We are rapidly increasing our understanding on the spatial distribution of microbial communities. However, microbial functioning, as well as temporal differences and mechanisms causing microbial community shifts, remains comparably little explored. Here, using Chinese liquor fermentation as a model system containing a low microbial diversity, we studied temporal changes in microbial community structure and functioning. For that, we used high-throughput sequencing to analyze the composition of bacteria and fungi and analyzed the microbially derived metabolome throughout the fermentation process in all four seasons in both 2018 and 2019. We show that microbial communities and the metabolome changed throughout the fermentation process in each of the four seasons, with metabolome diversity increasing throughout the fermentation process. Across seasons, bacterial and fungal communities as well as the metabolome driven by 10 indicator microorganisms and six metabolites varied even more. Daily average temperature in the external surroundings was the primary determinant of the observed temporal microbial community and metabolome changes. Collectively, our work reveals critical insights into patterns and processes determining temporal changes of microbial community composition and functioning. We highlight the importance of linking taxonomic to functional changes in microbial ecology to enable predictions of human-relevant applications.IMPORTANCE We used Chinese liquor fermentation as a model system to show that microbiome composition changes more dramatically across seasons than throughout the fermentation process within seasons. These changes translate to differences in the metabolome as the ultimate functional outcome of microbial activity, suggesting that temporal changes in microbiome composition are translating into functional changes. This result is striking as it suggests that microbial functioning, despite controlled conditions in the fermentors, fluctuates over season along with external temperature differences, which threatens a reproducible food taste. As such, we believe that our study provides a stepping-stone into novel taxonomy-functional studies that promote future work in other systems and that also is relevant in applied settings to better control surrounding conditions in food production.
|Publication status||Published - 2020|