Impact of Seasonal Hypoxia on Activity and Community Structure of Chemolithoautotrophic Bacteria in a Coastal Sediment.

Research paper by Yvonne A YA Lipsewers, Diana D Vasquez-Cardenas, Dorina D Seitaj, Regina R Schauer, Silvia S Hidalgo Martinez, Jaap S JS Sinninghe Damsté, Filip J R FJ Meysman, Laura L Villanueva, Henricus T S HT Boschker

Indexed on: 21 Mar '17Published on: 21 Mar '17Published in: Applied and environmental microbiology


Seasonal hypoxia in coastal systems drastically changes the availability of electron acceptors in bottom water, which alters the sedimentary reoxidation of reduced compounds. However, the effect of seasonal hypoxia on the chemolithoautotrophic community that catalyze these reoxidation reactions, is rarely studied. Here we examine the changes in activity and structure of the sedimentary chemolithoautotrophic bacterial community of a seasonally hypoxic saline basin under oxic (spring) and hypoxic (summer) conditions. Combined 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing and analysis of phospholipid derived fatty acids indicated a major temporal shift in community structure. Aerobic sulfur-oxidizing Gammaproteobacteria (Thiotrichales) and Epsilonproteobacteria (Campylobacterales) were prevalent during spring, whereas Deltaproteobacteria (Desulfobacterales) related to sulfate reducing bacteria prevailed during summer hypoxia. Chemolithoautotrophy rates in the surface sediment were three times higher in spring compared to summer. The depth distribution of chemolithoautotrophy was linked to the distinct sulfur oxidation mechanisms identified through microsensor profiling, i.e., canonical sulfur oxidation, electrogenic sulfur oxidation by cable bacteria, and sulfide oxidation coupled to nitrate reduction by Beggiatoaceae. The metabolic diversity of the sulfur-oxidizing bacterial community suggests a complex niche partitioning within the sediment probably driven by the availability of reduced sulfur compounds (H2S, S(0), S2O3(-2)) and electron acceptors (O2, NO3(-)) regulated by seasonal hypoxia.IMPORTANCE Chemolithoautotrophic microbes in the seafloor are dependent on electron acceptors like oxygen and nitrate that diffuse from the overlying water. Seasonal hypoxia however drastically changes the availability of these electron acceptors in the bottom water, and hence, one expects a strong impact of seasonal hypoxia on sedimentary chemolithoautotrophy. A multidisciplinary investigation of the sediments in a seasonally hypoxic coastal basin confirms this hypothesis. Our data show that bacterial community structure and the chemolithoautotrophic activity varied with the seasonal depletion of oxygen. Unexpectedly, the dark carbon fixation was also dependent on the dominant microbial pathway of sulfur oxidation occurring in the sediment (i.e., canonical sulfur oxidation, electrogenic sulfur oxidation by cable bacteria, and sulfide oxidation coupled to nitrate reduction by Beggiatoaceae). These results suggest that a complex niche partitioning within the sulfur-oxidizing bacterial community additionally affects the chemolithoautotrophic community of seasonally hypoxic sediments.