Authors: Maxence Quemener, Paraskevi Mara, Florence Schubotz, David Beaudoin, Wei Li, Maria Pachiadaki, Taylor R. Sehein, Jason B. Sylvan, Jiangtao Li, Georges Barbier, Virginia Edgcomb, Gaëtan Burgaud
The lithified oceanic crust, lower crust gabbros in particular, has remained largely unexplored by microbiologists. Recently, evidence for heterogeneously distributed viable and transcriptionally active autotrophic and heterotrophic microbial populations within low‐biomass communities was found down to 750 m below the seafloor at the Atlantis Bank Gabbro Massif, Indian Ocean. Here, we report on the diversity, activity and adaptations of fungal communities in the deep oceanic crust from ~10 to 780 mbsf by combining metabarcoding analyses with mid/high‐throughput culturing approaches. Metabarcoding along with culturing indicate a low diversity of viable fungi, mostly affiliated to ubiquitous (terrestrial and aquatic environments) taxa. Ecophysiological analyses coupled with metatranscriptomics point to viable and transcriptionally active fungal populations engaged in cell division, translation, protein modifications and other vital cellular processes. Transcript data suggest possible adaptations for surviving in the nutrient‐poor, lithified deep biosphere that include the recycling of organic matter. These active communities appear strongly influenced by the presence of cracks and veins in the rocks where fluids and resulting rock alteration create micro‐niches.