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# Key Factors Influencing Rates of Heterotrophic Sulfate Reduction in Active Seafloor Hydrothermal Massive Sulfide Deposits

Frontiers in Microbiology

Frontiers Media S.A.

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### Abstract

Hydrothermal vents are thermally and geochemically dynamic habitats, and the organisms therein are subject to steep gradients in temperature and chemistry. To date, the influence of these environmental dynamics on microbial sulfate reduction has not been well constrained. Here, via multivariate experiments, we evaluate the effects of key environmental variables (temperature, pH, H 2S, $SO 4 2 −$ , DOC) on sulfate reduction rates and metabolic energy yields in material recovered from a hydrothermal flange from the Grotto edifice in the Main Endeavor Field, Juan de Fuca Ridge. Sulfate reduction was measured in batch reactions across a range of physico-chemical conditions. Temperature and pH were the strongest stimuli, and maximum sulfate reduction rates were observed at 50°C and pH 6, suggesting that the in situ community of sulfate-reducing organisms in Grotto flanges may be most active in a slightly acidic and moderate thermal/chemical regime. At pH 4, sulfate reduction rates increased with sulfide concentrations most likely due to the mitigation of metal toxicity. While substrate concentrations also influenced sulfate reduction rates, energy-rich conditions muted the effect of metabolic energetics on sulfate reduction rates. We posit that variability in sulfate reduction rates reflect the response of the active microbial consortia to environmental constraints on in situ microbial physiology, toxicity, and the type and extent of energy limitation. These experiments help to constrain models of the spatial contribution of heterotrophic sulfate reduction within the complex gradients inherent to seafloor hydrothermal deposits.

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Sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB) are anaerobic microorganisms that use sulphate as a terminal electron acceptor in, for example, the degradation of organic compounds. They are ubiquitous in anoxic habitats, where they have an important role in both the sulphur and carbon cycles. SRB can cause a serious problem for industries, such as the offshore oil industry, because of the production of sulphide, which is highly reactive, corrosive and toxic. However, these organisms can also be beneficial by removing sulphate and heavy metals from waste streams. Although SRB have been studied for more than a century, it is only with the recent emergence of new molecular biological and genomic techniques that we have begun to obtain detailed information on their way of life.
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### Author and article information

###### Journal
Front Microbiol
Front Microbiol
Front. Microbiol.
Frontiers in Microbiology
Frontiers Media S.A.
1664-302X
22 December 2015
2015
: 6
###### Affiliations
1Department of Molecular Biology, Harvard University Cambridge, MA, USA
2Department of Oceanography, University of Hawaii Honolulu, HI, USA
3Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Troy, NY, USA
4Department of Chemistry, Stonehill College Easton, MA, USA
5Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University Cambridge, MA, USA
6Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University Cambridge, MA, USA
###### Author notes

Edited by: Cara M. Santelli, University of Minnesota, USA

Reviewed by: Andreas Teske, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA; Margaret Kingston Tivey, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA

*Correspondence: Kiana L. Frank klfrank@ 123456hawaii.edu

This article was submitted to Extreme Microbiology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Microbiology

10.3389/fmicb.2015.01449
4686611

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

###### Counts
Figures: 8, Tables: 2, Equations: 4, References: 135, Pages: 17, Words: 14292
###### Funding
Funded by: National Science Foundation 10.13039/100000001
Award ID: OCE-0838107
Award ID: OCE-1061934
Funded by: National Aeronautics and Space Administration 10.13039/100000104
Award ID: NNX09AB78G
###### Categories
Microbiology
Original Research

Microbiology & Virology