Biological Sources of Branched Glycerol Dialkyl Glycerol Tetraethers (brGDGTs) in Terrestrial Hot Springs: A Possible Link Between Nitrogen-cycling Bacteria and brGDGT Production

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 5:15 PM
Jin-Xiang Wang1,2, Wei Xie2, Eric S Boyd3, Brian P Hedlund4 and Chuanlun Zhang2, (1)University of Georgia, Athens, GA, United States, (2)Tongji University, Shanghai, China, (3)Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, United States, (4)University of Nevada Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV, United States
Branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs) are common in peat, soil, lakes, rivers and hot springs. To seek the potential biological sources of brGDGTs in geothermal environments, we investigated 65 hot springs in the Yellowstone National Park (USA) and Tengchong (China). Together with previously published data from hot springs in the Great Basin (USA) and Tibet (China), we found that the abundance of brGDGTs tended to peak in springs with pH > 8. This contrasts with previous observations indicating an abundance of brGDGTs in acidic soils and peat bogs, suggesting a different biological source and function for lipids in these environments. In support of this hypothesis, a comparison of Cyclization ratios of Branched Tetraethers (CBT) between hot springs and surrounding soils indicated that more brGDGTs with cyclopentane moieties were produced in alkaline hot springs than in nearby low-temperature soils. Since Acidobacteria (the likely source of brGDGTs in peat bog environments) tend to have low CBT ratios, these data suggest a different source for brGDGTs in hot spring environments. RDA and regression analysis integrating brGDGT compounds and nitrogen species indicate that Bacteria involved in the nitrogen biogeochemical cycle (ammonia oxidation and nitrite reduction) may be related to the production of brGDGTs in terrestrial hot springs. However, direct evidence showing the link between nitrogen-cycling bacteria and brGDGT production has yet to be demonstrated under laboratory conditions. Nevertheless, our study expands the possibility of brGDGT sources into bacterial communities in terrestrial geothermal systems where Acidobacteria are absent or only a minor component.