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Heterotrophic communities supplied by ancient organic carbon predominate in deep fennoscandian bedrock fluids

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Lotta Purkamo, Malin Bomberg, Mari Nyyssönen, Ilmo Kukkonen, Lasse Ahonen, Merja Itävaara


The deep subsurface hosts diverse life, but the mechanisms that sustain this diversity remain elusive. Here, we studied microbial communities involved in carbon cycling in deep, dark biosphere and identified anaerobic microbial energy production mechanisms from groundwater of Fennoscandian crystalline bedrock sampled from a deep drill hole in Outokumpu, Finland, by using molecular biological analyses. Carbon cycling pathways, such as carbon assimilation, methane production and methane consumption, were studied with cbbM, rbcL, acsB, accC, mcrA and pmoA marker genes, respectively. Energy sources, i.e. the terminal electron accepting processes of sulphate-reducing and nitrate-reducing communities, were assessed with detection of marker genes dsrB and narG, respectively. While organic carbon is scarce in deep subsurface, the main carbon source for microbes has been hypothesized to be inorganic carbon dioxide. However, our results demonstrate that carbon assimilation is performed throughout the Outokumpu deep scientific drill hole water column by mainly heterotrophic microorganisms such as Clostridia. The source of carbon for the heterotrophic microbial metabolism is likely the Outokumpu bedrock, mainly composed of serpentinites and metasediments with black schist interlayers. In addition to organotrophic metabolism, nitrate and sulphate are other possible energy sources. Methanogenic and methanotrophic microorganisms are scarce, but our analyses suggest that the Outokumpu deep biosphere provides niches for these organisms; however, they are not very abundant.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-32
Number of pages14
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015

    Research areas

  • Carbon cycling, Nitrogen cycling, Deep subsurface, Functional microbial communities, Heterotrophy

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