The activity and community structure of aerobic methanotrophic communities were investigated at methane seeps (pockmarks) in the littoral and profundal zones of an oligotrophic freshwater lake (Lake Constance, Germany). Measurements of potential methane oxidation rates showed that sediments inside littoral pockmarks are hot spots of methane oxidation. Potential methane oxidation rates at littoral pockmark sites exceeded the rates of the surrounding sediment by 2 orders of magnitude. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis of the pmoA gene revealed major differences in the methanotrophic community composition between littoral pockmarks and the surrounding sediments. Clone library analysis confirmed that one distinct Methylobacter-related group dominates the community at littoral pockmarks. In profundal sediments, the differences between pockmarks and surrounding sediments were found to be less pronounced.
To obtain knowledge on how regional variations in methane seepage rates influence the stratification, abundance, and diversity of anaerobic methanotrophs (ANME), we analyzed the vertical microbial stratification in a gravity core from a methane micro-seeping area at Nyegga by using 454-pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA gene tagged amplicons and quantitative PCR. These data were compared with previously obtained data from the more active G11 pockmark, characterized by higher methane flux. A down core stratification and high relative abundance of ANME were observed in both cores, with transition from an ANME-2a/b dominated community in low-sulfide and low methane horizons to ANME-1 dominance in horizons near the sulfate-methane transition zone. The stratification was over a wider spatial region and at greater depth in the core with lower methane flux, and the total 16S rRNA copy numbers were two orders of magnitude lower than in the sediments at G11 pockmark. A fine-scale view into the ANME communities at each location was achieved through operational taxonomical units (OTU) clustering of ANME-affiliated sequences. The majority of ANME-1 sequences from both sampling sites clustered within one OTU, while ANME-2a/b sequences were represented in unique OTUs. We suggest that free-living ANME-1 is the most abundant taxon in Nyegga cold seeps, and also the main consumer of methane. The observation of specific ANME-2a/b OTUs at each location could reflect that organisms within this clade are adapted to different geochemical settings, perhaps due to differences in methane affinity. Given that the ANME-2a/b population could be sustained in less active seepage areas, this subgroup could be potential seed populations in newly developed methane-enriched environments.
ANME; pyrosequencing; AOM; community structure; Nyegga; cold seep; stratification
Hydrocarbon seeps provide inputs of petroleum hydrocarbons to widespread areas of the Timor Sea. Alkanes constitute the largest proportion of chemical components found in crude oils, and therefore genes involved in the biodegradation of these compounds may act as bioindicators for this ecosystem's response to seepage. To assess alkane biodegradation potential, the diversity and distribution of alkane hydroxylase (alkB) genes in sediments of the Timor Sea were studied. Deduced AlkB protein sequences derived from clone libraries identified sequences only distantly related to previously identified AlkB sequences, suggesting that the Timor Sea maybe a rich reservoir for novel alkane hydroxylase enzymes. Most sequences clustered with AlkB sequences previously identified from marine Gammaproteobacteria though protein sequence identities averaged only 73% (with a range of 60% to 94% sequence identities). AlkB sequence diversity was lower in deep water (>400 m) samples off the continental slope than in shallow water (<100 m) samples on the continental shelf but not significantly different in response to levels of alkanes. Real-time PCR assays targeting Timor Sea alkB genes were designed and used to quantify alkB gene targets. No correlation was found between gene copy numbers and levels of hydrocarbons measured in sediments using sensitive gas chromatography-mass spectrometry techniques, probably due to the very low levels of hydrocarbons found in most sediment samples. Interestingly, however, copy numbers of alkB genes increased substantially in sediments exposed directly to active seepage even though only low or undetectable concentrations of hydrocarbons were measured in these sediments in complementary geochemical analyses due to efficient biodegradation.
The Brazos-Trinity Basin on the slope of the Gulf of Mexico passive margin was drilled during Integrated Ocean Drilling Progam Expedition 308. The buried anaerobic sediments of this basin are largely organic-poor and have few microbial inhabitants compared with the organic-rich sediments with high cell counts from the Peru Margin that were drilled during Ocean Drilling Program Leg 201. Nucleic acids were extracted from Brazos-Trinity Basin sediments and were subjected to whole-genome amplification and pyrosequencing. A comparison of the Brazos-Trinity Basin metagenome, consisting of 105 Mbp, and the existing Peru Margin metagenome revealed trends linking gene content, phylogenetic content, geological location and geochemical regime. The major microbial groups (Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Euryarchaeota and Chloroflexi) occur consistently throughout all samples, yet their shifting abundances allow for discrimination between samples. The cluster of orthologous groups category abundances for some classes of genes are correlated with geochemical factors, such as the level of ammonia. Here we describe the sediment metagenome from the oligotrophic Brazos-Trinity Basin (Site 1320) and show similarities and differences with the dataset from the Pacific Peru Margin (Site 1229) and other pyrosequenced datasets. The microbial community found at Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Site 1320 likely represents the subsurface microbial inhabitants of turbiditic slopes that lack substantial upwelling.
comparative metagenomics; pyrosequencing; subseafloor; microbial ecology
Sediments associated with hydrothermal venting, methane seepage and large organic falls such as whale, wood and plant detritus create deep-sea networks of soft-sediment habitats fueled, at least in part, by the oxidation of reduced chemicals. Biological studies at deep-sea vents, seeps and organic falls have looked at macrofaunal taxa, but there has yet to be a systematic comparison of the community-level attributes of sediment macrobenthos in various reducing ecosystems. Here we review key similarities and differences in the sediment-dwelling assemblages of each system with the goals of (1) generating a predictive framework for the exploration and study of newly identified reducing habitats, and (2) identifying taxa and communities that overlap across ecosystems. We show that deep-sea seep, vent and organic-fall sediments are highly heterogeneous. They sustain different geochemical and microbial processes that are reflected in a complex mosaic of habitats inhabited by a mixture of specialist (heterotrophic and symbiont-associated) and background fauna. Community-level comparisons reveal that vent, seep and organic-fall macrofauna are very distinct in terms of composition at the family level, although they share many dominant taxa among these highly sulphidic habitats. Stress gradients are good predictors of macrofaunal diversity at some sites, but habitat heterogeneity and facilitation often modify community structure. The biogeochemical differences across ecosystems and within habitats result in wide differences in organic utilization (i.e., food sources) and in the prevalence of chemosynthesis-derived nutrition. In the Pacific, vents, seeps and organic-falls exhibit distinct macrofaunal assemblages at broad-scales contributing to ß diversity. This has important implications for the conservation of reducing ecosystems, which face growing threats from human activities.
Methane oxidizing prokaryotes in marine sediments are believed to function as a methane filter reducing the oceanic contribution to the global methane emission. In the anoxic parts of the sediments, oxidation of methane is accomplished by anaerobic methanotrophic archaea (ANME) living in syntrophy with sulphate reducing bacteria. This anaerobic oxidation of methane is assumed to be a coupling of reversed methanogenesis and dissimilatory sulphate reduction. Where oxygen is available aerobic methanotrophs take part in methane oxidation. In this study, we used metagenomics to characterize the taxonomic and metabolic potential for methane oxidation at the Tonya seep in the Coal Oil Point area, California. Two metagenomes from different sediment depth horizons (0-4 cm and 10-15 cm below sea floor) were sequenced by 454 technology. The metagenomes were analysed to characterize the distribution of aerobic and anaerobic methanotrophic taxa at the two sediment depths. To gain insight into the metabolic potential the metagenomes were searched for marker genes associated with methane oxidation.
Blast searches followed by taxonomic binning in MEGAN revealed aerobic methanotrophs of the genus Methylococcus to be overrepresented in the 0-4 cm metagenome compared to the 10-15 cm metagenome. In the 10-15 cm metagenome, ANME of the ANME-1 clade, were identified as the most abundant methanotrophic taxon with 8.6% of the reads. Searches for particulate methane monooxygenase (pmoA) and methyl-coenzyme M reductase (mcrA), marker genes for aerobic and anaerobic oxidation of methane respectively, identified pmoA in the 0-4 cm metagenome as Methylococcaceae related. The mcrA reads from the 10-15 cm horizon were all classified as originating from the ANME-1 clade.
Most of the taxa detected were present in both metagenomes and differences in community structure and corresponding metabolic potential between the two samples were mainly due to abundance differences.
The results suggests that the Tonya Seep sediment is a robust methane filter, where taxa presently dominating this process could be replaced by less abundant methanotrophic taxa in case of changed environmental conditions.
Marine subsurface environments such as deep-sea sediments, house abundant and diverse microbial communities that are believed to influence large-scale geochemical processes. These processes include the biotransformation and mineralization of numerous petroleum constituents. Thus, microbial communities in the Gulf of Mexico are thought to be responsible for the intrinsic bioremediation of crude oil released by the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill. While hydrocarbon contamination is known to enrich for aerobic, oil-degrading bacteria in deep-seawater habitats, relatively little is known about the response of communities in deep-sea sediments, where low oxygen levels may hinder such a response. Here, we examined the hypothesis that increased hydrocarbon exposure results in an altered sediment microbial community structure that reflects the prospects for oil biodegradation under the prevailing conditions. We explore this hypothesis using metagenomic analysis and metabolite profiling of deep-sea sediment samples following the DWH oil spill. The presence of aerobic microbial communities and associated functional genes was consistent among all samples, whereas, a greater number of Deltaproteobacteria and anaerobic functional genes were found in sediments closest to the DWH blowout site. Metabolite profiling also revealed a greater number of putative metabolites in sediments surrounding the blowout zone relative to a background site located 127 km away. The mass spectral analysis of the putative metabolites revealed that alkylsuccinates remained below detection levels, but a homologous series of benzylsuccinates (with carbon chain lengths from 5 to 10) could be detected. Our findings suggest that increased exposure to hydrocarbons enriches for Deltaproteobacteria, which are known to be capable of anaerobic hydrocarbon metabolism. We also provide evidence for an active microbial community metabolizing aromatic hydrocarbons in deep-sea sediments of the Gulf of Mexico.
Deepwater Horizon; metagenomics; metabolomics; oil-degradation
Seabed sediments of commercial ports are often characterized by high pollution levels. Differences in number and distribution of bacteria in such areas can be related to distribution of pollutants in the port and to sediment conditions. In this study, the bacterial communities of five sites from Leghorn Harbor seabed were characterized, and the main bacterial groups were identified. T-RFLP was used for all samples; two 16S rRNA libraries and in silico digestion of clones were used to identify fingerprint profiles. Library data, phylogenetic analysis, and T-RFLP coupled with in silico digestion of the obtained sequences evidenced the dominance of Proteobacteria and the high percentage of Bacteroidetes in all sites. The approach highlighted similar bacterial communities between samples coming from the five sites, suggesting a modest differentiation among bacterial communities of different harbor seabed sediments and hence the capacity of bacterial communities to adapt to different levels and types of pollution.
Deep-sea sediments cover ∼70% of Earth's surface and represent the largest interface between the biological and geological cycles of carbon. Diatoms and zooplankton faecal pellets naturally transport organic material from the upper ocean down to the deep seabed, but how these qualitatively different substrates affect the fate of carbon in this permanently cold environment remains unknown. We added equal quantities of 13C-labelled diatoms and faecal pellets to a cold water (−0.7 °C) sediment community retrieved from 1080 m in the Faroe-Shetland Channel, Northeast Atlantic, and quantified carbon mineralization and uptake by the resident bacteria and macrofauna over a 6-day period. High-quality, diatom-derived carbon was mineralized >300% faster than that from low-quality faecal pellets, demonstrating that qualitative differences in organic matter drive major changes in the residence time of carbon at the deep seabed. Benthic bacteria dominated biological carbon processing in our experiments, yet showed no evidence of resource quality-limited growth; they displayed lower growth efficiencies when respiring diatoms. These effects were consistent in contrasting months. We contend that respiration and growth in the resident sediment microbial communities were substrate and temperature limited, respectively. Our study has important implications for how future changes in the biochemical makeup of exported organic matter will affect the balance between mineralization and sequestration of organic carbon in the largest ecosystem on Earth.
bacterial growth efficiency; biogeochemistry; carbon mineralization; deep sea; resource quality; stable isotope
Despite the growing awareness of the necessity of a sustainable development, the global economy continues to depend largely on the consumption of non-renewable energy resources. One such energy resource is fossil oil extracted from the seabed at offshore oil platforms. This type of oil production causes continuous environmental pollution from drilling waste, discharge of large amounts of produced water, and accidental spills.
Methods and principal findings
Samples from natural populations of haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) and Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in two North Sea areas with extensive oil production were investigated. Exposure to and uptake of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were demonstrated, and biomarker analyses revealed adverse biological effects, including induction of biotransformation enzymes, oxidative stress, altered fatty acid composition, and genotoxicity. Genotoxicity was reflected by a hepatic DNA adduct pattern typical for exposure to a mixture of PAHs. Control material was collected from a North Sea area without oil production and from remote Icelandic waters. The difference between the two control areas indicates significant background pollution in the North Sea.
It is most remarkable to obtain biomarker responses in natural fish populations in the open sea that are similar to the biomarker responses in fish from highly polluted areas close to a point source. Risk assessment of various threats to the marine fish populations in the North Sea, such as overfishing, global warming, and eutrophication, should also take into account the ecologically relevant impact of offshore oil production.
Recovery from disturbance in deep water is poorly understood, but as anthropogenic impacts increase in deeper water it is important to quantify the process. Exploratory hydrocarbon drilling causes physical disturbance, smothering the seabed near the well. Video transects obtained by remotely operated vehicles were used to assess the change in invertebrate megafaunal density and diversity caused by drilling a well at 380 m depth in the Norwegian Sea in 2006. Transects were carried out one day before drilling commenced and 27 days, 76 days, and three years later. A background survey, further from the well, was also carried out in 2009. Porifera (45% of observations) and Cnidaria (40%) dominated the megafauna. Porifera accounted for 94% of hard-substratum organisms and cnidarians (Pennatulacea) dominated on the soft sediment (78%). Twenty seven and 76 days after drilling commenced, drill cuttings were visible, extending over 100 m from the well. In this area there were low invertebrate megafaunal densities (0.08 and 0.10 individuals m−2) in comparison to pre-drill conditions (0.21 individuals m−2). Three years later the visible extent of the cuttings had reduced, reaching 60 m from the well. Within this area the megafaunal density (0.05 individuals m−2) was lower than pre-drill and reference transects (0.23 individuals m−2). There was a significant increase in total megafaunal invertebrate densities with both distance from drilling and time since drilling although no significant interaction. Beyond the visible disturbance there were similar megafaunal densities (0.14 individuals m−2) to pre-drilling and background surveys. Species richness, Shannon-Weiner diversity and multivariate techniques showed similar patterns to density. At this site the effects of exploratory drilling on megafaunal invertebrate density and diversity seem confined to the extent of the visible cuttings pile. However, elevated Barium concentration and reduced sediment grain size suggest persistence of disturbance for three years, with unclear consequences for other components of the benthic fauna.
Bottom trawling causes physical disturbance to sediments particularly in shelf areas. The disturbance due to trawling is most significant in deeper areas with softer sediments where levels of natural disturbance due to wave and tidal action are low. In heavily fished areas, trawls may impact the same area of seabed more than four times per year. A single pass of a beam trawl, the heaviest gear routinely used in shelf sea fisheries, can kill 5–65% of the resident fauna and mix the top few cm of sediment. We expect that sediment community function, carbon mineralisation and biogeochemical fluxes will be strongly affected by trawling activity because the physical effects of trawling are equivalent to those of an extreme bioturbator, and yet, unlike bioturbating macrofauna, trawling does not directly contribute to community metabolism. We used an existing box-model of a generalised soft sediment system to examine the effects of trawling disturbance on carbon mineralisation and chemical concentrations. We contrasted the effects of a natural scenario, where bioturbation is a function of macrobenthos biomass, with an anthropogenic impact scenario where physical disturbance results from trawling rather than the action of bioturbating macrofauna. Simulation results suggest that the effects of low levels of trawling disturbance will be similar to those of natural bioturbators but that high levels of trawling disturbance prevent the modelled system from reaching equilibrium due to large carbon fluxes between oxic and anoxic carbon compartments. The presence of macrobenthos in the natural disturbance scenario allowed sediment chemical storage and fluxes to reach equilibrium. This is because the macrobenthos are important carbon consumers in the system whose presence reduces the magnitude of available carbon fluxes. In soft sediment systems, where the level physical disturbance due to waves and tides is low, model results suggest that intensive trawling disturbance could cause large fluctuations in benthic chemical fluxes and storage.
To extend comparative metagenomic analyses of the deep-sea, we produced metagenomic data by direct 454 pyrosequencing from bathypelagic plankton (1000 m depth) and bottom sediment of the Sea of Marmara, the gateway between the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Seas. Data from small subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU rRNA) gene libraries and direct pyrosequencing of the same samples indicated that Gamma- and Alpha-proteobacteria, followed by Bacteroidetes, dominated the bacterial fraction in Marmara deep-sea plankton, whereas Planctomycetes, Delta- and Gamma-proteobacteria were the most abundant groups in high bacterial-diversity sediment. Group I Crenarchaeota/Thaumarchaeota dominated the archaeal plankton fraction, although group II and III Euryarchaeota were also present. Eukaryotes were highly diverse in SSU rRNA gene libraries, with group I (Duboscquellida) and II (Syndiniales) alveolates and Radiozoa dominating plankton, and Opisthokonta and Alveolates, sediment. However, eukaryotic sequences were scarce in pyrosequence data. Archaeal amo genes were abundant in plankton, suggesting that Marmara planktonic Thaumarchaeota are ammonia oxidizers. Genes involved in sulfate reduction, carbon monoxide oxidation, anammox and sulfatases were over-represented in sediment. Genome recruitment analyses showed that Alteromonas macleodii ‘surface ecotype', Pelagibacter ubique and Nitrosopumilus maritimus were highly represented in 1000 m-deep plankton. A comparative analysis of Marmara metagenomes with ALOHA deep-sea and surface plankton, whale carcasses, Peru subsurface sediment and soil metagenomes clustered deep-sea Marmara plankton with deep-ALOHA plankton and whale carcasses, likely because of the suboxic conditions in the deep Marmara water column. The Marmara sediment clustered with the soil metagenome, highlighting the common ecological role of both types of microbial communities in the degradation of organic matter and the completion of biogeochemical cycles.
deep-sea; anaerobic respiration; carbon fixation; carbon cycle; sulfate reduction; ammonia oxidation
Novel cardiolipins from Archaea were detected by screening the intact polar lipid (IPL) composition of microbial communities associated with methane seepage in deep-sea sediments from the Pakistan margin by high-performance liquid chromatography electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. A series of tentatively identified cardiolipin analogues (dimeric phospholipids or bisphosphatidylglycerol, BPG) represented 0.5% to 5% of total archaeal IPLs. These molecules are similar to the recently described cardiolipin analogues with four phytanyl chains from extreme halophilic archaea. It is worth noting that cardiolipin analogues from the seep archaeal communities are composed of four isoprenoidal chains, which may contain differences in chain length (20 and 25 carbon atoms) and degrees of unsaturation and the presence of a hydroxyl group. Two novel diether lipids, structurally related to the BPGs, are described and interpreted as degradation products of archaeal cardiolipin analogues. Since archaeal communities in seep sediments are dominated by anaerobic methanotrophs, our observations have implications for characterizing structural components of archaeal membranes, in which BPGs are presumed to contribute to modulation of cell permeability properties. Whether BPGs facilitate interspecies interaction in syntrophic methanotrophic consortia remains to be tested.
Hydrocarbon leakage into the environment has large economic and environmental impact. Traditional methods for investigating seepages and their resulting pollution, such as drilling, are destructive, time consuming and expensive. Remote sensing is an efficient tool that offers a non-destructive investigation method. Optical remote sensing has been extensively tested for exploration of onshore hydrocarbon reservoirs and detection of hydrocarbons at the Earth's surface. In this research, we investigate indirect manifestations of pipeline leakage by way of visualizing vegetation anomalies in airborne hyperspectral imagery. Agricultural land-use causes a heterogeneous landcover; variation in red edge position between fields was much larger than infield red edge position variation that could be related to hydrocarbon pollution. A moving and growing kernel procedure was developed to normalzie red edge values relative to values of neighbouring pixels to enhance pollution related anomalies in the image. Comparison of the spatial distribution of anomalies with geochemical data obtained by drilling showed that 8 out of 10 polluted sites were predicted correctly while 2 out of 30 sites that were predicted clean were actually polluted.
pipeline; hydrocarbon; vegetation stress; hyperspectral; spatial
In this study, we analyzed viral metagenomes (viromes) in the sedimentary habitats of three geographically and geologically distinct (hado)pelagic environments in the northwest Pacific; the Izu-Ogasawara Trench (water depth = 9,760 m) (OG), the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench (10,325 m) (MA), and the forearc basin off the Shimokita Peninsula (1,181 m) (SH). Virus abundance ranged from 106 to 1011 viruses/cm3 of sediments (down to 30 cm below the seafloor [cmbsf]). We recovered viral DNA assemblages (viromes) from the (hado)pelagic sediment samples and obtained a total of 37,458, 39,882, and 70,882 sequence reads by 454 GS FLX Titanium pyrosequencing from the virome libraries of the OG, MA, and SH (hado)pelagic sediments, respectively. Only 24−30% of the sequence reads from each virome library exhibited significant similarities to the sequences deposited in the public nr protein database (E-value <10−3 in BLAST). Among the sequences identified as potential viral genes based on the BLAST search, 95−99% of the sequence reads in each library were related to genes from single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) viral families, including Microviridae, Circoviridae, and Geminiviridae. A relatively high abundance of sequences related to the genetic markers (major capsid protein [VP1] and replication protein [Rep]) of two ssDNA viral groups were also detected in these libraries, thereby revealing a high genotypic diversity of their viruses (833 genotypes for VP1 and 2,551 genotypes for Rep). A majority of the viral genes predicted from each library were classified into three ssDNA viral protein categories: Rep, VP1, and minor capsid protein. The deep-sea sedimentary viromes were distinct from the viromes obtained from the oceanic and fresh waters and marine eukaryotes, and thus, deep-sea sediments harbor novel viromes, including previously unidentified ssDNA viruses.
Here we embark in a deep metagenomic survey that revealed the taxonomic and potential metabolic pathways aspects of mangrove sediment microbiology. The extraction of DNA from sediment samples and the direct application of pyrosequencing resulted in approximately 215 Mb of data from four distinct mangrove areas (BrMgv01 to 04) in Brazil. The taxonomic approaches applied revealed the dominance of Deltaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria in the samples. Paired statistical analysis showed higher proportions of specific taxonomic groups in each dataset. The metabolic reconstruction indicated the possible occurrence of processes modulated by the prevailing conditions found in mangrove sediments. In terms of carbon cycling, the sequences indicated the prevalence of genes involved in the metabolism of methane, formaldehyde, and carbon dioxide. With respect to the nitrogen cycle, evidence for sequences associated with dissimilatory reduction of nitrate, nitrogen immobilization, and denitrification was detected. Sequences related to the production of adenylsulfate, sulfite, and H2S were relevant to the sulphur cycle. These data indicate that the microbial core involved in methane, nitrogen, and sulphur metabolism consists mainly of Burkholderiaceae, Planctomycetaceae, Rhodobacteraceae, and Desulfobacteraceae. Comparison of our data to datasets from soil and sea samples resulted in the allotment of the mangrove sediments between those samples. The results of this study add valuable data about the composition of microbial communities in mangroves and also shed light on possible transformations promoted by microbial organisms in mangrove sediments.
The paucity of sequence data from pelagic deep-ocean microbial assemblages has severely restricted molecular exploration of the largest biome on Earth. In this study, an analysis is presented of a large-scale 454-pyrosequencing metagenomic dataset from a hadopelagic environment from 6,000 m depth within the Puerto Rico Trench (PRT). A total of 145 Mbp of assembled sequence data was generated and compared to two pelagic deep ocean metagenomes and two representative surface seawater datasets from the Sargasso Sea. In a number of instances, all three deep metagenomes displayed similar trends, but were most magnified in the PRT, including enrichment in functions for two-component signal transduction mechanisms and transcriptional regulation. Overrepresented transporters in the PRT metagenome included outer membrane porins, diverse cation transporters, and di- and tri-carboxylate transporters that matched well with the prevailing catabolic processes such as butanoate, glyoxylate and dicarboxylate metabolism. A surprisingly high abundance of sulfatases for the degradation of sulfated polysaccharides were also present in the PRT. The most dramatic adaptational feature of the PRT microbes appears to be heavy metal resistance, as reflected in the large numbers of transporters present for their removal. As a complement to the metagenome approach, single-cell genomic techniques were utilized to generate partial whole-genome sequence data from four uncultivated cells from members of the dominant phyla within the PRT, Alphaproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria, Bacteroidetes and Planctomycetes. The single-cell sequence data provided genomic context for many of the highly abundant functional attributes identified from the PRT metagenome, as well as recruiting heavily the PRT metagenomic sequence data compared to 172 available reference marine genomes. Through these multifaceted sequence approaches, new insights have been provided into the unique functional attributes present in microbes residing in a deeper layer of the ocean far removed from the more productive sun-drenched zones above.
Subsurface fluids from deep-sea hydrocarbon seeps undergo methane- and sulfur-cycling microbial transformations near the sediment surface. Hydrocarbon seep habitats are naturally patchy, with a mosaic of active seep sediments and non-seep sediments. Microbial community shifts and changing activity patterns on small spatial scales from seep to non-seep sediment remain to be examined in a comprehensive habitat study.
We conducted a transect of biogeochemical measurements and gene expression related to methane- and sulfur-cycling at different sediment depths across a broad Beggiatoa spp. mat at Mississippi Canyon 118 (MC118) in the Gulf of Mexico. High process rates within the mat (∼400 cm and ∼10 cm from the mat's edge) contrasted with sharply diminished activity at ∼50 cm outside the mat, as shown by sulfate and methane concentration profiles, radiotracer rates of sulfate reduction and methane oxidation, and stable carbon isotopes. Likewise, 16S ribosomal rRNA, dsrAB (dissimilatory sulfite reductase) and mcrA (methyl coenzyme M reductase) mRNA transcripts of sulfate-reducing bacteria (Desulfobacteraceae and Desulfobulbaceae) and methane-cycling archaea (ANME-1 and ANME-2) were prevalent at the sediment surface under the mat and at its edge. Outside the mat at the surface, 16S rRNA sequences indicated mostly aerobes commonly found in seawater. The seep-related communities persisted at 12–20 cm depth inside and outside the mat. 16S rRNA transcripts and V6-tags reveal that bacterial and archaeal diversity underneath the mat are similar to each other, in contrast to oxic or microoxic habitats that have higher bacterial diversity.
The visual patchiness of microbial mats reflects sharp discontinuities in microbial community structure and activity over sub-meter spatial scales; these discontinuities have to be taken into account in geochemical and microbiological inventories of seep environments. In contrast, 12–20 cm deep in the sediments microbial communities performing methane-cycling and sulfate reduction persist at lower metabolic rates regardless of mat cover, and may increase activity rapidly when subsurface flow changes.
Although emerging evidence indicates that deep-sea water contains an untapped reservoir of high metabolic and genetic diversity, this realm has not been studied well compared with surface sea water. The study provided the first integrated meta-genomic and -transcriptomic analysis of the microbial communities in deep-sea water of North Pacific Ocean. DNA/RNA amplifications and simultaneous metagenomic and metatranscriptomic analyses were employed to discover information concerning deep-sea microbial communities from four different deep-sea sites ranging from the mesopelagic to pelagic ocean. Within the prokaryotic community, bacteria is absolutely dominant (~90%) over archaea in both metagenomic and metatranscriptomic data pools. The emergence of archaeal phyla Crenarchaeota, Euryarchaeota, Thaumarchaeota, bacterial phyla Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, sub-phyla Betaproteobacteria, Deltaproteobacteria, and Gammaproteobacteria, and the decrease of bacterial phyla Bacteroidetes and Alphaproteobacteria are the main composition changes of prokaryotic communities in the deep-sea water, when compared with the reference Global Ocean Sampling Expedition (GOS) surface water. Photosynthetic Cyanobacteria exist in all four metagenomic libraries and two metatranscriptomic libraries. In Eukaryota community, decreased abundance of fungi and algae in deep sea was observed. RNA/DNA ratio was employed as an index to show metabolic activity strength of microbes in deep sea. Functional analysis indicated that deep-sea microbes are leading a defensive lifestyle.
deep-sea microbial community; metagenomics; metatranscriptomics; strength of metabolic activity
Rhodoliths are nodules of non-geniculate coralline algae that occur in shallow waters (<150 m depth) subjected to episodic disturbance. Rhodolith beds stand with kelp beds, seagrass meadows, and coralline algal reefs as one of the world's four largest macrophyte-dominated benthic communities. Geographic distribution of rhodolith beds is discontinuous, with large concentrations off Japan, Australia and the Gulf of California, as well as in the Mediterranean, North Atlantic, eastern Caribbean and Brazil. Although there are major gaps in terms of seabed habitat mapping, the largest rhodolith beds are purported to occur off Brazil, where these communities are recorded across a wide latitudinal range (2°N - 27°S). To quantify their extent, we carried out an inter-reefal seabed habitat survey on the Abrolhos Shelf (16°50′ - 19°45′S) off eastern Brazil, and confirmed the most expansive and contiguous rhodolith bed in the world, covering about 20,900 km2. Distribution, extent, composition and structure of this bed were assessed with side scan sonar, remotely operated vehicles, and SCUBA. The mean rate of CaCO3 production was estimated from in situ growth assays at 1.07 kg m−2 yr−1, with a total production rate of 0.025 Gt yr−1, comparable to those of the world's largest biogenic CaCO3 deposits. These gigantic rhodolith beds, of areal extent equivalent to the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, are a critical, yet poorly understood component of the tropical South Atlantic Ocean. Based on the relatively high vulnerability of coralline algae to ocean acidification, these beds are likely to experience a profound restructuring in the coming decades.
Alteromonas species are globally distributed copiotrophic bacteria in marine habitats. Among these, sea-tidal flats are distinctive: undergoing seasonal temperature and oxygen-tension changes, plus periodic exposure to petroleum hydrocarbons. Strain SN2 of the genus Alteromonas was isolated from hydrocarbon-contaminated sea-tidal flat sediment and has been shown to metabolize aromatic hydrocarbons there. Strain SN2's genomic features were analyzed bioinformatically and compared to those of Alteromonas macleodii ecotypes: AltDE and ATCC 27126. Strain SN2's genome differs from that of the other two strains in: size, average nucleotide identity value, tRNA genes, noncoding RNAs, dioxygenase gene content, signal transduction genes, and the degree to which genes collected during the Global Ocean Sampling project are represented. Patterns in genetic characteristics (e.g., GC content, GC skew, Karlin signature, CRISPR gene homology) indicate that strain SN2's genome architecture has been altered via horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Experiments proved that strain SN2 was far more cold tolerant, especially at 5°C, than the other two strains. Consistent with the HGT hypothesis, a total of 15 genomic islands in strain SN2 likely confer ecological fitness traits (especially membrane transport, aromatic hydrocarbon metabolism, and fatty acid biosynthesis) specific to the adaptation of strain SN2 to its seasonally cold sea-tidal flat habitat.
The South China Sea (SCS), the largest marginal sea in the Western Pacific Ocean, is a huge oligotrophic water body with very limited influx of nitrogenous nutrients. This suggests that sediment microbial N2 fixation plays an important role in the production of bioavailable nitrogen. To test the molecular underpinning of this hypothesis, the diversity, abundance, biogeographical distribution, and community structure of the sediment diazotrophic microbiota were investigated at 12 sampling sites, including estuarine, coastal, offshore, deep-sea, and methane hydrate reservoirs or their prospective areas by targeting nifH and some other functional biomarker genes. Diverse and novel nifH sequences were obtained, significantly extending the evolutionary complexity of extant nifH genes. Statistical analyses indicate that sediment in situ temperature is the most significant environmental factor influencing the abundance, community structure, and spatial distribution of the sediment nifH-harboring microbial assemblages in the northern SCS (nSCS). The significantly positive correlation of the sediment pore water NH4+ concentration with the nifH gene abundance suggests that the nSCS sediment nifH-harboring microbiota is active in N2 fixation and NH4+ production. Several other environmental factors, including sediment pore water PO43− concentration, sediment organic carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus levels, etc., are also important in influencing the community structure, spatial distribution, or abundance of the nifH-harboring microbial assemblages. We also confirmed that the nifH genes encoded by archaeal diazotrophs in the ANME-2c subgroup occur exclusively in the deep-sea methane seep areas, providing for the possibility to develop ANME-2c nifH genes as a diagnostic tool for deep-sea methane hydrate reservoir discovery.
The deep marine subsurface is a vast habitat for microbial life where cells may live on geologic timescales. Because DNA in sediments may be preserved on long timescales, ribosomal RNA (rRNA) is suggested to be a proxy for the active fraction of a microbial community in the subsurface. During an investigation of eukaryotic 18S rRNA by amplicon pyrosequencing, unique profiles of Fungi were found across a range of marine subsurface provinces including ridge flanks, continental margins, and abyssal plains. Subseafloor fungal populations exhibit statistically significant correlations with total organic carbon (TOC), nitrate, sulfide, and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). These correlations are supported by terminal restriction length polymorphism (TRFLP) analyses of fungal rRNA. Geochemical correlations with fungal pyrosequencing and TRFLP data from this geographically broad sample set suggests environmental selection of active Fungi in the marine subsurface. Within the same dataset, ancient rRNA signatures were recovered from plants and diatoms in marine sediments ranging from 0.03 to 2.7 million years old, suggesting that rRNA from some eukaryotic taxa may be much more stable than previously considered in the marine subsurface.
The enrichment of hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria and the persistence of petroleum hydrocarbons on an estuarine beach after a spill of residual fuel oil on 11 April 1973 in Upper Narragansett Bay, R. I. was investigated. A rapid enrichment occurred during days 4 to 16 after the oil spill and a significant population of hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria was maintained in the beach sand for at least a year. The concentration of petroleum hydrocarbons in the mid tide area declined rapidly during the bacterial enrichment period, remained fairly constant throughout the summer, and then declined to a low concentration after 1 year. An increased concentration of branched and cyclic aliphatic hydrocarbons in the low-tide sediment 128 days after the spill suggested a migration of hydrocarbons during the summer. Hydrocarbon biodegradation was apparent during the winter months at a rate of less than 1 μg of hydrocarbon per g of dry sediment per day.