2024 Abstracts

Microbial Metabolisms Connecting Iron and Carbon in Terrestrial Wetlands: A Metagenomic and Metatranscriptomic Study of the Savannah River Site


Gracee K. Tothero1* ([email protected]), Daniel I. Kaplan2, Pamela Weisenhorn3, Clara S. Chan1


1University of Delaware, Newark, DE; 2University of Georgia, Athens, GA; 3Argonne National Laboratory, Lemont, IL


At the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, extensive iron-oxidizing microbial mats form and appear to be a major sink of uranium. To understand the significance of microbial iron oxidation and its connection to carbon cycling and to incorporate these metabolisms into hydro-biogeochemical models, one needs to know the rates and mechanisms of biotic and abiotic oxidation. To evaluate this, the team conducted two SRS field campaigns to sample iron mats in the Tim’s Branch stream and wetlands. Researchers performed 16S rRNA gene sequencing to identify the major iron-oxidizing bacteria (FeOB) and the flanking community, and metagenomic sequencing to identify the major biogeochemical transformations catalyzed by FeOB metabolisms.

Additionally, researchers performed iron oxidation kinetics experiments to quantify biotic iron oxidation rates, connected to metatranscriptomics sequencing to identify the expression of metabolic pathways in response to Fe(II) stimulus. The iron mats were dominated by known FeOB, notably a diverse set of Gallionella and Leptothrix taxa. Scanning electron microscopy shows the major morphologies in the mats are FeOB biominerals, including twisted stalks (characteristic of Gallionella) and sheaths (characteristic of Leptothrix). The team compared biotic oxidation rates with abiotic azide-killed controls and showed that mat iron oxidation is dominated by biotic oxidation while oxidation by abiotic mechanisms was much slower. Researchers will present the results of metagenomic and metatranscriptomic analyses of the Fe mat communities used in the kinetics experiments, including the major physiological mechanisms of the dominant FeOB. Researchers will describe the biogeochemically relevant activities of all major iron mat community members, detailing the metabolic links between iron oxidation and carbon metabolisms, and outline the major interactions between taxa. These results set the stage for microbial modeling work towards the longer-term goal to link FeOB metabolic models and kinetics to biogeochemical models in order to predict iron, carbon, nutrient, and contaminant metal cycling.