National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2019

Active subseafloor microbial communities from Mariana Backarc venting fluids share metabolic strategies across different thermal niches and taxa

Trembath-Reichert, E., D.A. Butterfield, and J.A. Huber

ISME J., 13, 2264–2279, doi: 10.1038/s41396-019-0431-y, View online (open access) (2019)

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.

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