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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Potential for microbial H2 and metal transformations associated with novel bacteria and archaea in deep terrestrial subsurface sediments.

  • Author(s): Hernsdorf, Alex W
  • Amano, Yuki
  • Miyakawa, Kazuya
  • Ise, Kotaro
  • Suzuki, Yohey
  • Anantharaman, Karthik
  • Probst, Alexander
  • Burstein, David
  • Thomas, Brian C
  • Banfield, Jillian F
  • et al.

Geological sequestration in deep underground repositories is the prevailing proposed route for radioactive waste disposal. After the disposal of radioactive waste in the subsurface, H2 may be produced by corrosion of steel and, ultimately, radionuclides will be exposed to the surrounding environment. To evaluate the potential for microbial activities to impact disposal systems, we explored the microbial community structure and metabolic functions of a sediment-hosted ecosystem at the Horonobe Underground Research Laboratory, Hokkaido, Japan. Overall, we found that the ecosystem hosted organisms from diverse lineages, including many from the phyla that lack isolated representatives. The majority of organisms can metabolize H2, often via oxidative [NiFe] hydrogenases or electron-bifurcating [FeFe] hydrogenases that enable ferredoxin-based pathways, including the ion motive Rnf complex. Many organisms implicated in H2 metabolism are also predicted to catalyze carbon, nitrogen, iron and sulfur transformations. Notably, iron-based metabolism is predicted in a novel lineage of Actinobacteria and in a putative methane-oxidizing ANME-2d archaeon. We infer an ecological model that links microorganisms to sediment-derived resources and predict potential impacts of microbial activity on H2 consumption and retardation of radionuclide migration.

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