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The ISME journal

Oxygen-dependent niche formation of a pyrite-dependent acidophilic consortium built by archaea and bacteria.


PMID 23619304

Abstract

Biofilms can provide a number of different ecological niches for microorganisms. Here, a multispecies biofilm was studied in which pyrite-oxidizing microbes are the primary producers. Its stability allowed not only detailed fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH)-based characterization of the microbial population in different areas of the biofilm but also to integrate these results with oxygen and pH microsensor measurements conducted before. The O2 concentration declined rapidly from the outside to the inside of the biofilm. Hence, part of the population lives under microoxic or anoxic conditions. Leptospirillum ferrooxidans strains dominate the microbial population but are only located in the oxic periphery of the snottite structure. Interestingly, archaea were identified only in the anoxic parts of the biofilm. The archaeal community consists mainly of so far uncultured Thermoplasmatales as well as novel ARMAN (Archaeal Richmond Mine Acidophilic Nanoorganism) species. Inductively coupled plasma analysis and X-ray absorption near edge structure spectra provide further insight in the biofilm characteristics but revealed no other major factors than oxygen affecting the distribution of bacteria and archaea. In addition to catalyzed reporter deposition FISH and oxygen microsensor measurements, microautoradiographic FISH was used to identify areas in which active CO2 fixation takes place. Leptospirilla as well as acidithiobacilli were identified as primary producers. Fixation of gaseous CO2 seems to proceed only in the outer rim of the snottite. Archaea inhabiting the snottite core do not seem to contribute to the primary production. This work gives insight in the ecological niches of acidophilic microorganisms and their role in a consortium. The data provided the basis for the enrichment of uncultured archaea.

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