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Microbial colonization and alteration of basaltic glass

Author(s): J. Einen | C. Kruber | L. Øvreås | I. H. Thorseth | T. Torsvik

Journal: Biogeosciences Discussions
ISSN 1810-6277

Volume: 3;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 273;
Date: 2006;
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Microorganisms have been reported to be associated with the alteration of the glassy margin of seafloor pillow basalts (Thorseth et al., 2001, 2003; Lysnes et al., 2004). The amount of iron and other biological important elements present in basalts and the vast abundance of basaltic glass in the earth's crust, make glass alteration an important process in global element cycling. To gain further insight into microbial communities associated with glass alteration, five microcosm experiments mimicking seafloor conditions were inoculated with seafloor basalt and incubated for one year. Mineral precipitations, microbial attachment to the glass and glass alteration were visualized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and the bacterial community composition was fingerprinted by PCR and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) in combination with sequencing. SEM analysis revealed a microbial community with low morphological diversity of mainly biofilm associated and prosthecate microorganisms. Approximately 30 nm thick alteration rims developed on the glass in all microcosms after one year of incubation; this however was also seen in non inoculated controls. Calcium carbonate precipitates showed parallel, columnar and filamentous crystallization habits in the microcosms as well as in the sterile controls. DGGE analysis showed an alteration in bacterial community profiles in the five different microcosms, as a response to the different energy and redox regimes and time. In all microcosms a reduction in number of DGGE bands, in combination with an increase in cell abundance were recorded during the experiment. Sequence analysis showed that the microcosms were dominated by four groups of organisms with phylogenetic affiliation to four taxa: The Rhodospirillaceae, a family containing phototrophic marine organisms, in which some members are capable of heterotrophic growth in darkness and N2 fixation; the family Hyphomicrobiaceae, a group of prosthecate oligotrophic organisms; the genus Rhizobium, N2 fixating heterotrophs; and the genus Sphingomonas, which are known as bio-film producing oligotrophs. Although no bioalteration of glass could be confirmed from our experiments, oligotrophic surface adhering bacteria such as the Sphingomonas sp. and Hyphomicrobium sp. may nevertheless be important for bioalteration in nature, due to their firm attachment to glass surfaces, and their potential for biofilm production.
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