AbstractWe have analyzed the dissolved organic carbon, OC, in ocean basement fluids using Fourier Transform-Ion Cyclotron Resonance-Mass Spectrometry (FT-ICR-MS). The compounds identified at the two sites, near the Juan de Fuca and Mid-Atlantic Ridges (North Pond), differ substantially from each other and from seawater. Compared to Juan de Fuca, North Pond organics had a lower average molecular weight (349 vs. 372 g/mol), 50% more identifiable compounds (2181 vs. 1482), and demonstrably lower average nominal oxidation state of carbon (-0.70 vs. -0.57). The North Pond fluids were also found to have many more N- and S-bearing compounds. Based on our data, the marine subsurface can alter the types of dissolved OC, DOC, compounds in seawater.
AbstractAlthough fluids within the upper oceanic basaltic crust harbor a substantial fraction of the total prokaryotic cells on Earth, the energy needs of this microbial population are unknown. In this study, a nanocalorimeter (sensitivity down to 1.2 nW ml-1) was used to measure the enthalpy of microbially catalyzed reactions as a function of temperature in samples from two distinct crustal fluid aquifers. Microorganisms in unamended, warm (63°C) and geochemically altered anoxic fluids taken from 292 meters sub-basement (msb) near the Juan de Fuca Ridge produced 267.3 mJ of heat over the course of 97 h during a step-wise isothermal scan from 35.5 to 85.0°C. Most of this heat signal likely stems from the germination of thermophilic endospores (6.66 × 104 cells ml-1FLUID) and their subsequent metabolic activity at temperatures greater than 50°C. The average cellular energy consumption (5.68 pW cell-1) reveals the high metabolic potential of a dormant community transported by fluids circulating through the ocean crust. By contrast, samples taken from 293 msb from cooler (3.8°C), relatively unaltered oxic fluids, produced 12.8 mJ of heat over the course of 14 h as temperature ramped from 34.8 to 43.0°C. Corresponding cell-specific energy turnover rates (0.18 pW cell-1) were converted to oxygen uptake rates of 24.5 nmol O2 ml-1FLUID d-1, validating previous model predictions of microbial activity in this environment. Given that the investigated fluids are characteristic of expansive areas of the upper oceanic crust, the measured metabolic heat rates can be used to constrain boundaries of habitability and microbial activity in the oceanic crust.
AbstractThe basaltic ocean crust is the largest aquifer system on Earth, yet the rates of biological activity in this environment are unknown. Low-temperature (<100°C) fluid samples were investigated from two borehole observatories in the Juan de Fuca Ridge (JFR) flank, representing a range of upper oceanic basement thermal and geochemical properties. Microbial sulfate reduction rates (SRR) were measured in laboratory incubations with 35S-sulfate over a range of temperatures and the identity of the corresponding sulfate-reducing microorganisms (SRM) was studied by analyzing the sequence diversity of the functional marker dissimilatory (bi)sulfite reductase (dsrAB) gene. We found that microbial sulfate reduction was limited by the decreasing availability of organic electron donors in higher temperature, more altered fluids. Thermodynamic calculations indicate energetic constraints for metabolism, which together with relatively higher cell-specific SRR reveal increased maintenance requirements, consistent with novel species-level dsrAB phylotypes of thermophilic SRM. Our estimates suggest that microbially-mediated sulfate reduction may account for the removal of organic matter in fluids within the upper oceanic crust and underscore the potential quantitative impact of microbial processes in deep subsurface marine crustal fluids on marine and global biogeochemical carbon cycling.
The proposed work intends to specifically characterize the temperature and pressure as microbial physiological variables and explore quantitatively and qualitatively, the metabolic capacities of single microbial cells in deeply buried habitats. We hypothesize that the microbial physiological responses to ambient temperatures may be used to characterize the nature, in terms of the geographical origin, of the microorganisms present in deeply buried habitats. A high pressure thermal gradient system will be used to study the pressure and temperature relationships of microbial metabolism in basaltic fluids. Pulse-chase incubation experiments using radio- as well as stable isotope labeled substrates will be performed in order to quantify relevant metabolic processes rates under energy limiting conditions and identify potential isotopic effects during specific metabolic steps. In addition, voltammetric measurements will be conducted to potentially quantify real-time changes on manganese, iron and sulfur species of intermediate oxidation state in samples incubated using the high pressure thermal gradient system. Nanometer-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) will also be used in combination with halogen in situ hybridization (HISH-SIMS) for simultaneous quantification of cell-specific rates and phylogenetic identification under different temperature and pressure regimes. We expect that the physiological characterization of microorganisms as a function of temperature and pressure in the basement fluids will help to elucidate dispersal mechanisms that structure microbial diversity.