Rock-crushing derived hydrogen directly supports a methanogenic community: significance for the deep biosphere.
ABSTRACT: Microbial populations exist to great depths on Earth, but with apparently insufficient energy supply. Earthquake rock fracturing produces H2 from mechanochemical water splitting, however, microbial utilization of this widespread potential energy source has not been directly demonstrated. Here, we show experimentally that mechanochemically generated H2 from granite can be directly, long-term, utilized by a CH4 producing microbial community. This is consistent with CH4 formation in subsurface rock fracturing in the environment. Our results not only support water splitting H2 generation as a potential deep biosphere energy source, but as an oxidant must also be produced, they suggest that there is also a respiratory oxidant supply in the subsurface which is independent of photosynthesis. This may explain the widespread distribution of facultative aerobes in subsurface environments. A range of common rocks were shown to produce mechanochemical H2 , and hence, this process should be widespread in the subsurface, with the potential for considerable mineral fuelled CH4 production.
Project description:Microbial abundance and diversity in deep subsurface environments is dependent upon the availability of energy and carbon. However, supplies of oxidants and reductants capable of sustaining life within mafic and ultramafic continental aquifers undergoing low-temperature water-rock reaction are relatively unknown. We conducted an extensive analysis of the geochemistry and microbial communities recovered from fluids sampled from boreholes hosted in peridotite and gabbro in the Tayin block of the Samail Ophiolite in the Sultanate of Oman. The geochemical compositions of subsurface fluids in the ophiolite are highly variable, reflecting differences in host rock composition and the extent of fluid-rock interaction. Principal component analysis of fluid geochemistry and geologic context indicate the presence of at least four fluid types in the Samail Ophiolite ("gabbro," "alkaline peridotite," "hyperalkaline peridotite," and "gabbro/peridotite contact") that vary strongly in pH and the concentrations of H2, CH4, Ca2+, Mg2+, [Formula: see text], [Formula: see text], trace metals, and DIC. Geochemistry of fluids is strongly correlated with microbial community composition; similar microbial assemblages group according to fluid type. Hyperalkaline fluids exhibit low diversity and are dominated by taxa related to the Deinococcus-Thermus genus Meiothermus, candidate phyla OP1, and the family Thermodesulfovibrionaceae. Gabbro- and alkaline peridotite- aquifers harbor more diverse communities and contain abundant microbial taxa affiliated with Nitrospira, Nitrosospharaceae, OP3, Parvarcheota, and OP1 order Acetothermales. Wells that sit at the contact between gabbro and peridotite host microbial communities distinct from all other fluid types, with an enrichment in betaproteobacterial taxa. Together the taxonomic information and geochemical data suggest that several metabolisms may be operative in subsurface fluids, including methanogenesis, acetogenesis, and fermentation, as well as the oxidation of methane, hydrogen and small molecular weight organic acids utilizing nitrate and sulfate as electron acceptors. Dynamic nitrogen cycling may be especially prevalent in gabbro and alkaline peridotite fluids. These data suggest water-rock reaction, as controlled by lithology and hydrogeology, constrains the distribution of life in terrestrial ophiolites.
Project description:Geological sources of H2 and abiotic CH4 have had a critical role in the evolution of our planet and the development of life and sustainability of the deep subsurface biosphere. Yet the origins of these sources are largely unconstrained. Hydration of mantle rocks, or serpentinization, is widely recognized to produce H2 and favour the abiotic genesis of CH4 in shallow settings. However, deeper sources of H2 and abiotic CH4 are missing from current models, which mainly invoke more oxidized fluids at convergent margins. Here we combine data from exhumed subduction zone high-pressure rocks and thermodynamic modelling to show that deep serpentinization (40-80?km) generates significant amounts of H2 and abiotic CH4, as well as H2S and NH3. Our results suggest that subduction, worldwide, hosts large sources of deep H2 and abiotic CH4, potentially providing energy to the overlying subsurface biosphere in the forearc regions of convergent margins.
Project description:Recent single-gene-based surveys of deep continental aquifers demonstrated the widespread occurrence of archaea related to Candidatus Methanoperedens nitroreducens (ANME-2d) known to mediate anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM). However, it is unclear whether ANME-2d mediates AOM in the deep continental biosphere. In this study, we found the dominance of ANME-2d in groundwater enriched in sulfate and methane from a 300-m deep underground borehole in granitic rock. A near-complete genome of one representative species of the ANME-2d obtained from the underground borehole has most of functional genes required for AOM and assimilatory sulfate reduction. The genome of the subsurface ANME-2d is different from those of other members of ANME-2d by lacking functional genes encoding nitrate and nitrite reductases and multiheme cytochromes. In addition, the subsurface ANME-2d genome contains a membrane-bound NiFe hydrogenase gene putatively involved in respiratory H2 oxidation, which is different from those of other methanotrophic archaea. Short-term incubation of microbial cells collected from the granitic groundwater with 13C-labeled methane also demonstrates that AOM is linked to microbial sulfate reduction. Given the prominence of granitic continental crust and sulfate and methane in terrestrial subsurface fluids, we conclude that AOM may be widespread in the deep continental biosphere.
Project description:Arguments for an abiotic origin of low-molecular weight organic compounds in deep-sea hot springs are compelling owing to implications for the sustenance of deep biosphere microbial communities and their potential role in the origin of life. Theory predicts that warm H2-rich fluids, like those emanating from serpentinizing hydrothermal systems, create a favorable thermodynamic drive for the abiotic generation of organic compounds from inorganic precursors. Here, we constrain two distinct reaction pathways for abiotic organic synthesis in the natural environment at the Von Damm hydrothermal field and delineate spatially where inorganic carbon is converted into bioavailable reduced carbon. We reveal that carbon transformation reactions in a single system can progress over hours, days, and up to thousands of years. Previous studies have suggested that CH4 and higher hydrocarbons in ultramafic hydrothermal systems were dependent on H2 generation during active serpentinization. Rather, our results indicate that CH4 found in vent fluids is formed in H2-rich fluid inclusions, and higher n-alkanes may likely be derived from the same source. This finding implies that, in contrast with current paradigms, these compounds may form independently of actively circulating serpentinizing fluids in ultramafic-influenced systems. Conversely, widespread production of formate by ΣCO2 reduction at Von Damm occurs rapidly during shallow subsurface mixing of the same fluids, which may support anaerobic methanogenesis. Our finding of abiogenic formate in deep-sea hot springs has significant implications for microbial life strategies in the present-day deep biosphere as well as early life on Earth and beyond.
Project description:Serpentinization is a widespread geochemical process associated with aqueous alteration of ultramafic rocks that produces abundant reductants (H2 and CH4) for life to exploit, but also potentially challenging conditions, including high pH, limited availability of terminal electron acceptors, and low concentrations of inorganic carbon. As a consequence, past studies of serpentinites have reported low cellular abundances and limited microbial diversity. Establishment of the Coast Range Ophiolite Microbial Observatory (California, U.S.A.) allowed a comparison of microbial communities and physicochemical parameters directly within serpentinization-influenced subsurface aquifers. Samples collected from seven wells were subjected to a range of analyses, including solute and gas chemistry, microbial diversity by 16S rRNA gene sequencing, and metabolic potential by shotgun metagenomics, in an attempt to elucidate what factors drive microbial activities in serpentinite habitats. This study describes the first comprehensive interdisciplinary analysis of microbial communities in hyperalkaline groundwater directly accessed by boreholes into serpentinite rocks. Several environmental factors, including pH, methane, and carbon monoxide, were strongly associated with the predominant subsurface microbial communities. A single operational taxonomic unit (OTU) of Betaproteobacteria and a few OTUs of Clostridia were the almost exclusive inhabitants of fluids exhibiting the most serpentinized character. Metagenomes from these extreme samples contained abundant sequences encoding proteins associated with hydrogen metabolism, carbon monoxide oxidation, carbon fixation, and acetogenesis. Metabolic pathways encoded by Clostridia and Betaproteobacteria, in particular, are likely to play important roles in the ecosystems of serpentinizing groundwater. These data provide a basis for further biogeochemical studies of key processes in serpentinite subsurface environments.
Project description:In the last decade, extensive application of hydraulic fracturing technologies to unconventional low-permeability hydrocarbon-rich formations has significantly increased natural-gas production in the United States and abroad. The injection of surface-sourced fluids to generate fractures in the deep subsurface introduces microbial cells and substrates to low-permeability rock. A subset of injected organic additives has been investigated for their ability to support biological growth in shale microbial community members; however, to date, little is known on how complex xenobiotic organic compounds undergo biotransformations in this deep rock ecosystem. Here, high-resolution chemical, metagenomic, and proteomic analyses reveal that widely-used surfactants are degraded by the shale-associated taxa Halanaerobium, both in situ and under laboratory conditions. These halotolerant bacteria exhibit surfactant substrate specificities, preferring polymeric propoxylated glycols (PPGs) and longer alkyl polyethoxylates (AEOs) over polyethylene glycols (PEGs) and shorter AEOs. Enzymatic transformation occurs through repeated terminal-end polyglycol chain shortening during co-metabolic growth through the methylglyoxal bypass. This work provides the first evidence that shale microorganisms can transform xenobiotic surfactants in fracture fluid formulations, potentially affecting the efficiency of hydrocarbon recovery, and demonstrating an important association between injected substrates and microbial growth in an engineered subsurface ecosystem.
Project description:Accretionary prisms are thick masses of sedimentary material scraped from the oceanic crust and piled up at convergent plate boundaries found across large regions of the world. Large amounts of anoxic groundwater and natural gas, mainly methane (CH4), are contained in deep aquifers associated with these accretionary prisms. To identify the subsurface environments and potential for CH4 production by the microbial communities in deep aquifers, we performed chemical and microbiological assays on groundwater and natural gas derived from deep aquifers associated with an accretionary prism and its overlying sedimentary layers. Physicochemical analyses of groundwater and natural gas suggested wide variations in the features of the six deep aquifers tested. On the other hand, a stable carbon isotope analysis of dissolved inorganic carbon in the groundwater and CH4 in the natural gas showed that the deep aquifers contained CH4 of biogenic or mixed biogenic and thermogenic origins. Live/dead staining of microbial cells contained in the groundwater revealed that the cell density of live microbial cells was in the order of 104 to 106? ?cells? ?mL-1, and cell viability ranged between 7.5 and 38.9%. A DNA analysis and anoxic culture of microorganisms in the groundwater suggested a high potential for CH4 production by a syntrophic consortium of hydrogen (H2)-producing fermentative bacteria and H2-utilizing methanogenic archaea. These results suggest that the biodegradation of organic matter in ancient sediments contributes to CH4 production in the deep aquifers associated with this accretionary prism as well as its overlying sedimentary layers.
Project description:Hydrogen, 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??m) 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.
Project description:Seepage of methane (CH4) on land and in the sea may significantly affect Earth's biogeochemical cycles. However processes of CH4 generation and consumption, both abiotic and microbial, are not always clear. We provide new geochemical and isotope data to evaluate if a recently discovered CH4 seepage from the shallow seafloor close to the Island of Elba (Tuscany) and two small islands nearby are derived from abiogenic or biogenic sources and whether carbonate encrusted vents are the result of microbial or abiotic processes. Emission of gas bubbles (predominantly CH4) from unlithified sands was observed at seven spots in an area of 100 m2 at Pomonte (Island of Elba), with a total rate of 234 ml m-2 d-1. The measured carbon isotope values of CH4 of around -18‰ (VPDB) in combination with the measured ?2H value of -120‰ (VSMOW) and the inverse correlation of ?13C-value with carbon number of hydrocarbon gases are characteristic for sites of CH4 formation through abiogenic processes, specifically abiogenic formation of CH4 via reduction of CO2 by H2. The H2 for methanogenesis likely derives from ophiolitic host rock within the Ligurian accretionary prism. The lack of hydrothermal activity allows CH4 gas to become decoupled from the stagnant aqueous phase. Hence no hyperalkaline fluid is currently released at the vent sites. Within the seep area a decrease in porewater sulphate concentrations by ca. 5 mmol/l relative to seawater and a concomitant increase in sulphide and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) indicate substantial activity of sulphate-dependent anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM). In absence of any other dissimilatory pathway, the ?13C-values between -17 and -5‰ in dissolved inorganic carbon and aragonite cements suggest that the inorganic carbon is largely derived from CH4. The formation of seep carbonates is thus microbially induced via anaerobic oxidation of abiotic CH4.
Project description:The Atlantis Massif rises 4,000 m above the seafloor near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and consists of rocks uplifted from Earth's lower crust and upper mantle. Exposure of the mantle rocks to seawater leads to their alteration into serpentinites. These aqueous geochemical reactions, collectively known as the process of serpentinization, are exothermic and are associated with the release of hydrogen gas (H2), methane (CH4), and small organic molecules. The biological consequences of this flux of energy and organic compounds from the Atlantis Massif were explored by International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 357, which used seabed drills to collect continuous sequences of shallow (<16 m below seafloor) marine serpentinites and mafic assemblages. Here, we report the census of microbial diversity in samples of the drill cores, as measured by environmental 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. The problem of contamination of subsurface samples was a primary concern during all stages of this project, starting from the initial study design, continuing to the collection of samples from the seafloor, handling the samples shipboard and in the lab, preparing the samples for DNA extraction, and analyzing the DNA sequence data. To distinguish endemic microbial taxa of serpentinite subsurface rocks from seawater residents and other potential contaminants, the distributions of individual 16S rRNA gene sequences among all samples were evaluated, taking into consideration both presence/absence and relative abundances. Our results highlight a few candidate residents of the shallow serpentinite subsurface, including uncultured representatives of the Thermoplasmata, Acidobacteria, Acidimicrobia, and Chloroflexi IMPORTANCE The International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 357-"Serpentinization and Life"-utilized seabed drills to collect rocks from the oceanic crust. The recovered rock cores represent the shallow serpentinite subsurface of the Atlantis Massif, where reactions between uplifted mantle rocks and water, collectively known as serpentinization, produce environmental conditions that can stimulate biological activity and are thought to be analogous to environments that were prevalent on the early Earth and perhaps other planets. The methodology and results of this project have implications for life detection experiments, including sample return missions, and provide a window into the diversity of microbial communities inhabiting subseafloor serpentinites.