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  1. Abstract

    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 use metagenomic 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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  2. Abstract

    Deep marine sediments (>1mbsf) harbor ~26% of microbial biomass and are the largest reservoir of methane on Earth. Yet, the deep subsurface biosphere and controls on its contribution to methane production remain underexplored. Here, we use a multidisciplinary approach to examine methanogenesis in sediments (down to 295 mbsf) from sites with varying degrees of thermal alteration (none, past, current) at Guaymas Basin (Gulf of California) for the first time. Traditional (13C/12C and D/H) and multiply substituted (13CH3D and12CH2D2) methane isotope measurements reveal significant proportions of microbial methane at all sites, with the largest signal at the site with past alteration. With depth, relative microbial methane decreases at differing rates between sites. Gibbs energy calculations confirm methanogenesis is exergonic in Guaymas sediments, with methylotrophic pathways consistently yielding more energy than the canonical hydrogenotrophic and acetoclastic pathways. Yet, metagenomic sequencing and cultivation attempts indicate that methanogens are present in low abundance. We find only one methyl-coenzyme M (mcrA) sequence within the entire sequencing dataset. Also, we identify a wide diversity of methyltransferases (mtaB, mttB), but only a few sequences phylogenetically cluster with methylotrophic methanogens. Our results suggest that the microbial methane in the Guaymas subsurface was produced over geologic time by relatively small methanogen populations, which have been variably influenced by thermal sediment alteration. Higher resolution metagenomic sampling may clarify the modern methanogen community. This study highlights the importance of using a multidisciplinary approach to capture microbial influences in dynamic, deep subsurface settings like Guaymas Basin.

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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. Abstract

    Life at hydrothermal vent sites is based on chemosynthetic primary producers that supply heterotrophic microorganisms with substrates and generate biomass for higher trophic levels. Often, chemoautotrophs associate with the hydrothermal vent megafauna. To investigate attached bacterial and archaeal communities on deep-sea squat lobsters, we collected ten specimens from a hydrothermal vent in the Guaymas Basin (Gulf of California). All animals were identified asMunidopsis alviscavia morphological and molecular classification, and intraspecific divergence was determined. Amplicon sequencing of microbial DNA and cDNA revealed significant differences between microbial communities on the carapaces ofM. alviscaand those in ambient sea water. Major epibiotic bacterial taxa were chemoautotrophicGammaproteobacteria, such asThiotrichaceaeandMethylococcaceae, while archaea were almost exclusively represented by sequences affiliated withCa. Nitrosopumilus. In sea water samples, Marine Group II and III archaea and organoheterotrophicAlphaproteobacteria,FlavobacteriiaandPlanctomycetaciawere more dominant. Based on the identified taxa, we assume that main metabolic processes, carried out byM. alviscaepibiota, include ammonia, methane and sulphide oxidation. Considering thatM. alviscacould benefit from sulphide detoxification by its epibiota, and that attached microbes are supplied with a stable habitat in proximity to substrate-rich hydrothermal fluids, a mutualistic host-microbe relationship appears likely.

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  6. null (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Relatively little is known about the diversity of fungi in deep-sea, hydrothermal sediments. Less thoroughly explored environments are likely untapped reservoirs of unique biodiversity with the potential to augment our current arsenal of microbial compounds with biomedical and/or industrial applications. In this study, we applied traditional culture-based methods to examine a subset of the morphological and phylogenetic diversity of filamentous fungi and yeasts present in 11 hydrothermally influenced sediment samples collected from eight sites on the seafloor of Guaymas Basin, Mexico. A total of 12 unique isolates affiliating with Ascomycota and Basidiomycota were obtained and taxonomically identified on the basis of morphological features and analyses of marker genes including actin, β-tubulin, small subunit ribosomal DNA (18S rRNA), internal transcribed spacer (ITS) and large subunit ribosomal DNA (26S rRNA) D1/D2 domain sequences (depending on taxon). A total of 11 isolates possess congeners previously detected in, or recovered from, deep-sea environments. A total of seven isolates exhibited antibacterial activity against human bacterial pathogens Staphylococcus aureus ATCC-35556 and/or Escherichia coli ATCC-25922. This first investigation suggests that hydrothermal environments may serve as promising reservoirs of much greater fungal diversity, some of which may produce biomedically useful metabolites. 
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  7. null (Ed.)
  8. The surficial hydrothermal sediments of Guaymas Basin harbor complex microbial communities where oxidative and reductive nitrogen, sulfur, and carbon-cycling populations and processes overlap and coexist. Here, we resolve microbial community profiles in hydrothermal sediment cores of Guaymas Basin on a scale of 2 millimeters, using Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (DGGE) to visualize the rapid downcore changes among dominant bacteria and archaea. DGGE analysis of bacterial 16S rRNA gene amplicons identified free-living and syntrophic deltaproteobacterial sulfate-reducing bacteria, fermentative Cytophagales, members of the Chloroflexi (Thermoflexia), Aminicenantes, and uncultured sediment clades. The DGGE pattern indicates a gradually changing downcore community structure where small changes on a 2-millimeter scale accumulate to significantly changing populations within the top 4 cm sediment layer. Functional gene DGGE analyses identified anaerobic methane-oxidizing archaea (ANME) based on methyl-coenzyme M reductase genes, and members of the Betaproteobacteria and Thaumarchaeota based on bacterial and archaeal ammonia monooxygenase genes, respectively. The co-existence and overlapping habitat range of aerobic, nitrifying, sulfate-reducing and fermentative bacteria and archaea, including thermophiles, in the surficial sediments is consistent with dynamic redox and thermal gradients that sustain highly complex microbial communities in the hydrothermal sediments of Guaymas Basin. 
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  9. 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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