Abundance, distribution, and activity of Fe(II)-oxidizing and Fe(III)-reducing microorganisms in hypersaline sediments of Lake Kasin, southern Russia

Maren Emmerich, Ankita Bhansali, Tina Lösekann-Behrens, Christian Schröder, Andreas Kappler, Sebastian Behrens
Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2012, 78 (12): 4386-99
The extreme osmotic conditions prevailing in hypersaline environments result in decreasing metabolic diversity with increasing salinity. Various microbial metabolisms have been shown to occur even at high salinity, including photosynthesis as well as sulfate and nitrate reduction. However, information about anaerobic microbial iron metabolism in hypersaline environments is scarce. We studied the phylogenetic diversity, distribution, and metabolic activity of iron(II)-oxidizing and iron(III)-reducing Bacteria and Archaea in pH-neutral, iron-rich salt lake sediments (Lake Kasin, southern Russia; salinity, 348.6 g liter(-1)) using a combination of culture-dependent and -independent techniques. 16S rRNA gene clone libraries for Bacteria and Archaea revealed a microbial community composition typical for hypersaline sediments. Most-probable-number counts confirmed the presence of 4.26 × 10(2) to 8.32 × 10(3) iron(II)-oxidizing Bacteria and 4.16 × 10(2) to 2.13 × 10(3) iron(III)-reducing microorganisms per gram dry sediment. Microbial iron(III) reduction was detected in the presence of 5 M NaCl, extending the natural habitat boundaries for this important microbial process. Quantitative real-time PCR showed that 16S rRNA gene copy numbers of total Bacteria, total Archaea, and species dominating the iron(III)-reducing enrichment cultures (relatives of Halobaculum gomorrense, Desulfosporosinus lacus, and members of the Bacilli) were highest in an iron oxide-rich sediment layer. Combined with the presented geochemical and mineralogical data, our findings suggest the presence of an active microbial iron cycle at salt concentrations close to the solubility limit of NaCl.

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