Project description:Rock-hosted subseafloor habitats are very challenging for life, and current knowledge about microorganisms inhabiting such lithic environments is still limited. This study explored the cultivable microbial diversity in anaerobic enrichment cultures from cores recovered during the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 357 from the Atlantis Massif (Mid-Atlantic Ridge, 30°N). 16S rRNA gene survey of enrichment cultures grown at 10-25°C and pH 8.5 showed that Firmicutes and Proteobacteria were generally dominant. However, cultivable microbial diversity significantly differed depending on incubation at atmospheric pressure (0.1 MPa), or hydrostatic pressures (HP) mimicking the in situ pressure conditions (8.2 or 14.0 MPa). An original, strictly anaerobic bacterium designated 70B-AT was isolated from core M0070C-3R1 (1150 meter below sea level; 3.5 m below seafloor) only from cultures performed at 14.0 MPa. This strain named Petrocella atlantisensis is a novel species of a new genus within the newly described family Vallitaleaceae (order Clostridiales, phylum Firmicutes). It is a mesophilic, moderately halotolerant and piezophilic chemoorganotroph, able to grow by fermentation of carbohydrates and proteinaceous compounds. Its 3.5 Mb genome contains numerous genes for ABC transporters of sugars and amino acids, and pathways for fermentation of mono- and di-saccharides and amino acids were identified. Genes encoding multimeric [FeFe] hydrogenases and a Rnf complex form the basis to explain hydrogen and energy production in strain 70B-AT. This study outlines the importance of using hydrostatic pressure in culture experiments for isolation and characterization of autochthonous piezophilic microorganisms from subseafloor rocks.
Project description:Halogenated organic matter buried in marine subsurface sediment may serve as a source of electron acceptors for anaerobic respiration of subseafloor microbes. Detection of a diverse array of reductive dehalogenase-homologous (rdhA) genes suggests that subseafloor organohalide-respiring microbial communities may play significant ecological roles in the biogeochemical carbon and halogen cycle in the subseafloor biosphere. We report here the spatial distribution of dehalogenation activity in the Nankai Trough plate-subduction zone of the northwest Pacific off the Kii Peninsula of Japan. Incubation experiments with slurries of sediment collected at various depths and locations showed that degradation of several organohalides tested only occurred in the shallow sedimentary basin, down to 4.7 metres below the seafloor, despite detection of rdhA in the deeper sediments. We studied the phylogenetic diversity of the metabolically active microbes in positive enrichment cultures by extracting RNA, and found that Desulfuromonadales bacteria predominate. In addition, for the isolation of genes involved in the dehalogenation reaction, we performed a substrate-induced gene expression screening on DNA extracted from the enrichment cultures. Diverse DNA fragments were obtained and some of them showed best BLAST hit to known organohalide respirers such as Dehalococcoides, whereas no functionally known dehalogenation-related genes such as rdhA were found, indicating the need to improve the molecular approach to assess functional genes for organohalide respiration.
Project description:Phylogenetically diverse microorganisms have been observed in marine subsurface sediments down to ~2.5 km below the seafloor (kmbsf). However, very little is known about the pressure-adapted and/or pressure-loving microorganisms, the so called piezophiles, in the deep subseafloor biosphere, despite that pressure directly affects microbial physiology, metabolism, and biogeochemical processes of carbon and other elements in situ. In this study, we studied taxonomic compositions of microbial communities in high-pressure incubated sediment, obtained during the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 337 off the Shimokita Peninsula, Japan. Analysis of 16S rRNA gene-tagged sequences showed that members of spore-forming bacteria within Firmicutes and Actinobacteria were predominantly detected in all enrichment cultures from ~1.5 to 2.4 km-deep sediment samples, followed by members of Proteobacteria, Acidobacteria, and Bacteroidetes according to the sequence frequency. To further study the physiology of the deep subseafloor sedimentary piezophilic bacteria, we isolated and characterized two bacterial strains, 19R1-5 and 29R7-12, from 1.9 and 2.4 km-deep sediment samples, respectively. The isolates were both low G+C content, gram-positive, endospore-forming and facultative anaerobic piezophilic bacteria, closely related to Virgibacillus pantothenticus and Bacillus subtilis within the phylum Firmicutes, respectively. The optimal pressure and temperature conditions for growth were 20 MPa and 42°C for strain 19R1-5, and 10 MPa and 43°C for strain 29R7-12. Bacterial (endo)spores were observed in both the enrichment and pure cultures examined, suggesting that these piezophilic members were derived from microbial communities buried in the ~20 million-year-old coal-bearing sediments after the long-term survival as spores and that the deep biosphere may host more abundant gram-positive spore-forming bacteria and their spores than hitherto recognized.
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.
Project description:Submarine mud volcanoes (SMVs) are formed by muddy sediments and breccias extruded to the seafloor from a source in the deep subseafloor and are characterized by the discharge of methane and other hydrocarbon gasses and deep-sourced fluids into the overlying seawater. Although SMVs act as a natural pipeline connecting the Earth's surface and subsurface biospheres, the dispersal of deep-biosphere microorganisms and their ecological roles remain largely unknown. In this study, we investigated the microbial communities in sediment and overlying seawater at two SMVs located on the Ryukyu Trench off Tanegashima Island, southern Japan. The microbial communities in mud volcano sediments were generally distinct from those in the overlying seawaters and in the well-stratified Pacific margin sediments collected at the Peru Margin, the Juan de Fuca Ridge flank off Oregon, and offshore of Shimokita Peninsula, northeastern Japan. Nevertheless, in-depth analysis of different taxonomic groups at the sub-species level revealed that the taxon affiliated with Atribacteria, heterotrophic anaerobic bacteria that typically occur in organic-rich anoxic subseafloor sediments, were commonly found not only in SMV sediments but also in the overlying seawater. We designed a new oligonucleotide probe for detecting Atribacteria using the catalyzed reporter deposition-fluorescence in situ hybridization (CARD-FISH). CARD-FISH, digital PCR and sequencing analysis of 16S rRNA genes consistently showed that Atribacteria are abundant in the methane plumes of the two SMVs (0.58 and 1.5 × 104 cells/mL, respectively) but not in surrounding waters, suggesting that microbial cells in subseafloor sediments are dispersed as "deep-biosphere seeds" into the ocean. These findings may have important implications for the microbial transmigration between the deep subseafloor biosphere and the hydrosphere.
Project description:Microbial methanogenesis in subseafloor sediments is a key process in the carbon cycle on the Earth. However, the cultivation-dependent evidences have been poorly demonstrated. Here we report the cultivation of a methanogenic microbial consortium from subseafloor sediments using a continuous-flow-type bioreactor with polyurethane sponges as microbial habitats, called down-flow hanging sponge (DHS) reactor. We anaerobically incubated methane-rich core sediments collected from off Shimokita Peninsula, Japan, for 826 days in the reactor at 10?°C. Synthetic seawater supplemented with glucose, yeast extract, acetate and propionate as potential energy sources was provided into the reactor. After 289 days of operation, microbiological methane production became evident. Fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis revealed the presence of metabolically active microbial cells with various morphologies in the reactor. DNA- and RNA-based phylogenetic analyses targeting 16S rRNA indicated the successful growth of phylogenetically diverse microbial components during cultivation in the reactor. Most of the phylotypes in the reactor, once it made methane, were more closely related to culture sequences than to the subsurface environmental sequence. Potentially methanogenic phylotypes related to the genera Methanobacterium, Methanococcoides and Methanosarcina were predominantly detected concomitantly with methane production, while uncultured archaeal phylotypes were also detected. Using the methanogenic community enrichment as subsequent inocula, traditional batch-type cultivations led to the successful isolation of several anaerobic microbes including those methanogens. Our results substantiate that the DHS bioreactor is a useful system for the enrichment of numerous fastidious microbes from subseafloor sediments and will enable the physiological and ecological characterization of pure cultures of previously uncultivated subseafloor microbial life.
Project description:The gabbroic layer comprises the majority of ocean crust. Opportunities to sample this expansive crustal environment are rare because of the technological demands of deep ocean drilling; thus, gabbroic microbial communities have not yet been studied. During the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expeditions 304 and 305, igneous rock samples were collected from 0.45-1391.01 meters below seafloor at Hole 1309D, located on the Atlantis Massif (30 °N, 42 °W). Microbial diversity in the rocks was analyzed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and sequencing (Expedition 304), and terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism, cloning and sequencing, and functional gene microarray analysis (Expedition 305). The gabbroic microbial community was relatively depauperate, consisting of a low diversity of proteobacterial lineages closely related to Bacteria from hydrocarbon-dominated environments and to known hydrocarbon degraders, and there was little evidence of Archaea. Functional gene diversity in the gabbroic samples was analyzed with a microarray for metabolic genes ("GeoChip"), producing further evidence of genomic potential for hydrocarbon degradation--genes for aerobic methane and toluene oxidation. Genes coding for anaerobic respirations, such as nitrate reduction, sulfate reduction, and metal reduction, as well as genes for carbon fixation, nitrogen fixation, and ammonium-oxidation, were also present. Our results suggest that the gabbroic layer hosts a microbial community that can degrade hydrocarbons and fix carbon and nitrogen, and has the potential to employ a diversity of non-oxygen electron acceptors. This rare glimpse of the gabbroic ecosystem provides further support for the recent finding of hydrocarbons in deep ocean gabbro from Hole 1309D. It has been hypothesized that these hydrocarbons might originate abiotically from serpentinization reactions that are occurring deep in the Earth's crust, raising the possibility that the lithic microbial community reported here might utilize carbon sources produced independently of the surface biosphere.
Project description:Subseafloor sedimentary environments harbor a remarkable number of microorganisms that constitute anaerobic and aerobic microbial ecosystems beneath the ocean margins and open-ocean gyres, respectively. Microbial biomass and diversity richness generally decrease with increasing sediment depth and burial time. However, there has been a long-standing debate over the contribution and distribution of Archaea in the subseafloor sedimentary biosphere. Here we show the global quantification of archaeal and bacterial 16S rRNA genes in 221 sediment core samples obtained from diverse oceanographic settings through scientific ocean drilling using microfluidic digital PCR. We estimated that archaeal cells constitute 37.3% of the total microbial cells (40.0% and 12.8% in the ocean margin and open-ocean sites, respectively), corresponding to 1.1 × 1029 cells on Earth. In addition, the relative abundance of archaeal 16S rRNA genes generally decreased with the depth of water in the overlying sedimentary habitat, suggesting that Archaea may be more sensitive to nutrient quality and quantity supplied from the overlying ocean.
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:Microbial cells buried in subseafloor sediments comprise a substantial portion of Earth's biosphere and control global biogeochemical cycles; however, the rate at which they use energy (i.e., power) is virtually unknown. Here, we quantify organic matter degradation and calculate the power utilization of microbial cells throughout Earth's Quaternary-age subseafloor sediments. Aerobic respiration, sulfate reduction, and methanogenesis mediate 6.9, 64.5, and 28.6% of global subseafloor organic matter degradation, respectively. The total power utilization of the subseafloor sediment biosphere is 37.3 gigawatts, less than 0.1% of the power produced in the marine photic zone. Aerobic heterotrophs use the largest share of global power (54.5%) with a median power utilization of 2.23 × 10-18 watts per cell, while sulfate reducers and methanogens use 1.08 × 10-19 and 1.50 × 10-20 watts per cell, respectively. Most subseafloor cells subsist at energy fluxes lower than have previously been shown to support life, calling into question the power limit to life.