Characterization of Metabolically Active Bacterial Populations in Subseafloor Nankai Trough Sediments above, within, and below the Sulfate-Methane Transition Zone.
ABSTRACT: A remarkable number of microbial cells have been enumerated within subseafloor sediments, suggesting a biological impact on geochemical processes in the subseafloor habitat. However, the metabolically active fraction of these populations is largely uncharacterized. In this study, an RNA-based molecular approach was used to determine the diversity and community structure of metabolically active bacterial populations in the upper sedimentary formation of the Nankai Trough seismogenic zone. Samples used in this study were collected from the slope apron sediment overlying the accretionary prism at Site C0004 during the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 316. The sediments represented microbial habitats above, within, and below the sulfate-methane transition zone (SMTZ), which was observed approximately 20?m below the seafloor (mbsf). Small subunit ribosomal RNA were extracted, quantified, amplified, and sequenced using high-throughput 454 pyrosequencing, indicating the occurrence of metabolically active bacterial populations to a depth of 57?mbsf. Transcript abundance and bacterial diversity decreased with increasing depth. The two communities below the SMTZ were similar at the phylum level, however only a 24% overlap was observed at the genus level. Active bacterial community composition was not confined to geochemically predicted redox stratification despite the deepest sample being more than 50?m below the oxic/anoxic interface. Genus-level classification suggested that the metabolically active subseafloor bacterial populations had similarities to previously cultured organisms. This allowed predictions of physiological potential, expanding understanding of the subseafloor microbial ecosystem. Unique community structures suggest very diverse active populations compared to previous DNA-based diversity estimates, providing more support for enhancing community characterizations using more advanced sequencing techniques.
Project description:The deep sedimentary biosphere, extending 100s of meters below the seafloor harbors unexpected diversity of Bacteria, Archaea, and microbial eukaryotes. Far less is known about microbial eukaryotes in subsurface habitats, albeit several studies have indicated that fungi dominate microbial eukaryotic communities and fungal molecular signatures (of both yeasts and filamentous forms) have been detected in samples as deep as 1740 mbsf. Here, we compare and contrast fungal ribosomal RNA gene signatures and whole community metatranscriptomes present in sediment core samples from 6 and 95 mbsf from Peru Margin site 1229A and from samples from 12 and 345 mbsf from Canterbury Basin site U1352. The metatranscriptome analyses reveal higher relative expression of amino acid and peptide transporters in the less nutrient rich Canterbury Basin sediments compared to the nutrient rich Peru Margin, and higher expression of motility genes in the Peru Margin samples. Higher expression of genes associated with metals transporters and antibiotic resistance and production was detected in Canterbury Basin sediments. A poly-A focused metatranscriptome produced for the Canterbury Basin sample from 345 mbsf provides further evidence for active fungal communities in the subsurface in the form of fungal-associated transcripts for metabolic and cellular processes, cell and membrane functions, and catalytic activities. Fungal communities at comparable depths at the two geographically separated locations appear dominated by distinct taxa. Differences in taxonomic composition and expression of genes associated with particular metabolic activities may be a function of sediment organic content as well as oceanic province. Microscopic analysis of Canterbury Basin sediment samples from 4 and 403 mbsf produced visualizations of septate fungal filaments, branching fungi, conidiogenesis, and spores. These images provide another important line of evidence supporting the occurrence and activity of fungi in the deep subseafloor biosphere.
Project description:On a global scale, crustal fluids fuel a large part of the deep-subseafloor biosphere by providing electron acceptors for microbial respiration. In this study, we examined bacterial cultures from sediments of the Juan de Fuca Ridge, Northeast Pacific (IODP Site U1301). The sediments comprise three distinctive compartments: an upper sulfate-containing zone, formed by bottom-seawater diffusion, a sulfate-depleted zone, and a second (?140?m thick) sulfate-containing zone influenced by fluid diffusion from the basaltic aquifer. In order to identify and characterize sulfate-reducing bacteria, enrichment cultures from different sediment layers were set up, analyzed by molecular screening, and used for isolating pure cultures. The initial enrichments harbored specific communities of heterotrophic microorganisms. Strains affiliated to Desulfosporosinus lacus, Desulfotomaculum sp., and Desulfovibrio aespoeensis were isolated only from the top layers (1.3-9.1?meters below seafloor, mbsf), while several strains of Desulfovibrio indonesiensis and a relative of Desulfotignum balticum were obtained from near-basement sediments (240-262?mbsf). Physiological tests on three selected strains affiliated to Dv. aespoeensis, Dv. indonesiensis, and Desulfotignum balticum indicated that all reduce sulfate with a limited number of short-chain n-alcohols or fatty acids and were able to ferment either ethanol, pyruvate, or betaine. All three isolates shared the capacity of growing chemolithotrophically with H(2) as sole electron donor. Strain P23, affiliating with Dv. indonesiensis, even grew autotrophically in the absence of any organic compounds. Thus, H(2) might be an essential electron donor in the deep-subseafloor where the availability of organic substrates is limited. The isolation of non-sporeforming sulfate reducers from fluid-influenced layers indicates that they have survived the long-term burial as active populations even after the separation from the seafloor hundreds of meters above.
Project description:The dynamics of a large stock of organic matter contained in deep sediments of marginal seas plays pivotal role in global carbon cycle, yet it is poorly constrained. Here, dissolved organic matter (DOM) in sediments was investigated for core sediment up to ~240 meters deep in the East/Japan Sea. The upper downcore profile (?118 mbsf, or meters below seafloor) at a non-chimney site (U1) featured the exponential production of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and optically active DOM with time in the pore water above sulfate-methane-transition-zone (SMTZ), concurrent with the increases of nutrients and alkalinity, and the reduction of sulfate. Such depth profiles signify a biological pathway of the DOM production during the early diagenesis of particulate organic matter presumably dominated by sulfate reduction. Below the SMTZ, an insolation-paced oscillation of DOM in a ~405-Kyr cycle of orbital eccentricity was observed at site U1, implying astronomically paced paleoproductivity stimulated by light availability. Furthermore, DOM dynamics of the deep sediments were likely governed by intensive humification as revealed by the less pronounced protein-like fluorescence and the lower H/C and O/C ratios below SMTZ among 15,281 formulas identified. Our findings here provide novel insights into organic matter dynamics in deep sediments.
Project description: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 increasing depth varies from site to site. The vertical succession of predominant terminal electron acceptors correlates with 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.Subseafloor sediment provides a wonderful opportunity to investigate the drivers of microbial diversity in communities that may have been isolated for millions of years. Our paper 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. This work studied how and why biological richness changes over time in the extraordinary ecosystem of subseafloor sediment.
Project description:Archaeal 16S rRNA was extracted from samples of deep marine subsurface sediments from Peru Margin site 1227, Ocean Drilling Program leg 201. The amounts of archaeal 16S rRNA in each extract were quantified by serial dilution and reverse transcription (RT)-PCR. The results indicated a 1,000-fold variation in rRNA content with depth in the sediment, with the highest concentrations found near the sediment surface and in the sulfate-methane transition zone (SMTZ). The phylogenetic composition of the active archaeal population revealed by cloning and sequencing of RT-PCR products changed with depth. Several phylotypes affiliated with marine benthic group B (MBGB) dominated clone libraries from the upper part of the SMTZ and were detected only in this layer. Members of the miscellaneous crenarchaeotal group (MCG) dominated clone libraries from the other layers. These results demonstrate that archaeal communities change in activity and community composition over short distances in geochemically distinct zones of deep subseafloor sediments and that these changes are traceable in the rRNA pool. It was shown for the first time that members of both the MCG and MBGB Archaea are more active in the SMTZ than in layers above and below. This indicates that they benefit either directly or indirectly from the anaerobic oxidation of methane. They also appear to be ecophysiologically flexible, as they have been retrieved from a wide range of marine sediments of various geochemical properties.
Project description:Marine subsurface sediments on the Pacific margin harbor diverse microbial communities even at depths of several hundreds meters below the seafloor (mbsf) or more. Previous PCR-based molecular analysis showed the presence of diverse reductive dehalogenase gene (rdhA) homologs in marine subsurface sediment, suggesting that anaerobic respiration of organohalides is one of the possible energy-yielding pathways in the organic-rich sedimentary habitat. However, primer-independent molecular characterization of rdhA has remained to be demonstrated. Here, we studied the diversity and frequency of rdhA homologs by metagenomic analysis of five different depth horizons (0.8, 5.1, 18.6, 48.5, and 107.0 mbsf) at Site C9001 off the Shimokita Peninsula of Japan. From all metagenomic pools, remarkably diverse rdhA-homologous sequences, some of which are affiliated with novel clusters, were observed with high frequency. As a comparison, we also examined frequency of dissimilatory sulfite reductase genes (dsrAB), key functional genes for microbial sulfate reduction. The dsrAB were also widely observed in the metagenomic pools whereas the frequency of dsrAB genes was generally smaller than that of rdhA-homologous genes. The phylogenetic composition of rdhA-homologous genes was similar among the five depth horizons. Our metagenomic data revealed that subseafloor rdhA homologs are more diverse than previously identified from PCR-based molecular studies. Spatial distribution of similar rdhA homologs across wide depositional ages indicates that the heterotrophic metabolic processes mediated by the genes can be ecologically important, functioning in the organic-rich subseafloor sedimentary biosphere.
Project description:There are many unknowns regarding the distribution, activity, community composition, and metabolic repertoire of microbial communities in the subseafloor of deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Here we provide the first characterization of subseafloor microbial communities from venting fluids along the central Mariana back-arc basin (15.5-18°N), where the slow-spreading rate, depth, and variable geochemistry along the back-arc distinguish it from other spreading centers. Results indicated that diverse Epsilonbacteraeota were abundant across all sites, with a population of high temperature Aquificae restricted to the northern segment. This suggests that differences in subseafloor populations along the back-arc are associated with local geologic setting and resultant geochemistry. Metatranscriptomics coupled to stable isotope probing revealed bacterial carbon fixation linked to hydrogen oxidation, denitrification, and sulfide or thiosulfate oxidation at all sites, regardless of community composition. NanoSIMS (nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry) incubations at 80 °C show only a small portion of the microbial community took up bicarbonate, but those autotrophs had the highest overall rates of activity detected across all experiments. By comparison, acetate was more universally utilized to sustain growth, but within a smaller range of activity. Together, results indicate that microbial communities in venting fluids from the Mariana back-arc contain active subseafloor communities reflective of their local conditions with metabolisms commonly shared across geologically disparate spreading centers throughout the ocean.
Project description:Sediments 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.
Project description:The 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.
Project description:Numerous studies on marine prokaryotic communities have postulated that a process of anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) coupled with sulfate reduction (SR) is the main methane sink in the world's oceans. AOM has also been reported in the deep biosphere. But the responses of the primary microbial players in eliciting changes in geochemical environments, specifically in methane and sulfate supplies, have yet to be fully elucidated. Marine mud volcanoes (MVs) expel a complex fluid mixture of which methane is the primary component, forming an environment in which AOM is a common phenomenon. In this context, we attempted to identify how the prokaryotic community would respond to changes in methane and sulfate intensities, which often occur in MV environments in the form of eruptions, diffusions or seepage. We applied an integrated approach, including (i) biochemical surveys of pore water originated from MV, (ii) in vitro incubation of mud breccia, and (iii) prokaryotic community structure analysis. Two distinct AOM regions were clearly detected. One is related to the sulfate methane transition zone (SMTZ) at depth of 30-55 cm below the sea floor (bsf); the second is at 165-205 cm bsf with ten times higher rates of AOM and SR. This finding contrasts with the sulfide concentrations in pore waters and supports the suggestion that potential AOM activity below the SMTZ might be an important methane sink that is largely ignored or underestimated in oceanic methane budget calculations. Moreover, the incubation conditions below the SMTZ favor the growth of methanotrophic archaeal group ANME-2 compared to ANME-1, and promote the rapid growth and high diversity of bacterial communities. These incubation conditions also promote the increase of richness in bacterial communities. Our results provide direct evidence of the mechanisms by which deep AOM processes can affect carbon cycling in the deep biosphere and global methane biochemistry.