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  1. The Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California is characterized by active seafloor spreading, the rapid deposition of organic-rich sediments, steep geothermal gradients, and abundant methane of mixed thermogenic and microbial origin. Subsurface sediment samples from eight drilling sites with distinct geochemical and thermal profiles were selected for DNA extraction and PCR amplification to explore the diversity of methane-cycling archaea in the Guaymas Basin subsurface. We performed PCR amplifications with general (mcrIRD), and ANME-1 specific primers that target the alpha subunit of methyl coenzyme M reductase (mcrA). Diverse ANME-1 lineages associated with anaerobic methane oxidation were detected in seven out of the eight drilling sites, preferentially around the methane-sulfate interface, and in several cases, showed preferences for specific sampling sites. Phylogenetically, most ANME-1 sequences from the Guaymas Basin subsurface were related to marine mud volcanoes, seep sites, and the shallow marine subsurface. The most frequently recovered methanogenic phylotypes were closely affiliated with the hyperthermophilic Methanocaldococcaceae, and found at the hydrothermally influenced Ringvent site. The coolest drilling site, in the northern axial trough of Guaymas Basin, yielded the greatest diversity in methanogen lineages. Our survey indicates the potential for extensive microbial methane cycling within subsurface sediments of Guaymas Basin. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 10, 2024
  2. Previous studies of microbial communities in subseafloor sediments reported that microbial abundance and diversity decrease with sediment depth and age, and microbes dominating at depth tend to be a subset of the local seafloor community. However, the existence of geographically widespread, subsurface-adapted specialists is also possible. Here, we usemetagenomic and metatranscriptomic analyses of the hydrothermally heated, sediment layers of Guaymas Basin (Gulf of California, Mexico) to examine the distribution and activity patterns of bacteria and archaea along thermal, geochemical and cell count gradients. We find that the composition and distribution of metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs), dominated by numerous lineages of Chloroflexota and Thermoproteota, correlate with biogeochemical parameters as long as temperatures remain moderate, but downcore increasing temperatures beyond ca. 45 ºC override other factors. Consistently, MAG size and diversity decrease with increasing temperature, indicating a downcore winnowing of the subsurface biosphere. By contrast, specific archaeal MAGs within the Thermoproteota and Hadarchaeota increase in relative abundance and in recruitment of transcriptome reads towards deeper, hotter sediments, marking the transition towards a specialized deep, hot biosphere. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 27, 2024
  3. Analyses of gene expression of subsurface bacteria and archaea provide insights into their physiological adaptations to in situ subsurface conditions. We examined patterns of expressed genes in hydrothermally heated subseafloor sediments with distinct geochemical and thermal regimes in Guaymas Basin, Gulf of California, Mexico. RNA recovery and cell counts declined with sediment depth, however, we obtained metatranscriptomes from eight sites at depths spanning between 0.8 and 101.9m below seafloor. We describe the metabolic potential of sediment microorganisms, and discuss expressed genes involved in tRNA, mRNA, and rRNA modifications that enable physiological flexibility of bacteria and archaea in the hydrothermal subsurface. Microbial taxa in hydrothermally influenced settings like Guaymas Basin may particularly depend on these catalytic RNA functions since they modulate the activity of cells under elevated temperatures and steep geochemical gradients. Expressed genes for DNA repair, protein maintenance and circadian rhythm were also identified. The concerted interaction of many of these genes may be crucial for microorganisms to survive and to thrive in the Guaymas Basin subsurface biosphere. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  4. null (Ed.)
    International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 385 drilled organic-rich sediments and intruded sills in the off-axis region and axial graben of the northern spreading segment of Guaymas Basin, a young marginal seafloor spreading system in the Gulf of California. Guaymas Basin is characterized by high heat flow and magmatism in the form of sill intrusions into sediments, which extends tens of kilometers off axis, in contrast with the localized volcanism found at most mid-ocean ridge spreading centers. Sill intrusions provide transient heat sources that mobilize buried sedimentary carbon, in part as methane and other hydrocarbons, and drive hydrothermal circulation. The resulting thermal and geochemical gradients shape abundance, composition, and activity of the deep subsurface biosphere of the basin. Drill sites extend over a broad region of Guaymas Basin. Adjacent Sites U1545 and U1546, located ~52 km northwest of the northern Guaymas Basin axial graben, recovered sediment successions to ~540 meters below seafloor (mbsf) (equivalent to the core depth below seafloor, Method A [CSF-A] scale), including a thin sill (a few meters thick) drilled near the bottom of Site U1545 and a massive sill (~355–430 mbsf) at Site U1546 that chemically and physically affects the surrounding sediments. Sites U1547 and U1548, located ~27 km northwest of the axial graben, were drilled to investigate an active sill-driven hydrothermal system evident at the seafloor as an 800 m wide, circular bathymetric high called Ringvent because of its outline of a ring of active vent sites. Ringvent is underlain by a thick sill at shallow depth (Site U1547). Geothermal gradients steepen toward the Ringvent periphery (Holes U1548A–U1548C), and the zones of authigenic carbonate precipitation and of highest microbial cell abundance correspondingly shallow toward the periphery. The underlying sill was drilled several times and yielded diverse igneous rock textures, sediment/sill interfaces, and alteration minerals in veins and vesicles. The Ringvent sill became the target of an integrated, interdisciplinary sampling and research effort that included geological, geochemical, and microbiological components. The thermal, lithologic, geochemical, and microbiological contrasts between the northwestern sites (U1545 and U1546) and the Ringvent sites (U1547 and U1548) form the core scientific observations informing the direct influence of sill-sediment interaction. These observations are supplemented by results from sites that exhibit persistent influence of thermally equilibrated sill intrusions, including supporting long-lived methane cold seeps, as observed at off-axis Sites U1549 and U1552, and the persistent geochemical record of hydrocarbon formation near the sill/sediment contact, as observed at the northern axial trough Site U1550, which confirms observations from Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) Leg 64. Drilling at Site U1551 ~29 km southeast of the axial graben was not successful due to unstable shallow sands, but it confirmed the dominant influence of gravity-flow sedimentation processes southeast of the axial graben. The scientific outcomes of Expedition 385 will (1) revise long-held assumptions about the role of sill emplacement in subsurface carbon mobilization versus carbon retention, (2) comprehensively examine the subsurface biosphere of Guaymas Basin and its responses and adaptations to hydrothermal conditions, (3) redefine hydrothermal controls on authigenic mineral formation in sediments, and (4) yield new insights into the long term influence of sill-sediment interaction on sediments deposited at the earliest stages of seafloor spreading, that is, when spreading centers are proximal to a continental margin. The generally high quality and high degree of completeness of the shipboard data sets present opportunities for inter- and multidisciplinary collaborations during shore-based studies. In comparison to DSDP Leg 64 to Guaymas Basin in 1979, continuous availability of sophisticated drilling strategies (e.g., the advanced piston corer [APC] and half-length APC systems) and numerous analytical innovations greatly improved sample recovery and scientific yield, particularly in the areas of organic geochemistry and microbiology. For example, microbial metagenomics did not exist 40 y ago. However, these technical refinements do not change the fact that Expedition 385 in many respects builds on the foundations of understanding laid by Leg 64 drilling in Guaymas Basin. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
    International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 385 drilled organic-rich sediments with sill intrusions on the flanking regions and in the northern axial graben in Guaymas Basin, a young marginal rift basin in the Gulf of California. Guaymas Basin is characterized by a widely distributed, intense heat flow and widespread off-axis magmatism expressed by a dense network of sill intrusions across the flanking regions, which is in contrast to classical mid-ocean ridge spreading centers. The numerous off-axis sills provide multiple transient heat sources that mobilize buried sedimentary carbon, in part as methane and other hydrocarbons, and drive hydrothermal circulation. The resulting thermal and geochemical gradients shape abundance, composition, and activity of the deep subsurface biosphere of the basin. Drill sites extend over the flanking regions of Guaymas Basin, covering a distance of ~81 km from the from the northwest to the southeast. Adjacent Sites U1545 and U1546 recovered the oldest and thickest sediment successions (to ~540 meters below seafloor [mbsf]; equivalent to the core depth below seafloor, Method A [CSF-A] scale), one with a thin sill (a few meters in thickness) near the drilled bottom (Site U1545), and one with a massive, deeply buried sill (~356–430 mbsf) that chemically and physically affects the surrounding sediments (Site U1546). Sites U1547 and U1548, located in the central part of the northern Guaymas Basin segment, were drilled to investigate a 600 m wide circular mound (bathymetric high) and its periphery. The dome-like structure is outlined by a ring of active vent sites called Ringvent. It is underlain by a remarkably thick sill at shallow depth (Site U1547). Hydrothermal gradients steepen at the Ringvent periphery (Holes U1548A–U1548C), which in turn shifts the zones of authigenic carbonate precipitation and of highest microbial cell abundance toward shallower depths. The Ringvent sill was drilled several times and yielded remarkably diverse igneous rock textures, sediment–sill interfaces, and hydrothermal alteration, reflected by various secondary minerals in veins and vesicles. Thus, the Ringvent sill became the target of an integrated sampling and interdisciplinary research effort that included geological, geochemical, and microbiological specialties. The thermal, lithologic, geochemical, and microbiological contrasts between the two deep northwestern sites (U1545 and U1546) and the Ringvent sites (U1547 and U1548) form the scientific centerpiece of the expedition. These observations are supplemented by results from sites that represent attenuated cold seepage conditions in the central basin (Site U1549), complex and disturbed sediments overlying sills in the northern axial trough (Site U1550), terrigenous sedimentation events on the southeastern flanking regions (Site U1551), and hydrate occurrence in shallow sediments proximal to the Sonora margin (Site U1552). The scientific outcomes of Expedition 385 will (1) revise long-held assumptions about the role of sill emplacement in subsurface carbon mobilization versus carbon retention, (2) comprehensively examine the subsurface biosphere of Guaymas Basin and its responses and adaptations to hydrothermal conditions, (3) redefine hydrothermal controls of authigenic mineral formation in sediments, and (4) yield new insights into many geochemical and geophysical aspects of both architecture and sill–sediment interaction in a nascent spreading center. The generally high quality and high degree of completeness of the shipboard datasets present opportunities for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary collaborations during shore-based studies. In comparison to Deep Sea Drilling Project Leg 64 to Guaymas Basin in 1979, sophisticated drilling strategies (for example, the advanced piston corer [APC] and half-length APC systems) and numerous analytical innovations have greatly improved sample recovery and scientific yield, particularly in the areas of organic geochemistry and microbiology. For example, microbial genomics did not exist 40 y ago. However, these technical refinements do not change the fact that Expedition 385 will in many respects build on the foundations laid by Leg 64 for understanding Guaymas Basin, regardless of whether adjustments are required in the near future. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
    The Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California is a young marginal rift basin characterized by active seafloor spreading and rapid deposition of organic-rich sediments from highly productive overlying waters. The high sedimentation rates in combination with an active spreading system produce distinct oceanic crust where the shallowest magmatic emplacement occurs as igneous intrusion into overlying sediments. The intrusion of magma into organic-rich sediments creates a dynamic environment where tightly linked physical, chemical, and biological processes regulate the cycling of sedimentary carbon and other elements, not only in a narrow hydrothermal zone at the spreading center but also in widely distributed off-axis venting. Heat from magmatic sills thermally alters organic-rich sediments, releasing CO2, CH4, petroleum, and other alteration products. This heat also drives advective flow, which distributes these alteration products in the subsurface and may also release them to the water column. Within the sediment column, the thermal and chemical gradients created by this process represent environments rich in chemical energy that support microbial communities at and below the seafloor. These communities may play a critical role in chemical transformations that influence the stability and transport of carbon in crustal biospheres. Collectively, these processes have profound implications for the exchange of heat and mass between the lithosphere and overlying water column and may determine the long-term fate of carbon accumulation in organic-rich sediments. The fate of carbon deposited in Guaymas Basin, throughout the Gulf of California, and more broadly within similar marginal seas throughout the world, depends on the relative efficiencies of interacting physical, chemical, and microbial processes, some working to sequester carbon and others working to release carbon back to the ocean and the atmosphere. Drill core samples from Expedition 385 to Guaymas Basin will enable us to study these processes, their interactions, and their ultimate effects on carbon cycling. Samples obtained from scientific drilling are crucial to these goals, which include Quantifying the sedimentary and elemental inputs to the system through time and their variation with oceanographic and climatic conditions; Sampling igneous sills and the surrounding sediments to determine the products and efficiency of alteration and key hydrologic factors such as sediment type, faulting, and permeability evolution; and Studying subsurface microbial communities hosted by alteration products to determine their efficiency at capturing carbon-bearing alteration products and to further our understanding of the conditions that limit life in the deep biosphere. 
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  7. Abstract

    Anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM), a central process in the carbon cycle of anoxic environments, moderates the release of methane from soils and sediments to water bodies and, ultimately, the atmosphere. The regulation of AOM in the environment remains poorly constrained. Here we quantified AOM and sulfate reduction (SR) rates in diverse deep seafloor samples at in situ pressure and methane concentration and discovered that, in some cases, AOM exceeded SR rates by more than four times when methane concentrations were above 5 mM. Methane concentration also affected other carbon‐cycling processes (e.g., carbon assimilation) in addition to SR. These results illustrate that substantial amounts of methane may be oxidized independent of SR under in situ conditions, reshaping our view of the capacity and mechanism of AOM in methane‐rich environments, including the deep biosphere, where sulfate availability is considered to limit AOM.

     
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