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Title: Species-resolved, single-cell respiration rates reveal dominance of sulfate reduction in a deep continental subsurface ecosystem

Rates of microbial processes are fundamental to understanding the significance of microbial impacts on environmental chemical cycling. However, it is often difficult to quantify rates or to link processes to specific taxa or individual cells, especially in environments where there are few cultured representatives with known physiology. Here, we describe the use of the redox-enzyme-sensitive molecular probe RedoxSensor™ Green to measure rates of anaerobic electron transfer physiology (i.e., sulfate reduction and methanogenesis) in individual cells and link those measurements to genomic sequencing of the same single cells. We used this method to investigate microbial activity in hot, anoxic, low-biomass (~103cells mL−1) groundwater of the Death Valley Regional Flow System, California. Combining this method with electron donor amendment experiments and metatranscriptomics confirmed that the abundant spore formers includingCandidatusDesulforudis audaxviator were actively reducing sulfate in this environment, most likely with acetate and hydrogen as electron donors. Using this approach, we measured environmental sulfate reduction rates at 0.14 to 26.9 fmol cell−1h−1. Scaled to volume, this equates to a bulk environmental rate of ~103pmol sulfate L−1d−1, similar to potential rates determined with radiotracer methods. Despite methane in the system, there was no evidence for active microbial methanogenesis at the time of sampling. Overall, this method is a powerful tool for estimating species-resolved, single-cell rates of anaerobic metabolism in low-biomass environments while simultaneously linking genomes to phenomes at the single-cell level. We reveal active elemental cycling conducted by several species, with a large portion attributable toCa.Desulforudis audaxviator.

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Publisher / Repository:
US National Academy of Sciences
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Subject(s) / Keyword(s):
deep biosphere, sulfate reduction, single-cell genomics, RedoxSensor Green, carbon monoxide
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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