Deep-sea vent chemoautotrophs: diversity, biochemistry and ecological significance

Authors

  • Satoshi Nakagawa,

    1. Subground Animalcule Retrieval (SUGAR) Program, Extremobiosphere Research Center (XBR), Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), Yokosuka, Japan
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  • Ken Takai

    1. Subground Animalcule Retrieval (SUGAR) Program, Extremobiosphere Research Center (XBR), Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), Yokosuka, Japan
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  • Editor: Gary King

Correspondence: Satoshi Nakagawa, Subground Animalcule Retrieval (SUGAR) Program, Extremobiosphere Research Center (XBR), Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), 2-15 Natsushima-cho, Yokosuka 237-0061, Japan. Tel.: +81 46 867 9694; fax: +81 46 867 9715; e-mail: nakagawas@jamstec.go.jp

Abstract

Deep-sea vents support productive ecosystems driven primarily by chemoautotrophs. Chemoautotrophs are organisms that are able to fix inorganic carbon using a chemical energy obtained through the oxidation of reduced compounds. Following the discovery of deep-sea vent ecosystems in 1977, there has been an increasing knowledge that deep-sea vent chemoautotrophs display remarkable physiological and phylogenetic diversity. Cultivation-dependent and -independent studies have led to an emerging view that the majority of deep-sea vent chemoautotrophs have the ability to derive energy from a variety of redox couples other than the conventional sulfur–oxygen couple, and fix inorganic carbon via the reductive tricarboxylic acid cycle. In addition, recent genomic, metagenomic and postgenomic studies have considerably accelerated the comprehensive understanding of molecular mechanisms of deep-sea vent chemoautotrophy, even in yet uncultivable endosymbionts of vent fauna. Genomic analysis also suggested that there are previously unrecognized evolutionary links between deep-sea vent chemoautotrophs and important human/animal pathogens. This review summarizes chemoautotrophy in deep-sea vents, highlighting recent biochemical and genomic discoveries.

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