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Authors: Chiu, Beverly K and Kato, Shingo and McAllister, Sean M and Field, Erin K and Chan, Clara S

Chemolithotrophic iron-oxidizing bacteria (FeOB) could theoretically inhabit any environment where Fe(II) and O2 (or nitrate) coexist. Until recently, marine Fe-oxidizing Zetaproteobacteria had primarily been observed in benthic and subsurface settings, but not redox-stratified water columns. This may be due to the challenges that a pelagic lifestyle would pose for Zetaproteobacteria, given low Fe(II) concentrations in modern marine waters and the possibility that Fe oxyhydroxide biominerals could cause cells to sink. However, we recently cultivated Zetaproteobacteria from the Chesapeake Bay oxic-anoxic transition zone, suggesting that they can survive and contribute to biogeochemical cycling in a stratified estuary. Here we describe the isolation, characterization, and genomes of two new species, Mariprofundus aestuarium CP-5 and Mariprofundus ferrinatatus CP-8, which are the first Zetaproteobacteria isolates from a pelagic environment. We looked for adaptations enabling strains CP-5 and CP-8 to overcome the challenges of living in a low Fe redoxcline with frequent O2 fluctuations due to tidal mixing. We found that the CP strains produce distinctive dreadlock-like Fe oxyhydroxide structures that are easily shed, which would help cells maintain suspension in the water column. These oxides are by-products of Fe(II) oxidation, likely catalyzed by the putative Fe(II) oxidase encoded by the cyc2 gene, present in both CP-5 and CP-8 genomes; the consistent presence of cyc2 in all microaerophilic FeOB and other FeOB genomes supports its putative role in Fe(II) oxidation. The CP strains also have two gene clusters associated with biofilm formation (Wsp system and the Widespread Colonization Island) that are absent or rare in other Zetaproteobacteria. We propose that biofilm formation enables the CP strains to attach to FeS particles and form flocs, an advantageous strategy for scavenging Fe(II) and developing low [O2] microenvironments within more oxygenated waters. However, the CP strains appear to be adapted to somewhat higher concentrations of O2, as indicated by the presence of genes encoding aa3-type cytochrome c oxidases, but not the cbb3-type found in all other Zetaproteobacteria isolate genomes. Overall, our results reveal adaptations for life in a physically dynamic, low Fe(II) water column, suggesting that niche-specific strategies can enable Zetaproteobacteria to live in any environment with Fe(II).

Journal: Microbiology
DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2017.01280
Year: 2017

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