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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2003 Dec;69(12):7224-35.

Microbial communities associated with geological horizons in coastal subseafloor sediments from the sea of okhotsk.

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  • 1Subground Animalcule Retrieval (SUGAR) Project, Frontier Research System for Extremophiles, Japan.


Microbial communities from a subseafloor sediment core from the southwestern Sea of Okhotsk were evaluated by performing both cultivation-dependent and cultivation-independent (molecular) analyses. The core, which extended 58.1 m below the seafloor, was composed of pelagic clays with several volcanic ash layers containing fine pumice grains. Direct cell counting and quantitative PCR analysis of archaeal and bacterial 16S rRNA gene fragments indicated that the bacterial populations in the ash layers were approximately 2 to 10 times larger than those in the clays. Partial sequences of 1,210 rRNA gene clones revealed that there were qualitative differences in the microbial communities from the two different types of layers. Two phylogenetically distinct archaeal assemblages in the Crenarchaeota, the miscellaneous crenarchaeotic group and the deep-sea archaeal group, were the most predominant archaeal 16S rRNA gene components in the ash layers and the pelagic clays, respectively. Clones of 16S rRNA gene sequences from members of the gamma subclass of the class Proteobacteria dominated the ash layers, whereas sequences from members of the candidate division OP9 and the green nonsulfur bacteria dominated the pelagic clay environments. Molecular (16S rRNA gene sequence) analysis of 181 isolated colonies revealed that there was regional proliferation of viable heterotrophic mesophiles in the volcanic ash layers, along with some gram-positive bacteria and actinobacteria. The porous ash layers, which ranged in age from tens of thousands of years to hundreds of thousands of years, thus appear to be discrete microbial habitats within the coastal subseafloor clay sediment, which are capable of harboring microbial communities that are very distinct from the communities in the more abundant pelagic clays.

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