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Identification of Free-Living and Particle-Associated Microbial Communities Present in Hadal Regions of the Mariana Trench


Relatively few studies have described the microbial populations present in ultra-deep hadal environments, largely as a result of difficulties associated with sampling. Here we report Illumina-tag V6 16S rRNA sequence-based analyses of the free-living and particle-associated microbial communities recovered from locations within two of the deepest hadal sites on Earth, the Challenger Deep (10,918 meters below surface-mbs) and the Sirena Deep (10,667 mbs) within the Mariana Trench, as well as one control site (Ulithi Atoll, 761 mbs). Seawater samples were collected using an autonomous lander positioned ∼1 m above the seafloor. The bacterial populations within the Mariana Trench bottom water samples were dissimilar to other deep-sea microbial communities, though with overlap with those of diffuse flow hydrothermal vents and deep-subsurface locations. Distinct particle-associated and free-living bacterial communities were found to exist. The hadal bacterial populations were also markedly different from one another, indicating the likelihood of different chemical conditions at the two sites. In contrast to the bacteria, the hadal archaeal communities were more similar to other less deep datasets and to each other due to an abundance of cosmopolitan deep-sea taxa. The hadal communities were enriched in 34 bacterial and 4 archaeal operational taxonomic units (OTUs) including members of the Gammaproteobacteria, Epsilonproteobacteria, Marinimicrobia, Cyanobacteria, Deltaproteobacteria, Gemmatimonadetes, Atribacteria, Spirochaetes, and Euryarchaeota. Sequences matching cultivated piezophiles were notably enriched in the Challenger Deep, especially within the particle-associated fraction, and were found in higher abundances than in other hadal studies, where they were either far less prevalent or missing. Our results indicate the importance of heterotrophy, sulfur-cycling, and methane and hydrogen utilization within the bottom waters of the deeper regions of the Mariana Trench, and highlight novel community features of these extreme habitats.

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