Genome-enabled metabolic reconstruction of dominant chemosynthetic colonizers in deep-sea massive sulfide deposits

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Deep-sea massive sulfide deposits remaining after ceasing of hydrothermal activity potentially provide energy for a chemosynthetic ecosystem in the dark, cold marine environments. Although yet-uncultivated bacteria in the phylum Nitrospirae and the class Deltaproteobacteria are known to dominate the microbial communities of sulfide deposits at and below the seafloor, their metabolic capabilities remain largely elusive. Here, we reveal the metabolic potential of these yet-uncultivated bacteria in hydrothermally inactive sulfide deposits collected at the Southern Mariana Trough by seafloor drilling. Near-complete genomes of the predominant bacterial members were recovered from shotgun metagenomic sequences. The genomic capabilities for CO2 and N2 fixation suggest that these bacteria are primary producers in the microbial ecosystem. Their genomes also encode versatile chemolithotrophic energy metabolisms, such as the oxidation of H2, sulfide and intermediate sulfur species including thiosulfate, all of which can be supplied by chemical reactions between seawater and metal sulfides. Notably, the presence of genes involved in thiosulfate oxidation in Nitrospirae and Deltaproteobacteria genomes is unusual. Our study strongly support the presence of a chemosynthetic ecosystem fuelled by the Earth's internal energy in the deep-sea massive sulfide deposits, and illustrates the unexpected metabolic capability of known bacterial taxonomic groups.

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