The benthos in estuarine environments often experiences periods of regularly occurring hypoxic and anoxic conditions, dramatically impacting biogeochemical cycles. How oxygen depletion affects the growth of specific uncultivated microbial populations within these diverse benthic communities, however, remains poorly understood. Here, we applied H218O quantitative stable isotope probing (qSIP) in order to quantify the growth of diverse, uncultured bacterial populations in response to low oxygen concentrations in estuarine sediments. Over the course of 7- and 28-day incubations with redox conditions spanning from hypoxia to euxinia (sulfidic), 18O labeling of bacterial populations exhibited different patterns consistent with micro-aerophilic, anaerobic, facultative anaerobic, and aerotolerant anaerobic growth. 18O-labeled populations displaying anaerobic growth had a significantly non-random phylogenetic distribution, exhibited by numerous clades currently lacking cultured representatives within the Planctomycetes, Actinobacteria, Latescibacteria, Verrucomicrobia, and Acidobacteria. Genes encoding the beta-subunit of the dissimilatory sulfate reductase (dsrB) became 18O labeled only during euxinic conditions. Sequencing of these 18O-labeled dsrB genes showed that Acidobacteria were the dominant group of growing sulfate-reducing bacteria, highlighting their importance for sulfur cycling in estuarine sediments. Our findings provide the first experimental constraints on the redox conditions underlying increased growth in several groups of “microbial dark matter”, validating hypotheses put forth by earlier metagenomic studies.
Coskun, ÖK, V Özen, SD Wankel and WD Orsi. 2019. Quantifying population-specific activities in benthic bacterial communities under low O2 using H218O. ISME Journal. doi:10.1038/s41396-019-0373-4.
February 19, 2019