Large fractions of CO2-fixing microorganisms in pristine limestone aquifers appear to be involved in the oxidation of reduced sulfur and nitrogen compounds
The traditional view of the dependency of subsurface environments on surface-derived allochthonous carbon inputs is challenged by increasing evidence for the role of lithoautotrophy in aquifer carbon flow. We linked information on autotrophy (Calvin-Benson-Bassham cycle) with that from total microbial community analysis in groundwater at two superimposed—upper and lower—limestone groundwater reservoirs (aquifers). Quantitative PCR revealed that up to 17% of the microbial population had the genetic potential to fix CO2 via the Calvin cycle, with abundances of cbbM and cbbL genes, encoding RubisCO (ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase) forms I and II, ranging from 1.14 × 103 to 6 × 106 genes liter−1 over a 2-year period. The structure of the active microbial communities based on 16S rRNA transcripts differed between the two aquifers, with a larger fraction of heterotrophic, facultative anaerobic, soil-related groups in the oxygen-deficient upper aquifer. Most identified CO2-assimilating phylogenetic groups appeared to be involved in the oxidation of sulfur or nitrogen compounds and harbored both RubisCO forms I and II, allowing efficient CO2 fixation in environments with strong oxygen and CO2 fluctuations. The genera Sulfuricellaand Nitrosomonas were represented by read fractions of up to 78 and 33%, respectively, within the cbbM and cbbL transcript pool and accounted for 5.6 and 3.8% of 16S rRNA sequence reads, respectively, in the lower aquifer. Our results indicate that a large fraction of bacteria in pristine limestone aquifers has the genetic potential for autotrophic CO2 fixation, with energy most likely provided by the oxidation of reduced sulfur and nitrogen compounds.
|Large fractions of CO2-fixing microorganisms in pristine limestone aquifers appear to be involved in the oxidation of reduced sulfur and nitrogen compounds
|Martina Herrmann, Anna Rusznyák, Denise M. Akob, Isabel Schulze, Sebastian Opitz, Kai Uwe Totsche, Kirsten Küsel
|Applied and Environmental Microbiology
|USGS Publications Warehouse
|National Research Program - Eastern Branch