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Curr Microbiol. 2013 Jul;67(1):41-50. doi: 10.1007/s00284-013-0320-y. Epub 2013 Feb 13.

Stratified communities of active archaea in shallow sediments of the Pearl River Estuary, Southern China.

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Research Institute of Engineering and Technology, Yunnan University, Kunming 650091, China.


Marine subsurface sediments represent a novel archaeal biosphere with unknown physiology. To get to know the composition and ecological roles of the archaeal communities within the sediments of the Pearl River Estuary, Southern China, the diversity and vertical distribution of active archaea in a sediment core were characterized by 16S rRNA phylogenetic analysis of clone libraries derived from RNA. In this study, the archaeal diversity above, within, and beneath the sulfate-methane transition zone (SMTZ) in the Pearl River Estuary sediment core was described. The majority of the clones obtained from the metabolically active fraction of the archaeal community were most closely related to miscellaneous crenarchaeotal group and terrestrial miscellaneous euryarchaeotal group. Notably, although the Pearl River Estuary sediment belong to high methane and high organic carbon environment, sequences affiliated with methanotrophic and methanogenic archaea were detected as minor group in 16S rRNA clone libraries. No obvious evidence suggested that these unknown archaeal phylotypes related directly to anaerobic oxidation of methane in SMTZ. This is the first phylogenetic analysis of the metabolically active fraction of the archaeal community in the coastal sediment environments.

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