Genomic variation of subseafloor archaeal and bacterial populations from venting fluids at the Mid-Cayman Rise
Monday, 14 December 2015: 17:30
2008 (Moscone West)
Deep-sea hydrothermal vent systems serve as windows to a dynamic, gradient-dominated deep biosphere that is home to a wide diversity of archaea, bacteria, and viruses. Until recently the majority of these microbial lineages were uncultivated, resulting in a poor understanding of how the physical and geochemical context shapes microbial evolution in the deep subsurface. By comparing metagenomes, metatranscriptomes and single-cell genomes between geologically distinct vent fields, we can better understand the relationship between the environment and the evolution of subsurface microbial communities. An ideal setting in which to use this approach is the Mid-Cayman Rise, located on the world’s deepest and slowest-spreading mid-ocean ridge, which hosts both the mafic-influenced Piccard and ultramafic-influenced Von Damm vent fields. Previous work has shown that Von Damm has higher taxonomic and metabolic diversity than Piccard, consistent with geochemical model expectations, and the fluids from all vents are enriched in hydrogen (Reveillaud et al., submitted). Mapping of both metagenomes and metatranscriptomes to a combined assembly showed very little overlap among the Von Damm samples, indicating substantial variability that is consistent with the diversity of potential metabolites in this ultramafic vent field. In contrast, the most consistently abundant and active lineage across the Piccard samples was Sulfurovum, a sulfur-oxidizing chemolithotroph that uses nitrate or oxygen as an electron acceptor. Moreover, analysis of point mutations within individual lineages suggested that Sulfurovumat Piccard is under strong selection, whereas microbial genomes at Von Damm were more variable. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that the subsurface environment at Piccard supports the emergence of a dominant lineage that is under strong selection pressure, whereas the more geochemically diverse microbial habitat at Von Damm creates a wider variety of stable ecological niches, facilitating higher diversity both within and between microbial lineages. By examining how the environment is imprinted into microbial genomes, we hope to gain insight into how subsurface microbial communities co-evolve with their environment in both the present and the deep past.