Original Article

The ISME Journal (2016) 10, 1925–1938; doi:10.1038/ismej.2015.258; published online 12 February 2016

Coupled RNA-SIP and metatranscriptomics of active chemolithoautotrophic communities at a deep-sea hydrothermal vent

Caroline S Fortunato1 and Julie A Huber1

1Josephine Bay Paul Center, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, USA

Correspondence: CS Fortunato, Josephine Bay Paul Center, Marine Biological Laboratory, 7 MBL Street, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA. E-mail: cfortunato@gmail.com

Received 5 June 2015; Revised 7 December 2015; Accepted 10 December 2015
Advance online publication 12 February 2016



The chemolithoautotrophic microbial community of the rocky subseafloor potentially provides a large amount of organic carbon to the deep ocean, yet our understanding of the activity and metabolic complexity of subseafloor organisms remains poorly described. A combination of metagenomic, metatranscriptomic, and RNA stable isotope probing (RNA-SIP) analyses were used to identify the metabolic potential, expression patterns, and active autotrophic bacteria and archaea and their pathways present in low-temperature hydrothermal fluids from Axial Seamount, an active submarine volcano. Metagenomic and metatranscriptomic results showed the presence of genes and transcripts for sulfur, hydrogen, and ammonium oxidation, oxygen respiration, denitrification, and methanogenesis, as well as multiple carbon fixation pathways. In RNA-SIP experiments across a range of temperatures under reducing conditions, the enriched 13C fractions showed differences in taxonomic and functional diversity. At 30°C and 55°C, Epsilonproteobacteria were dominant, oxidizing hydrogen and primarily reducing nitrate. Methanogenic archaea were also present at 55°C, and were the only autotrophs present at 80°C. Correspondingly, the predominant CO2 fixation pathways changed from the reductive tricarboxylic acid (rTCA) cycle to the reductive acetyl-CoA pathway with increasing temperature. By coupling RNA-SIP with meta-omics, this study demonstrates the presence and activity of distinct chemolithoautotrophic communities across a thermal gradient of a deep-sea hydrothermal vent.