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Chemolithoautotrophic denitrification of epsilonproteobacteria in marine pelagic redox gradients

Authors

  • Christian G. Bruckner,

    Corresponding author
    1. Bioforsk – Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research, Bodø, Norway
    • Department of Biological Oceanography, Leibniz-Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde, Rostock, Germany
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    • C. G. B. and K. M. contributed equally to this work.
  • Kerstin Mammitzsch,

    1. Department of Biological Oceanography, Leibniz-Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde, Rostock, Germany
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    • C. G. B. and K. M. contributed equally to this work.
  • Günter Jost,

    1. Department of Biological Oceanography, Leibniz-Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde, Rostock, Germany
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  • Juliane Wendt,

    1. Department of Biological Oceanography, Leibniz-Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde, Rostock, Germany
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  • Matthias Labrenz,

    1. Department of Biological Oceanography, Leibniz-Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde, Rostock, Germany
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  • Klaus Jürgens

    1. Department of Biological Oceanography, Leibniz-Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde, Rostock, Germany
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For correspondence. E-mail christian.bruckner@bioforsk.no; Tel. (+47) 920 105 86.

Summary

Pelagic marine oxygen-depleted zones often exhibit a redox gradient, caused by oxygen depletion due to biological demand exceeding ventilation, and the accumulation of reduced chemical species, such as hydrogen sulfide. These redox gradients harbour a distinct assemblage of epsilonproteobacteria capable of fixing carbon dioxide autotrophically in the dark and potentially of utilizing hydrogen sulfide chemolithotrophically by oxidation with nitrate. Together, these two processes are referred to as chemolithoautotrophic denitrification. The focus of this study was the recently isolated and cultivated representative strain of pelagic epsilonproteobacteria, ‘Sulfurimonas gotlandica’ strain GD1, specifically dark carbon dioxide fixation and its substrate turnovers during chemolithotrophic denitrification. By connecting these processes stoichiometrically and comparing the results with those obtained for dark carbon dioxide fixation and nutrient concentrations measured in pelagic redox gradients of the Baltic Sea, we were able to estimate the role of chemolithoautotrophic denitrification in the environment. Evidence is provided for a defined zone where chemolithoautotrophic denitrification of these epsilonproteobacteria allows the complete removal of nitrate and hydrogen sulfide from the water column. This water layer is roughly equivalent in thickness to the average overlapping region of the two substrates, but slightly larger. Such a difference may be explained by a variety of reasons, including, e.g. utilization of substrates present at concentrations below the detection limit, alternative usage of other substrates as thiosulfate or nitrous oxide, or comparable activities of other microbes. However, the combined results of in vitro and in situ studies strongly suggest that epsilonproteobacteria are primarily responsible for hydrogen sulfide and nitrate removal from pelagic Baltic Sea redox gradients.

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