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Natural occurrence of microbial sulphur oxidation by long-range electron transport in the seafloor
Malkin, S.Y.; Rao, A.M.F.; Seitaj, D.; Vasquez-Cardenas, D.; Zetsche, E.-M.; Hidalgo-Martinez, S.; Boschker, H.T.S.; Meysman, F.J.R. (2014). Natural occurrence of microbial sulphur oxidation by long-range electron transport in the seafloor. ISME J. 8(9): 1843–1854.
In: The ISME Journal: Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 1751-7362, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in Authors 

Author keywords
    bioturbation; Desulfobulbaceae; electrobiogeochemistry; electrogenic sulphur oxidation; sulphur oxidizing bacteria

Authors  Top 
  • Malkin, S.Y., more
  • Rao, A.M.F., more
  • Seitaj, D., more
  • Vasquez-Cardenas, D., more
  • Zetsche, E.-M., more
  • Hidalgo-Martinez, S., more
  • Boschker, H.T.S., more
  • Meysman, F.J.R., more

    Recently, a novel mode of sulphur oxidation was described in marine sediments, in which sulphide oxidation in deeper anoxic layers was electrically coupled to oxygen reduction at the sediment surface. Subsequent experimental evidence identified that long filamentous bacteria belonging to the family Desulfobulbaceae likely mediated the electron transport across the centimetre-scale distances. Such long-range electron transfer challenges some long-held views in microbial ecology and could have profound implications for sulphur cycling in marine sediments. But, so far, this process of electrogenic sulphur oxidation has been documented only in laboratory experiments and so its imprint on the seafloor remains unknown. Here we show that the geochemical signature of electrogenic sulphur oxidation occurs in a variety of coastal sediment environments, including a salt marsh, a seasonally hypoxic basin, and a subtidal coastal mud plain. In all cases, electrogenic sulphur oxidation was detected together with an abundance of Desulfobulbaceae filaments. Complementary laboratory experiments in intertidal sands demonstrated that mechanical disturbance by bioturbating fauna destroys the electrogenic sulphur oxidation signal. A survey of published geochemical data and 16S rRNA gene sequences identified that electrogenic sulphide oxidation is likely present in a variety of marine sediments with high sulphide generation and restricted bioturbation, such as mangrove swamps, aquaculture areas, seasonally hypoxic basins, cold sulphide seeps and possibly hydrothermal vent environments. This study shows for the first time that electrogenic sulphur oxidation occurs in a wide range of marine sediments and that bioturbation may exert a dominant control on its natural distribution.

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