Heterocystous Cyanobacteria in Microbialites Play an Important Role in N2 Fixation and Carbonate Mineral Precipitation

Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Rocio J Alcantara-Hernandez, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Instituto de GeologĂ­a, Mexico City, Mexico
Lake Alchichica is a maars type crater-lake located in Central Mexico (pH > 8.9, EC ~13.39 mS cm-1). This limnological system harbors two types of microbialites that can be found around the entire perimeter of the lake (Fig. 1). These structures are representative examples of complex and diverse microbiological assemblages, where microbial activity promotes lithification by trapping, binding and/or precipitating detrital or chemical sediments. Previous studies determined that the microbialites of Lake Alchichica fix N2 to thrive under the N-limiting conditions of the lake, and that these nitrogenase activity peaks are related to heterocystous cyanobacteria that couple photosynthesis to N2 fixation during daylight periods. Heterocystous cyanobacteria (Nostocales) together with Oscillatoriales (non-heterocystous filamentous cyanobacteria) and other cyanobacterial groups have been described as the most abundant cyanobacteria in Alchichica microbialites, and in lithifying mats. Our results suggest that heterocystous cyanobacteria play an important role not only by fixing N2 for biomass construction, but also because their heterocysts host in their external cell membranes main sites for carbonate mineral precipitation including calcium carbonates and siderite. Previous research has shown that the heterocyst is the specialized site for cellular respiration associated to the pH decrease of vegetative/photosynthetic cells, contributing thus to the precipitation of carbonates and the accretion of the organosedimentary structure