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Nat Microbiol. 2016 Apr 4;1(6):16035. doi: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.35.

Genomic and enzymatic evidence for acetogenesis among multiple lineages of the archaeal phylum Bathyarchaeota widespread in marine sediments.

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State Key Laboratory of Microbial Metabolism, School of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China.
State Key Laboratory of Ocean Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China.
Institute for Advanced Study, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China.
Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA.


Members of the archaeal phylum Bathyarchaeota are widespread and abundant in the energy-deficient marine subsurface sediments. However, their life strategies have remained largely elusive. Here, we provide genetic evidence that some lineages of Bathyarchaeota are acetogens, being capable of homoacetogenesis, a metabolism so far restricted to the domain Bacteria. Metabolic reconstruction based on genomic bins assembled from the metagenome of deep-sea subsurface sediments shows that the metabolism of some lineages of Bathyarchaeota is similar to that of bona fide bacterial homoacetogens, by having pathways for acetogenesis and for the fermentative utilization of a variety of organic substrates. Heterologous expression and activity assay of the acetate kinase gene ack from Bathyarchaeota, demonstrate further the capability of these Bathyarchaeota to grow as acetogens. The presence and expression of bathyarchaeotal genes indicative of active acetogenesis was also confirmed in Peru Margin subsurface sediments where Bathyarchaeota are abundant. The analyses reveal that this ubiquitous and abundant subsurface archaeal group has adopted a versatile life strategy to make a living under energy-limiting conditions. These findings further expand the metabolic potential of Archaea and argue for a revision of the role of Archaea in the carbon cycle of marine sediments.

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