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Hunger, S; Schmidt, O; Hilgarth, M; Horn, MA; Kolb, S; Conrad, R; Drake, HL: Competing formate- and carbon dioxide-utilizing prokaryotes in an anoxic methane-emitting fen soil, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 77, 3773-3785 (2011)
Methanogenesis in wetlands is dependent on intermediary substrates derived from the degradation of biopolymers. Formate is one such substrate and is stimulatory to methanogenesis and acetogenesis in anoxic microcosms of soil from the fen Schlöppnerbrunnen. Formate dissimilation also yields CO2 as a potential secondary substrate. The objective of this study was to resolve potential differences between anaerobic formate- and CO2-utilizing prokaryotes of this fen by stable isotope probing. Anoxic soil microcosms were pulsed daily with low concentrations of [13C]-formate or 13CO2 (i.e., [13C]-bicarbonate). Taxa were evaluated by assessment of 16S rRNA genes, mcrA (encodes for the alpha-subunit of methyl-CoM reductase), and fhs (encodes for formyltetrahydrofolate synthetase). Methanogens, acetogens, and formate-hydrogen lyase-containing taxa appeared to compete for formate. Genes affiliated with Methanocellaceae, Methanobacteriaceae, Acetobacteraceae, and Rhodospirillaceae were [13C]-enriched (i.e., labeled) in [13C]-formate treatments, whereas genes affiliated with Methanosarcinaceae, Conexibacteraceae, and Solirubrobacteraceae were labeled in 13CO2 treatments. [13C]-acetate was enriched in [13C]-formate treatments, but labeling of known acetogenic taxa was not detected. However, several phylotypes were affiliated with acetogen-containing taxa (e.g., Sporomusa). Methanosaetaceae-affiliated methanogens appeared to participate in the consumption of acetate. Twelve and 58 family-level archaeal and bacterial 16S rRNA phylotypes, respectively, were detected, approximately half of which had no isolated representatives. Crenarchaeota constituted half of the detected archaeal 16S rRNA phylotypes. The results (a) highlight the unresolved microbial diversity of the fen Schlöppnerbrunnen, (b) suggest that differing taxa competed for the same substrate, (c) indicate that Methanocellaceae, Methanobacteriaceae, Methanosarcinaceae, and Methanosaetaceae were linked to the production of methane, but (d) did not clearly resolve the taxa responsible for the apparent conversion of formate to acetate.
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