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Abstract

The intact polar lipid (IPL) composition of twelve hydrothermal vent deposits from the Rainbow (RHF) and Lucky Strike hydrothermal fields (LSHF) has been investigated in order to assess its utility as a proxy for microbial community composition associated with deep-sea hydrothermal locations. Gene-based culture-independent surveys of the microbial populations of the same vent deposits have shown that microbial populations are different in the two locations and appear to be controlled by the geochemical and geological processes that drive hydrothermal circulation. Large differences in the IPL composition between these two sites are evident. In the ultramafic-hosted RHF, mainly archaeal-IPLs were identified, including those known to be produced by hyperthermophilic Euryarchaeota. More specifically, polyglycosyl derivatives of archaeol and macrocyclic archaeol indicate the presence of hyperthermophilic methanogenic archaea in the vent deposits, which are related to members of the Methanocaldococcaceae or Methanococcaceae. In contrast, bacterial IPLs dominate IPL distributions from LSHF, suggesting that bacteria are more predominant at LSHF than at RHF. Bacterial Diacyl glycerol (DAG) IPLs containing phosphocholine, phosphoethanolamine or phosphoglycerol head groups were identified at both vent fields. In some vent deposits from LSHF ornithine lipids and IPLs containing phosphoaminopentanetetrol head groups were also observed. By comparison with previously characterized bacterial communities at the sites, it is likely the DAG-IPLs observed derive from Epsilon- and Gammaproteobacteria. Variation in the relative amounts of archaeal versus bacterial IPLs appears to indicate differences in the microbial community between vent sites. Overall, IPL distributions appear to be consistent with gene-based surveys.