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Chloroflexi are widespread in subsurface environments, and recent studies indicate that they represent a major fraction of the communities in subseafloor sediment. Here, we compare the abundance, diversity, metabolic potential and gene expression of Chloroflexi from three abyssal sediment cores from the western North Atlantic Gyre (water depth >5400 m) covering up to 15 million years of sediment deposition, where Chloroflexi were found to represent major components of the community at all sites. Chloroflexi communities die off in oxic red clay over 10-15 million years, and gene expression was below detection. In contrast, Chloroflexi abundance and gene expression at the anoxic abyssal clay site increase below the seafloor and peak in 2-3 million-year-old sediment, indicating a comparably higher activity. Metatranscriptomes from the anoxic site reveal increased expression of Chloroflexi genes involved in cell wall biogenesis, protein turnover, inorganic ion transport, defense mechanisms and prophages. Phylogenetic analysis shows that these Chloroflexi are closely related to homoacetogenic subseafloor clades and actively transcribe genes involved in sugar fermentations, gluconeogenesis and Wood-Ljungdahl pathway in the subseafloor. Concomitant expression of cell division genes indicates that these putative homoacetogenic Chloroflexi are actively growing in these million-year-old anoxic abyssal sediments. © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of FEMS.


Aurèle Vuillemin, Zak Kerrigan, Steven D'Hondt, William D Orsi. Exploring the abundance, metabolic potential and gene expression of subseafloor Chloroflexi in million-year-old oxic and anoxic abyssal clay. FEMS microbiology ecology. 2020 Nov 25;96(12)

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PMID: 33150943

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