1 Department of Bioscience - Microbiology, Department of Bioscience, Science and Technology, Aarhus University2 Department of Bioscience - Microbiology, Department of Bioscience, Science and Technology, Aarhus University
The precipitation of carbonates in the travertine forming Narrow Gauge hot spring in Yellowstone National Park occurs at a rapid rate, whereby microorganisms that colonize the ponds and apron facies are required to overcome lithification. CO2-fixation by autotrophic microorganisms in this cation-rich environment further promotes carbonate encapsulation. Microorganisms that alter their micro-habitat through dissimilative metabolic processes such as H2S and NH4+oxidation, can decrease acid neutralizing capacity (ANCcarb = [HCO3-] + 2[CO32-] + [OH-] - [H+] ) and locally delay CaCO3 mineralization. Genomic and geochemical approaches were combined to study the metabolic processes and microbial populations in a sulfidic hot spring emerging from a carbonate fissure ridge. Samples from locations close to the discharge vent and along its outflow channel were preserved for DNA sequencing, ATP measurements, microscopy, ion chromatographic and ICP-MS analyses of the major solutes and for ANC titration. Temperature, conductivity and pH were measured at the sampling sites. A pyrotagged 16S rRNA gene sequencing approach at both sites was used along with a publicly accessible metagenome of a similar site at the same location. The 16S rRNA gene sequence analyses reveal a great diversity of phylotypes related to species with known physiological potentials. The diversity at the vent is greater and more even than at the cooler site 6m downstream. A number of genes for C-1 fixing enzymes point to the presence of the reductive citric acid cycle, as well as to parts of the reductive acetyl-CoA pathway, the 3-hydroxypropionate cycle and the serine cycle as dominant forms of carbon metabolism. A complete set of genes for all enzymes of the reductive citric acid cycle were found, which indicates a dominance of this pathway for carbon fixation. Surprisingly, genes for RubisCo appear to be absent. Almost all genes found for enzymes that catalyze the conversion of sulfur compounds are involved in aerobic oxidation pathways. The stoichiometric balance of these pathways leads to ANC decreases and to carbonate dissolution. Although the microbially mediated reactions of the sulfur cycle might change the conditions in the local microhabitat, this does not alter the overall mass of geochemical carbonate precipitation. The metabolic products might aid autotrophic microorganisms in colonizing and surviving, however, for some time in a strongly lithifying environment.