• Open Access

Genomic signatures of fifth autotrophic carbon assimilation pathway in bathypelagic Crenarchaeota


E-mail michail.yakimov@iamc.cnr.it; Tel. (+39) 90669003; Fax (+39) 90669007.


Marine Crenarchaeota, ubiquitous and abundant organisms in the oceans worldwide, remain metabolically uncharacterized, largely due to their low cultivability. Identification of candidate genes for bicarbonate fixation pathway in the Cenarchaeum symbiosum A was an initial step in understanding the physiology and ecology of marine Crenarchaeota. Recent cultivation and genome sequencing of obligate chemoautotrophic Nitrosopumilus maritimus SCM1 were a major breakthrough towards understanding of their functioning and provide a valuable model for experimental validation of genomic data. Here we present the identification of multiple key components of 3-hydroxipropionate/4-hydroxybutyrate cycle, the fifth pathway in carbon fixation, found in data sets of environmental sequences representing uncultivated superficial and bathypelagic Crenarchaeota from Sargasso sea (GOS data set) and KM3 (Mediterranean Sea) and ALOHA (Atlantic ocean) stations. These organisms are likely to use acetyl-CoA/propionyl-CoA carboxylase(s) as CO2-fixing enzyme(s) to form succinyl-CoA, from which one molecule of acetyl-CoA is regenerated via 4-hydroxybutyrate cleavage and another acetyl-CoA to be the pathway product. The genetic distinctiveness and matching sympatric abundance imply that marine crenarchaeal genotypes from the three different geographic sites share similar ecophysiological properties, and therefore may represent fundamental units of marine ecosystem functioning. To couple results of sequence comparison with the dark ocean primary production, dissolved inorganic carbon fixation rates were measured at KM3 Station (3000 m depth, Eastern Mediterranean Sea), i.e. at the same site and depth used for metagenomic library construction.