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Front Microbiol. 2015 Jul 21;6:726. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.00726. eCollection 2015.

Microsensor measurements of hydrogen gas dynamics in cyanobacterial microbial mats.

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Section of Microbiology, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University Aarhus, Denmark.
Marine Biological Section, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen Helsingør, Denmark ; Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster, University of Technology, Sydney, Ultimo NSW, Australia.


We used a novel amperometric microsensor for measuring hydrogen gas production and consumption at high spatio-temporal resolution in cyanobacterial biofilms and mats dominated by non-heterocystous filamentous cyanobacteria (Microcoleus chtonoplastes and Oscillatoria sp.). The new microsensor is based on the use of an organic electrolyte and a stable internal reference system and can be equipped with a chemical sulfide trap in the measuring tip; it exhibits very stable and sulfide-insensitive measuring signals and a high sensitivity (1.5-5 pA per μmol L(-1) H2). Hydrogen gas measurements were done in combination with microsensor measurements of scalar irradiance, O2, pH, and H2S and showed a pronounced H2 accumulation (of up to 8-10% H2 saturation) within the upper mm of cyanobacterial mats after onset of darkness and O2 depletion. The peak concentration of H2 increased with the irradiance level prior to darkening. After an initial build-up over the first 1-2 h in darkness, H2 was depleted over several hours due to efflux to the overlaying water, and due to biogeochemical processes in the uppermost oxic layers and the anoxic layers of the mats. Depletion could be prevented by addition of molybdate pointing to sulfate reduction as a major sink for H2. Immediately after onset of illumination, a short burst of presumably photo-produced H2 due to direct biophotolysis was observed in the illuminated but anoxic mat layers. As soon as O2 from photosynthesis started to accumulate, the H2 was consumed rapidly and production ceased. Our data give detailed insights into the microscale distribution and dynamics of H2 in cyanobacterial biofilms and mats, and further support that cyanobacterial H2 production can play a significant role in fueling anaerobic processes like e.g., sulfate reduction or anoxygenic photosynthesis in microbial mats.


cyanobacteria; hydrogen; irradiance; microbial mat; microsensor; oxygen; pH; sulfide

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