Macroscopic biofilms in fracture-dominated sediment that anaerobically oxidize methane.Appl Environ Microbiol. 2011 Oct; 77(19):6780-7.AE
Methane release from seafloor sediments is moderated, in part, by the anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) performed by consortia of archaea and bacteria. These consortia occur as isolated cells and aggregates within the sulfate-methane transition (SMT) of diffusion and seep-dominant environments. Here we report on a new SMT setting where the AOM consortium occurs as macroscopic pink to orange biofilms within subseafloor fractures. Biofilm samples recovered from the Indian and northeast Pacific Oceans had a cellular abundance of 10(7) to 10(8) cells cm(-3). This cell density is 2 to 3 orders of magnitude greater than that in the surrounding sediments. Sequencing of bacterial 16S rRNA genes indicated that the bacterial component is dominated by Deltaproteobacteria, candidate division WS3, and Chloroflexi, representing 46%, 15%, and 10% of clones, respectively. In addition, major archaeal taxa found in the biofilm were related to the ANME-1 clade, Thermoplasmatales, and Desulfurococcales, representing 73%, 11%, and 10% of archaeal clones, respectively. The sequences of all major taxa were similar to sequences previously reported from cold seep environments. PhyloChip microarray analysis detected all bacterial phyla identified by the clone library plus an additional 44 phyla. However, sequencing detected more archaea than the PhyloChip within the phyla of Methanosarcinales and Desulfurococcales. The stable carbon isotope composition of the biofilm from the SMT (-35 to -43‰) suggests that the production of the biofilm is associated with AOM. These biofilms are a novel, but apparently widespread, aggregation of cells represented by the ANME-1 clade that occur in methane-rich marine sediments.