed.

We chose this procedure based on previous work in fluorescence image analysis which showed that the mean could outperform methods based on automated thresholding algorithms such as Otsu [Coelho, Aabid and Murphy, 2009]. This value is computed for the whole plate and reused for the different fields since we did not expect (and did not observe) any large differences in background fluorescence between fields. Since background occupies the majority of the volume, this can provide a good separation between background and objects. Due to the high variance in object brightness, we feared that a method such as Otsu may erroneously classify dim objects as background. Indeed, quantitatively, using Otsu results in much fewer objects being detected (231,610 compared to 336,655 with the method in the text).

We followed the reviewer’s suggestion and implemented the threshold using the “mean + 3 standard deviations” and the segmentation is similar enough that the classification system achieves almost identical accuracy (82.1% compared to 82.2% for the version in the text). When using Otsu, we see a slight decrease (78.5%), which may be due to the fact that several objects in the training data are no longer detected (see above).

In the revised version, we have added the following two sentences justifying our choices 1) “This method was chosen based on previous work which identified the mean as a good threshold for fluorescence microscopy images [Coelho, Aabid and Murphy, 2009]; 2) “Tests with Otsu thresholding led to fewer objects being detected (231,610 compared to 336,655 with the chosen method).”

5) The authors claim to have imaged the "entire extent" of each well. However, the bright-field images will be strongly degraded near the edges of the wells due to the cone of transmitted light hitting the vertical edges of the chambers and thus missing the condenser. How was this issue addressed? If this is a simple case of over-statement, then a more accurate description should be used.

We confirm that the signal from transmitted light is degraded for the field of view in the vicinity of the well edge. The meniscus of the liquid in the well also impacts this signal depending on the position of the objective. Nonetheless, in terms of classification, the information extracted from the bright field channel is still valuable (perhaps because many of the features are robust to illumination changes). As we describe in the text (Results and Discussion, fourth paragraph), we obtain 56.8% accuracy using only the bright field images. Even though this is much worse than the results when combining all channels (including the fluorescence channels), it is still significantly better than random (recall that we have 155 classes). To further explore this question, we attempted classification while excluding the features from the bright field channel. The result was slightly worse accuracy (82.0% vs. 82.2%).

6) In terms of throughput, did the authors assess the utility of simple widefield microscopy (with deconvolution) as an alternative to confocal? This will allow for much faster data acquisition. This warrants some discussion.

The reviewer is right. Acquisition by widefield microscopy with deconvolution was considered when we initiated the project a few years ago. Unfortunately, the 3D deconvolution of large fields of view from fluorescence microscopy datasets required intensive computation (several seconds per stacks and per channels). The time saved at the acquisition level was lost at the computation level without having the optical sectioning performance and the excitation/emission versatility of our SP8 CLSM setup. We also explored the use of spinning disk systems, equipped with a Yokogawa CSU-X1 Confocal Scanner Unit. The time saved in scanning at similar resolution was lost in the multiplication of overlapping positions because the fields of view were much smaller than the one acquired with the SP8 CLSM setup.

However we agree that both widefield and spinning disk microscopy deserve further evaluation in the future. Recent GPU-based deconvolution algorithms [see Bruce, M. A. and Butte, M. J. Real-time GPU-based 3D Deconvolution. Opt. Express 21, 4766–4773 (2013).] and open source softwares [see Sage, D. et al. DeconvolutionLab2: An open-source software for deconvolution microscopy. Methods 115, 28–41 (2017).] are making the widefield microscopy approach more time-efficient and economically attractive; both methods can also take advantage of the higher sensitivity and dynamical range of the latest camera as compared to the photomultiplier tubes used in CSLM. Following the reviewer’s suggestion, we now mention this in the Conclusion.

Note that we are investigating another way to speed up the acquisition process by implementing a 2-steps acquisitions in e-HCFM. The first step is a fast prescan of the cell preparation aiming at spotting the object of interest based on a reduced set of features. The second step triggers dedicated imaging job at positions of interest. This method significantly improves the triangular trade off: ‘imaging time / information quality / quantity of object’, while still taking advantage of the great optical sectioning performance and the ex/em versatility of CLSM. It is specifically adapted for rare events or discrete distribution of cells without wasting time in imaging at high resolution empty area. It also significantly decreases image storage requirement and associated cost. We are not mentioning this work in progress in this paper presenting the primary version of e-HCFM.

7) Did the authors correct for channel bleed-through in the 4-color images? This is especially the case when using DiO and AF546. This combination may introduce some cross talk, confounding the classifier.

In our protocol, the recording of DiOC(6) and AlexaFluor546 fluorescence were separated sequentially through 2 acquisition steps. The first step combines an excitation at 488 nm and 638 nm which allows the measurement of DiO emission signal between 505-520 nm and chlorophyll autofluorescence between 680-720 nm. We now mention: “AF546 is poorly excited by 488 nm and 638 nm beamlines and its emission was not detected between 505-520 nm and between 680-720 nm. The chlorophyll fluorescence was recorded in the spectral range 680-720 nm where AF546 and Hoechst do not emit with 488 nm and 638 nm illumination.”

However a low autofluorescent noise can be revealed by maximum projection in this Chlorophyll channel (see Figure 1—figure supplement 5) which seems related to core cell structures. The origin of this signal is not clear but its detection was caused by the selection of high sensitivity settings to enable the detection of dim chlorophyll signal. Similarly, the second step excites simultaneously Hoechst at 405 nm and AF546 at 552 nm. We now mention: “Chlorophyll is also excited at 405 nm but it does not emit in both the hoechst (415-475 nm) and AF456 (570-590 nm) channels. […] The potential signal from Hoechst was finally not subtracted because the AF546 was mostly used to delineate cell edges.”.

We would also note that as long as any cross-talk or auto-fluorescence is consistent within the same taxonomic group, the classification system will be robust.

8) Did the authors compare the static threshold of 1.5 standard deviation above average with a more robust/sophisticated algorithm such as Otsu's method?

See response to point 4.

9) Very often, classifiers are built such that 50% of the data set is used to train, while the remaining 50% is used to test. Was there a reason the training set was such a small portion of the total data? Was this limited by manually classifying the organisms?

While it is true that the training set represents a small fraction of the whole dataset, we consider that this reflects rather the large size of the dataset. In absolute terms, though, we consider 18,103 manually labeled objects as a large training set.

In addition, we carefully screened the whole object collection for optimizing the diversity of classes in the training set, and created classes each time a group of similar objects reached at least 30 (subsection “(3) Object classification”). On the other hand we did not overweight classes of very abundant object and considered that few hundreds of representative objects were enough to define a class statistically which is now mentioned in the aforementioned subsection.

https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.26066.043

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Sebastien Colin

    1. UMR 7144, team EPEP, Station Biologique de Roscoff, Centre Nationnal de la Recherche Scientifique, Roscoff, France
    2. Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Sorbonne Universités, Roscoff, France
    3. Advanced Light Microscopy Facility, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany
    Contribution
    Conceptualization, Methodology, Investigation, Data curation, Formal analysis, Software, Visualization, Funding acquisition, Writing—original draft, Writing—review and editing
    Contributed equally with
    Luis Pedro Coelho
    For correspondence
    colin@sb-roscoff.fr
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared
    ORCID icon 0000-0003-4440-9396
  2. Luis Pedro Coelho

    Structural and Computational Biology, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany
    Contribution
    Methodology, Investigation, Data curation, Formal analysis, Software, Visualization, Writing—original draft, Writing—review and editing
    Contributed equally with
    Sebastien Colin
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared
    ORCID icon 0000-0002-9280-7885
  3. Shinichi Sunagawa

    Structural and Computational Biology, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany
    Present address
    Department of Biology, Institute of Microbiology, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
    Contribution
    Formal analysis, Visualization, Supervision, Funding acquisition, Writing—review and editing
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared
  4. Chris Bowler

    Institut de Biologie de l’École Normale Supérieure, École Normale Supérieure, Paris Sciences et Lettres Research University, Paris, France
    Contribution
    Funding acquisition, Writing—review and editing
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared
  5. Eric Karsenti

    1. Institut de Biologie de l’École Normale Supérieure, École Normale Supérieure, Paris Sciences et Lettres Research University, Paris, France
    2. Directors’ Research, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany
    Contribution
    Conceptualization, Methodology, Resource, Supervision, Funding acquisition, Writing—review and editing, Project administration
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared
  6. Peer Bork

    Structural and Computational Biology, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany
    Contribution
    Resource, Supervision, Funding acquisition, Writing—review and editing
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared
  7. Rainer Pepperkok

    1. Advanced Light Microscopy Facility, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany
    2. Cell Biology and Biophysics Unit, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany
    Contribution
    Methodology, Resource, Supervision, Writing—review and editing
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared
  8. Colomban de Vargas

    1. UMR 7144, team EPEP, Station Biologique de Roscoff, Centre Nationnal de la Recherche Scientifique, Roscoff, France
    2. Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Sorbonne Universités, Roscoff, France
    Contribution
    Conceptualization, Methodology, Formal analysis, Resource, Supervision, Funding acquisition, Writing—review and editing, Project administration
    For correspondence
    c2vargas@gmail.com
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared
    ORCID icon 0000-0002-6476-6019

Funding

VEOLIA Foundation

  • Sebastien Colin

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

  • Sebastien Colin
  • Chris Bowler
  • Colomban de Vargas

Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-11-BTBR-0008)

  • Colomban de Vargas
  • Sebastien Colin
  • Chris Bowler
  • Shinichi Sunagawa
  • Peer Bork
  • Eric Karsenti

European Molecular Biology Laboratory

  • Luis Pedro Coelho
  • Shinichi Sunagawa
  • Eric Karsenti
  • Peer Bork
  • Rainer Pepperkok

Université Pierre et Marie Curie

  • Colomban de Vargas

Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-09-BLAN-0348)

  • Colomban de Vargas

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Acknowledgements

We thank the following sponsors for their commitment: the French Ministry of Research and Government through the ‘Investissements d’Avenir’ program OCEANOMICS (ANR-11-BTBR-0008); The ANR program POSEIDON (ANR-09-BLAN-0348), CNRS (in particular, the GDR3280); EMBL; UPMC; and VEOLIA for providing seed-funding at early stages of this project. We thank L Santangeli and A Tanaka for sample preparations and help, V Hilsenstein, C Conrad, and S Terjung from the EMBL Advanced Light Microscopy Facility for precious assistance at the microscope, Yan Yuan for IT support, EMBL IT facility and Christian Boulin for providing secured data storage. This article is contribution number 60 of Tara Oceans.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Paul G Falkowski, Reviewing Editor, Rutgers University, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: February 15, 2017
  2. Accepted: September 25, 2017
  3. Version of Record published: October 31, 2017 (version 1)

Copyright

© 2017, Colin et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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