Massive microbial mats covering up to 4-meter-high carbonate buildups prosper at methane seeps in anoxic waters of the northwestern Black Sea shelf. Strong 13C depletions indicate an incorporation of methane carbon into carbonates, bulk biomass, and specific lipids. The mats mainly consist of densely aggregated archaea (phylogenetic ANME-1 cluster) and sulfate-reducing bacteria (Desulfosarcina/Desulfococcus group). If incubated in vitro, these mats perform anaerobic oxidation of methane coupled to sulfate reduction. Obviously, anaerobic microbial consortia can generate both carbonate precipitation and substantial biomass accumulation, which has implications for our understanding of carbon cycling during earlier periods of Earth's history.
The anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) is one of the major sinks of this substantial greenhouse gas in marine environments. Recent investigations have shown that diverse communities of anaerobic archaea and sulfate-reducing bacteria are involved in AOM. Most of the relevant archaea are assigned to two distinct phylogenetic clusters, ANME-1 and ANME-2. A suite of specific 13 C-depleted lipids demonstrating the presence of consortia mediating AOM in fossil and recent environments has been established. Here we report on substantial differences in the lipid composition of microbial consortia sampled from distinct compartments of AOM-driven carbonate reefs growing in the northwestern Black Sea. Communities in which the dominant archaea are from the ANME-1 cluster yield internally cyclized tetraether lipids typical of thermophiles. Those in which ANME-2 archaea are dominant yield sn-2-hydroxyarchaeol accompanied by crocetane and crocetenes. The bacterial lipids from these communities are also distinct even though the sulfate-reducing bacteria all belong to the Desulfosarcina͞Desulfococcus group. Nonisoprenoidal glycerol diethers are predominantly associated with ANME-1-dominated communities. Communities with ANME-2 yield mainly conventional, ester-linked diglycerides. ANME-1 archaea and associated sulfate-reducing bacteria seem to be enabled to use low concentrations of methane and to grow within a broad range of temperatures. Our results offer a tool for the study of recent and especially of fossil methane environments.
The discovery of deep-sea hydrothermal vents in 1977 revolutionized our understanding of the energy sources that fuel primary productivity on Earth. Hydrothermal vent ecosystems are dominated by animals that live in symbiosis with chemosynthetic bacteria. So far, only two energy sources have been shown to power chemosynthetic symbioses: reduced sulphur compounds and methane. Using metagenome sequencing, single-gene fluorescence in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry, shipboard incubations and in situ mass spectrometry, we show here that the symbionts of the hydrothermal vent mussel Bathymodiolus from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge use hydrogen to power primary production. In addition, we show that the symbionts of Bathymodiolus mussels from Pacific vents have hupL, the key gene for hydrogen oxidation. Furthermore, the symbionts of other vent animals such as the tubeworm Riftia pachyptila and the shrimp Rimicaris exoculata also have hupL. We propose that the ability to use hydrogen as an energy source is widespread in hydrothermal vent symbioses, particularly at sites where hydrogen is abundant.
Abstract-We propose that organic compounds found in a Miocene limestone from Marmorito (Northem Italy) are source markers for organic matter present in aneient methane vent systems (cold seeps). The limestone contains high concentrations of the tail-to-taillinked, acyclic C 20 isoprenoid 2,6,11,15-tetramethylhexadecane (crocetane), a C 25 homolog 2,6,10,15,19-pentamethylicosane (PME), and a distinctive glycerol ether lipid containing 3,7,1l,15-tetramethylhexadecyl (phytanyl-) moieties. The chemical structures of these biomarkers indicate a common origin from archaea. Their extreme1y l3C-depleted isotope compositions (8 13 C "'" -108 to -115.6%0 PDB) suggest that the respective archaea have directly or indirectly introduced isotopically depleted, methane-derived carbon into their biomass. We postulate that a second major cluster of biomarkers showing heavier isotope values (8 l3 C "'" -88%0) is derived from sulfate-redueing bacteria (SRB). The observed biomarkers sustain the idea that methanogenic bacteria, in a syntrophic community with SRB, are responsible for the anaerobic oxidation of methane in marine sediments. Marmorito may thus represent a conceivable aneient scenario for methane consumption performed by a defined, two-membered bacterial consortium: (1) archaea that perform reversed methanogenesis by oxidizing methane and produeing CO 2 and H 2 ; and (2) SRB that consume the resulting H 2 . Furthermore, the respective organic molecules are, unlike other compounds, tightly bound to the crystalline carbonate phase. The Marmorito carbonates can thus be regarded as "cold seep microbialites" rather than mere "authigenic" carbonates.
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