Lopez-Fernandez M, Åström M, Bertilsson S, Dopson M
Front Microbiol 9 (-) 2880 [2018-11-27; online 2018-11-27]
The continental deep biosphere is suggested to contain a substantial fraction of the earth's total biomass and microorganisms inhabiting this environment likely have a substantial impact on biogeochemical cycles. However, the deep microbial community is still largely unknown and can be influenced by parameters such as temperature, pressure, water residence times, and chemistry of the waters. In this study, 21 boreholes representing a range of deep continental groundwaters from the Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory were subjected to high-throughput 16S rRNA gene sequencing to characterize how the different water types influence the microbial communities. Geochemical parameters showed the stability of the waters and allowed their classification into three groups. These were (i) waters influenced by infiltration from the Baltic Sea with a "modern marine (MM)" signature, (ii) a "thoroughly mixed (TM)" water containing groundwaters of several origins, and (iii) deep "old saline (OS)" waters. Decreasing microbial cell numbers positively correlated with depth. In addition, there was a stronger positive correlation between increased cell numbers and dissolved organic carbon for the MM compared to the OS waters. This supported that the MM waters depend on organic carbon infiltration from the Baltic Sea while the ancient saline waters were fed by "geogases" such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen. The 16S rRNA gene relative abundance of the studied groundwaters revealed different microbial community compositions. Interestingly, the TM water showed the highest dissimilarity compared to the other two water types, potentially due to the several contrasting water types contributing to this groundwater. The main identified microbial phyla in the groundwaters were Gammaproteobacteria, unclassified sequences, Campylobacterota (formerly Epsilonproteobacteria), Patescibacteria, Deltaproteobacteria, and Alphaproteobacteria. Many of these taxa are suggested to mediate ferric iron and nitrate reduction, especially in the MM waters. This indicated that nitrate reduction may be a neglected but important process in the deep continental biosphere. In addition to the high number of unclassified sequences, almost 50% of the identified phyla were archaeal or bacterial candidate phyla. The percentage of unknown and candidate phyla increased with depth, pointing to the importance and necessity of further studies to characterize deep biosphere microbial populations.
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