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Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Vol. 164, 2015, Pages: 35–52

Possible roles of uncultured archaea in carbon cycling in methane-seep sediments

Marcos Y. Yoshinaga, Cassandre S. Lazar, Marcus Elvert, Yu-Shih Lin, Chun Zhu, Verena B. Heuer, Andreas Teske, Kai-Uwe Hinrichs

MARUM Center for Marine Environmental Sciences and Department of Geosciences, University of Bremen, 28359 Bremen, Germany.


Studies on microbial carbon cycling uniformly confirm that anaerobic methane-oxidizing archaea (ANME) and sulfate-reducing bacteria represent the dominant and most active fraction of the sedimentary microbial community in methane-seep sediments. However, little is known about other frequently observed and abundant microbial taxa, their role in carbon cycling and association with the anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM). Here, we provide a comprehensive characterization of stable carbon isotopes (δ13C) from several intact polar lipid (IPL) classes and metabolite pools in a downcore profile at a cold seep within the oxygen minimum zone off Pakistan. We aimed to evaluate microbial carbon metabolism using IPLs in relation to redox conditions, metabolites and 16S rRNA gene libraries. The 13C-depleted signature of carbon pools and microbial metabolites in pore waters (e.g., dissolved inorganic carbon, lactate and acetate) demonstrated high accumulation of AOM-associated biomass and subsequent turnover thereof. ANMEs accounted for a small fraction of the archaeal 16S rRNA gene survey, whereas sequences of other uncultured benthic archaea dominated the clone libraries, particularly the Marine Benthic Group D. On the basis of lipid diversity and carbon isotope information, we suggest that structurally diverse phospho- and glycolipids, including the recently identified unsaturated tetraethers that are particularly abundant in this setting, are likely derived from archaea other than ANMEs. Through the evaluation of δ13C values of individual IPL, our results indicate heterotrophy as a possible metabolic pathway of archaea in these AOM-dominated sediments.


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