Microbial diversity under extreme euxinia: Mahoney Lake, Canada


Corresponding authors: V. Klepac-Ceraj and A. Pearson. Tel.: +16178928592; fax: +16178928340; e-mails: vanjakle@gmail.com; pearson@eps.harvard.edu


Mahoney Lake, British Columbia, Canada, is a stratified, 15-m deep saline lake with a euxinic (anoxic, sulfidic) hypolimnion. A dense plate of phototrophic purple sulfur bacteria is found at the chemocline, but to date the rest of the Mahoney Lake microbial ecosystem has been underexamined. In particular, the microbial community that resides in the aphotic hypolimnion and/or in the lake sediments is unknown, and it is unclear whether the sulfate reducers that supply sulfide for phototrophy live only within, or also below, the plate. Here we profiled distributions of 16S rRNA genes using gene clone libraries and PhyloChip microarrays. Both approaches suggest that microbial diversity is greatest in the hypolimnion (8 m) and sediments. Diversity is lowest in the photosynthetic plate (7 m). Shallower depths (5 m, 7 m) are rich in Actinobacteria, Alphaproteobacteria, and Gammaproteobacteria, while deeper depths (8 m, sediments) are rich in Crenarchaeota, Natronoanaerobium, and Verrucomicrobia. The heterogeneous distribution of Deltaproteobacteria and Epsilonproteobacteria between 7 and 8 m is consistent with metabolisms involving sulfur intermediates in the chemocline, but complete sulfate reduction in the hypolimnion. Overall, the results are consistent with the presence of distinct microbial niches and suggest zonation of sulfur cycle processes in this stratified system.