Ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) dominate microbial communities throughout oxic subseafloor sediment deposited over millions of years in the North Atlantic Ocean. Rates of nitrification correlated with the abundance of these dominant AOA populations, whose metabolism is characterized by ammonia oxidation, mixotrophic utilization of organic nitrogen, deamination, and the energetically efficient chemolithoautotrophic hydroxypropionate/hydroxybutyrate carbon fixation cycle. These AOA thus have the potential to couple mixotrophic and chemolithoautotrophic metabolism via mixotrophic deamination of organic nitrogen, followed by oxidation of the regenerated ammonia for additional energy to fuel carbon fixation. This metabolic feature likely reduces energy loss and improves AOA fitness under energy-starved, oxic conditions, thereby allowing them to outcompete other taxa for millions of years.
Vuillemin A, SD Wankel, ÖK Coskun, T Magritsch, S Vargas, ER Estes, AJ Spivack, DC Smith, R Pockalny, RW Murray, S D’Hondt and WD Orsi. 2019. Archaea dominate oxic subseafloor communities over multiple million year timescales. Science Adv. 5:6. doi:10.1126/sciadv.eaaw4108.
June 19, 2019