Estimating Population Turnover Rates by Relative Quantification Methods Reveals Microbial Dynamics in Marine Sediment Journal Article uri icon

DCO ID 11121/4051-6294-5462-1597-CC

is Contribution to the DCO

  • YES

year of publication

  • 2017


  • The difficulty involved in quantifying biogeochemically significant microbes in marine sediments limits our ability to assess interspecific interactions, population turnover times, and niches of uncultured taxa. We incubated surface sediments from Cape Lookout Bight, North Carolina, USA, anoxically at 21°C for 122 days. Sulfate decreased until day 68, after which methane increased, with hydrogen concentrations consistent with the predicted values of an electron donor exerting thermodynamic control. We measured turnover times using two relative quantification methods, quantitative PCR (qPCR) and the product of 16S gene read abundance and total cell abundance (FRAxC, which stands for “fraction of read abundance times cells”), to estimate the population turnover rates of uncultured clades. Most 16S rRNA reads were from deeply branching uncultured groups, and ∼98% of 16S rRNA genes did not abruptly shift in relative abundance when sulfate reduction gave way to methanogenesis. Uncultured Methanomicrobiales and Methanosarcinales increased at the onset of methanogenesis with population turnover times estimated from qPCR at 9.7 ± 3.9 and 12.6 ± 4.1 days, respectively. These were consistent with FRAxC turnover times of 9.4 ± 5.8 and 9.2 ± 3.5 days, respectively. Uncultured Syntrophaceae, which are possibly fermentative syntrophs of methanogens, and uncultured Kazan-3A-21 archaea also increased at the onset of methanogenesis, with FRAxC turnover times of 14.7 ± 6.9 and 10.6 ± 3.6 days. Kazan-3A-21 may therefore either perform methanogenesis or form a fermentative syntrophy with methanogens. Three genera of sulfate-reducing bacteria, Desulfovibrio, Desulfobacter, and Desulfobacterium, increased in the first 19 days before declining rapidly during sulfate reduction. We conclude that population turnover times on the order of days can be measured robustly in organic-rich marine sediment, and the transition from sulfate-reducing to methanogenic conditions stimulates growth only in a few clades directly involved in methanogenesis, rather than in the whole microbial community.


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