It has been suggested that iron is one of the most important energy sources for photosynthesis-independent microbial ecosystems in the ocean crust. Iron-metabolizing chemolithoautotrophs play a key role as primary producers, but little is known about their distribution and diversity and their ecological role as submarine iron-metabolizing chemolithotrophs, particularly the iron oxidizers. In this study, we investigated the microbial communities in several iron-dominated flocculent mats found in deep-sea hydrothermal fields in the Mariana Volcanic Arc and Trough and the Okinawa Trough by culture-independent molecular techniques and X-ray mineralogical analyses. The abundance and composition of the 16S rRNA gene phylotypes demonstrated the ubiquity of zetaproteobacterial phylotypes in iron-dominated mat communities affected by hydrothermal fluid input. Electron microscopy with energy-dispersive X-ray microanalysis and X-ray absorption fine structure (XAFS) analysis revealed the chemical and mineralogical signatures of biogenic Fe-(oxy)hydroxide species and the potential contribution of Zetaproteobacteria to the in situ generation. These results suggest that putative iron-oxidizing chemolithoautotrophs play a significant ecological role in producing iron-dominated flocculent mats and that they are important for iron and carbon cycles in deep-sea low-temperature hydrothermal environments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology