Comparison of deep-sea sediment microbial communities in the Eastern Mediterranean


  • Present addresses: Anniet M. Laverman, Université P&M Curie Paris VI, Boite 123, 4 place Jussieu, 75252 Paris Cedex 05–France.
    Larry J. Forney, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844-3051, USA

  • Editor: Patricia Sobecky

Correspondence: Sander K. Heijs, Department of Microbial Ecology, Center for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen, PO Box 14, 9750 AA Haren, The Netherlands. Tel.: +31 50 363 2151; fax: +31 50 363 2154; e-mail:


Bacterial and archaeal communities in sediments obtained from three geographically-distant mud volcanoes, a control site and a microbial mat in the Eastern Mediterranean deep-sea were characterized using direct 16S rRNA gene analyses. The data were thus in relation to the chemical characteristics of the (stratified) habitats to infer community structure–habitat relationships. The bacterial sequences in the different habitats were related to those of Actinobacteria, Bacilli, Chloroflexi, Alpha-, Beta-, Gamma-, Delta- and Epsilonproteobacteria and unclassified bacteria, including the JS1 group. The archaeal sequences found were affiliated with those of the Methanosarcinales, Thermoplasmales, Halobacteriales and Crenarchaea belonging to marine benthic group I and B, as well as MCG group archaea. In each sample, the communities were diverse and unique at the phylotype level. However, at higher taxonomic levels, similar groups were found in different sediments, and similar depth layers tended to contain similar communities. The sequences that dominated in all top layers (as well as in the mat) probably represented organisms involved in aerobic heterotrophy, sulfide-based chemoautotrophy and methanotrophy and/or methylotrophy. Sequences of organisms most likely involved in anaerobic methane oxidation, sulfate reduction and anaerobic heterotrophy were predominantly found in deeper layers. The data supported the notion of (1) uniqueness of each habitat at fine taxonomic levels, (2) stratification in depth and (3) conservation of function in the sediments.