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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002 Aug;68(8):3759-70.

Microbial communities from methane hydrate-bearing deep marine sediments in a forearc basin.

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Biotechnology Department, Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, Idaho Falls, Idaho 83415-2203, USA.


Microbial communities in cores obtained from methane hydrate-bearing deep marine sediments (down to more than 300 m below the seafloor) in the forearc basin of the Nankai Trough near Japan were characterized with cultivation-dependent and -independent techniques. Acridine orange direct count data indicated that cell numbers generally decreased with sediment depth. Lipid biomarker analyses indicated the presence of viable biomass at concentrations greater than previously reported for terrestrial subsurface environments at similar depths. Archaeal lipids were more abundant than bacterial lipids. Methane was produced from both acetate and hydrogen in enrichments inoculated with sediment from all depths evaluated, at both 10 and 35 degrees C. Characterization of 16S rRNA genes amplified from the sediments indicated that archaeal clones could be discretely grouped within the Euryarchaeota and Crenarchaeota domains. The bacterial clones exhibited greater overall diversity than the archaeal clones, with sequences related to the Bacteroidetes, Planctomycetes, Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, and green nonsulfur groups. The majority of the bacterial clones were either members of a novel lineage or most closely related to uncultured clones. The results of these analyses suggest that the microbial community in this environment is distinct from those in previously characterized methane hydrate-bearing sediments.

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