Fine-scale metabolic discontinuity in a stratified prokaryote microbiome of a Red Sea deep halocline
Michoud, Gregoire; Ngugi, David Kamanda; Barozzi, Alan; Merlino, Giuseppe; Calleja, Maria Ll.; Delgado-Huertas, Antonio; Moran, Xose Anxelu G.; Daffonchio, Daniele
Deep-sea hypersaline anoxic basins are polyextreme environments in the ocean's interior characterized by the high density of brines that prevents mixing with the overlaying seawater, generating sharp chemoclines and redoxclines up to tens of meters thick that host a high concentration of microbial communities. Yet, a fundamental understanding of how such pycnoclines shape microbial life and the associated biogeochemical processes at a fine scale, remains elusive. Here, we applied high-precision sampling of the brine-seawater transition interface in the Suakin Deep, located at 2770 m in the central Red Sea, to reveal previously undocumented fine-scale community structuring and succession of metabolic groups along a salinity gradient only 1 m thick. Metagenomic profiling at a 10-cm-scale resolution highlighted spatial organization of key metabolic pathways and corresponding microbial functional units, emphasizing the prominent role and significance of salinity and oxygen in shaping their ecology. Nitrogen cycling processes are especially affected by the redoxcline with ammonia oxidation processes being taxa and layers specific, highlighting also the presence of novel microorganisms, such as novel Thaumarchaeota and anammox, adapted to the changing conditions of the chemocline. The findings render the transition zone as a critical niche for nitrogen cycling, with complementary metabolic networks, in turn underscoring the biogeochemical complexity of deep-sea brines.
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