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Creators/Authors contains: "Amenabar, Maximiliano J."

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  1. Abstract

    Despite over a century of study, it is unknown if continental hydrothermal fields support high-temperature subsurface biospheres. Cinder Pool is among the deepest hot springs in Yellowstone and is widely studied due to unique sulfur geochemistry that is attributed to hydrolysis of molten elemental sulfur at ∼18 m depth that promotes several chemical reactions that maintain low sulfide, low oxygen, and a moderate pH of ∼4.0. Following ∼100 years of stability, Cinder Pool underwent extreme visual and chemical change (acidification) in 2018. Here, we show that depth-resolved geochemical and metagenomic-based microbial community analyses pre- (2016) and post-acidification (2020) indicate the changes are likely attributable to feedbacks between geological/geochemical processes, sulfur oxidation by subsurface Sulfolobales Archaea, and the disappearance of molten sulfur at depth. These findings underscore the dynamic and rapid feedback between the geosphere and biosphere in continental hydrothermal fields and suggest subsurface biospheres to be more prevalent in these systems than previously recognized.

  2. Abstract

    The origin(s) of dissimilatory sulfate and/or (bi)sulfite reducing organisms (SRO) remains enigmatic despite their importance in global carbon and sulfur cycling since at least 3.4 Ga. Here, we describe novel, deep-branching archaeal SRO populations distantly related to other Diaforarchaea from two moderately acidic thermal springs. Dissimilatory (bi)sulfite reductase homologs, DsrABC, encoded in metagenome assembled genomes (MAGs) from spring sediments comprise one of the earliest evolving Dsr lineages. DsrA homologs were expressed in situ under moderately acidic conditions. MAGs lacked genes encoding proteins that activate sulfate prior to (bi)sulfite reduction. This is consistent with sulfide production in enrichment cultures provided sulfite but not sulfate. We suggest input of volcanic sulfur dioxide to anoxic spring-water yields (bi)sulfite and moderately acidic conditions that favor its stability and bioavailability. The presence of similar volcanic springs at the time SRO are thought to have originated (>3.4 Ga) may have supplied (bi)sulfite that supported ancestral SRO. These observations coincide with the lack of inferred SO42−reduction capacity in nearly all organisms with early-branching DsrAB and which are near universally found in hydrothermal environments.