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

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      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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            Author and article information

            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@

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

            Front Microbiol
            Front Microbiol
            Front. Microbiol.
            Frontiers in Microbiology
            Frontiers Media S.A.
            22 December 2015
            : 6
            4686611 10.3389/fmicb.2015.01449
            Copyright © 2015 Frank, Rogers, Rogers, Johnston and Girguis.

            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.

            Figures: 8, Tables: 2, Equations: 4, References: 135, Pages: 17, Words: 14292
            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
            Original Research


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