Exploring deep microbial life in coal-bearing sediment down to ~2.5 km below the ocean floor

Fumio Inagaki, Kai-Uwe Hinrichs, Yusuke Kubo, Marshall W Bowles, Verena B Heuer, Wei-li Hong, Tatsuhiko Hoshino, Akira Ijiri, Hiroyuki Imachi, Motoo Ito, Mark Lever, Masanori Kaneko, Yu-shi Lin, Barbara A Methé, Sumito Morita, Yuki Morono, Wataru Tanikawa, Monika Bihan, Stephen Alan Bowden, Markus ElvertClemens Glombitza, Doris Gross, Guy Harrington, Tomoyukie Hori, Kelvin Li, David Robert Limmer, Chang-Hong Liu, Masafumi Murayama, Naohiko Ohkouchi, Shuhei Ono, Sook-Young Park, Stephen C Phillips, Xavier Prieto-Mollar, Marcella Purkey, Natascha Riedinger, Yoshinori Sanada, Justine Sauvage, Glen Snyder, Rita Susilawati, Yoshinori Takano, Eiji Tasumi, Takeshi Terada, Hitoshi Tomaru, Elizabeth Trembath-Reichert, David T Wang, Yasuhiro Yamada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

266 Citations (Scopus)
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Microbial populations inhabit deeply buried marine sediments, but the extent of this vast ecosystem is poorly constrained. Here we provide evidence for the existence of microbial communities in sediment associated with lignite coalbeds at ~1.9 to 2.5 km below the seafloor in the Pacific Ocean off Japan. Microbial methanogenesis is indicated by isotopic data of methane and carbon dioxide, methanogenic biomarkers, cultivation and gas composition results. Rigorous protocols aimed at minimizing and correcting for sample contamination resulted in indigenous biomass estimates as low as ~10 cells cm 3 or less in the ~40 to 60°C warm sediments, while coal-bearing sediment layers had elevated cell concentrations. This ultra-deep microbial community is taxonomically distinct from typical shallower deep-biosphere communities found at this and other marine locations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-424
Number of pages5
Issue number6246
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2015


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