Keller AH, Schleinitz KM, Starke R, Bertilsson S, Vogt C, Kleinsteuber S
Front Microbiol 6 (-) 1396 [2015-12-10; online 2015-12-10]
The population genome of an uncultured bacterium assigned to the Campylobacterales (Epsilonproteobacteria) was reconstructed from a metagenome dataset obtained by whole-genome shotgun pyrosequencing. Genomic DNA was extracted from a sulfate-reducing, m-xylene-mineralizing enrichment culture isolated from groundwater of a benzene-contaminated sulfidic aquifer. The identical epsilonproteobacterial phylotype has previously been detected in toluene- or benzene-mineralizing, sulfate-reducing consortia enriched from the same site. Previous stable isotope probing (SIP) experiments with (13)C6-labeled benzene suggested that this phylotype assimilates benzene-derived carbon in a syntrophic benzene-mineralizing consortium that uses sulfate as terminal electron acceptor. However, the type of energy metabolism and the ecophysiological function of this epsilonproteobacterium within aromatic hydrocarbon-degrading consortia and in the sulfidic aquifer are poorly understood. Annotation of the epsilonproteobacterial population genome suggests that the bacterium plays a key role in sulfur cycling as indicated by the presence of an sqr gene encoding a sulfide quinone oxidoreductase and psr genes encoding a polysulfide reductase. It may gain energy by using sulfide or hydrogen/formate as electron donors. Polysulfide, fumarate, as well as oxygen are potential electron acceptors. Auto- or mixotrophic carbon metabolism seems plausible since a complete reductive citric acid cycle was detected. Thus the bacterium can thrive in pristine groundwater as well as in hydrocarbon-contaminated aquifers. In hydrocarbon-contaminated sulfidic habitats, the epsilonproteobacterium may generate energy by coupling the oxidation of hydrogen or formate and highly abundant sulfide with the reduction of fumarate and/or polysulfide, accompanied by efficient assimilation of acetate produced during fermentation or incomplete oxidation of hydrocarbons. The highly efficient assimilation of acetate was recently demonstrated by a pulsed (13)C2-acetate protein SIP experiment. The capability of nitrogen fixation as indicated by the presence of nif genes may provide a selective advantage in nitrogen-depleted habitats. Based on this metabolic reconstruction, we propose acetate capture and sulfur cycling as key functions of Epsilonproteobacteria within the intermediary ecosystem metabolism of hydrocarbon-rich sulfidic sediments.