Deep-water anoxygenic photosythesis in a ferruginous chemocline

Sean Crowe, J. A. Maresca, CarriAyne Jones, Arne Sturm, C. Henny, David A. Fowle, Raymond Pickett Cox, Edward F. Delong, Donald Eugene Canfield

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Ferruginous Lake Matano, Indonesia hosts one of the deepest anoxygenic photosynthetic communities on Earth. This community is dominated by low-light adapted, BChl e-synthesizing green sulfur bacteria (GSB), which comprise ~25% of the microbial community immediately below the oxic-anoxic boundary (OAB; 115-120 m in 2010). The size of this community is dependent on the mixing regime within the lake and the depth of the OAB-at ~117 m, the GSB live near their low-light limit. Slow growth and C-fixation rates suggest that the Lake Matano GSB can be supported by sulfide even though it only accumulates to scarcely detectable (low μm to nm) concentrations. A model laboratory strain (Chlorobaculum tepidum) is indeed able to access HS- for oxidation at nm concentrations. Furthermore, the GSB in Lake Matano possess a full complement of S-oxidizing genes. Together, this physiological and genetic information suggests that deep-water GSB can be supported by a S-cycle, even under ferruginous conditions. The constraints we place on the metabolic capacity and physiology of GSB have important geobiological implications. Biomarkers diagnostic of GSB would be a good proxy for anoxic conditions but could not discriminate between euxinic and ferruginous states, and though GSB biomarkers could indicate a substantial GSB community, such a community may exist with very little metabolic activity. The light requirements of GSB indicate that at light levels comparable to those in the OAB of Lake Matano or the Black Sea, GSB would have contributed little to global ocean primary production, nutrient cycling, and banded iron formation (BIF) deposition in the Precambrian. Before the proliferation of oxygenic photosynthesis, shallower OABs and lower light absorption in the ocean's surface waters would have permitted greater light availability to GSB, potentially leading to a greater role for GSB in global biogeochemical cycles.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)322-339
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

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