Linking Microbial Dynamics and Physicochemical Processes in High-temperature Acidic Fe(III)- Mineralizing Systems

Monday, 15 December 2014: 2:40 PM
William Inskeep, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, United States; Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, United States
Microbial activity is responsible for the mineralization of Fe(III)-oxides in high-temperature chemotrophic communities that flourish within oxygenated zones of low pH (2.5 - 4) geothermal outflow channels (Yellowstone National Park, WY). High-temperature Fe(II)-oxidizing communities contain several lineages of Archaea, and are excellent model systems for studying microbial interactions and spatiotemporal dynamics across geochemical gradients. We hypothesize that acidic Fe(III)-oxide mats form as a result of constant interaction among primary colonizers including Hydrogenobaculum spp. (Aquificales) and Metallosphaera spp. (Sulfolobales), and subsequent colonization by archaeal heterotrophs, which vary in abundance as a function of oxygen, pH and temperature. We are integrating a complementary suite of geochemical, stable isotope, genomic, proteomic and modeling analyses to study the role of microorganisms in Fe(III)-oxide mat development, and to elucidate the primary microbial interactions that are coupled with key abiotic events. Curated de novo assemblies of major phylotypes are being used to analyze additional –omics datasets from these microbial mats. Hydrogenobaculum spp. (Aquificales) are the dominant bacterial population(s) present, and predominate during early mat development (< 30 d). Other Sulfolobales populations known to oxidize Fe(II) and fix carbon dioxide (e.g., Metallosphaera spp.) represent a secondary stage of mat development (e.g., 14 - 30 d). Hydrogenobaculum filaments appear to promote the nucleation and subsequent mineralization of Fe(III)-oxides, which likely affect the growth and turnover rates of these organisms. Other heterotrophs colonize Fe(III)-oxide mats during succession (> 30 d), including novel lineages of Archaea and representatives within the Crenarchaeota, Euryarchaeota, Thaumarchaeota and Nanoarchaeota. In situ oxygen consumption rates show that steep gradients occur within the top 1 mm of mat surface, and which correlate with changes in the abundance of different organisms that occupy these microenvironments. The relative consumption of oxygen by different members of Fe(II)-oxidizing mat communities has implications for autotroph-heterotroph associations and the dynamic micromorphology of active Fe(III)-oxide terraces.