Reactive Fe(III) minerals can influence methane (CH4) emissions by inhibiting microbial methanogenesis or by stimulating anaerobic CH4 oxidation. The balance between Fe(III) reduction, methanogenesis, and CH4oxidation in ferruginous Archean and Paleoproterozoic oceans would have controlled CH4 fluxes to the atmosphere, thereby regulating the capacity for CH4 to warm the early Earth under the Faint Young Sun. We studied CH4 and Fe cycling in anoxic incubations of ferruginous sediment from the ancient ocean analogue Lake Matano, Indonesia, over three successive transfers (500 days in total). Iron reduction, methanogenesis, CH4 oxidation, and microbial taxonomy were monitored in treatments amended with ferrihydrite or goethite. After three dilutions, Fe(III) reduction persisted only in bottles with ferrihydrite. Enhanced CH4 production was observed in the presence of goethite, highlighting the potential for reactive Fe(III) oxides to inhibit methanogenesis. Supplementing the media with hydrogen, nickel and selenium did not stimulate methanogenesis. There was limited evidence for Fe(III)-dependent CH4 oxidation, although some incubations displayed CH4-stimulated Fe(III) reduction. 16S rRNA profiles continuously changed over the course of enrichment, with ultimate dominance of unclassified members of the order Desulfuromonadales in all treatments. Microbial diversity decreased markedly over the course of incubation, with subtle differences between ferrihydrite and goethite amendments. These results suggest that Fe(III) oxide mineralogy and availability of electron donors could have led to spatial separation of Fe(III)-reducing and methanogenic microbial communities in ferruginous marine sediments, potentially explaining the persistence of CH4 as a greenhouse gas throughout the first half of Earth history.
Iron (Fe) and copper (Cu) are essential cofactors for microbial metalloenzymes, but little is known about the metalloenyzme inventory of anaerobic marine microbial communities despite their importance to the nitrogen cycle. We compared dissolved O2, NO3−, NO2−, Fe and Cu concentrations with nucleic acid sequences encoding Fe and Cu-binding proteins in 21 metagenomes and 9 metatranscriptomes from Eastern Tropical North and South Pacific oxygen minimum zones and 7 metagenomes from the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Station. Dissolved Fe concentrations increased sharply at upper oxic-anoxic transition zones, with the highest Fe:Cu molar ratio (1.8) occurring at the anoxic core of the Eastern Tropical North Pacific oxygen minimum zone and matching the predicted maximum ratio based on data from diverse ocean sites. The relative abundance of genes encoding Fe-binding proteins was negatively correlated with O2, driven by significant increases in genes encoding Fe-proteins involved in dissimilatory nitrogen metabolisms under anoxia. Transcripts encoding cytochrome c oxidase, the Fe- and Cu-containing terminal reductase in aerobic respiration, were positively correlated with O2 content. A comparison of the taxonomy of genes encoding Fe- and Cu-binding vs. bulk proteins in OMZs revealed that Planctomycetes represented a higher percentage of Fe genes while Thaumarchaeota represented a higher percentage of Cu genes, particularly at oxyclines. These results are broadly consistent with higher relative abundance of genes encoding Fe-proteins in the genome of a marine planctomycete vs. higher relative abundance of genes encoding Cu-proteins in the genome of a marine thaumarchaeote. These findings highlight the importance of metalloenzymes for microbial processes in oxygen minimum zones and suggest preferential Cu use in oxic habitats with Cu > Fe vs. preferential Fe use in anoxic niches with Fe > Cu.