Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Metatranscriptomic evidence of pervasive and diverse chemolithoautotrophy relevant to C, S, N and Fe cycling in a shallow alluvial aquifer

  • Author(s): Jewell, TNM
  • Karaoz, U
  • Brodie, EL
  • Williams, KH
  • Beller, HR
  • et al.

© 2016 International Society for Microbial Ecology All rights reserved. Groundwater ecosystems are conventionally thought to be fueled by surface-derived allochthonous organic matter and dominated by heterotrophic microbes living under often-oligotrophic conditions. However, in a 2-month study of nitrate amendment to a perennially suboxic aquifer in Rifle (CO), strain-resolved metatranscriptomic analysis revealed pervasive and diverse chemolithoautotrophic bacterial activity relevant to C, S, N and Fe cycling. Before nitrate injection, anaerobic ammonia-oxidizing (anammox) bacteria accounted for 16% of overall microbial community gene expression, whereas during the nitrate injection, two other groups of chemolithoautotrophic bacteria collectively accounted for 80% of the metatranscriptome: (1) members of the Fe(II)-oxidizing Gallionellaceae family and (2) strains of the S-oxidizing species, Sulfurimonas denitrificans. Notably, the proportion of the metatranscriptome accounted for by these three groups was considerably greater than the proportion of the metagenome coverage that they represented. Transcriptional analysis revealed some unexpected metabolic couplings, in particular, putative nitrate-dependent Fe(II) and S oxidation among nominally microaerophilic Gallionellaceae strains, including expression of periplasmic (NapAB) and membrane-bound (NarGHI) nitrate reductases. The three most active groups of chemolithoautotrophic bacteria in this study had overlapping metabolisms that allowed them to occupy different yet related metabolic niches throughout the study. Overall, these results highlight the important role that chemolithoautotrophy can have in aquifer biogeochemical cycling, a finding that has broad implications for understanding terrestrial carbon cycling and is supported by recent studies of geochemically diverse aquifers.

Main Content
Current View