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Keywords:

  • methane hydrate;
  • microbial community;
  • pyrosequencing;
  • 16S rRNA;
  • methanogens;
  • archaea

Abstract

Gas hydrates in marine sediments have been known for many years but recently hydrates were found in the sediments of Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater basin in the world. Marine gas hydrates are associated with complex microbial communities involved in methanogenesis, methane oxidation, sulfate reduction and other biotransformations. However, the contribution of microorganisms to the formation of gas hydrates remains poorly understood. We examined the microbial communities in the hydrate-bearing sediments and water column of Lake Baikal using pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA genes. Aerobic methanotrophic bacteria dominated the water sample collected at the lake floor in the hydrate-bearing site. The shallow sediments were dominated by Archaea. Methanogens of the orders Methanomicrobiales and Methanosarcinales were abundant, whereas representatives of archaeal lineages known to perform anaerobic oxidation of methane, as well as sulfate-reducing bacteria, were not found. Affiliation of archaea to methanogenic rather than methane-oxidizing lineages was supported by analysis of the sequences of the methyl coenzyme M reductase gene. The deeper sediments located at 85–90 cm depth close to the hydrate were dominated by Bacteria, mostly assigned to Chloroflexi, candidate division JS1 and Caldiserica. Overall, our results are consistent with the biological origin of methane hydrates in Lake Baikal.