Application of RNA Stable Isotope Probing (SIP) to Link Community Activity with Microorganisms Responsible for Autotrophy in the Subseafloor at Axial Seamount

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 8:30 AM
Julie A Huber and Caroline S Fortunato, Josephine Bay Paul Center, Woods Hole, MA, United States
The global ocean comprises the Earth’s largest biome, with microorganisms playing a dominant biogeochemical role. However, the potential for production of new microbial biomass within the subseafloor is rarely considered in traditional oceanographic paradigms of carbon cycling or microbial food webs. In this study, we used RNA Stable Isotope Probing (RNA SIP) to determine the microbial community composition and genetic repertoire of active subseafloor autotrophs in warm venting fluids from Axial Seamount. RNA is a responsive biomarker because it is a reflection of cellular activity independent of replication, and RNA SIP thus provides access to both the function of a microbial community and the phylogeny of the organisms accountable for key functions. Diffuse fluids were incubated shipboard at 30°C, 55°C, and 80°C with 13DIC and H2. Metatranscriptomic sequencing of both the enriched and non-enriched RNA was carried out from 13C and 12C controls. In addition, filtered fluid samples were preserved in situ for comparative meta -transcriptomic and -genomic analyses. Diverse lineages of bacteria and archaea and accompanying metabolisms were detected in situ, but RNA SIP results show dominance of three different groups of autotrophs active under each experimental condition. At 30°C, members of the Sulfurimonas genus dominated, with genes for hydrogen oxidation, nitrate reduction, and carbon fixation via the rTCA cycle highly expressed. At 55°C, both Caminibacter and Nautilia transcripts were detected for rTCA cycle, hydrogen oxidation, and nitrate reduction. At 80°C, transcripts for hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis mediated by members of Methanocaldococcus were detected. These results suggest the subseafloor hosts various anaerobic chemolithoautotrophs that span a wide temperature range, with hydrogen playing a key role in microbial metabolism. Complementary experiments are currently being carried out on the seafloor with a novel in situ incubator unit to provide further insights to primary productivity in the subseafloor.