The uptake and excretion of partially oxidized sulfur expands the repertoire of energy resources metabolized by hydrothermal vent symbioses
Beinart, R. A.
Sanders, J. G.
Luther, G. W.
Girguis, P. R.
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CitationBeinart, R. A., A. Gartman, J. G. Sanders, G. W. Luther, and P. R. Girguis. 2015. “The uptake and excretion of partially oxidized sulfur expands the repertoire of energy resources metabolized by hydrothermal vent symbioses.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 282 (1806): 20142811. doi:10.1098/rspb.2014.2811. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2014.2811.
AbstractSymbiotic associations between animals and chemoautotrophic bacteria crowd around hydrothermal vents. In these associations, symbiotic bacteria use chemical reductants from venting fluid for the energy to support autotrophy, providing primary nutrition for the host. At vents along the Eastern Lau Spreading Center, the partially oxidized sulfur compounds (POSCs) thiosulfate and polysulfide have been detected in and around animal communities but away from venting fluid. The use of POSCs for autotrophy, as an alternative to the chemical substrates in venting fluid, could mitigate competition in these communities. To determine whether ESLC symbioses could use thiosulfate to support carbon fixation or produce POSCs during sulfide oxidation, we used high-pressure, flow-through incubations to assess the productivity of three symbiotic mollusc genera—the snails Alviniconcha spp. and Ifremeria nautilei, and the mussel Bathymodiolus brevior—when oxidizing sulfide and thiosulfate. Via the incorporation of isotopically labelled inorganic carbon, we found that the symbionts of all three genera supported autotrophy while oxidizing both sulfide and thiosulfate, though at different rates. Additionally, by concurrently measuring their effect on sulfur compounds in the aquaria with voltammetric microelectrodes, we showed that these symbioses excreted POSCs under highly sulfidic conditions, illustrating that these symbioses could represent a source for POSCs in their habitat. Furthermore, we revealed spatial disparity in the rates of carbon fixation among the animals in our incubations, which might have implications for the variability of productivity in situ. Together, these results re-shape our thinking about sulfur cycling and productivity by vent symbioses, demonstrating that thiosulfate may be an ecologically important energy source for vent symbioses and that they also likely impact the local geochemical regime through the excretion of POSCs.
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