AbstractThe reduction of elemental sulfur is an important energy‐conserving pathway in prokaryotes inhabiting geothermal environments, where sulfur respiration contributes to sulfur biogeochemical cycling. Despite this, the pathways through which elemental sulfur is reduced to hydrogen sulfide remain unclear in most microorganisms. We integrated growth experiments using Thermovibrio ammonificans, a deep‐sea vent thermophile that conserves energy from the oxidation of hydrogen and reduction of both nitrate and elemental sulfur, with comparative transcriptomic and proteomic approaches, coupled with scanning electron microscopy. Our results revealed that two members of the FAD‐dependent pyridine nucleotide disulfide reductase family, similar to sulfide‐quinone reductase and to NADH‐dependent sulfur reductase (NSR), respectively, are over‐expressed during sulfur respiration. Scanning electron micrographs and sulfur sequestration experiments indicated that direct access of T. ammonificans to sulfur particles strongly promoted growth. The sulfur metabolism of T. ammonificans appears to require abiotic transition from bulk elemental sulfur to polysulfide to nanoparticulate sulfur at an acidic pH, coupled to biological hydrogen oxidation. A coupled biotic‐abiotic mechanism for sulfur respiration is put forward, mediated by an NSR‐like protein as the terminal reductase.
AbstractThe goal of this proposal is to gain insight into the metabolic and molecular adaptations of deep-sea and subseafloor bacteria exposed to crustal pressures (200-500 atm). The model organism will be an anaerobic nitrate-reducing bacterium (Nautilia strain PV-1) isolated from subseafloor fluids discharged from an active vent at the East Pacific Rise (2500 m depth). The microorganism was retrieved from a series of shipboard continuous culturing incubations conducted aboard the R/V Atlantis. We will investigate the rates of carbon fixation and anaerobic respiration of PV-1 by using our high-pressure chemostat. Further, we propose to investigate the synthrophic growth kinetics of a co-culture composed of the fermentative, hydrogen-producing piezophile, Marinitoga piezophila, and the hydrogenotrophic Nautilia strain PV-1. To our knowledge this would the first experimental study to describe the effects of pressure on chemolithoautotrophic bacteria that were sampled from deep-sea hydrothermal vents and cultured at seafloor pressure conditions prior to their isolation. We anticipate that understanding the pressure adaptations of this strain PV-1, as well as its interactions with heterotrophic bacteria with whom it shares its ecological niche, will provide a unique opportunity to define the spatial and temporal variability of the subseafloor biosphere in the Earth's oceanic crust.
AbstractAn anaerobic, nitrate-reducing, sulfur- and thiosulfate-oxidizing bacterium, designated strain 1812ET, was isolated from the vent polychaete Riftia pachyptila, which was collected from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent on the East Pacific Rise. Cells were Gram-stain-negative rods, measuring approximately 1.05±0.11 µm by 0.40±0.05 µm. Strain 1812ET grew at 25 – –45 °C (optimum 35 °C), with 1.5–4.0 % (w/v) NaCl (optimum 3.0 %) and at pH 5.0–8.0 (optimum pH 6.0). The generation time under optimal conditions was 3 h. Strain 1812ET was an anaerobic chemolithotroph that grew with either sulfur or thiosulfate as the energy source and carbon dioxide as the sole carbon source. Nitrate was used as a sole terminal electron acceptor. The predominant fatty acids were C16 : 1 ω7c, C18 : 1 ω7c and C16 : 0. The major polar lipids were phosphatidylethanolamine, diphosphatidylglycerol and phosphatidylglycerol. The major respiratory quinone was menaquinone MK-6 and the G+C content of the genomic DNA was 47.4 mol%. Phylogenetic analysis of the 16S rRNA gene of strain 1812ET showed that the isolate belonged to the Epsilonproteobacteria , and its closest relatives were Sulfurovum lithotrophicum 42BKTT and Sulfurovum aggregans Monchim 33T (98.3 and 95.7 % sequence similarity, respectively). DNA–DNA relatedness between strain 1812ET and the type strain of S. lithotrophicum was 29.7 %, demonstrating that the two strains are not members of the same species. Based on the phylogenetic, molecular, chemotaxonomic and physiological evidence, strain 1812ET represents a novel species within the genus Sulfurovum , for which the name Sulfurovum riftiae sp. nov. is proposed. The type strain is 1812ET (=DSM 101780T=JCM 30810T).
AbstractAt deep-sea hydrothermal vents, reduced, super-heated hydrothermal fluids mix with cold, oxygenated seawater. This creates temperature and chemical gradients that support chemosynthetic primary production and a biomass-rich community of invertebrates. In late 2005/early 2006 an eruption occurred on the East Pacific Rise at 9°50′N, 104°17′W. Direct observations of the post-eruptive diffuse-flow vents indicated that the earliest colonizers were microbial biofilms. Two cruises in 2006 and 2007 allowed us to monitor and sample the early steps of ecosystem recovery. The main objective of this work was to characterize the composition of microbial biofilms in relation to the temperature and chemistry of the hydrothermal fluids and the observed patterns of megafaunal colonization. The area selected for this study had local seafloor habitats of active diffuse flow (in-flow) interrupted by adjacent habitats with no apparent expulsion of hydrothermal fluids (no-flow). The in-flow habitats were characterized by higher temperatures (1.6–25.2 °C) and H2S concentrations (up to 67.3 µM) than the no-flow habitats, and the microbial biofilms were dominated by chemosynthetic Epsilonproteobacteria. The no-flow habitats had much lower temperatures (1.2–5.2 °C) and H2S concentrations (0.3–2.9 µM), and Gammaproteobacteria dominated the biofilms. Siboglinid tubeworms colonized only in-flow habitats, while they were absent at the no-flow areas, suggesting a correlation between siboglinid tubeworm colonization, active hydrothermal flow, and the composition of chemosynthetic microbial biofilms.
AbstractPockmarks are crater-like depression on the seafloor associated with hydrocarbon ascent through muddy sediments in continental shelves around the world. In this study, we examine the diversity and distribution of benthic microbial communities at shallow-water pockmarks adjacent to the Middle Adriatic Ridge. We integrate microbial diversity data with characterization of local hydrocarbons concentrations and sediment geochemistry. Our results suggest these pockmarks are enriched in sedimentary hydrocarbons, and host a microbial community dominated by Bacteria, even in deeper sediment layers. Pockmark sediments showed higher prokaryotic abundance and biomass than surrounding sediments, potentially due to the increased availability of organic matter and higher concentrations of hydrocarbons linked to pockmark activity. Prokaryotic diversity analyses showed that the microbial communities of these shallow-water pockmarks are unique, and comprised phylotypes associated with the cycling of sulfur and nitrate compounds, as well as numerous know hydrocarbon degraders. Altogether, this study suggests that shallow-water pockmark habitats enhance the diversity of the benthic prokaryotic biosphere by providing specialized environmental niches.
AbstractAnaerobic thermophiles inhabit relic environments that resemble the early Earth. However, the lineage of these modern organisms co-evolved with our planet. Hence, these organisms carry both ancestral and acquired genes and serve as models to reconstruct early metabolism. Based on comparative genomic and proteomic analyses, we identified two distinct groups of genes in Thermovibrio ammonificans: the first codes for enzymes that do not require oxygen and use substrates of geothermal origin; the second appears to be a more recent acquisition, and may reflect adaptations to cope with the rise of oxygen on Earth. We propose that the ancestor of the Aquificae was originally a hydrogen oxidizing, sulfur reducing bacterium that used a hybrid carbon fixation pathway for CO2fixation. With the gradual rise of oxygen in the atmosphere, more efficient terminal electron acceptors became available and this lineage acquired genes that increased its metabolic flexibility while retaining ancestral metabolic traits.
|Project Title||Autotrophic carbon fixation at a shallow-water hydrothermal system: Constraining microbial activity, isotopic and geochemical regimes|
|Acronym||Hydrothermal Autotrophic Carbon Fixation|
|Created||January 8, 2014|
|Modified||June 3, 2015|
In this project we studied the shallow-water hydrothermal vent sites at Milos Island (Greece) to better understand the extent of autotrophic carbon fixation and its chemical and isotopic signature along environmental (redox/thermal) gradients. This was a 12-day long expedition (May 18 to 30, 2012) to sample vent fluids, gases and retrieve sediment cores at Paleochori Bay by using SCUBA diving at 8-10 m depth. In addition to the submarine vent sites, two subaerial locations of venting were identified at 36o 40' 28"N - 24o 31' 14" E and 36o 40' 25" N - 24o 30' 44" E. Both the subaerial and submarine sites are located on the same fracture zone that likely controls the hydrothermal circulation of evolved meteoritic water and seawater within the magmatic zone of Milos Island. To this end, the geochemistry of the fluids and gases emitted from subaerial sites provide important information towards identifying the linkage between the subaerial and submarine magmatic activity and provide insights on the metabolic functions (e.g. H2 oxidation, Fe(III) reduction, C and S cycling) of the subsurface microbial community.
Currently, there is only limited information on the identity and activity of the microorganisms carrying out CO2-fixation in situ, despite the fact that these organisms form the basis of their respective ecosystems. Representatives that are able to grow autotrophically are known to exist in almost all major groups of prokaryotes, and these organisms play essential roles in ecosystems by providing a continuous supply of organic carbon for heterotrophs. Microorganisms present in extreme environments utilize CO2- fixation pathways other than the Calvin-Benson-Bassham (CBB) cycle. At present, five alternative autotrophic CO2 fixation pathways are known. Different carbon fixation pathways result in distinct isotopic signatures of the produced biomass due to the isotopic discrimination between light (12C) and heavy (13C) carbon by the carboxylating enzymes. Thus, inferences about the carbon fixation pathway predominantly utilized by the microbial community can also be made based on the stable carbon isotopic composition of the organic matter, in extant systems as well as in the geological record. However, at present little is known about the systematics and extents of fractionation during carbon fixation by prokaryotic organisms, and to our knowledge no studies exist that have systematically studied the relationship between the operation of different carbon fixation pathways and how this is reflected in the stable carbon isotopic composition in a natural system. This is a 2-year interdisciplinary, international research program that employs a powerful combination of cutting-edge research tools aiming to improve our understanding of autotrophic carbon fixation and its chemical and isotopic signature along environmental gradients in a natural hydrothermal system. The following hypotheses are addressed:
1. The diversity of microorganisms present along a thermal and redox gradient, and rates of CO2 fixation, will reflect adaptation to in situ temperatures and geochemical conditions
2. Microorganisms utilizing the CBB cycle for autotrophic CO2-fixation will represent a smaller percentage of the chemolithoautotrophic community at higher temperatures, where microorganisms utilizing alternative CO2-fixation pathways dominate
3. Isotopic values of biomass and specific biomarker molecules will vary along a thermal and redox gradient from zones characterized by a higher hydrothermal fluid flux and thus higher temperatures to the surrounding, cooler areas, corresponding to the physiology of the microorganisms utilizing different pathways for carbon fixation
The PIs will use a multidisciplinary approach to delineate the relative contribution of the different carbon fixation pathways along an environmental gradient by combining metagenomic analyses coupled with: 1) an assessment of the frequency and the expression of specific key genes involved in carbon fixation, and 2) with the measurement of carbon fixation rates. These data will be integrated with the determination of stable C isotopic composition of biomass, DIC, and specific hydrocarbons/lipids. Due to its easy accessibility, well-established environmental gradients, and extensive background information, the shallow-water vents off Milos (Greece) will be used as a natural laboratory to perform these studies.
Intellectual Merit. The data generated in this study will allow constraints on the relationship between autotrophic carbon fixation and the resulting isotopic signatures of biomass and specific biomarker molecules (e.g. CH4, C2+ alkanes, lipids) in a natural system. This has implications for assessing the importance of carbon fixation in extant ecosystems, and it will also provide a tool to improve the interpretation of isotopic values in the geological record.
|Costantino Vetriani||Rutgers University||Co-Principal Investigator|
|Stefan M. Sievert||Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)||Co-Principal Investigator|
|Dionysis I. Foustoukos||Carnegie Institution for Science (CIS)||Co-Principal Investigator|
|Project Title||An Integrated Study of Energy Metabolism, Carbon Fixation, and Colonization Mechanisms in Chemosynthetic Microbial Communities at Deep-Sea Vents|
|Acronym||Microbial Communities at Deep-Sea Vents|
|Created||June 11, 2012|
|Modified||June 11, 2012|
Deep-sea hydrothermal vents, first discovered in 1977, are poster child ecosystems where microbial chemosynthesis rather than photosynthesis is the primary source of organic carbon. Significant gaps remain in our understanding of the underlying microbiology and biogeochemistry of these fascinating ecosystems. Missing are the identification of specific microorganisms mediating critical reactions in various geothermal systems, metabolic pathways used by the microbes, rates of the catalyzed reactions, amounts of organic carbon being produced, and the larger role of these ecosystems in global biogeochemical cycles. To fill these gaps, the investigators will conduct a 3-year interdisciplinary, international hypothesis-driven research program to understand microbial processes and their quantitative importance at deep-sea vents. Specifically, the investigators will address the following objectives: 1. Determine key relationships between the taxonomic, genetic and functional diversity, as well as the mechanisms of energy and carbon transfer, in deep-sea hydrothermal vent microbial communities. 2. Identify the predominant metabolic pathways and thus the main energy sources driving chemoautotrophic production in high and low temperature diffuse flow vents. 3. Determine energy conservation efficiency and rates of aerobic and anaerobic chemosynthetic primary productivity in high and low temperature diffuse flow vents. 4. Determine gene expression patterns in diffuse-flow vent microbial communities during attachment to substrates and the development of biofilms.
Integration: To address these objectives and to characterize the complexity of microbially-catalyzed processes at deep-sea vents at a qualitatively new level, we will pursue an integrated approach that couples an assessment of taxonomic diversity using cultivation-dependent and -independent approaches with methodologies that address genetic diversity, including a) metagenomics (genetic potential and diversity of community), b) single cell genomics (genetic potential and diversity of uncultured single cells), c) meta-transcriptomics and -proteomics (identification and function of active community members, realized potential of the community). To assess function and response to the environment, these approaches will be combined with 1) measurement of in situ rates of chemoautotrophic production, 2) geochemical characterization of microbial habitats, and 3) shipboard incubations under simulated in situ conditions (hypothesis testing under controlled physicochemical conditions). Network approaches and mathematical simulation will be used to reconstruct the metabolic network of the natural communities. A 3-day long project meeting towards the end of the second year will take place in Woods Hole. This Data Integration and Synthesis meeting will allow for progress reports and presentations from each PI, postdoc, and/or student, with the aim of synthesizing data generated to facilitate the preparation of manuscripts.
Intellectual Merit. Combining the community expression profile with diversity and metagenomic analyses as well as process and habitat characterization will be unique to hydrothermal vent microbiology. The approach will provide new insights into the functioning of deep-sea vent microbial communities and the constraints regulating the interactions between the microbes and their abiotic and biotic environment, ultimately enabling us to put these systems into a quantitative framework and thus a larger global context.
Broader Impacts. This is an interdisciplinary and collaborative effort between 4 US and 4 foreign institutions, creating unique opportunities for networking and fostering international collaborations. This will also benefit the involved students (2 graduate, several undergraduate) and 2 postdoctoral associates. This project will directly contribute to many educational and public outreach activities of the involved PIs, including the WHOI Dive & Discover program; single cell genomics workshops and Cafe Scientifique (Bigelow); REU (WHOI, Bigelow, CIW); COSEE and RIOS (Rutgers), and others. The proposed research fits with the focus of a number of multidisciplinary and international initiatives, in which PIs are active members (SCOR working group on Hydrothermal energy and the ocean carbon cycle, http://www.scorint. org/Working_Groups/wg135.htm; Deep Carbon Observatory at CIW, https://dco.gl.ciw.edu/; Global Biogeochemical Flux (GBF) component of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), http://www.whoi.edu/GBF-OOI/page.do?pid=41475)
|Stefan M. Sievert||Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)||Lead Principal Investigator|
|Costantino Vetriani||Rutgers University||Principal Investigator|
|Dionysis I. Foustoukos||Carnegie Institution for Science (CIS)||Principal Investigator|
|Ramunas Stepanauskas||Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences||Principal Investigator|
|Craig Taylor||Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)||Co-Principal Investigator|
|Jeffrey S. Seewald||Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)||Co-Principal Investigator|
|Nadine Le Bris||Laboratoire d'Écogéochimie des Environnements Benthiques (LECOB)||International Collaborator|
|Niculina Musat||Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology (MPI)||International Collaborator|
|Thomas Schweder||University of Greifswald||International Collaborator|
|Fengping Wang||Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU)||International Collaborator|
AbstractChemosynthetic Epsilonproteobacteria from deep-sea hydrothermal vents colonize substrates exposed to steep thermal and redox gradients. In many bacteria, substrate attachment, biofilm formation, expression of virulence genes and host colonization are partly controlled via a cell density-dependent mechanism involving signal molecules, known as quorum sensing. Within the Epsilonproteobacteria, quorum sensing has been investigated only in human pathogens that use the luxS/autoinducer-2 (AI-2) mechanism to control the expression of some of these functions. In this study we showed that luxS is conserved in Epsilonproteobacteria and that pathogenic and mesophilic members of this class inherited this gene from a thermophilic ancestor. Furthermore, we provide evidence that the luxS gene is expressed—and a quorum-sensing signal is produced—during growth of Sulfurovum lithotrophicum and Caminibacter mediatlanticus, two Epsilonproteobacteria from deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Finally, we detected luxS transcripts in Epsilonproteobacteria-dominated biofilm communities collected from deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Taken together, our findings indicate that the epsiloproteobacterial lineage of the LuxS enzyme originated in high-temperature geothermal environments and that, in vent Epsilonproteobacteria, luxS expression is linked to the production of AI-2 signals, which are likely produced in situ at deep-sea vents. We conclude that the luxS gene is part of the ancestral epsilonproteobacterial genome and represents an evolutionary link that connects thermophiles to human pathogens.
AbstractDespite the frequent isolation of nitrate-respiring Epsilonproteobacteria from deep-sea hydrothermal vents, the genes coding for the nitrate reduction pathway in these organisms have not been investigated in depth. In this study we have shown that the gene cluster coding for the periplasmic nitrate reductase complex (nap) is highly conserved in chemolithoautotrophic, nitrate-reducing Epsilonproteobacteria from deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Furthermore, we have shown that the napA gene is expressed in pure cultures of vent Epsilonproteobacteria and it is highly conserved in microbial communities collected from deep-sea vents characterized by different temperature and redox regimes. The diversity of nitrate-reducing Epsilonproteobacteria was found to be higher in moderate temperature, diffuse flow vents than in high temperature black smokers or in low temperatures, substrate-associated communities. As NapA has a high affinity for nitrate compared with the membrane-bound enzyme, its occurrence in vent Epsilonproteobacteria may represent an adaptation of these organisms to the low nitrate concentrations typically found in vent fluids. Taken together, our findings indicate that nitrate reduction is widespread in vent Epsilonproteobacteria and provide insight on alternative energy metabolism in vent microorganisms. The occurrence of the nap cluster in vent, commensal and pathogenic Epsilonproteobacteria suggests that the ability of these bacteria to respire nitrate is important in habitats as different as the deep-sea vents and the human body.
AbstractSix aerobic alkanotrophs (organism that can metabolize alkanes as their sole carbon source) isolated from deep-sea hydrothermal vents were characterized using the radical clock substrate norcarane to determine the metalloenzyme and reaction mechanism used to oxidize alkanes. The organisms studied were Alcanivorax sp. strains EPR7 and MAR14, Marinobacter sp. strain EPR21, Nocardioides sp. strains EPR26w, EPR28w, and Parvibaculum hydrocarbonoclasticum strain EPR92. Each organism was able to grow on n-alkanes as the sole carbon source and therefore must express genes encoding an alkane-oxidizing enzyme. Results from the oxidation of the radical-clock diagnostic substrate norcarane demonstrated that five of the six organisms (EPR7, MAR14, EPR21, EPR26w, and EPR28w) used an alkane hydroxylase functionally similar to AlkB to catalyze the oxidation of medium-chain alkanes, while the sixth organism (EPR92) used an alkane-oxidizing cytochrome P450 (CYP)-like protein to catalyze the oxidation. DNA sequencing indicated that EPR7 and EPR21 possess genes encoding AlkB proteins, while sequencing results from EPR92 confirmed the presence of a gene encoding CYP-like alkane hydroxylase, consistent with the results from the norcarane experiments.
AbstractDespite being the largest ecosystem on earth, the deep biosphere is considered to be energy limited. Chemoautotrophy is an important source of organic carbon in the deep biosphere, and significantly contributes to the deep carbon cycle. We investigated the carbon fixation strategies in the model organism Themovibrio ammonificans in relationship to the presence of different terminal electron acceptor. T. ammonicans uses the reverse Tricarboxylic Acid cycle (rTCA) as carbon fixation pathways, however our comparative genomic analysis reveals the presence of an incomplete Wood-Ljungdahl (WL) pathway. Carbon isotopic fractionation value support the rTCA cycle as carbon fixation pathway, however a difference in carbon fractionation is present when growing T. ammonificans with sulfur instead of nitrate as terminal electron acceptor. Transcriptomic analysis showed that the putative carbon monoxide dehydrogenase (type V) is expressed under both conditions. We also identified a putative oxidoreductase involved in the respiration of elemental sulfur, and propose a new pathway of sulfur reduction. The presence of incomplete yet functional alternative pathways of carbon fixation in subsurface organisms may be more widespread that previously thought, and may provide an evolutionary advantage in surviving under energy limiting conditions.
Microorganisms that thrive along chemical and thermal gradients in deep-sea reducing environments, such as hydrothermal vents and cold seeps, colonize the interphase between the subseafloor environment and the ocean, effectively mediating the transfer of carbon and energy from the subsurface to the higher trophic levels. While chemoautotrophic microbial processes have been studied extensively in deep-sea reducing environments, we know less about heterotrophic microorganisms. In this project we are investigating aerobic hydrocarbon-oxidizing bacteria as a model system for heterotrophic processes in the deep-sea. These microorganisms oxidize subseafloor-generated hydrocarbons to fatty acids. The relevance of the proposed research to the C-DEBI themes lies in the contribution of hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria to the recycling of buried organic matter, effectively linking the subsurface environment to the ocean. Our experimental strategy includes the identification of genes and gene transcripts encoding for key enzymes in the oxidation of medium- and longchain n-alkanes. Results from this study provided a link between diversity and function in deep-sea aerobic hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria, resulted in the isolation of several heterotrophic deep-sea bacteria and revealed the reaction mechanisms of the metalloenzymes used by a selected subgroup of these hydrocarbon-oxidizing bacteria.