Biosynthesis of hopanoids by sulfate-reducing bacteria (genus Desulfovibrio)

Authors

  • Martin Blumenberg,

    1. Institute of Biogeochemistry and Marine Chemistry, University of Hamburg, Bundesstrasse 55, 20146 Hamburg, Germany.
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  • Martin Krüger,

    1. Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Celsiusstrasse 1, 28359 Bremen, Germany.
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    • Present address: Section Geomicrobiology, Federal Institute for Geosciences and Resources, Stilleweg 2, 30655 Hannover, Germany;

  • Katja Nauhaus,

    1. Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Celsiusstrasse 1, 28359 Bremen, Germany.
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    • Institute for Genetics and Microbiology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Maria-Ward-Str. 1a, 80638 Munich, Germany.

  • Helen M. Talbot,

    1. School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Devonshire Building, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK.
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  • Birte I. Oppermann,

    1. Institute of Biogeochemistry and Marine Chemistry, University of Hamburg, Bundesstrasse 55, 20146 Hamburg, Germany.
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  • Richard Seifert,

    1. Institute of Biogeochemistry and Marine Chemistry, University of Hamburg, Bundesstrasse 55, 20146 Hamburg, Germany.
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  • Thomas Pape,

    1. Institute of Biogeochemistry and Marine Chemistry, University of Hamburg, Bundesstrasse 55, 20146 Hamburg, Germany.
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  • Walter Michaelis

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Biogeochemistry and Marine Chemistry, University of Hamburg, Bundesstrasse 55, 20146 Hamburg, Germany.
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*E-mail michaelis@geowiss.uni-hamburg.de; Tel. (+49) 40 42838 5001; Fax (+49) 40 42838 6347.

Summary

Sulfate reduction accounts for about a half of the remineralization of organic carbon in anoxic marine shelf regions. Moreover, it was already a major microbial process in the very early ocean at least 2.4 billion years before the present. Here we demonstrate for the first time the capability of sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) to biosynthesize hopanoids, compounds that are quantitatively important and widely distributed biomarkers in recent and fossil sediments dating back to the late Archean. We found high concentrations (9.8–12.3 mg per gram of dry cells) of non-extended and extended bacteriohopanoids (bacteriohopanetetrol, aminobacteriohopanetriol, aminobacteriohopanetetrol) in pure cultures of SRB belonging to the widely distributed genus Desulfovibrio. Biohopanoids were found – considered as membrane rigidifiers – in more than 50% of bacterial species analysed so far. However, their biosynthesis appeared to be restricted to aerobes or facultative anaerobes with a very few recently described exceptions. Consequently, findings of sedimentary hopanoids are often used as indication for oxygenated settings. Nevertheless, our findings shed new light on the presence of hopanoids in specific anoxic settings and suggests that SRB are substantial sources of this quantitatively important lipid class in recent but also past anoxic environments.

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