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Coskun, Ömer K.; Pichler, Monica; Vargas, Sergio; Gilder, Stuart; Orsi, William D. (2018): Linking Uncultivated Microbial Populations and Benthic Carbon Turnover by Using Quantitative Stable Isotope Probing. In: Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Vol. 84, No. 18
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Abstract

Benthic environments harbor highly diverse and complex microbial communities that control carbon fluxes, but the role of specific uncultivated microbial groups in organic matter turnover is poorly understood. In this study, quantitative DNA stable isotope probing (DNA-qSIP) was used for the first time to link uncultivated populations of bacteria and archaea to carbon turnover in lacustrine surface sediments. After 1-week incubations in the dark with [C-13]bicarbonate, DNA-qSIP showed that ammoniaoxidizing archaea (AOA) were the dominant active chemolithoautotrophs involved in the production of new organic matter. Natural C-13-labeled organic matter was then obtained by incubating sediments in the dark for 2.5 months with [C-13] bicarbonate, followed by extraction and concentration of high-molecular-weight (HMW) (> 50-kDa) organic matter. qSIP showed that the labeled organic matter was turned over within 1 week by 823 microbial populations (operational taxonomic units [OTUs]) affiliated primarily with heterotrophic Proteobacteria, Chloroflexi, Verrucomicrobia, and Bacteroidetes. However, several OTUs affiliated with the candidate microbial taxa Latescibacteria, Omnitrophica, Aminicentantes, Cloacimonates, AC1, Bathyarchaeota, and Woesearchaeota, groups known only from genomic signatures, also contributed to biomass turnover. Of these 823 labeled OTUs, 52% (primarily affiliated with Proteobacteria) also became labeled in 1-week incubations with [C-13] bicarbonate, indicating that they turned over carbon faster than OTUs that were labeled only in incubations with C-13-labeled HMW organic matter. These taxa consisted primarily of uncultivated populations within the Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Verrucomicrobia, and Chloroflexi, highlighting their ecological importance. Our study helps define the role of several poorly understood, uncultivated microbial groups in the turnover of benthic carbon derived from "dark" primary production. IMPORTANCE Little is known about the ecological role of uncultivated microbial populations in carbon turnover in benthic environments. To better understand this, we used quantitative stable isotope probing (qSIP) to quantify the abundance of diverse, specific groups of uncultivated bacteria and archaea involved in autotrophy and heterotrophy in a benthic lacustrine habitat. Our results provide quantitative evidence for active heterotrophic and autotrophic metabolism of several poorly understood microbial groups, thus demonstrating their relevance for carbon turnover in benthic settings. Archaeal ammonia oxidizers were significant drivers of in situ "dark" primary production supporting the growth of heterotrophic bacteria. These findings expand our understanding of the microbial populations within benthic food webs and the role of uncultivated microbes in benthic carbon turnover.