Identity and abundance of active sulfate-reducing bacteria in deep tidal flat sediments determined by directed cultivation and CARD-FISH analysis

Antje Gittel, Marc Mussmann, Henrik Sass, Heribert Cypionka, Martin Könneke
Environmental Microbiology 2008, 10 (10): 2645-58
The identity and abundance of potentially active sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) in several metre deep sediments of a tidal sand flat in the German Wadden Sea were assessed by directed cultivation and cultivation-independent CARD-FISH analysis (catalysed reporter deposition fluorescence in situ hybridization). Presumably abundant SRB from different sediment layers between 0.5 and 4 m depth were selectively enriched in up to million-fold diluted cultures supplemented with lactate, acetate or hydrogen. Partial 16S rRNA gene sequences obtained from highest dilution steps showing sulfide formation indicated growth of deltaproteobacterial SRB belonging to the Desulfobulbaceae and the Desulfobacteraceae as well as of members of the Firmicutes. Subsequent isolation resulted in 10 novel phylotypes of both litho- and organotrophic sulfate-reducing Deltaproteobacteria. Molecular pre-screening identified six isolates as members of the Desulfobulbaceae, sharing highest identities with either candidatus 'Desulfobacterium corrodens' (95-97%) or Desulfobacterium catecholicum (98%), and four isolates as members of Desulfobacteraceae, being related to either Desulfobacter psychrotolerans (98%) or Desulfobacula phenolica (95-97%). Relatives of D. phenolica were exlusively isolated from 50 and 100 cm deep sediments with 10 and 2 mM of pore water sulfate respectively. In contrast, relatives of D. corrodens, D. psychrotolerans and D. catecholicum were also obtained from layers deeper than 100 cm and with less than 2 mM sulfate. The high in situ abundance of members of both families in sediment layers beneath 50 cm could be confirmed via CARD-FISH analysis performed with a set of six SRB-specific oligonucleotide probes. Moreover, SRB represented a numerically significant fraction of the microbial community throughout the sediment (up to 7%) and reached even higher cell numbers in deep, sulfate-poor layers than in the sulfate-rich surface sediment. This relatively large community size of potentially active SRB in deep sandy sediments might on the one hand be a result of their syntrophic association with other anaerobes. Our results furthermore support the hypothesis that enhanced advective pore water transport might supply nutrients to microbial communities in deep sandy sediments and point to their so far unrecognized contribution to biogeochemical processes in Wadden Sea sediments.

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