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Elucidating microbial species-specific effects on organic matter transformation in marine sediments
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  • Nagissa Mahmoudi,
  • Tim Enke,
  • Steven Beaupre,
  • Andreas Teske,
  • Otto Cordero,
  • Ann Pearson
Nagissa Mahmoudi

Corresponding Author:nagissam@gmail.com

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Tim Enke
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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Steven Beaupre
Stony Brook University
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Andreas Teske
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Marine Sciences
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Otto Cordero
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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Ann Pearson
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Microbial transformation and decomposition of organic matter in sediments constitutes one of the largest fluxes of carbon in marine environments. Mineralization of sedimentary organic matter by microorganisms results in selective degradation such that bioavailable or accessible compounds are rapidly metabolized while more recalcitrant, complex compounds are preserved and buried in sediment (Mahmoudi et al., 2017). Recent studies have found that the ability to use different carbon sources appears to vary among microorganisms, suggesting that the availability of certain pools of carbon can be specific to the taxa that utilize the pool. This implies that organic matter mineralization in marine environments may depend on the metabolic potential of the microbial populations that are present and active. The goal of our study was to investigate the extent to which organic matter availability and transformation may be species-specific using sediment from Guaymas Basin (Gulf of California). We carried out time-series incubations using bacterial isolates and sterilized sediment in the IsoCaRB system (Beaupre et al., 2016) which allowed us to measure the production rates and natural isotopic signatures (δ13C and Δ14C) of microbially-respired CO2. Separate incubations using two different marine bacterial isolates (Vibrio sp. and Pseudoalteromonas sp.) and sterilized Guaymas Basin sediment under oxic conditions showed that the rate and total quantity of organic matter metabolized by these two species differs. Approximately twice as much CO2 was collected during the Vibrio sp. incubation compared to the Pseudoalteromonas sp. incubation. Moreover, the rate at which organic matter was metabolized by the Vibrio sp. was much higher than the Pseudoalteromonas sp. indicating the intrinsic availability of organic matter in sediments may depend on the species that is present and active. Isotopic analyses of microbially respired CO2 will be used to constrain the type and age of organic matter that is accessible to each species. Moreover, molecular analysis of subsamples collected from each incubation will link carbon utilization with the underlying gene expression. Our study sheds light on the degree to which the metabolic capacities of microorganisms affect carbon transformation in sedimentary environments.