Metatranscriptomic Analysis of Diminutive Thiomargarita-Like Bacteria (“Candidatus Thiopilula” spp.) from Abyssal Cold Seeps of the Barbados Accretionary Prism

Jones et al. (2015). Applied and Environmental Microbiology 81 (9)
Ca. Thiopilula Ca. Thiophysa
Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology Biotechnology Ecology Food Science
ABSTRACT Large sulfur-oxidizing bacteria in the family Beggiatoaceae are important players in the global sulfur cycle. This group contains members of the well-known genera Beggiatoa , Thioploca , and Thiomargarita but also recently identified and relatively unknown candidate taxa, including “ Candidatus Thiopilula” spp. and “ Ca . Thiophysa” spp. We discovered a population of “ Ca . Thiopilula” spp. colonizing cold seeps near Barbados at a ∼4.7-km water depth. The Barbados population consists of spherical cells that are morphologically similar to Thiomargarita spp., with elemental sulfur inclusions and a central vacuole, but have much smaller cell diameters (5 to 40 μm). Metatranscriptomic analysis revealed that when exposed to anoxic sulfidic conditions, Barbados “ Ca . Thiopilula” organisms expressed genes for the oxidation of elemental sulfur and the reduction of nitrogenous compounds, consistent with their vacuolated morphology and intracellular sulfur storage capability. Metatranscriptomic analysis further revealed that anaerobic methane-oxidizing and sulfate-reducing organisms were active in the sediment, which likely provided reduced sulfur substrates for “ Ca . Thiopilula” and other sulfur-oxidizing microorganisms in the community. The novel observations of “ Ca . Thiopilula” and associated organisms reported here expand our knowledge of the globally distributed and ecologically successful Beggiatoaceae group and thus offer insight into the composition and ecology of deep cold seep microbial communities.
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