AbstractIODP Expedition 357 used two seabed drills to core 17 shallow holes at 9 sites across Atlantis Massif ocean core complex (Mid-Atlantic Ridge 30°N). The goals of this expedition were to investigate serpentinization processes and microbial activity in the shallow subsurface of highly altered ultramafic and mafic sequences that have been uplifted to the seafloor along a major detachment fault zone. More than 57 m of core were recovered, with borehole penetration ranging from 1.3 to 16.4 meters below seafloor, and core recovery as high as 75% of total penetration in one borehole. The cores show highly heterogeneous rock types and alteration associated with changes in bulk rock chemistry that reflect multiple phases of magmatism, fluid-rock interaction and mass transfer within the detachment fault zone. Recovered ultramafic rocks are dominated by pervasively serpentinized harzburgite with intervals of serpentinized dunite and minor pyroxenite veins; gabbroic rocks occur as melt impregnations and veins. Dolerite intrusions and basaltic rocks represent the latest magmatic activity. The proportion of mafic rocks is volumetrically less than the amount of mafic rocks recovered previously by drilling the central dome of Atlantis Massif at IODP Site U1309. This suggests a different mode of melt accumulation in the mantle peridotites at the ridge-transform intersection and/or a tectonic transposition of rock types within a complex detachment fault zone. The cores revealed a high degree of serpentinization and metasomatic alteration dominated by talc-amphibole-chlorite overprinting. Metasomatism is most prevalent at contacts between ultramafic and mafic domains (gabbroic and/or doleritic intrusions) and points to channeled fluid flow and silica mobility during exhumation along the detachment fault. The presence of the mafic lenses within the serpentinites and their alteration to mechanically weak talc, serpentine and chlorite may also be critical in the development of the detachment fault zone and may aid in continued unroofing of the upper mantle peridotite/gabbro sequences. New technologies were also developed for the seabed drills to enable biogeochemical and microbiological characterization of the environment. An in situ sensor package and water sampling system recorded real-time variations in dissolved methane, oxygen, pH, oxidation reduction potential (Eh), and temperature and during drilling and sampled bottom water after drilling. Systematic excursions in these parameters together with elevated hydrogen and methane concentrations in post-drilling fluids provide evidence for active serpentinization at all sites. In addition, chemical tracers were delivered into the drilling fluids for contamination testing, and a borehole plug system was successfully deployed at some sites for future fluid sampling. A major achievement of IODP Expedition 357 was to obtain microbiological samples along a west–east profile, which will provide a better understanding of how microbial communities evolve as ultramafic and mafic rocks are altered and emplaced on the seafloor. Strict sampling handling protocols allowed for very low limits of microbial cell detection, and our results show that the Atlantis Massif subsurface contains a relatively low density of microbial life.
AbstractAlthough shotgun metagenomic sequencing of microbiome samples enables partial reconstruction of strain-level community structure, obtaining high-quality microbial genome drafts without isolation and culture remains difficult. Here, we present an application of read clouds, short-read sequences tagged with long-range information, to microbiome samples. We present Athena, a de novo assembler that uses read clouds to improve metagenomic assemblies. We applied this approach to sequence stool samples from two healthy individuals and compared it with existing short-read and synthetic long-read metagenomic sequencing techniques. Read-cloud metagenomic sequencing and Athena assembly produced the most comprehensive individual genome drafts with high contiguity (>200-kb N50, fewer than ten contigs), even for bacteria with relatively low (20×) raw short-read-sequence coverage. We also sequenced a complex marine-sediment sample and generated 24 intermediate-quality genome drafts (>70% complete, <10% contaminated), nine of which were complete (>90% complete, <5% contaminated). Our approach allows for culture-free generation of high-quality microbial genome drafts by using a single shotgun experiment.
AbstractDetermining how microbial communities organize and function at the ecosystem level is essential to understanding and predicting how they will respond to environmental change. Mathematical models can be used to describe these communities, but properly representing all the biological interactions in extremely diverse natural microbial ecosystems in a mathematical model is challenging. We examine a complementary approach based on the maximum entropy production (MEP) principle, which proposes that systems with many degrees of freedom will likely organize to maximize the rate of free energy dissipation. In this study, we develop an MEP model to describe biogeochemistry observed in Siders Pond, a phosphate limited meromictic system located in Falmouth, MA that exhibits steep chemical gradients due to density-driven stratification that supports anaerobic photosynthesis as well as microbial communities that catalyze redox cycles involving O, N, S, Fe, and Mn. The MEP model uses a metabolic network to represent microbial redox reactions, where biomass allocation and reaction rates are determined by solving an optimization problem that maximizes entropy production over time, and a 1D vertical profile constrained by an advection-dispersion-reaction model. We introduce a new approach for modeling phototrophy and explicitly represent oxygenic photoautotrophs, photoheterotrophs and anoxygenic photoautotrophs. The metabolic network also includes reactions for aerobic organoheterotrophic bacteria, sulfate reducing bacteria, sulfide oxidizing bacteria and aerobic and anaerobic grazers. Model results were compared to observations of biogeochemical constituents collected over a 24 h period at 8 depths at a single 15 m deep station in Siders Pond. Maximizing entropy production over long (3 day) intervals produced results more similar to field observations than short (0.25 day) interval optimizations, which support the importance of temporal strategies for maximizing entropy production over time. Furthermore, we found that entropy production must be maximized locally instead of globally where energy potentials are degraded quickly by abiotic processes, such as light absorption by water. This combination of field observations and modeling results indicate that natural microbial systems can be modeled by using the maximum entropy production principle applied over time and space using many fewer parameters than conventional models.
AbstractTo describe a microbe’s physiology, including its metabolism, environmental roles, and growth characteristics, it must be grown in a laboratory culture. Unfortunately, many phylogenetically novel groups have never been cultured, so their physiologies have only been inferred from genomics and environmental characteristics. Although the diversity, or number of different taxonomic groups, of uncultured clades has been studied well, their global abundances, or numbers of cells in any given environment, have not been assessed. We quantified the degree of similarity of 16S rRNA gene sequences from diverse environments in publicly available metagenome and metatranscriptome databases, which we show have far less of the culture bias present in primer-amplified 16S rRNA gene surveys, to those of their nearest cultured relatives. Whether normalized to scaffold read depths or not, the highest abundances of metagenomic 16S rRNA gene sequences belong to phylogenetically novel uncultured groups in seawater, freshwater, terrestrial subsurface, soil, hypersaline environments, marine sediment, hot springs, hydrothermal vents, nonhuman hosts, snow, and bioreactors (22% to 87% uncultured genera to classes and 0% to 64% uncultured phyla). The exceptions were human and human-associated environments, which were dominated by cultured genera (45% to 97%). We estimate that uncultured genera and phyla could comprise 7.3 × 1029 (81%) and 2.2 × 1029(25%) of microbial cells, respectively. Uncultured phyla were overrepresented in metatranscriptomes relative to metagenomes (46% to 84% of sequences in a given environment), suggesting that they are viable. Therefore, uncultured microbes, often from deeply phylogenetically divergent groups, dominate nonhuman environments on Earth, and their undiscovered physiologies may matter for Earth systems.
AbstractMicroorganisms buried in marine sediments are known to endure starvation over geologic timescales. However, the mechanisms of how these microorganisms cope with prolonged energy limitation is unknown and therefore yet to be captured in a quantitative framework. Here, we present a novel mathematical model that considers (a) the physiological transitions between the active and dormant states of microorganisms, (b) the varying requirement for maintenance power between these phases, and (c) flexibility in the provenance (i.e., source) of energy from exogenous and endogenous catabolism. The model is applied to sediments underlying the oligotrophic South Pacific Gyre where microorganisms endure ultra‐low fluxes of energy for tens of millions of years. Good fits between model simulations and measurements of cellular carbon and organic carbon concentrations are obtained and are interpreted as follows: (a) the unfavourable microbial habitat in South Pacific Gyre sediments triggers rapid mortality and a transition to dormancy; (b) there is minimal biomass growth, and organic carbon consumption is dominated by catabolism to support maintenance activities rather than new biomass synthesis; (c) the amount of organic carbon that microorganisms consume for maintenance activities is equivalent to approximately 2% of their carbon biomass per year; and (d) microorganisms must rely solely on exogenous rather than endogenous catabolism to persist in South Pacific Gyre sediments over long timescales. This leads us to the conclusion that under oligotrophic conditions, the fitness of an organism is determined by its ability to simply stay alive, rather than to grow. This modelling framework is designed to be flexible for application to other sites and habitats, and thus serves as a new quantitative tool for determining the habitability of and an ultimate limit for life in any environment.
AbstractWe present results from three-dimensional, transient, fully coupled simulations of fluid and heat transport on a ridge flank in fast-spread ocean crust. The simulations quantify relationships between rates of fluid flow, the extent of advective heat extraction, the geometry of crustal aquifers and outcrops, and crustal hydrologic parameters, with the goal of simulating conditions similar to those seen on 18–24 M.y. old seafloor of the Cocos plate, offshore Costa Rica. Extensive surveys of this region documented a ∼14,500 km2 area of the seafloor with heat flux values that are 10–35% of those predicted from conductive cooling models, and identified basement outcrops that serve as pathways for hydrothermal circulation via recharge of bottom water and discharge of cool hydrothermal fluid. Simulations suggest that in order for rapid hydrothermal circulation to achieve observed seafloor heat flux values, upper crustal permeability is likely to be ~10-10 to 10-9m2, with more simulations matching observations at the upper end of this range. These permeabilities are at the upper end of values measured in boreholes elsewhere in the volcanic ocean crust, and higher than inferred from three-dimensional modeling of another ridge-flank field site where there is less fluid flow and lower advective power output. The simulations also show that, in a region with high crustal permeability and variable sized outcrops, hydrothermal outcrop-to-outcrop circulation is likely to constitute a small fraction of total fluid circulation, with most of fluid flow occurring locally through individual outcrops that both recharge and discharge hydrothermal fluid.
AbstractExtracellular electron transport (EET) is a microbial process that allows microorganisms to transport electrons to and from insoluble substrates outside of the cell. Although progress has been made in understanding how microbes transfer electrons to insoluble substrates, the process of receiving electrons has largely remained unexplored. We investigated redox potentials favourable for donating electrons to dissolved and insoluble components in Catalina Harbor marine sediment by combining electrochemical techniques with geochemistry and molecular methods. Working electrodes buried in sediment microcosms were poised at seven redox potentials between −300 and −750 mV versus Ag/AgCl using a three‐electrode system. In electrode biofilms recovered after 2‐month incubations, overall community diversity increased with more negative redox potentials. Abundances of known EET‐capable groups (e.g., Alteromonadales and Desulfuromonadales) varied with redox potential. Motility and chemotaxis genes were found in greater abundance in electrode communities, suggesting a possible selective advantage of these pathways for colonization and utilization of the electrode. Our enrichments demonstrated the validity of this approach in capturing groups known, as well as novel groups (e.g., Campylobacterales) that perform EET. The diverse nature of the enriched cathode communities suggest that insoluble substrate oxidation may be a critical, although poorly described microbial metabolic process in marine sediment.
AbstractHydrogen, produced by water radiolysis, has been suggested to support microbial communities on Mars. We quantitatively assess the potential magnitude of radiolytic H2 production in wet martian environments (the ancient surface and the present subsurface) based on the radionuclide compositions of (1) eight proposed Mars 2020 landing sites, and (2) three sites that individually yield the highest or lowest calculated radiolytic H2 production rates on Mars. For the proposed landing sites, calculated H2 production rates vary by a factor of ∼1.6, while the three comparison sites differ by a factor of ∼6. Rates in wet martian sediment and microfractured rock are comparable with rates in terrestrial environments that harbor low concentrations of microbial life (e.g., subseafloor basalt). Calculated H2 production rates for low-porosity (<35%), fine-grained martian sediment (0.12–1.2 nM/year) are mostly higher than rates for South Pacific subseafloor basalt (∼0.02–0.6 nM/year). Production rates in martian high-porosity sediment (>35%) and microfractured (1 μm) hard rock (0.03 to <0.71 nM/year) are generally similar to rates in South Pacific basalt, while yields for larger martian fractures (1 and 10 cm) are one to two orders of magnitude lower (<0.01 nM/year). If minerals or brine that amplify radiolytic H2 production rates are present, H2 yields exceed the calculated rates.
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.
International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 366 focused, in part, on the study of geochemical cycling, matrix alteration and transport, and deep biosphere processes in the Mariana subduction zone. This research was accomplished by sampling the summit and flank regions of three active serpentinite mud volcanoes in the Mariana forearc: Yinazao (Blue Moon), Fantangisña (Celestial), and Asùt Tesoro (Big Blue) Seamounts. These mud volcanoes represent a transect with increasing distance from the trench. Because these mud volcanoes discharge fluids and materials from the subduction channel, they provide a means to characterize thermal, geochemical, and pressure conditions within the seismogenic zone. Previous coring on Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Legs 125 and 195 at two other serpentinite mud volcanoes (Conical and South Chamorro Seamounts, respectively) and piston, gravity, and push cores from several other Mariana serpentinite mud volcanoes add to this transect of deep-sourced material that is discharged at the seafloor.
Pore waters were squeezed from cored serpentinite materials to determine the composition of deep-sourced fluid from the subduction channel and to assess the character, extent, and effect of diagenetic reactions and mixing with seawater on the flanks of three serpentinite seamounts (Yinazao, Fantangisña, and Asùt Tesoro). In addition, two water-sampling temperature probe (WSTP) fluid samples were collected in two of the cased boreholes, each with at least 30 m of screened casing that allowed formation fluids to discharge into the borehole. Here we report shore-based Li, Rb, Cs, Ba, V, Mo, and U measurements of pore waters and one of the WSTP samples. The alkali metals were analyzed to constrain the temperature of reaction in the subduction channel. The other elements were analyzed to assess potential biogenic and diagenetic reactions as the serpentinite material weathers and exchanges with bottom seawater via diffusion. Results were generally consistent with earlier coring and drilling operations, resulting in systematic changes in the composition of the deep-sourced fluid with distance from the trench.
AbstractEarth’s subsurface is often isolated from phototrophic energy sources and characterized by chemotrophic modes of life. These environments are often oligotrophic and limited in electron donors or electron acceptors, and include continental crust, subseafloor oceanic crust, and marine sediment as well as subglacial lakes and the subsurface of polar desert soils. These low energy subsurface environments are therefore uniquely positioned for examining minimum energetic requirements and adaptations for chemotrophic life. Current targets for astrobiology investigations of extant life are planetary bodies with largely inhospitable surfaces, such as Mars, Europa, and Enceladus. Subsurface environments on Earth thus serve as analogs to explore possibilities of subsurface life on extraterrestrial bodies. The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of subsurface environments as potential analogs, and the features of microbial communities existing in these low energy environments, with particular emphasis on how they inform the study of energetic limits required for life. The thermodynamic energetic calculations presented here suggest that free energy yields of reactions and energy density of some metabolic redox reactions on Mars, Europa, Enceladus, and Titan could be comparable to analog environments in Earth’s low energy subsurface habitats.
AbstractCool hydrothermal systems (CHSs) are prevalent across the seafloor and discharge fluid volumes that rival oceanic input from rivers, yet the microbial ecology of these systems are poorly constrained. The Dorado Outcrop on the ridge flank of the Cocos Plate in the northeastern tropical Pacific Ocean is the first confirmed CHS, discharging minimally altered <15∘C fluid from the shallow lithosphere through diffuse venting and seepage. In this paper, we characterize the resident sediment microbial communities influenced by cool hydrothermal advection, which is evident from nitrate and oxygen concentrations. 16S rRNA gene sequencing revealed that Thaumarchaea, Proteobacteria, and Planctomycetes were the most abundant phyla in all sediments across the system regardless of influence from seepage. Members of the Thaumarchaeota (Marine Group I), Alphaproteobacteria (Rhodospirillales), Nitrospirae, Nitrospina, Acidobacteria, and Gemmatimonadetes were enriched in the sediments influenced by CHS advection. Of the various geochemical parameters investigated, nitrate concentrations correlated best with microbial community structure, indicating structuring based on seepage of nitrate-rich fluids. A comparison of microbial communities from hydrothermal sediments, seafloor basalts, and local seawater at Dorado Outcrop showed differences that highlight the distinct niche space in CHS. Sediment microbial communities from Dorado Outcrop differ from those at previously characterized, warmer CHS sediment, but are similar to deep-sea sediment habitats with surficial ferromanganese nodules, such as the Clarion Clipperton Zone. We conclude that cool hydrothermal venting at seafloor outcrops can alter the local sedimentary oxidation–reduction pathways, which in turn influences the microbial communities within the fluid discharge affected sediment.
AbstractGeothermobacter sp. strain HR-1 was isolated from the Lō‘ihi Seamount vent system in the Pacific Ocean at a depth of 1,000 m. Reported here is its 3.84-Mb genome sequence. This research was funded as part of the 2017 NSF Community College Cultivation Cohort (C4) Research Experience for Undergraduates.
AbstractInternational Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 357 drilled 17 boreholes across the Atlantis Massif with the goals of investigating carbon cycling and the presence of life in a zone of active serpentinization. The expedition recovered multiple lithologies including gabbros, basalts, carbonate sands, and serpentinites. A subset of contrasting lithologies were analyzed for apolar lipid content to determine if non-volatile organic molecules can be detected in the oceanic subsurface. The definitive detection and identification of abiotic and biological lipids in the subsurface of an actively serpentinizing system would be a significant step towards understanding a variety of scientific processes, including the evolution of pre-biotic chemistry, microbial habitability, and the global carbon cycle. Given the high potential for contamination during drilling, a suite of materials used in sample collection and processing were also analyzed to characterize their signatures. An n-alkane series ranging from C18 to C30with δ13C isotopic values of –30.9‰ to –28.8‰ was present in lithologically diverse samples. Multiple lines of evidence point to the rock saw used to remove core exteriors during sample processing as the source of these compounds. Many of the other sample-handling procedures designed to reduce surface contamination were determined to be effective and could be implemented in future projects. This result highlights the value of careful prevention and characterization of contamination to allow for more accurate interpretations of complex and dynamic subsurface processes, and the importance that future reports of these compounds occurs in conjunction with thorough contamination assessments.
AbstractMarine dissolved organic carbon (DOC) is one of the largest active reservoirs of reduced carbon on Earth. In the deep ocean, DOC has been described as biologically recalcitrant and has a radiocarbon age of 4,000 to 6,000 years, which far exceeds the timescale of ocean overturning. However, abiotic removal mechanisms cannot account for the full magnitude of deep-ocean DOC loss. Deep-ocean water circulates at low temperatures through volcanic crust on ridge flanks, but little is known about the associated biogeochemical processes and carbon cycling. Here we present analyses of DOC in fluids from two borehole observatories installed in crustal rocks west of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and show that deep-ocean DOC is removed from these cool circulating fluids. The removal mechanism is isotopically selective and causes a shift in specific features of molecular composition, consistent with microbe-mediated oxidation. We suggest organic molecules with an average radiocarbon age of 3,200 years are bioavailable to crustal microbes, and that this removal mechanism may account for at least 5% of the global loss of DOC in the deep ocean. Cool crustal circulation probably contributes to maintaining the deep ocean as a reservoir of ‘aged’ and refractory DOC by discharging the surviving organic carbon constituents that are molecularly degraded and depleted in 14C and 13C into the deep ocean.
AbstractDispersal and environmental selection are two of the most important factors that govern the distributions of microbial communities in nature. While dispersal rates are often inferred by measuring the degree to which community similarity diminishes with increasing geographic distance, determining the extent to which environmental selection impacts the distribution of microbes is more complex. To address this knowledge gap, we performed a large reciprocal transplant experiment to simulate the dispersal of US East Coast salt marsh Spartina alterniflora rhizome-associated microbial sediment communities across a latitudinal gradient and determined if any shifts in microbial community composition occurred as a result of the transplantation. Using bacterial 16S rRNA gene sequencing, we did not observe large-scale changes in community composition over a five-month S. alterniflora summer growing season and found that transplanted communities more closely resembled their origin sites than their destination sites. Furthermore, transplanted communities grouped predominantly by region, with two sites from the north and three sites to the south hosting distinct bacterial taxa, suggesting that sediment communities transplanted from north to south tended to retain their northern microbial distributions, and south to north maintained a southern distribution. A small number of potential indicator 16S rRNA gene sequences had distributions that were strongly correlated to both temperature and nitrogen, indicating that some organisms are more sensitive to environmental factors than others. These results provide new insight into the microbial biogeography of salt marsh sediments and suggest that established bacterial communities in frequently-inundated environments may be both highly resistant to invasion and resilient to some environmental shifts. However, the extent to which environmental selection impacts these communities is taxon specific and variable, highlighting the complex interplay between dispersal and environmental selection for microbial communities in nature.
AbstractThe deep marine subsurface is a heterogeneous environment in which the assembly of microbial communities is thought to be controlled by a combination of organic matter deposition, electron acceptor availability, and sedimentology. However, the relative importance of these factors in structuring microbial communities in marine sediments remains unclear. The South China Sea (SCS) experiences significant variability in sedimentation across the basin and features discrete changes in sedimentology as a result of episodic deposition of turbidites and volcanic ashes within lithogenic clays and siliceous or calcareous ooze deposits throughout the basin's history. Deep subsurface microbial communities were recently sampled by the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) at three locations in the SCS with sedimentation rates of 5, 12, and 20 cm per thousand years. Here, we used Illumina sequencing of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene to characterize deep subsurface microbial communities from distinct sediment types at these sites. Communities across all sites were dominated by several poorly characterized taxa implicated in organic matter degradation, including Atribacteria, Dehalococcoidia, and Aerophobetes. Sulfate-reducing bacteria comprised only 4% of the community across sulfate-bearing sediments from multiple cores and did not change in abundance in sediments from the methanogenic zone at the site with the lowest sedimentation rate. Microbial communities were significantly structured by sediment age and the availability of sulfate as an electron acceptor in pore waters. However, microbial communities demonstrated no partitioning based on the sediment type they inhabited. These results indicate that microbial communities in the SCS are structured by the availability of electron donors and acceptors rather than sedimentological characteristics.
AbstractMicrobial communities often exhibit incredible taxonomic diversity, raising questions regarding the mechanisms enabling species coexistence and the role of this diversity in community functioning. On the one hand, many coexisting but taxonomically distinct microorganisms can encode the same energy-yielding metabolic functions, and this functional redundancy contrasts with the expectation that species should occupy distinct metabolic niches. On the other hand, the identity of taxa encoding each function can vary substantially across space or time with little effect on the function, and this taxonomic variability is frequently thought to result from ecological drift between equivalent organisms. Here, we synthesize the powerful paradigm emerging from these two patterns, connecting the roles of function, functional redundancy and taxonomy in microbial systems. We conclude that both patterns are unlikely to be the result of ecological drift, but are inevitable emergent properties of open microbial systems resulting mainly from biotic interactions and environmental and spatial processes.
AbstractBenthic octopods cluster on bare rock on Dorado Outcrop, a ~3000 m deep basalt exposure. The outcrop hosts intermittent discharge of relatively cool (up to 12.3 °C) hydrothermal fluid that carries about half as much oxygen as bottom seawater (~54 μM vs. 108 μM). We analyzed 231 hours of video footage and still images taken by sub-sea vehicles in 2013 and 2014 that documented the clustered octopods, members of the poorly-known genus Muusoctopus. The largest cluster (102 octopods) occurred in a 19 m2 area of fluid discharge, where the basalt was sediment-free; individual octopods were also seen across the outcrop. The clustered octopods appeared to be brooding eggs and a total of 11 egg clutches were confirmed. None of the 186 eggs closely examined showed embryonic development. The intermittent fluid discharge may clear the basalt of sediment and attract gravid octopods which then spawn. However, the increased temperature and limited oxygen of the discharging fluids may threaten the octopods’ survival. Octopods in/near areas of discharging fluid had significantly higher estimated respiration rates (3.1–9.8 contractions/minute) than did octopods away from discharging fluid (0.8–6.0 contractions/minute). Warm fluids likely increase the octopods’ metabolic rate and thus their oxygen demand but provide only limited oxygen. The resultant physiological stress is hypothesized to eventually kill eggs near fluid discharge. We hypothesize, because these eggs do not survive, the population is sustained by a larger pool of undetectable females that brood their eggs inside cool conduits of this and perhaps other, unstudied basalt outcrops.
AbstractThere is increasing interest in mining minerals on the seabed, including seafloor massive sulfide deposits that form at hydrothermal vents. The International Seabed Authority is currently drafting a Mining Code, including environmental regulations, for polymetallic sulfides and other mineral exploitation on the seabed in the area beyond national jurisdictions. This paper summarizes 1) the ecological vulnerability of active vent ecosystems and aspects of this vulnerability that remain subject to conjecture, 2) evidence for limited mineral resource opportunity at active vents, 3) non-extractive values of active vent ecosystems, 4) precedents and international obligations for protection of hydrothermal vents, and 5) obligations of the International Seabed Authority under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea for protection of the marine environment from the impacts of mining. Heterogeneity of active vent ecosystems makes it extremely challenging to identify “representative” systems for any regional, area-based management approach to conservation. Protection of active vent ecosystems from mining impacts (direct and indirect) would set aside only a small fraction of the international seabed and its mineral resources, would contribute to international obligations for marine conservation, would have non-extractive benefits, and would be a precautionary approach.
AbstractA taxonomic and physiologic characterization was carried out on Thioclava strain ElOx9T, which was isolated from a bacterial consortium enriched on electrodes poised at electron donating potentials. The isolate is Gram-negative, catalase-positive and oxidase-positive; the cells are motile short rods. The bacterium is facultatively anaerobic with the ability to utilize nitrate as an electron acceptor. Autotrophic growth with H2 and S0 (oxidized to sulfate) was observed. The isolate also grows heterotrophically with organic acids and sugars. Growth was observed at salinities from 0 to 10% NaCl and at temperatures from 15 to 41 °C. Phylogenetic analysis based on 16S rRNA gene sequences indicated that the strain belongs in the genus Thioclava ; it had the highest sequence similarity of 98.8 % to Thioclava atlantica 13D2W-2T, followed by Thioclava dalianensis DLFJ1-1T with 98.5 % similarity, Thioclava pacifica TL 2T with 97.7 % similarity, and then Thioclava indica DT23-4T with 96.9 %. All other sequence similarities were below 97 % to characterized strains. The digital DNA–DNA hybridization estimated when compared to T. atlantica 13D2W-2T, T. dalianensis DLFJ1-1T, T. pacifica TL 2T and T. indica DT23-4T were 15.8±2.1, 16.7+2.1, 14.3±1.9 and 18.3±2.1 %. The corresponding average nucleotide identity values between these strains were determined to be 65.1, 67.8, 68.4 and 64.4 %, respectively. The G+C content of the chromosomal DNA is 63.4 mol%. Based on these results, a novel species Thioclava electrotropha sp. nov. is proposed, with the type strain ElOx9T (=DSM 103712T=ATCC TSD-100T).
AbstractAs we train the next generation of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) researchers, it is imperative that we expand our recruitment to community college students. Many of these students are highly motivated and extremely talented, but they often lack exposure to cutting edge technology found at R1 institutions, much less have the opportunities to participate in original research. The Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) at the University of Southern California (USC) started a community college research internship summer program in 2013. The non-residential and residential programs combined so far have trained 60 students in the biogeosciences, with 46 of them having transferred to four-year institutions and 95% remaining in STEM fields. Their introduction to and acquired competence in several advanced technologies have further prepared these students to pursue graduate degrees and rewarding careers in research-based STEM fields.
The Marine Technology Society is a not-for-profit, international, professional association. Founded in 1963, the Society believes that the advancement of marine technology and the productive, sustainable use of the oceans depend upon the active exchange of ideas between government, industry and academia. See www.mtsociety.org. Ⓒ 2018 Marine Technology Society. This article is for personal use only, and is not to be distributed in any format.
AbstractAerobic anoxygenic phototrophs (AAnPs) are common in marine environments and are associated with photoheterotrophic activity. To date, AAnPs that possess the potential for carbon fixation have not been identified in the surface ocean. Using the Tara Oceans metagenomic dataset, we have identified draft genomes of nine bacteria that possess the genomic potential for anoxygenic phototrophy, carbon fixation via the Calvin-Benson-Bassham cycle, and the oxidation of sulfite and thiosulfate. Forming a monophyletic clade within the Alphaproteobacteria and lacking cultured representatives, the organisms compose minor constituents of local microbial communities (0.1–1.0%), but are globally distributed, present in multiple samples from the North Pacific, Mediterranean Sea, the East Africa Coastal Province, and the Atlantic. This discovery may require re-examination of the microbial communities in the oceans to understand and constrain the role this group of organisms may play in the global carbon cycle.
AbstractWhile typically investigated as a microorganism capable of extracellular electron transfer to minerals or anodes, Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 can also facilitate electron flow from a cathode to terminal electron acceptors, such as fumarate or oxygen, thereby providing a model system for a process that has significant environmental and technological implications. This work demonstrates that cathodic electrons enter the electron transport chain of S. oneidensis when oxygen is used as the terminal electron acceptor. The effect of electron transport chain inhibitors suggested that a proton gradient is generated during cathode oxidation, consistent with the higher cellular ATP levels measured in cathode-respiring cells than in controls. Cathode oxidation also correlated with an increase in the cellular redox (NADH/FMNH2) pool determined with a bioluminescence assay, a proton uncoupler, and a mutant of proton-pumping NADH oxidase complex I. This work suggested that the generation of NADH/FMNH2 under cathodic conditions was linked to reverse electron flow mediated by complex I. A decrease in cathodic electron uptake was observed in various mutant strains, including those lacking the extracellular electron transfer components necessary for anodic-current generation. While no cell growth was observed under these conditions, here we show that cathode oxidation is linked to cellular energy acquisition, resulting in a quantifiable reduction in the cellular decay rate. This work highlights a potential mechanism for cell survival and/or persistence on cathodes, which might extend to environments where growth and division are severely limited.
AbstractMicrobial ecology within oligotrophic marine sediment is poorly understood, yet is critical for understanding geochemical cycles. Here, 16S rRNA sequences from RNA and DNA inform the structure of active and total microbial communities in oligotrophic sediment on the western flank of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Sequences identified as Bacillariophyta chloroplast were detected within DNA, but undetectable within RNA, suggesting preservation in 5.6-million-year-old sediment. Statistical analysis revealed that RNA-based microbial populations correlated significantly with nitrogen concentrations, whereas DNA-based populations did not correspond to measured geochemical analytes. Bioenergetic calculations determined which metabolisms could yield energy in situ, and found that denitrification, nitrification, and nitrogen fixation were all favorable. A metagenome was produced from one sample, and included genes mediating nitrogen redox processes. Nitrogen respiration by active bacteria is an important metabolic strategy in North Pond sediments, and could be widespread in the oligotrophic sedimentary biosphere.
AbstractWhile most of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) efforts center on classroom programs, many lack hands-on activities that allow students to experience phenomenon-based learning and produce a complex scientific project. To meet this need, we developed week-long STEM summer day camps (ssrovcamp.org) for two age groups: rising 3rd-5th and 6-9th graders. Campers learn about seafloor exploration through multiple hands-on, technology-rooted, team-based activities. At the end of the week, campers design and present research missions for an actual seafloor feature, incorporating hypotheses, methods, and operations. Current: The Journal of Marine Education, is a journal produced by NMEA, the National Marine Educators Association.
AbstractCalorimetric measurements of the change in heat due to microbial metabolic activity convey information about the kinetics, as well as the thermodynamics, of all chemical reactions taking place in a cell. Calorimetric measurements of heat production made on bacterial cultures have recorded the energy yields of all co-occurring microbial metabolic reactions, but this is a complex, composite signal that is difficult to interpret. Here we show that nanocalorimetry can be used in combination with enumeration of viable cell counts, oxygen consumption rates, cellular protein content, and thermodynamic calculations to assess catabolic rates of an isolate of Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 and infer what fraction of the chemical energy is assimilated by the culture into biomass and what fraction is dissipated in the form of heat under different limiting conditions. In particular, our results demonstrate that catabolic rates are not necessarily coupled to rates of cell division, but rather, to physiological rearrangements of S. oneidensis MR-1 upon growth phase transitions. In addition, we conclude that the heat released by growing microorganisms can be measured in order to understand the physiochemical nature of the energy transformation and dissipation associated with microbial metabolic activity in conditions approaching those found in natural systems.
AbstractHydrogenovibrio sp. strain SC-1 was isolated from pyrrhotite incubated in situ in the marine surface sediment of Catalina Island, CA. Strain SC-1 has demonstrated autotrophic growth through the oxidation of thiosulfate and iron. Here, we present the 2.45-Mb genome sequence of SC-1, which contains 2,262 protein-coding genes.
AbstractThe in situ production of necromass and its role as a power source in sustaining heterotrophic microorganisms in natural settings has never been quantified. Here, we quantify the power availability from necromass oxidation to living microorganisms buried in marine sediments over millions of years, first in the oligotrophic South Pacific Gyre (SPG), and second on a global scale. We calculate that power from autochthonously produced necromass in the upper meter of sediment at SPG provides only a small fraction (~0.02%) of the maintenance power demand of the living community (1.9×10-19 W cell-1). Power from necromass oxidation diminishes considerably with increasing sediment depth (and thus sediment age). Alternatively, the oxidation of allochthonous organic matter, and of radiolytic H2, provides power equivalent to or in excess of the maintenance demands of living microorganisms at SPG. On a global scale, necromass may support the maintenance power demand of 2 to 13% of the microbial community in relatively young sediments (<10,000 years) when it is oxidized with SO42- and O2 respectively. However, in older sediments, the power supplied by necromass is negligible (<0.01%). Nevertheless, the oxidation of a single dead cell per year provides sufficient power to support the maintenance demands of dozens to thousands of cells in low-energy marine sediments. This raises the possibility that the production and oxidation of necromass may provide a mechanism for non-growing microorganisms to endure unfavorable, low-energy settings over geological timescales.
AbstractMarine sediments constitute one of the most energy-limited habitats on Earth, in which microorganisms persist over extraordinarily long timescales with very slow metabolisms. This habitat provides an ideal environment in which to study the energetic limits of life. However, the bioenergetic factors that can determine whether microorganisms will grow, lie dormant, or die, as well as the selective environmental pressures that determine energetic trade-offs between growth and maintenance activities, are not well understood. Numerical models will be pivotal in addressing these knowledge gaps. However, models rarely account for the variable physiological states of microorganisms and their demand for energy. Here, we review established modeling constructs for microbial growth rate, yield, maintenance, and physiological state, and then provide a new model that incorporates all of these factors. We discuss this new model in context with its future application to the marine subsurface. Understanding the factors that regulate cell death, physiological state changes, and the provenance of maintenance energy (i.e., endogenous versus exogenous metabolism), is crucial to the design of this model. Further, measurements of growth rate, growth yield, and basal metabolic activity will enable bioenergetic parameters to be better constrained. Last, biomass and biogeochemical rate measurements will enable model simulations to be validated. The insight provided from the development and application of new microbial modeling tools for marine sediments will undoubtedly advance the understanding of the minimum power required to support life, and the ecophysiological strategies that organisms utilize to cope under extreme energy limitation for extended periods of time.
AbstractThe microbial endosymbionts of two species of vestimentiferan tubeworms (Escarpia sp. and Lamellibrachia sp.2) collected from an area of low-temperature hydrothermal diffuse vent flow at the Mid-Cayman Rise (MCR) in the Caribbean Sea were characterized using microscopy, phylogenetic analyses, and a metagenomic approach. The present study adds new evidence that tubeworm endosymbionts can potentially switch from autotrophic to heterotrophic metabolism, or may be mixotrophic, presumably while free-living, and also suggests their versatile metabolic potential may enable both the host and symbionts to exploit a wide range of environmental conditions. Together, the marked gene content and sequence dissimilarity at the rRNA operon and whole genome level between vent and seep symbionts suggest these newly described endosymbionts from the MCR belong to a novel tubeworm endosymbiont genera, introduced as Candidatus Vondammii.
AbstractThe emplacement of subaqueous gravity-driven sediment flows imposes a significant physical and geochemical impact on underlying sediment and microbial communities. Although previous studies have established lasting mineralogical and biological signatures of turbidite deposition, the response of bacteria and archaea within and beneath debris flows remains poorly constrained. Both bacterial cells associated with the underlying sediment and those attached to allochthonous material must respond to substantially altered environmental conditions and selective pressures. As a consequence, turbidites and underlying sediments provide an exceptional opportunity to examine (i) the microbial community response to rapid sedimentation and (ii) the preservation and identification of displaced micro-organisms. We collected Illumina MiSeq sequence libraries across turbidite boundaries at ~26 cm sediment depth in La Jolla Canyon off the coast of California, and at ~50 cm depth in meromictic Twin Lake, Hennepin County, MN. 16S rRNA gene signatures of relict and active bacterial populations exhibit persistent differences attributable to turbidite deposition. In particular, both the marine and lacustrine turbidite boundaries are sharply demarcated by the abundance and diversity of Chloroflexi, suggesting a characteristic sensitivity to sediment disturbance history or to differences in organic substrates across turbidite profiles. Variations in the abundance of putative dissimilatory sulfate-reducing Deltaproteobacteria across the buried La Jolla Canyon sediment–water interface reflect turbidite-induced changes to the geochemical environment. Species-level distinctions within the Deltaproteobacteria clearly conform to the sedimentological boundary, suggesting a continuing impact of genetic inheritance distinguishable from broader trends attributable to selective pressure. Abrupt, <1-cm scale changes in bacterial diversity across the Twin Lake turbidite contact are consistent with previous studies showing that relict DNA signatures attributable to sediment transport may be more easily preserved in low-energy, anoxic environments. This work raises the possibility that deep subsurface microbial communities may inherit variations in microbial diversity from sediment flow and deformation events.
AbstractMicroorganisms play a crucial role in mediating global biogeochemical cycles in the marine environment. By reconstructing the genomes of environmental organisms through metagenomics, researchers are able to study the metabolic potential of Bacteria and Archaea that are resistant to isolation in the laboratory. Utilizing the large metagenomic dataset generated from 234 samples collected during the Tara Oceans circumnavigation expedition, we were able to assemble 102 billion paired-end reads into 562 million contigs, which in turn were co-assembled and consolidated in to 7.2 million contigs ≥2 kb in length. Approximately 1 million of these contigs were binned to reconstruct draft genomes. In total, 2,631 draft genomes with an estimated completion of ≥50% were generated (1,491 draft genomes >70% complete; 603 genomes >90% complete). A majority of the draft genomes were manually assigned phylogeny based on sets of concatenated phylogenetic marker genes and/or 16S rRNA gene sequences. The draft genomes are now publically available for the research community at-large.
AbstractThe deep marine subsurface is one of the largest unexplored biospheres on Earth and is widely inhabited by members of the phylum Chloroflexi. In this report, we investigated genomes of single cells obtained from deep-sea sediments of the Peruvian Margin, which are enriched in such Chloroflexi. 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis placed two of these single-cell-derived genomes (DscP3 and Dsc4) in a clade of subphylum I Chloroflexi which were previously recovered from deep-sea sediment in the Okinawa Trough and a third (DscP2-2) as a member of the previously reported DscP2 population from Peruvian Margin site 1230. The presence of genes encoding enzymes of a complete Wood-Ljungdahl pathway, glycolysis/gluconeogenesis, a Rhodobacter nitrogen fixation (Rnf) complex, glyosyltransferases, and formate dehydrogenases in the single-cell genomes of DscP3 and Dsc4 and the presence of an NADH-dependent reduced ferredoxin:NADP oxidoreductase (Nfn) and Rnf in the genome of DscP2-2 imply a homoacetogenic lifestyle of these abundant marine Chloroflexi. We also report here the first complete pathway for anaerobic benzoate oxidation to acetyl coenzyme A (CoA) in the phylum Chloroflexi (DscP3 and Dsc4), including a class I benzoyl-CoA reductase. Of remarkable evolutionary significance, we discovered a gene encoding a formate dehydrogenase (FdnI) with reciprocal closest identity to the formate dehydrogenase-like protein (complex iron-sulfur molybdoenzyme [CISM], DET0187) of terrestrial Dehalococcoides/Dehalogenimonas spp. This formate dehydrogenase-like protein has been shown to lack formate dehydrogenase activity in Dehalococcoides/Dehalogenimonas spp. and is instead hypothesized to couple HupL hydrogenase to a reductive dehalogenase in the catabolic reductive dehalogenation pathway. This finding of a close functional homologue provides an important missing link for understanding the origin and the metabolic core of terrestrial Dehalococcoides/Dehalogenimonas spp. and of reductive dehalogenation, as well as the biology of abundant deep-sea Chloroflexi.
AbstractAt deep-sea hydrothermal vents, microbial communities thrive across geochemical gradients above, at, and below the seafloor. In this study, we determined the gene content and transcription patterns of microbial communities and specific populations to understand the taxonomy and metabolism both spatially and temporally across geochemically different diffuse fluid hydrothermal vents. Vent fluids were examined via metagenomic, metatranscriptomic, genomic binning, and geochemical analyses from Axial Seamount, an active submarine volcano on the Juan de Fuca Ridge in the NE Pacific Ocean, from 2013 to 2015 at three different vents: Anemone, Marker 33, and Marker 113. Results showed that individual vent sites maintained microbial communities and specific populations over time, but with spatially distinct taxonomic, metabolic potential, and gene transcription profiles. The geochemistry and physical structure of each vent both played important roles in shaping the dominant organisms and metabolisms present at each site. Genomic binning identified key populations of SUP05, Aquificales and methanogenic archaea carrying out important transformations of carbon, sulfur, hydrogen, and nitrogen, with groups that appear unique to individual sites. This work highlights the connection between microbial metabolic processes, fluid chemistry, and microbial population dynamics at and below the seafloor and increases understanding of the role of hydrothermal vent microbial communities in deep ocean biogeochemical cycles.
AbstractIODP Expedition 357 utilized seabed drills for the first time in the history of the ocean drilling program, with the aim of collecting intact sequences of shallow mantle core from the Atlantis Massif to examine serpentinization processes and the deep biosphere. This novel drilling approach required the development of a new remote seafloor system for delivering synthetic tracers during drilling to assess for possible sample contamination. Here, we describe this new tracer delivery system, assess the performance of the system during the expedition, provide an overview of the quality of the core samples collected for deep biosphere investigations based on tracer concentrations, and make recommendations for future applications of the system.
AbstractAncient putative microbial structures that appear in the rock record commonly serve as evidence of early life on Earth, but the details of their formation remain unclear. The study of modern microbial mat structures can help inform the properties of their ancient counterparts, but modern mineralizing mat systems with morphological similarity to ancient structures are rare. Here, we characterize partially lithified microbial mats containing cm-scale dendrolitic coniform structures from a geothermal pool (“Cone Pool”) at Little Hot Creek, California, that if fully lithified, would resemble ancient dendrolitic structures known from the rock record. Light and electron microscopy revealed that the cm-scale ‘dendrolitic cones’ were comprised of intertwined microbial filaments and grains of calcium carbonate. The degree of mineralization (carbonate content) increased with depth in the dendrolitic cones. Sequencing of 16S rRNA gene libraries revealed that the dendrolitic cone tips were enriched in OTUs most closely related to the genera Phormidium, Leptolyngbya, and Leptospira, whereas mats at the base and adjacent to the dendrolitic cones were enriched in Synechococcus. We hypothesize that the consumption of nutrients during autotrophic and heterotrophic growth may promote movement of microbes along diffusive nutrient gradients, and thus microbialite growth. Hour-glass shaped filamentous structures present in the dendrolitic cones may have formed around photosynthetically-produced oxygen bubbles—suggesting that mineralization occurs rapidly and on timescales of the lifetime of a bubble. The dendrolitic-conical structures in Cone Pool constitute a modern analog of incipient microbialite formation by filamentous microbiota that are morphologically distinct from any structure described previously. Thus, we provide a new model system to address how microbial mats may be preserved over geological timescales.
AbstractWeathered crude oil sank to the seafloor following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, removing this oil from further physical and photo-chemical degradation processes and leaving benthic processes as the mechanisms for altering and remediating this hydrocarbon source. To quantify potential microbial oil degradation rates at the seafloor, and associated changes in sediment microbial community structure and pore fluid composition, we used a benthic lander system to deploy novel sediment flow-through chambers at a natural hydrocarbon seep in the Gulf of Mexico (at a depth of 1226 m in lease block GC600) roughly 265 km southwest of the Deepwater Horizon wellhead (at 1500 m depth). Sediment amended with 20% unweathered crude oil had elevated rates of sulfate reduction over the course of the 5-month-long experiment as compared to an unamended control, yielding potential rates of sulfate reduction (600–800 mmol m–2 d–1) among the highest measured in hydrocarbon-influenced seafloor sediment. Oil amendment also stimulated methane production towards the end of the experiment, and led to slightly higher cell densities without significant changes in microbial community structure, based on 16S rRNA gene sequence libraries and fatty acid profiles. Assuming a link between sulfate reduction and hydrocarbon degradation, these results suggest that electron acceptor availability may become limiting in heavily oiled deep-sea environments, resulting in minimal degradation of deposited oil. This study provides unique data on seafloor sediment responses to oil deposition, and reveals the value of using observatories to fill the gap in understanding deep-sea microbial processes, especially for ephemeral and stochastic events such as oil spills.
AbstractGeothermobacter sp. strain EPR-M was isolated from a hydrothermal vent on the East Pacific Rise and has been shown to participate in the reduction of Fe(III) oxides. Here, we report its 3.73-Mb draft genome sequence.
AbstractThe Tara Oceans Expedition has provided large, publicly-accessible microbial metagenomic datasets from a circumnavigation of the globe. Utilizing several size fractions from the samples originating in the Mediterranean Sea, we have used current assembly and binning techniques to reconstruct 290 putative draft metagenome-assembled bacterial and archaeal genomes, with an estimated completion of ≥50%, and an additional 2,786 bins, with estimated completion of 0–50%. We have submitted our results, including initial taxonomic and phylogenetic assignments, for the putative draft genomes to open-access repositories for the scientific community to use in ongoing research.
Since its inception, the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) has coalesced a multidisciplinary and international group of researchers focused on understanding and quantifying Earth's deep carbon budget. Carbon is the fourth most abundant element in the universe, and understanding carbon chemistry under a variety of environmental conditions impacts all aspects of planetary sciences. DCO recognizes that contributions of early career scientists are integral to the advancement of knowledge regarding the quantities, movements, origins, and forms of Earth's deep carbon. This research topic highlights the contributions of the DCO Early Career Scientist community.
AbstractThe rock-hosted subseafloor crustal aquifer harbors a reservoir of microbial life that may influence global marine biogeochemical cycles. Here we utilized metagenomic libraries of crustal fluid samples from North Pond, located on the flanks of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a site with cold, oxic subseafloor fluid circulation within the upper basement to query microbial diversity. Twenty-one samples were collected during a 2-year period to examine potential microbial metabolism and community dynamics. We observed minor changes in the geochemical signatures over the 2 years, yet the microbial community present in the crustal fluids underwent large shifts in the dominant taxonomic groups. An analysis of 195 metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) were generated from the data set and revealed a connection between litho- and autotrophic processes, linking carbon fixation to the oxidation of sulfide, sulfur, thiosulfate, hydrogen, and ferrous iron in members of the Proteobacteria, specifically the Alpha-, Gamma- and Zetaproteobacteria, the Epsilonbacteraeota and the Planctomycetes. Despite oxic conditions, analysis of the MAGs indicated that members of the microbial community were poised to exploit hypoxic or anoxic conditions through the use of microaerobic cytochromes, such as cbb3- and bd-type cytochromes, and alternative electron acceptors, like nitrate and sulfate. Temporal and spatial trends from the MAGs revealed a high degree of functional redundancy that did not correlate with the shifting microbial community membership, suggesting functional stability in mediating subseafloor biogeochemical cycles. Collectively, the repeated sampling at multiple sites, together with the successful binning of hundreds of genomes, provides an unprecedented data set for investigation of microbial communities in the cold, oxic crustal aquifer.
This study investigates the morphology, mineralogy, and geochemistry of seafloor massive sulfide (SMS) deposits from six back-arc hydrothermal vent fields along the Eastern Lau Spreading Center (ELSC) and Valu Fa Ridge (VFR) in the context of endmember vent fluid chemistry and proximity to the Tonga Subduction Zone. To complement deposit geochemistry, vent fluid analyses of Cu, Zn, Ba, Pb and H2,(aq)were completed to supplement existing data and enable thermodynamic calculations of mineral saturation states at in situ conditions. Results document southward increases in the abundance of mantle-incompatible elements in hydrothermal fluids (Ba and Pb) and SMS deposits (Ba, Pb, As, and Sb), which is also expressed in the abundance of barite (BaSO4) and galena (PbS) in SMS deposits. These increases correspond to a decrease in distance between the ELSC/VFR and the Tonga Subduction Zone that correlates with a change in crustal lithology from back-arc basin basalt in the north to mixed andesite, rhyolite, and dacite in the south. Barite influences deposit morphology, contributing to the formation of horizontal flanges and squat terraces. Results are also consistent with a regional-scale lowering of hydrothermal reaction zone temperatures from north to south (except at the southernmost Mariner vent field) that leads to lower-temperature, higher-pH vent fluids relative to mid-ocean ridges of similar spreading rates (Mottl et al., 2011). These fluids are Cu- and Zn-poor and the deposits formed from these fluids are Cu-poor but Zn-rich. In contrast, at the Mariner vent field, higher-temperature and lower pH vent fluids are hypothesized to result from higher reaction zone temperatures and the localized addition of acidic magmatic volatiles (Mottl et al., 2011). The Mariner fluids are Cu- and Zn-rich and vent from SMS deposits that are rich in Cu but poor in Zn with moderate amounts of Pb. Thermodynamic calculations indicate that the contrasting metal contents of vent fluids and SMS deposits can be accounted for by vent fluid pH. Wurtzite/sphalerite ((Zn, Fe)S) and galena (PbS) are saturated at higher temperatures in higher-pH, Zn-, Cu-, and Pb-poor ELSC/VFR vent fluids, but are undersaturated at similar temperatures in low-pH, Zn-, Cu-, and Pb-rich vent fluids from the Mariner vent field.
Indicators of pH in the ELSC and VFR SMS deposits include the presence of co-precipitated wurtzite and chalcopyrite along conduit linings in deposits formed from higher pH fluids, and different correlations between concentrations of Zn and Ag in bulk geochemical analyses. Significant positive bulk geochemical Zn:Ag correlations occur for deposits at vent fields where hydrothermal fluids have a minimum pH (at 25 °C) < 3.3, while correlations of Zn:Ag are weak or negative for deposits at vent fields where the minimum vent fluid pH (at 25 °C) > 3.6. Data show that the compositions of the mineral linings of open conduit chimneys (minerals present, mol% FeS in (Zn,Fe)S) that precipitate directly from hydrothermal fluids closely reflect the temperature and sulfur fugacity of sampled hydrothermal fluids. These mineral lining compositions thus can be used as indicators of hydrothermal fluid temperature and composition (pH, metal content, sulfur fugacity).
AbstractDifficulty quantifying biogeochemically significant microbes in marine sediments limits our ability to assess interspecific interactions, population turnover times, and niches of uncultured taxa. We incubated surface sediments from Cape Lookout Bight, North Carolina USA, anoxically at 21°C for 122 days. Sulfate decreased until day 68, after which methane increased, with hydrogen concentration consistent with predicted values of an electron donor exerting thermodynamic control. We measured turnover times using two relative quantification methods, quantitative PCR (qPCR) and the product of 16S gene read abundance and total cell abundance (FRAxC, for fraction of read abundance times cells), to estimate population turnover rates of uncultured clades. Most 16S rRNA reads were from deeply-branching uncultured groups and ∼ 98% of 16S rRNA genes did not abruptly shift in relative abundance when sulfate reduction gave way to methanogenesis. Uncultured Methanomicrobiales and Methanosarcinales increased at the onset of methanogenesis with population turnover times estimated from quantitative PCR (qPCR) at 9.7 ± 3.9 and 12.6 ± 4.1 days, respectively. These were consistent with FRAxC turnover times of 9.4 ± 5.8 and 9.2 ± 3.5 days, respectively. Uncultured Syntrophaceae, which are possibly fermentative syntrophs of methanogens, and uncultured Kazan-3A-21 archaea also increased at the onset of methanogenesis with FRAxC turnover times of 14.7 ± 6.9 and 10.6 ± 3.6 days. Kazan-3A-21 may therefore either perform methanogenesis or form a fermentative syntrophy with methanogens. Three genera of sulfate reducing bacteria, Desulfovibrio sp., Desulfobacter sp., and Desulfobacterium sp. increased in the first 19 days before declining rapidly during sulfate reduction. We conclude that population turnover times on the order of days can be measured robustly in organic-rich marine sediment, and the transition from sulfate-reducing to methanogenic conditions only stimulates growth in a few clades directly involved in methanogenesis, rather than the whole microbial community.
AbstractThe past decade of scientific ocean drilling has revealed seemingly ubiquitous, slow-growing microbial life within a range of deep biosphere habitats. Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 337 expanded these studies by successfully coring Miocene-aged coal beds 2 km below the seafloor hypothesized to be “hot spots” for microbial life. To characterize the activity of coal-associated microorganisms from this site, a series of stable isotope probing (SIP) experiments were conducted using intact pieces of coal and overlying shale incubated at in situ temperatures (45 °C). The 30-month SIP incubations were amended with deuterated water as a passive tracer for growth and different combinations of 13C- or 15N-labeled methanol, methylamine, and ammonium added at low (micromolar) concentrations to investigate methylotrophy in the deep subseafloor biosphere. Although the cell densities were low (50–2,000 cells per cubic centimeter), bulk geochemical measurements and single-cell–targeted nanometer-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry demonstrated active metabolism of methylated substrates by the thermally adapted microbial assemblage, with differing substrate utilization profiles between coal and shale incubations. The conversion of labeled methylamine and methanol was predominantly through heterotrophic processes, with only minor stimulation of methanogenesis. These findings were consistent with in situ and incubation 16S rRNA gene surveys. Microbial growth estimates in the incubations ranged from several months to over 100 y, representing some of the slowest direct measurements of environmental microbial biosynthesis rates. Collectively, these data highlight a small, but viable, deep coal bed biosphere characterized by extremely slow-growing heterotrophs that can utilize a diverse range of carbon and nitrogen substrates.
AbstractLittle is known about evolutionary drivers of microbial populations in the warm subseafloor of deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Here we reconstruct 73 metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) from two geochemically distinct vent fields in the Mid-Cayman Rise to investigate patterns of genomic variation within subseafloor populations. Low-abundance populations with high intra-population diversity coexist alongside high-abundance populations with low genomic diversity, with taxonomic differences in patterns of genomic variation between the mafic Piccard and ultramafic Von Damm vent fields. Populations from Piccard are significantly enriched in nonsynonymous mutations, suggesting stronger purifying selection in Von Damm relative to Piccard. Comparison of nine Sulfurovum MAGs reveals two high-coverage, low-diversity MAGs from Piccard enriched in unique genes related to the cellular membrane, suggesting these populations were subject to distinct evolutionary pressures that may correlate with genes related to nutrient uptake, biofilm formation, or viral invasion. These results are consistent with distinct evolutionary histories between geochemically different vent fields, with implications for understanding evolutionary processes in subseafloor microbial populations.
AbstractDespite accounting for the majority of sedimentary methane, the physiology and relative abundance of subsurface methanogens remain poorly understood. We combined intact polar lipid and metagenome techniques to better constrain the presence and functions of methanogens within the highly reducing, organic-rich sediments of Antarctica’s Adélie Basin. The assembly of metagenomic sequence data identified phylogenic and functional marker genes of methanogens and generated the first Methanosaeta sp. genome from a deep subsurface sedimentary environment. Based on structural and isotopic measurements, glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers with diglycosyl phosphatidylglycerol head groups were classified as biomarkers for active methanogens. The stable carbon isotope (δ13C) values of these biomarkers and the Methanosaeta partial genome suggest that these organisms are acetoclastic methanogens and represent a relatively small (0.2%) but active population. Metagenomic and lipid analyses suggest that Thaumarchaeota and heterotrophic bacteria co-exist with Methanosaeta and together contribute to increasing concentrations and δ13C values of dissolved inorganic carbon with depth. This study presents the first functional insights of deep subsurface Methanosaeta organisms and highlights their role in methane production and overall carbon cycling within sedimentary environments.
AbstractLife may have emerged on early Earth in serpentinizing systems, where ultramafic rocks react with aqueous solutions to generate high levels of dissolved H2 and CH4 and, on meeting seawater, steep redox, ionic, and pH gradients. Most extant life harnesses energy as ion (e.g., H+, Na+) gradients across membranes, and it seems reasonable to suggest that environments with steep ion gradients would have also been important for early life forms. The Strytan Hydrothermal Field (SHF) is a mid-ocean ridge–flank submarine hydrothermal (~70 °C) vent in Iceland that produces steep Na+ (<3–468 mM) and pH (8.1–10.2) gradients, concomitant with enrichments in methane (0.5–1.4 μM) and hydrogen (0.1–5.2 μM), relative to seawater. Large (up to 55 m) saponite towers create ideal "incubators" similar to other proposed origin-of-life analogs (e.g., Lost City hydrothermal field in the mid-Atlantic). However, the SHF is basalt hosted. We suggest that the observed conditions are generated by (1) plagioclase hydrolysis, coupled with calcite precipitation, and (2) hydration of Mg in pyroxene and olivine in basalt. Along with microbial activity, aqueous reactions of Fe in olivine and pyroxene are possible sources of the observed H2. Although the δ13C-CH4 values were highly variable (–53‰ to –8‰), isotopically heavy CH4 suggests possible abiotic formation or the imprint of methane oxidation. If environments similar to SHF occurred on the early Earth, they should be considered as potential origin-of-life environments.
AbstractMicrobial life in the deep subsurface biosphere is taxonomically and metabolically diverse, but it is vigorously debated whether the resident organisms are thriving (metabolizing, maintaining cellular integrity, and expressing division genes) or just surviving. As part of Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 347: Baltic Sea Paleoenvironment, we extracted and sequenced RNA from organic carbon-rich, nutrient-replete, and permanently anoxic sediment. In stark contrast to the oligotrophic subsurface biosphere, Baltic Sea Basin samples provided a unique opportunity to understand the balance between metabolism and other cellular processes. Targeted sequencing of 16S rRNA transcripts showed Atribacteria (an uncultured phylum) and Chloroflexi to be among the dominant and the active members of the community. Metatranscriptomic analysis identified methane cycling, sulfur cycling, and halogenated compound utilization as active in situ respiratory metabolisms. Genes for cellular maintenance, cellular division, motility, and antimicrobial production were also transcribed. This indicates that microbial life in deep subsurface Baltic Sea Basin sediments was not only alive, but thriving.
AbstractWe present geochemical data from the first samples of spring fluids from Dorado Outcrop, a basaltic edifice on 23 M.y. old seafloor of the Cocos Plate, eastern Pacific Ocean. These samples were collected from the discharge of a cool hydrothermal system (CHS) on a ridge flank, where typical reaction temperatures in the volcanic crust are low (2–20 °C) and fluid residence times are short. Ridge-flank hydrothermal systems extract 25% of Earth's lithospheric heat, with a global discharge rate equivalent to that of Earth's river discharge to the ocean; CHSs comprise a significant fraction of this global flow. Upper crustal temperatures around Dorado Outcrop are ∼15 °C, the calculated residence time is <3 y, and the composition of discharging fluids is only slightly altered from bottom seawater. Many of the major ions concentrations in spring fluids are indistinguishable from those of bottom seawater; however, concentrations of Rb, Mo, V, U, Mg, phosphate, Si and Li are different. Applying these observed differences to calculated global CHS fluxes results in chemical fluxes for these ions that are ≥15% of riverine fluxes. Fluxes of K and B also may be significant, but better analytical resolution is required to confirm this result. Spring fluids also have ∼50% less dissolved oxygen (DO) than bottom seawater. Calculations of an analytical model suggest that the loss of DO occurs primarily (>80%) within the upper basaltic crust by biotic and/or abiotic consumption. This calculation demonstrates that permeable pathways within the upper crust can support oxic water–rock interactions for millions of years.
AbstractChemosynthetic Fe-oxidizing communities are common at diffuse-flow hydrothermal vents throughout the world’s oceans. The foundational members of these communities are the Zetaproteobacteria, a class of Proteobacteria that is primarily associated with ecosystems fueled by ferrous iron, Fe(II). We report here the discovery of two new isolates of Zetaproteobacteria isolated from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (TAG-1), and the Mariana back-arc (SV-108), that are unique in that they can utilize either Fe(II) or molecular hydrogen (H2) as sole electron donor and oxygen as terminal electron acceptor for growth. Both strains precipitated Fe-oxyhydroxides as amorphous particulates. The cell doubling time on H2 vs Fe(II) for TAG-1 was 14.1 vs 21.8 h, and for SV-108 it was 16.3 vs 20 h, and it appeared both strains could use either H2 or Fe(II) simultaneously. The strains were close relatives, based on genomic analysis, and both possessed genes for the uptake NiFe-hydrogenase required for growth on H2. These two strains belong to Zetaproteobacteria operational taxonomic unit 9 (ZetaOTU9). A meta-analysis of public databases found ZetaOTU9 was only associated with Fe(II)-rich habitats, and not in other environments where known H2-oxidizers exist. These results expand the metabolic repertoire of the Zetaproteobacteria, yet confirm that Fe(II) metabolism is the primary driver of their physiology and ecology.
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).
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.
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.
AbstractSedimenticola selenatireducens strain AK4OH1T (= DSM 17993T = ATCC BAA-1233T) is a microaerophilic bacterium isolated from sediment from the Arthur Kill intertidal strait between New Jersey and Staten Island, NY. S. selenatireducens is Gram-negative and belongs to the Gammaproteobacteria. Strain AK4OH1T was the first representative of its genus to be isolated for its unique coupling of the oxidation of aromatic acids to the respiration of selenate. It is a versatile heterotroph and can use a variety of carbon compounds, but can also grow lithoautotrophically under hypoxic and anaerobic conditions. The draft genome comprises 4,588,530 bp and 4276 predicted protein-coding genes including genes for the anaerobic degradation of 4-hydroxybenzoate and benzoate. Here we report the main features of the genome of S. selenatireducensstrain AK4OH1T.
AbstractAll life on Earth is dependent on biologically mediated electron transfer (i.e., redox) reactions that are far from thermodynamic equilibrium. Biological redox reactions originally evolved in prokaryotes and ultimately, over the first ∼2.5 billion years of Earth's history, formed a global electronic circuit. To maintain the circuit on a global scale requires that oxidants and reductants be transported; the two major planetary wires that connect global metabolism are geophysical fluids—the atmosphere and the oceans. Because all organisms exchange gases with the environment, the evolution of redox reactions has been a major force in modifying the chemistry at Earth's surface. Here we briefly review the discovery and consequences of redox reactions in microbes with a specific focus on the coevolution of life and geochemical phenomena.
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.
AbstractThe global scale of the biodiversity crisis has stimulated research into the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (BEF). Even though the deep sea is the largest biome on Earth, BEF studies in deep-sea benthic ecosystems are scant. Moreover, the small number of recent studies, which mostly focus on meiobenthic nematodes, report conflicting results that range from a very clear positive relationship to none at all. In this BEF study, the deep-sea macrofauna were used as a model to investigate the structural and functional diversity of macrofauna assemblages at three depths (1,200, 1,900, and 3,000 m) in seven open-slope systems from the North-Eastern Atlantic Ocean to the Central-Eastern Mediterranean Sea. The presence and nature of BEF relationships were studied considering two spatial scales, the large and the basin scale, in different environmental settings. Total benthic biomass and macrofaunal predator biomass were used as proxies to assess ecosystem functioning. Ecosystem efficiency was expressed as macrofaunal biomass to biopolymeric carbon content ratio, macrofaunal biomass to prokaryotic biomass ratio, macrofaunal biomass to meiofaunal biomass ratio, and meiofaunal biomass to prokaryotic biomass ratio. On both large and basin spatial scales, some significant relationships between macrofaunal diversity and ecosystem functioning and efficiency were reported. When significant, the nature of BEF relations was positive and exponential or linear supporting the general idea that a higher diversity can enhance ecosystem functioning. Other BEF relationships were explained by the effect of environmental variables. More data from different deep-sea systems are needed, to better elucidate the consequences of biodiversity loss on the ocean floor.
AbstractMicrobial communities living in deeply buried sediment may be adapted to long-term energy limitation as they are removed from new detrital energy inputs for thousands to millions of years. However, sediment layers near the underlying oceanic crust may receive inputs from below that influence microbial community structure and/or activity. As part of the Census of Deep Life, we used 16S rRNA gene tag pyrosequencing on DNA extracted from a spectrum of deep sediment-basement interface samples from the subsurface of the Juan de Fuca Ridge flank (collected on IODP Expedition 327) to examine this possible basement influence on deep sediment communities. This area experiences rapid sedimentation, with an underlying basaltic crust that hosts a dynamic flux of hydrothermal fluids that diffuse into the sediment. Chloroflexi sequences dominated tag libraries in all sediment samples, with variation in the abundance of other bacterial groups (e.g., Actinobacteria, Aerophobetes, Atribacteria, Planctomycetes, and Nitrospirae). These variations occur in relation to the type of sediment (clays versus carbonate-rich) and the depth of sample origin, and show no clear connection to the distance from the discharge outcrop or to basement fluid microbial communities. Actinobacteria-related sequences dominated the basalt libraries, but these should be viewed cautiously due to possibilities for imprinting from contamination. Our results indicate that proximity to basement or areas of seawater recharge is not a primary driver of microbial community composition in basal sediment, even though fluids diffusing from basement into sediment may stimulate microbial activity.
AbstractAquatic habitats beneath ice masses contain active microbial ecosystems capable of cycling important greenhouse gases, such as methane (CH4). A large methane reservoir is thought to exist beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, but its quantity, source and ultimate fate are poorly understood. For instance, O2 supplied by basal melting should result in conditions favourable for aerobic methane oxidation. Here we use measurements of methane concentrations and stable isotope compositions along with genomic analyses to assess the sources and cycling of methane in Subglacial Lake Whillans (SLW) in West Antarctica. We show that sub-ice-sheet methane is produced through the biological reduction of CO2 using H2. This methane pool is subsequently consumed by aerobic, bacterial methane oxidation at the SLW sediment–water interface. Bacterial oxidation consumes >99% of the methane and represents a significant methane sink, and source of biomass carbon and metabolic energy to the surficial SLW sediments. We conclude that aerobic methanotrophy may mitigate the release of methane to the atmosphere upon subglacial water drainage to ice sheet margins and during periods of deglaciation.
AbstractSelection of microorganisms in marine sediment is shaped by energy-yielding electron acceptors for respiration that are depleted in vertical succession. However, some taxa have been reported to reflect past depositional conditions suggesting they have experienced weak selection after burial. In sediments underlying the Arabian Sea oxygen minimum zone (OMZ), we performed the first metagenomic profiling of sedimentary DNA at centennial-scale resolution in the context of a multi-proxy paleoclimate reconstruction. While vertical distributions of sulfate reducing bacteria and methanogens indicate energy-based selection typical of anoxic marine sediments, 5–15% of taxa per sample exhibit depth-independent stratigraphies indicative of paleoenvironmental selection over relatively short geological timescales. Despite being vertically separated, indicator taxa deposited under OMZ conditions were more similar to one another than those deposited in bioturbated intervals under intervening higher oxygen. The genomic potential for denitrification also correlated with palaeo-OMZ proxies, independent of sediment depth and available nitrate and nitrite. However, metagenomes revealed mixed acid and Entner-Dourdoroff fermentation pathways encoded by many of the same denitrifier groups. Fermentation thus may explain the subsistence of these facultatively anaerobic microbes whose stratigraphy follows changing paleoceanographic conditions. At least for certain taxa, our analysis provides evidence of their paleoenvironmental selection over the last glacial-interglacial cycle.
AbstractEditorial on the Research Topic Recent Advances in Geomicrobiology of the Ocean Crust. Igneous oceanic crust is one of the largest potential habitats for life on earth (Orcutt et al., 2011), and microbial activity supported by rock-water-microbe reactions in this environment can impact global biogeochemical cycles (Bach and Edwards, 2003). However, our understanding of the microbiology of this system, especially the subsurface “deep biosphere” component of it, has traditionally been limited by sample availability and quality. Over the past decade, several major international programs (such as the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations, the current International Ocean Discovery Program, and its predecessor Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, and the Deep Carbon Observatory) have focused on advancing our understanding of life in this cryptic, yet globally relevant, biosphere. Additionally, many field and laboratory research programs are examining hydrothermal vent systems—a seafloor expression of seawater that has been thermally and chemically altered in subseafloor crust—and the microbial communities supported by these mineral-rich fluids. The papers in this special issue bring together recent discoveries of microbial presence, diversity, and activity in these dynamic ocean environments.
AbstractExcerpt: The USC Young Scientists Program (YSP) Director, and the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) Expanded Audience Committee Chair Dieuwertje Kast, hosted a deep sea science workshop for 50 fourth and fifth grade students at Vermont Elementary on November 15, 2016. The event was a collaboration between YSP, Ocean Exploration Trust/Nautilus, Deezmaker, OpenROV, and the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI, a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center) and NMEA. C-DEBI provided YSP with an Educator Small Grant to make the event possible. C-DEBI research focuses on the discovery of the microbial life below the ocean floor, in rocks, and sediments (the deep biosphere). C-DEBI welcomed the proposal that engaged diverse and underserved populations and brought in scientists from ethnic minority backgrounds. Current: The Journal of Marine Education, is a journal produced by NMEA, the National Marine Educators Association.
AbstractNO3- reduction is a metabolism that is widespread among ε-Proteobacteria and Aquificae, two abundant classes of microorganisms found at deep-sea vents. In this study, we used Sulfurovum lithotrophicum, Caminibacter mediatlanticus and Thermovibrio ammonificans as representatives of these groups to study ecophysiological, metabolic and biogeochemical parameters associated with chemolithoautotrophic NO3- reduction under different temperature regimes. We observed that while S. lithotrophicum and C. mediatlanticus achieved higher cell densities than T. ammonificans, the overall NO3- consumption by the latter was on average ∼ 9 and ∼ 5 times faster on a per cell basis, respectively. Comparison with previously published data from other cultured vent ε-Proteobacteria and Aquificae suggests that the rate-yield trade-offs observed in our experiments are generally conserved between these two groups in line with their ecophysiologies. Kinetic isotope effects of N from NO3- reduction were 9.6 ± 2.7 ‰ for S. lithotrophicum, 6.4 ± 0.7 ‰ for C. mediatlanticus and 8.8 ± 0.6 ‰ for T. ammonificans. Our results help evaluate how metabolic partitioning between growth efficiency and reaction kinetics during chemolithoautotrophic NO3- reduction affect the concentration and isotope composition of N compounds at deep-sea hydrothermal vents.
AbstractReactive 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.
AbstractAquatic sediments harbor diverse microbial communities that mediate organic matter degradation and influence biogeochemical cycles. The pool of bioavailable carbon continuously changes as a result of abiotic processes and microbial activity. It remains unclear how microbial communities respond to heterogeneous organic matrices and how this ultimately affects heterotrophic respiration. To explore the relationships between the degradation of mixed carbon substrates and microbial activity, we incubated batches of organic-rich sediments in a novel bioreactor (IsoCaRB) that permitted continuous observations of CO2 production rates, as well as sequential sampling of isotopic signatures (δ13C, Δ14C), microbial community structure and diversity, and extracellular enzyme activity. Our results indicated that lower molecular weight (MW), labile, phytoplankton-derived compounds were degraded first, followed by petroleum-derived exogenous pollutants, and finally by higher MW polymeric plant material. This shift in utilization coincided with a community succession and increased extracellular enzyme activities. Thus, sequential utilization of different carbon pools induced changes at both the community and cellular level, shifting community composition, enzyme activity, respiration rates, and residual organic matter reactivity. Our results provide novel insight into the accessibility of sedimentary organic matter and demonstrate how bioavailability of natural organic substrates may affect the function and composition of heterotrophic bacterial populations. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
AbstractThe recent retreat of glaciers and ice sheets as a result of global warming exposes forefield soils that are rapidly colonized by microbes. These ecosystems are dominant in high-latitude carbon and nutrient cycles as microbial activity drives biogeochemical transformations within these newly exposed soils. Despite this, little is known about the response of these emerging ecosystems and associated biogeochemical cycles to projected changes in environmental factors due to human impacts. Here, we applied the model SHIMMER to quantitatively explore the sensitivity of biogeochemical dynamics in the forefield of Midtre Lovénbreen, Svalbard, to future changes in climate and anthropogenic forcings including soil temperature, snow cover, and nutrient and organic substrate deposition. Model results indicated that the rapid warming of the Arctic, as well as an increased deposition of organic carbon and nutrients, may impact primary microbial colonizers in Arctic soils. Warming and increased snow-free conditions resulted in enhanced bacterial production and an accumulation of biomass that was sustained throughout 200 years of soil development. Nitrogen deposition stimulated growth during the first 50 years of soil development following exposure. Increased deposition of organic carbon sustained higher rates of bacterial production and heterotrophic respiration leading to decreases in net ecosystem production and thus net CO2 efflux from soils. Pioneer microbial communities were particularly susceptible to future changes. All future climate simulations encouraged a switch from allochthonously-dominated young soils (<40 years) to microbially-dominated older soils, due to enhanced heterotrophic degradation of organic matter. Critically, this drove remineralisation and increased nutrient availability. Overall, we show that human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels and the enhanced deposition of nitrogen and organic carbon, has the potential to considerably affect the biogeochemical development of recently exposed Arctic soils in the present day and for centuries into the future. These effects must be acknowledged when attempting to make accurate predictions of the future fate of Arctic soils that are exposed over large expanses of presently ice-covered regions.
AbstractSerpentinization is a geologic process that produces highly reduced, hydrogen-rich fluids that support microbial communities under high pH conditions. We investigated the activity of microbes capable of extracellular electron transfer in a terrestrial serpentinizing system known as “The Cedars”. Measuring current generation with an on-site two-electrode system, we observed daily oscillations in current with the current maxima and minima occurring during daylight hours. Distinct members of the microbial community were enriched. Current generation in lab-scale electrochemical reactors did not oscillate, but was correlated with carbohydrate amendment in Cedars-specific minimal media. Gammaproteobacteria and Firmicutes were consistently enriched from lab electrochemical systems on δ-MnO2 and amorphous Fe(OH)3 at pH 11. However, isolation of an electrogenic strain proved difficult as transfer cultures failed to grow after multiple rounds of media transfer. Lowering the bulk pH in the media allowed us to isolate a Firmicutes strain (Paenibacillus sp.). This strain was capable of electrode and mineral reduction (including magnetite) at pH 9. This report provides evidence of the in situ activity of microbes using extracellular substrates as sinks for electrons at The Cedars, but also highlights the potential importance of community dynamics for supporting microbial life through either carbon fixation and/or moderating pH stress.
AbstractMajor radiations of enigmatic Bacteria and Archaea with large inventories of uncharacterized proteins are a striking feature of the Tree of Life The processes that led to functional diversity in these lineages, which may contribute to a host-dependent lifestyle, are poorly understood. Here, we show that diversity-generating retroelements (DGRs), which guide site-specific protein hypervariability, are prominent features of genomically reduced organisms from the bacterial candidate phyla radiation (CPR) and as yet uncultivated phyla belonging to the DPANN (Diapherotrites, Parvarchaeota, Aenigmarchaeota, Nanoarchaeota and Nanohaloarchaea) archaeal superphylum. From reconstructed genomes we have defined monophyletic bacterial and archaeal DGR lineages that expand the known DGR range by 120% and reveal a history of horizontal retroelement transfer. Retroelement-guided diversification is further shown to be active in current CPR and DPANN populations, with an assortment of protein targets potentially involved in attachment, defence and regulation. Based on observations of DGR abundance, function and evolutionary history, we find that targeted protein diversification is a pronounced trait of CPR and DPANN phyla compared to other bacterial and archaeal phyla. This diversification mechanism may provide CPR and DPANN organisms with a versatile tool that could be used for adaptation to a dynamic, host-dependent existence.
AbstractThe global deep subsurface biosphere is one of the largest reservoirs for microbial life on our planet. This study takes advantage of new sampling technologies and couples them with improvements to DNA sequencing and associated informatics tools to reconstruct the genomes of uncultivated Bacteria and Archaea from fluids collected deep within the Juan de Fuca Ridge subseafloor. Here, we generated two metagenomes from borehole observatories located 311 meters apart and, using binning tools, retrieved 98 genomes from metagenomes (GFMs). Of the GFMs, 31 were estimated to be >90% complete, while an additional 17 were >70% complete. Phylogenomic analysis revealed 53 bacterial and 45 archaeal GFMs, of which nearly all were distantly related to known cultivated isolates. In the GFMs, abundant Bacteria included Chloroflexi, Nitrospirae, Acetothermia (OP1), EM3, Aminicenantes (OP8), Gammaproteobacteria, and Deltaproteobacteria, while abundant Archaea included Archaeoglobi, Bathyarchaeota (MCG), and Marine Benthic Group E (MBG-E). These data are the first GFMs reconstructed from the deep basaltic subseafloor biosphere, and provide a dataset available for further interrogation.
AbstractMetagenomics has become an integral part of defining microbial diversity in various environments. Many ecosystems have characteristically low biomass and few cultured representatives. Linking potential metabolisms to phylogeny in environmental microorganisms is important for interpreting microbial community functions and the impacts these communities have on geochemical cycles. However, with metagenomic studies there is the computational hurdle of ‘binning’ contigs into phylogenetically related units or putative genomes. Binning methods have been implemented with varying approaches such as k-means clustering, Gaussian mixture models, hierarchical clustering, neural networks, and two-way clustering; however, many of these suffer from biases against low coverage/abundance organisms and closely related taxa/strains. We are introducing a new binning method, BinSanity, that utilizes the clustering algorithm affinity propagation (AP), to cluster assemblies using coverage with compositional based refinement (tetranucleotide frequency and percent GC content) to optimize bins containing multiple source organisms. This separation of composition and coverage based clustering reduces bias for closely related taxa. BinSanity was developed and tested on artificial metagenomes varying in size and complexity. Results indicate that BinSanity has a higher precision, recall, and Adjusted Rand Index compared to five commonly implemented methods. When tested on a previously published environmental metagenome, BinSanity generated high completion and low redundancy bins corresponding with the published metagenome-assembled genomes.
AbstractA new approach for the preparation of marine sediment samples for solution 31P nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (31P NMR) has been developed and tested. This approach addresses important aspects associated with sample pretreatments for marine sediments, including the effects of sample pretreatment on sedimentary P composition. The method increases the signals of low abundance P species in 31P NMR spectra by quantitatively and precisely removing up to 80% of inorganic P (orthophosphate) from sediment samples while causing minimal alteration of the chemical structure of organic P compounds. This method uses a reductive step to solubilize P bound to iron oxyhydroxides, followed by a low pH digestion to extract P from authigenic and biogenic apatite, as well as P bound to calcium carbonate. These P forms combined represent the most abundant inorganic P reservoir in marine sediments. The sample residue is then extracted in an alkaline solvent, 0.25 M NaOH with 0.05 M Na2EDTA, and processed for 31P NMR spectroscopy. The method was tested on natural marine sediment samples from different localities with high inorganic P content (>85% molybdate reactive P), and allowed for the detection of orthophosphate monoesters and pyrophosphate in samples for which only an orthophosphate signal could be resolved with an NaOH-EDTA extraction alone. This new approach will allow the use of 31P NMR on samples for which low organic P concentrations previously hindered the use of this tool, and will help answer longstanding question regarding the fate of organic P in marine sediments.
Microbial life has been detected well into the igneous crust of the seafloor (i.e., the oceanic basement), but there have been no reports confirming the presence of viruses in this habitat. To detect and characterize an ocean basement virome, geothermally heated fluid samples (ca. 60 to 65°C) were collected from 117 to 292 m deep into the ocean basement using seafloor observatories installed in two boreholes (Integrated Ocean Drilling Program [IODP] U1362A and U1362B) drilled in the eastern sediment-covered flank of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. Concentrations of virus-like particles in the fluid samples were on the order of 0.2 × 105 to 2 × 105 ml−1 (n = 8), higher than prokaryote-like cells in the same samples by a factor of 9 on average (range, 1.5 to 27). Electron microscopy revealed diverse viral morphotypes similar to those of viruses known to infect bacteria and thermophilic archaea. An analysis of virus-like sequences in basement microbial metagenomes suggests that those from archaeon-infecting viruses were the most common (63 to 80%). Complete genomes of a putative archaeon-infecting virus and a prophage within an archaeal scaffold were identified among the assembled sequences, and sequence analysis suggests that they represent lineages divergent from known thermophilic viruses. Of the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-containing scaffolds in the metagenomes for which a taxonomy could be inferred (163 out of 737), 51 to 55% appeared to be archaeal and 45 to 49% appeared to be bacterial. These results imply that the warmed, highly altered fluids in deeply buried ocean basement harbor a distinct assemblage of novel viruses, including many that infect archaea, and that these viruses are active participants in the ecology of the basement microbiome.
IMPORTANCE The hydrothermally active ocean basement is voluminous and likely provided conditions critical to the origins of life, but the microbiology of this vast habitat is not well understood. Viruses in particular, although integral to the origins, evolution, and ecology of all life on earth, have never been documented in basement fluids. This report provides the first estimate of free virus particles (virions) within fluids circulating through the extrusive basalt of the seafloor and describes the morphological and genetic signatures of basement viruses. These data push the known geographical limits of the virosphere deep into the ocean basement and point to a wealth of novel viral diversity, exploration of which could shed light on the early evolution of viruses.
This paper is dedicated to the late James P. Cowen, whose collegiality, infectious enthusiasm for science, and pioneering studies of the ocean basement microbiome inspired the work.
AbstractWe report measurements of resolved 12CH2D2 and 13CH3D at natural abundances in a variety of methane gases produced naturally and in the laboratory. The ability to resolve 12CH2D2 from 13CH3D provides unprecedented insights into the origin and evolution of CH4. The results identify conditions under which either isotopic bond order disequilibrium or equilibrium are expected. Where equilibrium obtains, concordant Δ12CH2D2 and Δ13CH3D temperatures can be used reliably for thermometry. We find that concordant temperatures do not always match previous hypotheses based on indirect estimates of temperature of formation nor temperatures derived from CH4/H2 D/H exchange, underscoring the importance of reliable thermometry based on the CH4 molecules themselves. Where Δ12CH2D2 and Δ13CH3D values are inconsistent with thermodynamic equilibrium, temperatures of formation derived from these species are spurious. In such situations, while formation temperatures are unavailable, disequilibrium isotopologue ratios nonetheless provide novel information about the formation mechanism of the gas and the presence or absence of multiple sources or sinks. In particular, disequilibrium isotopologue ratios may provide the means for differentiating between methane produced by abiotic synthesis vs. biological processes. Deficits in 12CH2D2 compared with equilibrium values in CH4 gas made by surface-catalyzed abiotic reactions are so large as to point towards a quantum tunneling origin. Tunneling also accounts for the more moderate depletions in 13CH3D that accompany the low 12CH2D2 abundances produced by abiotic reactions. The tunneling signature may prove to be an important tracer of abiotic methane formation, especially where it is preserved by dissolution of gas in cool hydrothermal systems (e.g., Mars). Isotopologue signatures of abiotic methane production can be erased by infiltration of microbial communities, and Δ12CH2D2 values are a key tracer of microbial recycling.
AbstractExtracellular enzymatic activities initiate microbially-driven heterotrophic carbon cycling in subsurface sediments. While measurement of hydrolytic activities in sediments is fundamental to our understanding of carbon cycling, these measurements are often technically difficult due to sorption of organic substrates to the sediment matrix. Most methods that measure hydrolysis of organic substrates in sediments rely on recovery of a fluorophore or fluorescently-labeled target substrate from a sediment incubation. The tendency for substrates to sorb to sediments results in lower recovery of an added substrate, and can result in data that are unusable or difficult to interpret. We developed a treatment using competitive desorption of a fluorescently-labeled, high molecular weight organic substrate that improves recovery of the labeled substrate from sediment subsamples. Competitive desorption treatment improved recovery of the fluorescent substrate by a median of 66%, expanded the range of sediments for which activity measurements could be made, and was effective in sediments from a broad range of geochemical contexts. More reliable measurements of hydrolytic activities in sediments will yield usable and more easily interpretable data from a wider range of sedimentary environments, enabling better understanding of microbially-catalyzed carbon cycling in subsurface environments.
AbstractSulfide mineral precipitation occurs at mid‐ocean ridge (MOR) spreading centers, both in the form of plume particles and seafloor massive sulfide structures. A common constituent of MOR is the iron‐bearing sulfide mineral pyrrhotite, which was chosen as a substrate for in‐situ incubation studies in shallow waters of Catalina Island, CA to investigate the colonization of iron‐oxidizing bacteria. Microbial community datasets were obtained from in‐situ incubated pyrrhotite, allowing for direct comparison to microbial communities of iron‐sulfides from active and inactive chimneys in deep‐sea environments. Unclassified Gammaproteobacteria and Alphaproteobacteria (Magnetovibrio) largely dominated the bacterial community on pyrrhotite samples incubated in the water column while samples incubated at the surface sediment showed more even dominance by Deltaproteobacteria (Desulfobulbus), Gammaproteobacteria (Piscirickettsiaceae), Alphaproteobacteria (Rhodobacteraceae), and Bacteroidetes (Flavobacteriia). Cultivations that originated from pyrrhotite samples resulted in the enrichment of both, sheath‐forming and stalk‐forming Zetaproteobacteria. Additionally, a putative novel species of Thiomicrospira was isolated and shown to grow autotrophically with iron, indicating a new biogeochemical role for this ubiquitous microorganism.
AbstractMarine sediments contribute significantly to global element cycles on multiple time scales. This is due in large part to microbial activity in the shallower layers and abiotic reactions resulting from increasing temperatures and pressures at greater depths. Quantifying the rates of these diagenetic changes requires a three-dimensional description of the physiochemical properties of marine sediments. In a step toward reaching this goal, we have combined global data sets describing bathymetry, heat conduction, bottom-water temperatures, and sediment thickness to quantify the three-dimensional distribution of temperature in marine sediments. This model has revealed that ∼35% of sediments are above 60 °C, conditions that are suitable for petroleum generation. Furthermore, significant microbial activity could be inhibited in ∼25% of marine sediments, if 80 °C is taken as a major thermal barrier for subsurface life. In addition to a temperature model, we have calculated new values for the total volume (3.01 × 108 km3) and average thickness (721 m) of marine sediments, and provide the only known determination of the volume of marine-sediment pore water (8.46 × 107 km3), equivalent to ∼6.3% of the volume of the ocean. The results presented here can be used to help quantify the rates of mineral transformations, lithification, catagenesis, and the extent of life in the subsurface on a global scale.
AbstractSediments within the Okinawa back-arc basin overlay a subsurface hydrothermal network, creating intense temperature gradients with sediment depth and potential limits for microbial diversity. We investigated taxonomic changes across 45 m of recovered core with a temperature gradient of 3°C/m from the dynamic Iheya North Hydrothermal System. The interval transitions sharply from low-temperature marine mud to hydrothermally altered clay at 10 meters below seafloor (mbsf). Here, we present taxonomic results from an analysis of the 16S rRNA gene that support a conceptual model in which common marine subsurface taxa persist into the subsurface, while high temperature adapted archaeal taxa show localized peaks in abundances in the hydrothermal clay horizons. Specifically, the bacterial phylum Chloroflexi accounts for a major proportion of the total microbial community within the upper 10 mbsf, whereas high temperature archaea (Terrestrial Hot Spring Crenarchaeotic Group and methanotrophic archaea) appear in varying local abundances in deeper, hydrothermal clay horizons with higher in situ temperatures (up to 55°C, 15 mbsf). In addition, geochemical evidence suggests that methanotrophy may be occurring in various horizons. There is also relict DNA (i.e., DNA preserved after cell death) that persists in horizons where the conditions suitable for microbial communities have ceased.
AbstractSubsurface lithoautotrophic microbial ecosystems (SLiMEs) under oligotrophic conditions are typically supported by H2. Methanogens and sulfate reducers, and the respective energy processes, are thought to be the dominant players and have been the research foci. Recent investigations showed that, in some deep, fluid-filled fractures in the Witwatersrand Basin, South Africa, methanogens contribute <5% of the total DNA and appear to produce sufficient CH4 to support the rest of the diverse community. This paradoxical situation reflects our lack of knowledge about the in situ metabolic diversity and the overall ecological trophic structure of SLiMEs. Here, we show the active metabolic processes and interactions in one of these communities by combining metatranscriptomic assemblies, metaproteomic and stable isotopic data, and thermodynamic modeling. Dominating the active community are four autotrophic β-proteobacterial genera that are capable of oxidizing sulfur by denitrification, a process that was previously unnoticed in the deep subsurface. They co-occur with sulfate reducers, anaerobic methane oxidizers, and methanogens, which each comprise <5% of the total community. Syntrophic interactions between these microbial groups remove thermodynamic bottlenecks and enable diverse metabolic reactions to occur under the oligotrophic conditions that dominate in the subsurface. The dominance of sulfur oxidizers is explained by the availability of electron donors and acceptors to these microorganisms and the ability of sulfur-oxidizing denitrifiers to gain energy through concomitant S and H2 oxidation. We demonstrate that SLiMEs support taxonomically and metabolically diverse microorganisms, which, through developing syntrophic partnerships, overcome thermodynamic barriers imposed by the environmental conditions in the deep subsurface.
AbstractA genomic reconstruction belonging to the genus Methanosarcina was assembled from metagenomic data from a methane-producing enrichment of Antarctic permafrost. This is the first methanogen genome reported from permafrost of the Dry Valleys and can help shed light on future climate-affected methane dynamics.
AbstractThe hydrothermal sediments of Guaymas Basin, an active spreading center in the Gulf of California (Mexico), are rich in porewater methane, short-chain alkanes, sulfate and sulfide, and provide a model system to explore habitat preferences of microorganisms, including sulfate-dependent, methane- and short chain alkane-oxidizing microbial communities. In this study, hot sediments (above 60°C) covered with sulfur-oxidizing microbial mats surrounding a hydrothermal mound (termed “Mat Mound”) were characterized by porewater geochemistry of methane, C2–C6 short-chain alkanes, sulfate, sulfide, sulfate reduction rate measurements, in situ temperature gradients, bacterial and archaeal 16S rRNA gene clone libraries and V6 tag pyrosequencing. The most abundantly detected groups in the Mat mound sediments include anaerobic methane-oxidizing archaea of the ANME-1 lineage and its sister clade ANME-1Guaymas, the uncultured bacterial groups SEEP-SRB2 within the Deltaproteobacteria and the separately branching HotSeep-1 Group; these uncultured bacteria are candidates for sulfate-reducing alkane oxidation and for sulfate-reducing syntrophy with ANME archaea. The archaeal dataset indicates distinct habitat preferences for ANME-1, ANME-1-Guaymas, and ANME-2 archaea in Guaymas Basin hydrothermal sediments. The bacterial groups SEEP-SRB2 and HotSeep-1 co-occur with ANME-1 and ANME-1Guaymas in hydrothermally active sediments underneath microbial mats in Guaymas Basin. We propose the working hypothesis that this mixed bacterial and archaeal community catalyzes the oxidation of both methane and short-chain alkanes, and constitutes a microbial community signature that is characteristic for hydrothermal and/or cold seep sediments containing both substrates.
AbstractDespite mounting evidence for biogeochemical interactions between iron and nitrogen, our understanding of their environmental importance remains limited. Here we present an investigation of abiotic nitrite (NO2−) reduction by Fe(II) or ‘chemodenitrification’, and its relevance to the production of nitrous oxide (N2O), specifically focusing on dual (N and O) isotope systematics under a variety of environmental conditions. We observe a range of kinetic isotope effects that are regulated by reaction rates, with faster rates at higher pH (∼8), higher concentrations of Fe(II) and in the presence of mineral surfaces. A clear non-linear relationship between rate constant and kinetic isotope effects of NO2−reduction was evident (with larger isotope effects at slower rates) and is interpreted as reflecting the dynamics of Fe(II)–N reaction intermediates. N and O isotopic composition of product N2O also suggests a complex network of parallel and/or competing pathways. Our findings suggest that NO2− reduction by Fe(II) may represent an important abiotic source of environmental N2O, especially in iron-rich environments experiencing dynamic redox variations. This study provides a multi-compound, multi-isotope framework for evaluating the environmental occurrence of abiotic NO2− reduction and N2O formation, helping future studies constrain the relative roles of abiotic and biological N2O production pathways.
AbstractMethane seep systems along continental margins host diverse and dynamic microbial assemblages, sustained in large part through the microbially mediated process of sulfate-coupled Anaerobic Oxidation of Methane (AOM). This methanotrophic metabolism has been linked to consortia of anaerobic methane-oxidizing archaea (ANME) and sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB). These two groups are the focus of numerous studies; however, less is known about the wide diversity of other seep associated microorganisms. We selected a hierarchical set of FISH probes targeting a range of Deltaproteobacteria diversity. Using the Magneto-FISH enrichment technique, we then magnetically captured CARD-FISH hybridized cells and their physically associated microorganisms from a methane seep sediment incubation. DNA from nested Magneto-FISH experiments was analyzed using Illumina tag 16S rRNA gene sequencing (iTag). Enrichment success and potential bias with iTag was evaluated in the context of full-length 16S rRNA gene clone libraries, CARD-FISH, functional gene clone libraries, and iTag mock communities. We determined commonly used Earth Microbiome Project (EMP) iTAG primers introduced bias in some common methane seep microbial taxa that reduced the ability to directly compare OTU relative abundances within a sample, but comparison of relative abundances between samples (in nearly all cases) and whole community-based analyses were robust. The iTag dataset was subjected to statistical co-occurrence measures of the most abundant OTUs to determine which taxa in this dataset were most correlated across all samples. Many non-canonical microbial partnerships were statistically significant in our co-occurrence network analysis, most of which were not recovered with conventional clone library sequencing, demonstrating the utility of combining Magneto-FISH and iTag sequencing methods for hypothesis generation of associations within complex microbial communities. Network analysis pointed to many co-occurrences containing putatively heterotrophic, candidate phyla such as OD1, Atribacteria, MBG-B, and Hyd24-12 and the potential for complex sulfur cycling involving Epsilon-, Delta-, and Gammaproteobacteria in methane seep ecosystems.
AbstractIncreasing anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere causes global warming and subsequent environmental changes, which may lead to an increase in natural disasters jeopardizing human society. Prompt technological development for CO2 capture and sequestration is required in the international community. In this study, we performed CO2 emission and shallow-type methane hydrate decomposition experiments at the Joetsu Knoll, offshore Joetsu, Niigata, Japan, as pilot studies to test feasibility of CO2 sequestration and methane recovery using methane-CO2 replacement in shallow-type methane hydrates. An isobaric cylinder pump and probe with a built-in heater (“Heat sonde”) were developed to inject CO2 in deep-sea, high-pressure conditions. Before injecting CO2 into a methane hydrate located in deep-sea sediments, we attempted CO2 emission directly into deep-seafloor. In the experiment, liquid CO2 was emitted at the head of Heat sonde, however, the isobaric cylinder pump became clogged during operation. The result reveals that precipitates of CO2 hydrate, which are generated during mixing of inflow seawater and outflow liquid CO2, blocked flow lines of the isobaric cylinder pump and Heat sonde. This suggests that our developed instruments must be improved for future work. We also observed the collapse of an exposed methane hydrate layer at the seafloor upon contact with the Heat sonde in our experiment.
AbstractOne of the most important classic and contemporary interests in biology is the connection between cellular composition and physiological function. Decades of research have allowed us to understand the detailed relationship between various cellular components and processes for individual species, and have uncovered common functionality across diverse species. However, there still remains the need for frameworks that can mechanistically predict the tradeoffs between cellular functions and elucidate and interpret average trends across species. Here we provide a comprehensive analysis of how cellular composition changes across the diversity of bacteria as connected with physiological function and metabolism, spanning five orders of magnitude in body size. We present an analysis of the trends with cell volume that covers shifts in genomic, protein, cellular envelope, RNA and ribosomal content. We show that trends in protein content are more complex than a simple proportionality with the overall genome size, and that the number of ribosomes is simply explained by cross-species shifts in biosynthesis requirements. Furthermore, we show that the largest and smallest bacteria are limited by physical space requirements. At the lower end of size, cell volume is dominated by DNA and protein content—the requirement for which predicts a lower limit on cell size that is in good agreement with the smallest observed bacteria. At the upper end of bacterial size, we have identified a point at which the number of ribosomes required for biosynthesis exceeds available cell volume. Between these limits we are able to discuss systematic and dramatic shifts in cellular composition. Much of our analysis is connected with the basic energetics of cells where we show that the scaling of metabolic rate is surprisingly superlinear with all cellular components.
AbstractSubglacial microbial habitats are widespread in glaciated regions of our planet. Some of these environments have been isolated from the atmosphere and from sunlight for many thousands of years. Consequently, ecosystem processes must rely on energy gained from the oxidation of inorganic substrates or detrital organic matter. Subglacial Lake Whillans (SLW) is one of more than 400 subglacial lakes known to exist under the Antarctic ice sheet; however, little is known about microbial physiology and energetics in these systems. When it was sampled through its 800 m thick ice cover in 2013, the SLW water column was shallow (~2 m deep), oxygenated, and possessed sufficient concentrations of C, N, and P substrates to support microbial growth. Here, we use a combination of physiological assays and models to assess the energetics of microbial life in SLW. In general, SLW microorganisms grew slowly in this energy-limited environment. Heterotrophic cellular carbon turnover times, calculated from 3H-thymidine and 3H-leucine incorporation rates, were long (60 to 500 days) while cellular doubling times averaged 196 days. Inferred growth rates (average ~0.006 d−1) obtained from the same incubations were at least an order of magnitude lower than those measured in Antarctic surface lakes and oligotrophic areas of the ocean. Low growth efficiency (8%) indicated that heterotrophic populations in SLW partition a majority of their carbon demand to cellular maintenance rather than growth. Chemoautotrophic CO2-fixation exceeded heterotrophic organic C-demand by a factor of ~1.5. Aerobic respiratory activity associated with heterotrophic and chemoautotrophic metabolism surpassed the estimated supply of oxygen to SLW, implying that microbial activity could deplete the oxygenated waters, resulting in anoxia. We used thermodynamic calculations to examine the biogeochemical and energetic consequences of environmentally imposed switching between aerobic and anaerobic metabolisms in the SLW water column. Heterotrophic metabolisms utilizing acetate and formate as electron donors yielded less energy than chemolithotrophic metabolisms when calculated in terms of energy density, which supports experimental results that showed chemoautotrophic activity in excess of heterotrophic activity. The microbial communities of subglacial lake ecosystems provide important natural laboratories to study the physiological and biogeochemical behavior of microorganisms inhabiting cold, dark environments.
AbstractHigh iron and eutrophic conditions are reported as environmental factors leading to accelerated low-water corrosion, an enhanced form of near-shore microbial induced corrosion. To explore this hypothesis, we deployed flow-through colonization systems in laboratory-based aquarium tanks under a continuous flow of surface seawater from Santa Catalina Island, CA, USA, for periods of 2 and 6 months. Substrates consisted of mild steel – a major constituent of maritime infrastructure – and the naturally occurring iron sulfide mineral pyrite. Four conditions were tested: free-venting “high-flux” conditions; a “stagnant” condition; an “active” flow-through condition with seawater slowly pumped over the substrates; and an “enrichment” condition where the slow pumping of seawater was supplemented with nutrient rich medium. Electron microscopy analyses of the 2-month high flux incubations document coating of substrates with “twisted stalks,” resembling iron oxyhydroxide bioprecipitates made by marine neutrophilic Fe-oxidizing bacteria (FeOB). Six-month incubations exhibit increased biofilm and substrate corrosion in the active flow and nutrient enriched conditions relative to the stagnant condition. A scarcity of twisted stalks was observed for all 6 month slow-flow conditions compared to the high-flux condition, which may be attributable to oxygen concentrations in the slow-flux conditions being prohibitively low for sustained growth of stalk-producing bacteria. All substrates developed microbial communities reflective of the original seawater input, as based on 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Deltaproteobacteria sequences increased in relative abundance in the active flow and nutrient enrichment conditions, whereas Gammaproteobacteria sequences were relatively more abundant in the stagnant condition. These results indicate that (i) high-flux incubations with higher oxygen availability favor the development of biofilms with twisted stalks resembling those of marine neutrophilic FeOB and (ii) long-term nutrient stimulation results in substrate corrosion and biofilms with different bacterial community composition and structure relative to stagnant and non-nutritionally enhanced incubations. Similar microbial succession scenarios, involving increases in nutritional input leading to the proliferation of anaerobic iron and sulfur-cycling guilds, may occur at the nearby Port of Los Angeles and cause potential damage to maritime port infrastructure.
AbstractEnrichment cultures inoculated with hydrothermally influenced nearshore sediment from Papua New Guinea led to the isolation of an arsenic-tolerant, acidophilic, facultatively aerobic bacterial strain designated PNG-AprilT. Cells of this strain were Gram-stain-negative, rod-shaped, motile and did not form spores. Strain PNG-AprilT grew at temperatures between 4 °C and 40 °C (optimum 30–37 °C), at pH 3.5 to 8.3 (optimum pH 5–6) and in the presence of up to 2.7 % NaCl (optimum 0–1.0 %). Both arsenate and arsenite were tolerated up to concentrations of at least 0.5 mM. Metabolism in strain PNG-AprilT was strictly respiratory. Heterotrophic growth occurred with O2 or nitrate as electron acceptors, and aerobic lithoautotrophic growth was observed with thiosulfate or nitrite as electron donors. The novel isolate was capable of N2-fixation. The respiratory quinones were Q-8 and Q-7. Phylogenetically, strain PNG-AprilT belongs to the genus Burkholderia and shares the highest 16S rRNA gene sequence similarity with the type strains of Burkholderia fungorum (99.8 %), Burkholderia phytofirmans (98.8 %), Burkholderia caledonica(98.4 %) and Burkholderia sediminicola (98.4 %). Differences from these related species in several physiological characteristics (lipid composition, carbohydrate utilization, enzyme profiles) and DNA–DNA hybridization suggested the isolate represents a novel species of the genus Burkholderia , for which we propose the name Burkholderia insulsa sp. nov. The type strain is PNG-AprilT ( = DSM 28142T = LMG 28183T).
AbstractAmorphous orpiment-like As-sulfides (As2S3) are the most common As phases precipitating in hydrothermal systems, yet there is a lack of information regarding their solid-state characterization. Using a combination of optical, SEM–EDS, micro-Raman and XANES/EXAFS applications, we investigated yellow-orange As- and S-rich sediments occurring in the shallow-water hydrothermal system off the coast of Milos Island, Greece. The precipitates have several morphologies, but are dominantly colloidal. Intriguing “biological” morphologies also exist (e.g., cell-like (~ 10 μm), spirals (~ 20 μm), and rounded “cinnamon bun” shapes (~ 20 μm)). SEM–EDS data indicated that the precipitates have an As:S ratio similar to orpiment (average = 0.58, range 0.51–0.63; n = 8). Micro-Raman spectra indicated that orange colored precipitates appear to be dominated by poorly crystalline and/or amorphous arsenic sulfides with micro-amounts of more crystalline orpiment and impure sulfur. The yellow sediments also contained crystalline elemental sulfur in the form S8. Bulk As K-edge XANES spectra of the As-sulfide precipitates proved a valence of As corresponding to orpiment-type (As2S3) compounds (− 1 to + 3). EXAFS fitting results indicated that the studied material exhibits an amorphous orpiment-like structure with As ions coordinated by 3 sulfur atoms (CN = 3.0). The As–S interatomic distance of the first shell is calculated at 2.279 Å and the Debye–Waller factor (σ2) is 0.00427. These data suggest that the modeled structure of the studied precipitates is slightly S-deficient and ordered only in the first shell around As, resembling an orpiment-type structure, whereas higher shells are not present and must be disordered. The disorder phenomenon may be strictly produced either by the existence of occasional As–S–As bridges with As–As bonds or by the occurrence of As–O–As bridges, causing twisting of the AsS3 pyramids in the initial orpiment structure. This distortion in the higher coordination shells of the structural sheets creates the amorphous orpiment.
AbstractThe role of nitrogen cycling in submarine hydrothermal systems is far less studied than that of other biologically reactive elements such as sulfur and iron. In order to address this knowledge gap, we investigated nitrogen redox processes at Loihi Seamount, Hawaii, using a combination of biogeochemical and isotopic measurements, bioenergetic calculations and analysis of the prokaryotic community composition in venting fluids sampled during four cruises in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2013. Concentrations of NH4+ were positively correlated to dissolved Si and negatively correlated to NO3-+NO2-, while NO2- was not correlated to NO3-+NO2-, dissolved Si or NH4+. This is indicative of hydrothermal input of NH4+ and biological mediation influencing NO2-concentrations. The stable isotope ratios of NO3- (δ15N and δ18O) was elevated with respect to background seawater, with δ18O values exhibiting larger changes than corresponding δ15N values, reflecting the occurrence of both production and reduction of NO3- by an active microbial community. δ15N-NH4+ values ranged from 0‰ to +16.7‰, suggesting fractionation during consumption and potentially N-fixation as well. Bioenergetic calculations reveal that several catabolic strategies involving the reduction of NO3- and NO2- coupled to sulfide and iron oxidation could provide energy to microbes in Loihi fluids, while 16S rRNA gene sequencing of Archaea and Bacteria in the fluids reveals groups known to participate in denitrification and N-fixation. Taken together, our data support the hypothesis that microbes are mediating N-based redox processes in venting hydrothermal fluids at Loihi Seamount.
Ultramafic rocks exposed on the continent serve as a window into oceanic and continental processes of water–peridotite interaction, so called serpentinization. In both environments there are active carbon and sulfur cycles that contain abiogenic and biogenic processes, which are eventually imprinted in the geochemical signatures of the basement rocks and the calcite and magnesite deposits associated with fluids that issue from these systems. Here, we present the carbon and sulfur geochemistry of ultramafic rocks and carbonate deposits from the Santa Elena ophiolite in Costa Rica. The aim of this study is to leverage the geochemistry of the ultramafic sequence and associated deposits to distinguish between processes that were dominant during ocean floor alteration and those dominant during low-temperature, continental water–peridotite interaction.
The peridotites are variably serpentinized with total sulfur concentrations up to 877 ppm that is typically dominated by sulfide over sulfate. With the exception of one sample the ultramafic rocks are characterized by positive δ34Ssulfide (up to + 23.1‰) and δ34Ssulfatevalues (up to + 35.0‰). Carbon contents in the peridotites are low and are isotopically distinct from typical oceanic serpentinites. In particular, δ13C of the inorganic carbon suggests that the carbon is not derived from seawater, but rather the product of the interaction of meteoric water with the ultramafic rocks. In contrast, the sulfur isotope data from sulfide minerals in the peridotites preserve evidence for interaction with a hydrothermal fluid. Specifically, they indicate closed system abiogenic sulfate reduction suggesting that oceanic serpentinization occurred with limited input of seawater. Overall, the geochemical signatures preserve evidence for both oceanic and continental water–rock interaction with the majority of carbon (and possibly sulfate) being incorporated during continental water–rock interaction. Furthermore, there is evidence for microbial activity that was possibly stimulated by carbon sourced from water–rock interaction with adjacent sediments or fluid inclusions. This study provides detailed insight into the complex hydrothermal history of continental serpentinization systems and adds to our understanding of the carbon and sulfur cycling within peridotite-hosted hydrothermal systems.
AbstractThe recently proposed candidatus order Altiarchaeales remains an uncultured archaeal lineage composed of genetically diverse, globally widespread organisms frequently observed in anoxic subsurface environments. In spite of 15 years of studies on the psychrophilic biofilm-producingCandidatus Altiarchaeum hamiconexum and its close relatives, very little is known about the phylogenetic and functional diversity of the widespread free-living marine members of this taxon. From methanogenic sediments in the White Oak River Estuary, NC, USA, we sequenced a single cell amplified genome (SAG), WOR_SM1_SCG, and used it to identify and refine two high-quality genomes from metagenomes, WOR_SM1_79 and WOR_SM1_86-2, from the same site. These three genomic reconstructions form a monophyletic group, which also includes three previously published genomes from metagenomes from terrestrial springs and a SAG from Sakinaw Lake in a group previously designated as pMC2A384. A synapomorphic mutation in the Altiarchaeales tRNA synthetase β subunit, pheT, caused the protein to be encoded as two subunits at non-adjacent loci. Consistent with the terrestrial spring clades, our estuarine genomes contained a near-complete autotrophic metabolism, H2 or CO as potential electron donors, a reductive acetyl-CoA pathway for carbon fixation, and methylotroph-like NADP(H)-dependent dehydrogenase. Phylogenies based on 16S rRNA genes and concatenated conserved proteins identified two distinct sub-clades of Altiarchaeales, Alti-1 populated by organisms from actively flowing springs, and Alti-2 which was more widespread, diverse, and not associated with visible mats. The core Alti-1 genome suggested Alti-1 is adapted for the stream environment with lipopolysaccharide production capacity and extracellular hami structures. The core Alti-2 genome suggested members of this clade are free-living with distinct mechanisms for energy maintenance, motility, osmoregulation, and sulfur redox reactions. These data suggested that the hamus structures found in Candidatus Altiarchaeum hamiconexum are not present outside of stream-adapted Altiarchaeales. Homologs to a Na+transporter and membrane bound coenzyme A disulfide reductase that were unique to the brackish sediment Alti-2 genomes, could indicate adaptations to the estuarine, sulfur-rich environment.
AbstractThe rock-hosted, oceanic crustal aquifer is one of the largest ecosystems on Earth, yet little is known about its indigenous microorganisms. Here we provide the first phylogenetic and functional description of an active microbial community residing in the cold oxic crustal aquifer. Using subseafloor observatories, we recovered crustal fluids and found that the geochemical composition is similar to bottom seawater, as are cell abundances. However, based on relative abundances and functional potential of key bacterial groups, the crustal fluid microbial community is heterogeneous and markedly distinct from seawater. Potential rates of autotrophy and heterotrophy in the crust exceeded those of seawater, especially at elevated temperatures (25 °C) and deeper in the crust. Together, these results reveal an active, distinct, and diverse bacterial community engaged in both heterotrophy and autotrophy in the oxygenated crustal aquifer, providing key insight into the role of microbial communities in the ubiquitous cold dark subseafloor biosphere.
Numerous field, laboratory, and modeling studies have explored the flows of fluid, heat, and solutes during seafloor hydrothermal circulation, but it has been challenging to determine transport rates and flow directions within natural systems. Here we present results from the first cross-hole tracer experiment in the upper oceanic crust, using four subseafloor borehole observatories equipped with autonomous samplers to track the transport of a dissolved tracer (sulfur hexafluoride, SF6) injected into a ridge-flank hydrothermal system. During the first three years after tracer injection, SF6 was transported both north and south through the basaltic aquifer. The observed tracer transport rate of ∼2–3 m/day is orders of magnitude greater than bulk rates of flow inferred from thermal and chemical observations and calculated with coupled fluid-heat flow simulations. Taken together, these results suggest that the effective porosity of the upper volcanic crust through which much tracer was transported is <1%, with fluid flowing rapidly along a few well-connected channels. This is consistent with the heterogeneous (layered, faulted, and/or fractured) nature of the volcanic upper oceanic crust.
AbstractDNA in marine sediment contains both fossil sequences and sequences from organisms that live in the sediment. The demarcation between these two pools and their respective rates of turnover are generally unknown. We address these issues by comparing the total extractable DNA pool to the fraction of sequenced chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) in sediment from two sites in the Bering Sea. We assume that cpDNA is a tracer of non-reproducing fossil DNA. Given >150,000 sequence reads per sample, cpDNA is easily detectable in the shallowest samples but decays with depth, suggesting that sequencing-based richness assessments of communities in deep subseafloor sediment are relatively unaffected by fossil DNA. The initial decrease in cpDNA reads suggests that most cpDNA decays within 100–200 k.y. of deposition. However, cpDNA from a few phylotypes, including some that match fossil diatoms, are present throughout the cored sediment, ranging in age to 1.4 Ma. The relative fraction of sequences composed by cpDNA decreases non-linearly with increasing sediment age, suggesting that detectable cpDNA becomes more recalcitrant with age. This can be explained by biological activity decreasing with sediment age and/or by preferential long-term survival of only the most thoroughly protected DNA. The association of cpDNA reads with published records of siliceous microfossils, including diatom spores, at the same sites suggests that microfossils may help to preserve DNA. This DNA may be useful for studies of paleoenvironmental conditions and biological evolution on time scales that approach or exceed 1 m.y.
Subseafloor sediment hosts a large, taxonomically rich and metabolically diverse microbial ecosystem. However, the factors that control microbial diversity in subseafloor sediment have rarely been explored. Here we show that bacterial richness varies with organic degradation rate and sediment age. At three open-ocean sites (in the Bering Sea and equatorial Pacific) and one continental margin site (Indian Ocean), richness decreases exponentially with increasing sediment depth. The rate of decrease in richness with depth varies from site to site. The vertical succession of predominant terminal electron acceptors correlates to abundance-weighted community composition, but does not drive the vertical decrease in richness. Vertical patterns of richness at the open-ocean sites closely match organic degradation rates; both properties are highest near the seafloor and decline together as sediment depth increases. This relationship suggests that (i) total catabolic activity and/or electron donor diversity exerts a primary influence on bacterial richness in marine sediment, and (ii) many bacterial taxa that are poorly adapted for subseafloor sedimentary conditions are degraded in the geologically young sediment where respiration rates are high. Richness consistently takes a few hundred thousand years to decline from near-seafloor values to much lower values in deep anoxic subseafloor sediment, regardless of sedimentation rate, predominant terminal electron acceptor, or oceanographic context.
Importance Subseafloor sediment provides a wonderful opportunity to investigate drivers of microbial diversity in communities that may be isolated for millions of years. Our manuscript shows the impact of in situ conditions on bacterial community structure in subseafloor sediment. Specifically, it shows that bacterial richness in subseafloor sediment declines exponentially with sediment age, and in parallel with organic-fueled oxidation rate. This result suggests that subseafloor diversity ultimately depends on electron donor diversity and/or total community respiration. Despite the extraordinary nature of this ecosystem, we believe this is the first study of how and why biological richness changes over time in subseafloor sediment.
To understand the biogeochemical roles of microorganisms in the environment, it is important to determine when and under which conditions they are metabolically active. Bioorthogonal noncanonical amino acid tagging (BONCAT) can reveal active cells by tracking the incorporation of synthetic amino acids into newly synthesized proteins. The phylogenetic identity of translationally active cells can be determined by combining BONCAT with rRNA-targeted fluorescence in situ hybridization (BONCAT-FISH). In theory, BONCAT-labeled cells could be isolated with fluorescence-activated cell sorting (BONCAT-FACS) for subsequent genetic analyses. Here, in the first application, to our knowledge, of BONCAT-FISH and BONCAT-FACS within an environmental context, we probe the translational activity of microbial consortia catalyzing the anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM), a dominant sink of methane in the ocean. These consortia, which typically are composed of anaerobic methane-oxidizing archaea (ANME) and sulfate-reducing bacteria, have been difficult to study due to their slow in situ growth rates, and fundamental questions remain about their ecology and diversity of interactions occurring between ANME and associated partners. Our activity-correlated analyses of >16,400 microbial aggregates provide the first evidence, to our knowledge, that AOM consortia affiliated with all five major ANME clades are concurrently active under controlled conditions. Surprisingly, sorting of individual BONCAT-labeled consortia followed by whole-genome amplification and 16S rRNA gene sequencing revealed previously unrecognized interactions of ANME with members of the poorly understood phylum Verrucomicrobia. This finding, together with our observation that ANME-associated Verrucomicrobia are found in a variety of geographically distinct methane seep environments, suggests a broader range of symbiotic relationships within AOM consortia than previously thought.
The South Pacific Gyre (SPG) possesses the lowest rates of sedimentation, surface chlorophyll concentration, and primary productivity in the global oceans. As a direct result, deep-sea sediments are thin and contain small amounts of labile organic carbon. It was recently shown that the entire SPG sediment column is oxygenated and may be representative of up to a third of the global marine environment. To understand the microbial processes that contribute to the removal of the labile organic matter at the water-sediment interface, a sediment sample was collected and subjected to metagenomic sequencing and analyses. Analysis of nine partially reconstructed environmental genomes, which represent approximately one-third of the microbial community, revealed that the members of the SPG surface sediment microbial community are phylogenetically distinct from surface/upper-ocean organisms. These genomes represent a wide distribution of novel organisms, including deep-branching Alphaproteobacteria, two novel organisms within the Proteobacteria, and new members of the Nitrospirae, Nitrospinae, and candidate phylum NC10. These genomes contain evidence for microbially mediated metal (iron/manganese) oxidation and carbon fixation linked to nitrification. Additionally, despite hypothesized energy limitation, members of the SPG microbial community had motility and chemotaxis genes and possessed mechanisms for the degradation of high-molecular-weight organic matter. This study contributes to our understanding of the metabolic potential of microorganisms in deep-sea oligotrophic sediments and their impact on local carbon geochemistry.
IMPORTANCE This research provides insight into the microbial metabolic potential of organisms inhabiting oxygenated deep-sea marine sediments. Current estimates suggest that these environments account for up to a third of the global marine sediment habitat. Nine novel deep-sea microbial genomes were reconstructed from a metagenomic data set and expand the limited number of environmental genomes from deep-sea sediment environments. This research provides phylogeny-linked insight into critical metabolisms, including carbon fixation associated with nitrification, which is assignable to members of the marine group 1 Thaumarchaeota, Nitrospinae, and Nitrospirae and neutrophilic metal (iron/manganese) oxidation assignable to a novel proteobacterium.