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Keywords:

  • Deep biosphere;
  • 16S rRNA gene;
  • Cultivation;
  • Basalt;
  • Arctic ridges;
  • Bacteria;
  • Archaea

Abstract

Microbial communities inhabiting recent (leqslant R: less-than-or-eq, slant1 million years old; Ma) seafloor basalts from the Arctic spreading ridges were analyzed using traditional enrichment culturing methods in combination with culture-independent molecular phylogenetic techniques. Fragments of 16S rDNA were amplified from the basalt samples by polymerase chain reaction, and fingerprints of the bacterial and archaeal communities were generated using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis. This analysis indicates a substantial degree of complexity in the samples studied, showing 20–40 dominating bands per profile for the bacterial assemblages. For the archaeal assemblages, a much lower number of bands (6–12) were detected. The phylogenetic affiliations of the predominant electrophoretic bands were inferred by performing a comparative 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis. Sequences obtained from basalts affiliated with eight main phylogenetic groups of Bacteria, but were limited to only one group of the Archaea. The most frequently retrieved bacterial sequences affiliated with the γ-proteobacteria, α-proteobacteria, Chloroflexi, Firmicutes, and Actinobacteria. The archaeal sequences were restricted to the marine Group 1: Crenarchaeota. Our results indicate that the basalt harbors a distinctive microbial community, as the majority of the sequences differed from those retrieved from the surrounding seawater as well as from sequences previously reported from seawater and deep-sea sediments. Most of the sequences did not match precisely any sequences in the database, indicating that the indigenous Arctic ridge basalt microbial community is yet uncharacterized. Results from enrichment cultures showed that autolithotrophic methanogens and iron reducing bacteria were present in the seafloor basalts. We suggest that microbial catalyzed cycling of iron may be important in low-temperature alteration of ocean crust basalt. The phylogenetic and physiological diversity of the seafloor basalt microorganisms differed from those previously reported from deep-sea hydrothermal systems.