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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 Trace metals have been an important ingredient for life throughout Earth’s history. Here, we describe the genome-guided cultivation of a member of the elusive archaeal lineage Caldarchaeales (syn. Aigarchaeota ), Wolframiiraptor gerlachensis , and its growth dependence on tungsten. A metagenome-assembled genome (MAG) of W. gerlachensis encodes putative tungsten membrane transport systems, as well as pathways for anaerobic oxidation of sugars probably mediated by tungsten-dependent ferredoxin oxidoreductases that are expressed during growth. Catalyzed reporter deposition-fluorescence in-situ hybridization (CARD-FISH) and nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (nanoSIMS) show that W. gerlachensis preferentially assimilates xylose. Phylogenetic analyses of 78 high-quality Wolframiiraptoraceae MAGs from terrestrial and marine hydrothermal systems suggest that tungsten-associated enzymes were present in the last common ancestor of extant Wolframiiraptoraceae . Our observations imply a crucial role for tungsten-dependent metabolism in the origin and evolution of this lineage, and hint at a relic metabolic dependence on this trace metal in early anaerobic thermophiles.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  3. Semrau, Jeremy D. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Little is known of how the confluence of subsurface and surface processes influences the assembly and habitability of hydrothermal ecosystems. To address this knowledge gap, the geochemical and microbial composition of a high-temperature, circumneutral hot spring in Yellowstone National Park was examined to identify the sources of solutes and their effect on the ecology of microbial inhabitants. Metagenomic analysis showed that populations comprising planktonic and sediment communities are archaeal dominated, are dependent on chemical energy (chemosynthetic), share little overlap in their taxonomic composition, and are differentiated by their inferred use of/tolerance to oxygen and mode of carbon metabolism. The planktonic community is dominated by putative aerobic/aerotolerant autotrophs, while the taxonomic composition of the sediment community is more evenly distributed and comprised of anaerobic heterotrophs. These observations are interpreted to reflect sourcing of the spring by anoxic, organic carbon-limited subsurface hydrothermal fluids and ingassing of atmospheric oxygen that selects for aerobic/aerotolerant organisms that have autotrophic capabilities in the water column. Autotrophy and consumption of oxygen by the planktonic community may influence the assembly of the anaerobic and heterotrophic sediment community. Support for this inference comes from higher estimated rates of genome replication in planktonic populations than sediment populations, indicating fastermore »growth in planktonic populations. Collectively, these observations provide new insight into how mixing of subsurface waters and atmospheric oxygen create dichotomy in the ecology of hot spring communities and suggest that planktonic and sediment communities may have been less differentiated taxonomically and functionally prior to the rise of oxygen at ∼2.4 billion years ago (Gya). IMPORTANCE Understanding the source and availability of energy capable of supporting life in hydrothermal environments is central to predicting the ecology of microbial life on early Earth when volcanic activity was more widespread. Little is known of the substrates supporting microbial life in circumneutral to alkaline springs, despite their relevance to early Earth habitats. Using metagenomic and informatics approaches, water column and sediment habitats in a representative circumneutral hot spring in Yellowstone were shown to be dichotomous, with the former largely hosting aerobic/aerotolerant autotrophs and the latter primarily hosting anaerobic heterotrophs. This dichotomy is attributed to influx of atmospheric oxygen into anoxic deep hydrothermal spring waters. These results indicate that the ecology of microorganisms in circumneutral alkaline springs sourced by deep hydrothermal fluids was different prior to the rise of atmospheric oxygen ∼2.4 Gya, with planktonic and sediment communities likely to be less differentiated than contemporary circumneutral hot springs.« less
  4. Abstract Metagenome assembled genomes (MAGs) and single amplified genomes (SAGs) affiliated with two distinct Methanobacterium lineages were recovered from subsurface fracture waters of the Samail Ophiolite, Sultanate of Oman. Lineage Type I was abundant in waters with circumneutral pH, whereas lineage Type II was abundant in hydrogen rich, hyperalkaline waters. Type I encoded proteins to couple hydrogen oxidation to CO 2 reduction, typical of hydrogenotrophic methanogens. Surprisingly, Type II, which branched from the Type I lineage, lacked homologs of two key oxidative [NiFe]-hydrogenases. These functions were presumably replaced by formate dehydrogenases that oxidize formate to yield reductant and cytoplasmic CO 2 via a pathway that was unique among characterized Methanobacteria, allowing cells to overcome CO 2 /oxidant limitation in high pH waters. This prediction was supported by microcosm-based radiotracer experiments that showed significant biological methane generation from formate, but not bicarbonate, in waters where the Type II lineage was detected in highest relative abundance. Phylogenetic analyses and variability in gene content suggested that recent and ongoing diversification of the Type II lineage was enabled by gene transfer, loss, and transposition. These data indicate that selection imposed by CO 2 /oxidant availability drove recent methanogen diversification into hyperalkaline waters that aremore »heavily impacted by serpentinization.« less
  5. ABSTRACT We describe the discovery of an archaeal virus, one that infects archaea, tentatively named Thermoproteus spherical piliferous virus 1 (TSPV1), which was purified from a Thermoproteales host isolated from a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park (USA). TSPV1 packages an 18.65-kb linear double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) genome with 31 open reading frames (ORFs), whose predicted gene products show little homology to proteins with known functions. A comparison of virus particle morphologies and gene content demonstrates that TSPV1 is a new member of the Globuloviridae family of archaeal viruses. However, unlike other Globuloviridae members, TSPV1 has numerous highly unusual filaments decorating its surface, which can extend hundreds of micrometers from the virion. To our knowledge, similar filaments have not been observed in any other archaeal virus. The filaments are remarkably stable, remaining intact across a broad range of temperature and pH values, and they are resistant to chemical denaturation and proteolysis. A major component of the filaments is a glycosylated 35-kDa TSPV1 protein (TSPV1 GP24). The filament protein lacks detectable homology to structurally or functionally characterized proteins. We propose, given the low host cell densities of hot spring environments, that the TSPV1 filaments serve to increase the probability of virus attachmentmore »and entry into host cells. IMPORTANCE High-temperature environments have proven to be an important source for the discovery of new archaeal viruses with unusual particle morphologies and gene content. Our isolation of Thermoproteus spherical piliferous virus 1 (TSPV1), with numerous filaments extending from the virion surface, expands our understanding of viral diversity and provides new insight into viral replication in high-temperature environments.« less
  6. 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.