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  1. Abstract

    In Guaymas Basin, organic-rich hydrothermal sediments produce complex hydrocarbon mixtures including saturated, aromatic and alkylated aromatic compounds. We examined sediments from push cores from Guyamas sites with distinct temperature and geochemistry profiles to gain a better understanding on abiotic and biological hydrocarbon alteration. Here we provide evidence for biodegradation of hopanoids, producing saturated hydrocarbons like drimane and homodrimane as intermediate products. These sesquiterpene by-products are present throughout cooler sediments, but their relative abundance is drastically reduced within hotter hydrothermal sediments, likely due to hydrothermal mobilization. Within the sterane pool we detect a trend toward aromatization of steroidal compounds within hotter sediments. The changes in hopane and sterane biomarker composition at different sites reflect temperature-related differences in geochemical and microbial hydrocarbon alterations. In contrast to traditionally observed microbial biodegradation patterns that may extend over hundreds of meters in subsurface oil reservoirs, Guaymas Basin shows highly compressed changes in surficial sediments.

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  2. Certain benthic foraminifera thrive in marine sediments with low or undetectable oxygen. Potential survival avenues used by these supposedly aerobic protists include fermentation and anaerobic respiration, although details on their adaptive mechanisms remain elusive. To better understand the metabolic versatility of foraminifera, we studied two benthic species that thrive in oxygen-depleted marine sediments. Here we detail, via transcriptomics and metatranscriptomics, differential gene expression of Nonionella stella and Bolivina argentea , collected from Santa Barbara Basin, California, USA, in response to varied oxygenation and chemical amendments. Organelle-specific metabolic reconstructions revealed these two species utilize adaptable mitochondrial and peroxisomal metabolism. N. stella , most abundant in anoxia and characterized by lack of food vacuoles and abundance of intracellular lipid droplets, was predicted to couple the putative peroxisomal beta-oxidation and glyoxylate cycle with a versatile electron transport system and a partial TCA cycle. In contrast, B. argentea , most abundant in hypoxia and contains food vacuoles, was predicted to utilize the putative peroxisomal gluconeogenesis and a full TCA cycle but lacks the expression of key beta-oxidation and glyoxylate cycle genes. These metabolic adaptations likely confer ecological success while encountering deoxygenation and expand our understanding of metabolic modifications and interactions between mitochondria and peroxisomes in protists. 
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  3. Hydrocarbons are degraded by specialized types of bacteria, archaea, and fungi. Their occurrence in marine hydrocarbon seeps and sediments prompted a study of their role and their potential interactions, using the hydrocarbon-rich hydrothermal sediments of Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California as a model system. This sedimented vent site is characterized by localized hydrothermal circulation that introduces seawater sulfate into methane- and hydrocarbon-rich sediments, and thus selects for diverse hydrocarbon-degrading communities of which methane, alkane- and aromatics-oxidizing sulfate-reducing bacteria and archaea have been especially well-studied. Current molecular and cultivation surveys are detecting diverse fungi in Guaymas Basin hydrothermal sediments, and draw attention to possible fungal-bacterial interactions. In this Hypothesis and Theory article, we report on background, recent results and outcomes, and underlying hypotheses that guide current experiments on this topic in the Edgcomb and Teske labs in 2021, and that we will revisit during our ongoing investigations of bacterial, archaeal, and fungal communities in the deep sedimentary subsurface of Guaymas Basin. 
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  4. Semrau, Jeremy D. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 360 drilled Hole U1473A at Atlantis Bank, an oceanic core complex on the Southwest Indian Ridge, with the aim of recovering representative samples of the lower oceanic crust. Recovered cores were primarily gabbro and olivine gabbro. These mineralogies may host serpentinization reactions that have the potential to support microbial life within the recovered rocks or at greater depths beneath Atlantis Bank. We quantified prokaryotic cells and analyzed microbial community composition for rock samples obtained from Hole U1473A and conducted nutrient addition experiments to assess if nutrient supply influences the composition of microbial communities. Microbial abundance was low (≤10 4 cells cm −3 ) but positively correlated with the presence of veins in rocks within some depth ranges. Due to the heterogeneous nature of the rocks downhole (alternating stretches of relatively unaltered gabbros and more significantly altered and fractured rocks), the strength of the positive correlations between rock characteristics and microbial abundances was weaker when all depths were considered. Microbial community diversity varied at each depth analyzed. Surprisingly, addition of simple organic acids, ammonium, phosphate, or ammonium plus phosphate in nutrient addition experiments did not affect microbial diversity or methane production in nutrient addition incubation cultures over 60 weeks. The work presented here from Site U1473A, which is representative of basement rock samples at ultraslow spreading ridges and the usually inaccessible lower oceanic crust, increases our understanding of microbial life present in this rarely studied environment and provides an analog for basement below ocean world systems such as Enceladus. IMPORTANCE The lower oceanic crust below the seafloor is one of the most poorly explored habitats on Earth. The rocks from the Southwest Indian Ridge (SWIR) are similar to rock environments on other ocean-bearing planets and moons. Studying this environment helps us increase our understanding of life in other subsurface rocky environments in our solar system that we do not yet have the capability to access. During an expedition to the SWIR, we drilled 780 m into lower oceanic crust and collected over 50 rock samples to count the number of resident microbes and determine who they are. We also selected some of these rocks for an experiment where we provided them with different nutrients to explore energy and carbon sources preferred for growth. We found that the number of resident microbes and community structure varied with depth. Additionally, added nutrients did not shape the microbial diversity in a predictable manner. 
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  5. Brazelton, William J. (Ed.)
    The flanking regions of Guaymas Basin, a young marginal rift basin located in the Gulf of California, are covered with thick sediment layers that are hydrothermally altered due to magmatic intrusions. To explore environmental controls on microbial community structure in this complex environment, we analyzed site- and depth-related patterns of microbial community composition (bacteria, archaea, and fungi) in hydrothermally influenced sediments with different thermal conditions, geochemical regimes, and extent of microbial mats. We compared communities in hot hydrothermal sediments (75-100°C at ~40 cm depth) covered by orange-pigmented Beggiatoaceae mats in the Cathedral Hill area, temperate sediments (25-30°C at ~40 cm depth) covered by yellow sulfur precipitates and filamentous sulfur oxidizers at the Aceto Balsamico location, hot sediments (>115°C at ~40 cm depth) with orange-pigmented mats surrounded by yellow and white mats at the Marker 14 location, and background, non-hydrothermal sediments (3.8°C at ~45 cm depth) overlain with ambient seawater. Whereas bacterial and archaeal communities are clearly structured by site-specific in-situ thermal gradients and geochemical conditions, fungal communities are generally structured by sediment depth. Unexpectedly, chytrid sequence biosignatures are ubiquitous in surficial sediments whereas deeper sediments contain diverse yeasts and filamentous fungi. In correlation analyses across different sites and sediment depths, fungal phylotypes correlate to each other to a much greater degree than Bacteria and Archaea do to each other or to fungi, further substantiating that site-specific in-situ thermal gradients and geochemical conditions that control bacteria and archaea do not extend to fungi. 
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  6. Abstract

    Anaerobiosis has independently evolved in multiple lineages of ciliates, allowing them to colonize a variety of anoxic and oxygen‐depleted habitats. Anaerobic ciliates commonly form symbiotic relationships with various prokaryotes, including methanogenic archaea and members of several bacterial groups. The hypothesized functions of these ecto‐ and endosymbionts include the symbiont utilizing the ciliate's fermentative end products to increase the host's anaerobic metabolic efficiency, or the symbiont directly providing the host with energy by denitrification or photosynthesis. The host, in turn, may protect the symbiont from competition, the environment, and predation. Despite rapid advances in sampling, molecular, and microscopy methods, as well as the associated broadening of the known diversity of anaerobic ciliates, many aspects of these ciliate symbioses, including host specificity and coevolution, remain largely unexplored. Nevertheless, with the number of comparative genomic and transcriptomic analyses targeting anaerobic ciliates and their symbionts on the rise, insights into the nature of these symbioses and the evolution of the ciliate transition to obligate anaerobiosis continue to deepen. This review summarizes the current body of knowledge regarding the complex nature of symbioses in anaerobic ciliates, the diversity of these symbionts, their role in the evolution of ciliate anaerobiosis and their significance in ecosystem‐level processes.

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  7. Microbial eukaryotes (or protists) in marine ecosystems are a link between primary producers and all higher trophic levels, and the rate at which heterotrophic protistan grazers consume microbial prey is a key mechanism for carbon transport and recycling in microbial food webs. At deep-sea hydrothermal vents, chemosynthetic bacteria and archaea form the base of a food web that functions in the absence of sunlight, but the role of protistan grazers in these highly productive ecosystems is largely unexplored. Here, we pair grazing experiments with a molecular survey to quantify protistan grazing and to characterize the composition of vent-associated protists in low-temperature diffuse venting fluids from Gorda Ridge in the northeast Pacific Ocean. Results reveal protists exert higher predation pressure at vents compared to the surrounding deep seawater environment and may account for consuming 28 to 62% of the daily stock of prokaryotic biomass within discharging hydrothermal vent fluids. The vent-associated protistan community was more species rich relative to the background deep sea, and patterns in the distribution and co-occurrence of vent microbes provide additional insights into potential predator–prey interactions. Ciliates, followed by dinoflagellates, Syndiniales, rhizaria, and stramenopiles, dominated the vent protistan community and included bacterivorous species, species known to host symbionts, and parasites. Our findings provide an estimate of protistan grazing pressure within hydrothermal vent food webs, highlighting the important role that diverse protistan communities play in deep-sea carbon cycling.

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  8. Abstract

    Little is known about viruses in oxygen-deficient water columns (ODWCs). In surface ocean waters, viruses are known to act as gene vectors among susceptible hosts. Some of these genes may have metabolic functions and are thus termed auxiliary metabolic genes (AMGs). AMGs introduced to new hosts by viruses can enhance viral replication and/or potentially affect biogeochemical cycles by modulating key microbial pathways. Here we identify 748 viral populations that cluster into 94 genera along a vertical geochemical gradient in the Cariaco Basin, a permanently stratified and euxinic ocean basin. The viral communities in this ODWC appear to be relatively novel as 80 of these viral genera contained no reference viral sequences, likely due to the isolation and unique features of this system. We identify viral elements that encode AMGs implicated in distinctive processes, such as sulfur cycling, acetate fermentation, signal transduction, [Fe–S] formation, and N-glycosylation. These AMG-encoding viruses include two putative Mu-like viruses, and viral-like regions that may constitute degraded prophages that have been modified by transposable elements. Our results provide an insight into the ecological and biogeochemical impact of viruses oxygen-depleted and euxinic habitats.

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