Evidence of form II RubisCO (cbbM) in a perennially ice-covered Antarctic lake


Correspondence: Rachael Morgan-Kiss, Department of Microbiology, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45045, USA. Tel.: +1 513 529 5434; fax: +1 513 529 2431; e-mail: morganr2@muohio.edu


The permanently ice-covered lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, harbor microbially dominated food webs. These organisms are adapted to a variety of unusual environmental extremes, including low temperature, low light, and permanently stratified water columns with strong chemo- and oxy-clines. Owing to the low light levels during summer caused by thick ice cover as well as 6 months of darkness during the polar winter, chemolithoautotrophic microorganisms could play a key role in the production of new carbon for the lake ecosystems. We used clone library sequencing and real-time quantitative PCR of the gene encoding form II Ribulose 1, 5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase to determine spatial and seasonal changes in the chemolithoautotrophic community in Lake Bonney, a 40-m-deep lake covered by c. 4 m of permanent ice. Our results revealed that chemolithoautotrophs harboring the cbbM gene are restricted to layers just above the chemo- and oxi-cline (≤ 15 m) in the west lobe of Lake Bonney (WLB). Our data reveal that the WLB is inhabited by a unique chemolithoautotrophic community that resides in the suboxic layers of the lake where there are ample sources of alternative electron sources such as ammonium, reduced iron and reduced biogenic sulfur species.