Heterotrophic archaea contribute to carbon cycling in low-pH, suboxic biofilm communities

Nicholas B. Justice, Chongle Pan, Ryan Mueller, Susan E. Spaulding, Vega Shah, Christine L. Sun, Alexis P. Yelton, Christopher S. Miller, Brian C. Thomas, Manesh Shah, Nathan VerBerkmoes, Robert Hettich, Jillian F. Banfield

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49 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Archaea are widely distributed and yet are most often not the most abundant members of microbial communities. Here, we document a transition from Bacteria- to Archaea-dominated communities in microbial biofilms sampled from the Richmond Mine acid mine drainage (AMD) system (~pH 1.0,~38°C) and in laboratory-cultivated biofilms. This transition occurs when chemoautotrophic microbial communities that develop at the air-solution interface sink to the sediment-solution interface and degrade under microaerobic and anaerobic conditions. The archaea identified in these sunken biofilms are from the class Thermoplasmata, and in some cases, the highly divergent ARMAN nanoarchaeal lineage. In several of the sunken biofilms, nanoarchaea comprise 10 to 25% of the community, based on fluorescent in situ hybridization and metagenomic analyses. Comparative community proteomic analyses show a persistence of bacterial proteins in sunken biofilms, but there is clear evidence for amino acid modifications due to acid hydrolysis. Given the low representation of bacterial cells in sunken biofilms based on microscopy, we infer that hydrolysis reflects proteins derived from lysed cells. For archaea, we detected ~2,400 distinct proteins, including a subset involved in proteolysis and peptide uptake. Laboratory cultivation experiments using complex carbon substrates demonstrated anaerobic enrichment of Ferroplasma and Aplasma coupled to the reduction of ferric iron. These findings indicate dominance of acidophilic archaea in degrading biofilms and suggest that they play roles in anaerobic nutrient cycling at low pH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8321-8330
Number of pages10
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Volume78
Issue number23
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

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