Indexed on: 29 May '18Published on: 29 May '18Published in: Applied and environmental microbiology
Filamentous large sulfur-oxidizing bacteria (FLSB) of the family are globally-distributed, aquatic bacteria that can control geochemical fluxes from the sediment to the water column through their metabolic activity. FLSB mats from hydrothermal sediments of Guaymas Basin, Mexico typically have a "fried egg" appearance, with orange filaments dominating near the center and wider white filaments at the periphery, likely reflecting areas of higher and lower sulfide fluxes, respectively. These FLSB store large quantities of intracellular nitrate that they use to oxidize sulfide. By applying a combination of N-labelling techniques and genome sequence analysis, we demonstrate that the white FLSB filaments were capable of reducing their intracellular nitrate stores to both nitrogen gas and ammonium by denitrification and dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA), respectively. On the other hand, our combined results show that the orange filaments were primarily capable of DNRA. Microsensor profiles through a laboratory-incubated white FLSB mat revealed a 2-3 mm vertical separation between the oxic and sulfidic zones. Denitrification was most intense just below the oxic zone, as shown by the production of nitrous oxide following exposure to acetylene, which blocks nitrous oxide reduction to nitrogen gas. Below this zone, a local pH maximum coincided with sulfide oxidation, consistent with nitrate reduction by DNRA. The balance between internally and externally available electron acceptor (nitrate) and electron donor (reduced sulfur) likely controlled the end product of nitrate reduction both between orange and white FLSB mats and between different spatial and geochemical niches within the white FLSB mat. Whether large sulfur bacteria of the family reduce NO to N via denitrification or to NH via DNRA has been debated in the literature for more than 25 years. We resolve this debate by showing that certain members of the use both metabolic pathways. This is important for the ecological role of these bacteria, as N production removes bioavailable nitrogen from the ecosystem, whereas NH production retains it. For this reason, the environmental controls on the competition for NO between N-producing and NH-producing bacteria is a topic of great scientific interest. Recent experiments on the competition between these two types of microorganism have demonstrated that the balance between electron donor and electron acceptor availability strongly influences the end product of NO reduction. Our results suggest that this is also the case at the even more fundamental level of enzyme system regulation within a single organism. Copyright © 2018 Schutte et al.