Crenarchaeal heterotrophy in salt marsh sediments

Lauren M. Seyler, Lora M. McGuinness, Lee J. Kerkhof

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72 Scopus citations


Mesophilic Crenarchaeota (also known as Thaumarchaeota) are ubiquitous and abundant in marine habitats. However, very little is known about their metabolic function in situ. In this study, salt marsh sediments from New Jersey were screened via stable isotope probing (SIP) for heterotrophy by amending with a single 13 C-labeled compound (acetate, glycine or urea) or a complex 13 C-biopolymer (lipids, proteins or growth medium (ISOGRO)). SIP incubations were done at two substrate concentrations (30-150 μM; 2-10 mg ml -1), and 13 C-labeled DNA was analyzed by terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (TRFLP) analysis of 16S rRNA genes. To test for autotrophy, an amendment with 13 C-bicarbonate was also performed. Our SIP analyses indicate salt marsh crenarchaea are heterotrophic, double within 2-3 days and often compete with heterotrophic bacteria for the same organic substrates. A clone library of 13 C-amplicons was screened to find matches to the 13 C-TRFLP peaks, with seven members of the Miscellaneous Crenarchaeal Group and seven members from the Marine Group 1.a Crenarchaeota being discerned. Some of these crenarchaea displayed a preference for particular carbon sources, whereas others incorporated nearly every 13 C-substrate provided. The data suggest salt marshes may be an excellent model system for studying crenarchaeal metabolic capabilities and can provide information on the competition between crenarchaea and other microbial groups to improve our understanding of microbial ecology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1534-1543
Number of pages10
JournalISME Journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • 16S rRNA gene profiling
  • Crenarchaea
  • Thaumarchaea
  • stable isotope probing


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