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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Oct;72(10):6789-99. Epub 2006 Aug 21.

Microbial community in black rust exposed to hot ridge flank crustal fluids.

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Subground Animalcule Retrieval (SUGAR) Project, Extremobiosphere Research Center (XBR), Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), 2-15 Natsushima-cho, Yokosuka 237-0061, Japan.


During Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 301, we obtained a sample of black rust from a circulation obviation retrofit kit (CORK) observatory at a borehole on the eastern flank of Juan de Fuca Ridge. Due to overpressure, the CORK had failed to seal the borehole. Hot fluids from oceanic crust had discharged to the overlying bottom seawater and resulted in the formation of black rust analogous to a hydrothermal chimney deposit. Both culture-dependent and culture-independent analyses indicated that the black-rust-associated community differed from communities reported from other microbial habitats, including hydrothermal vents at seafloor spreading centers, while it shared phylotypes with communities previously detected in crustal fluids from the same borehole. The most frequently retrieved sequences of bacterial and archaeal 16S rRNA genes were related to the genera Ammonifex and Methanothermococcus, respectively. Most phylotypes, including phylotypes previously detected in crustal fluids, were isolated in pure culture, and their metabolic traits were determined. Quantification of the dissimilatory sulfite reductase (dsrAB) genes, together with stable sulfur isotopic and electron microscopic analyses, strongly suggested the prevalence of sulfate reduction, potentially by the Ammonifex group of bacteria. Stable carbon isotopic analyses suggested that the bulk of the microbial community was trophically reliant upon photosynthesis-derived organic matter. This report provides important insights into the phylogenetic, physiological, and trophic characteristics of subseafloor microbial ecosystems in warm ridge flank crusts.

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