Impact of carbon metabolism on 13C signatures of cyanobacteria and green non-sulfur-like bacteria inhabiting a microbial mat from an alkaline siliceous hot spring in Yellowstone National Park (USA)

Environ Microbiol. 2007 Feb;9(2):482-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2006.01165.x.


Alkaline siliceous hot spring microbial mats in Yellowstone National Park are composed of two dominant phototropic groups, cyanobacteria and green non-sulfur-like bacteria (GNSLB). While cyanobacteria are thought to cross-feed low-molecular-weight organic compounds to support photoheterotrophic metabolism in GNSLB, it is unclear how this could lead to the heavier stable carbon isotopic signatures in GNSLB lipids compared with cyanobacterial lipids found in previous studies. The two groups of phototrophs were separated using percoll density gradient centrifugation and subsequent lipid and stable carbon isotopic analysis revealed that we obtained fractions with a approximately 60-fold enrichment in cyanobacterial and an approximately twofold enrichment in GNSLB biomass, respectively, compared with the mat itself. This technique was used to study the diel cycling and 13C content of the glucose pools in and the uptake of 13C-bicarbonate by the cyanobacteria and GNSLB, as well as the transfer of incorporated 13C from cyanobacteria to GNSLB. The results show that cyanobacteria have the highest bicarbonate uptake rates and accumulate glucose during the afternoon in full light conditions. In contrast, GNSLB have relatively higher bicarbonate uptake rates compared with cyanobacteria in the morning at low light levels. During the night GNSLB take up carbon that is likely derived through fermentation of cyanobacterial glucose enriched in 13C. The assimilation of 13C-enriched cyanobacterial carbon may thus lead to enriched 13C-contents of GNSLB cell components.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bicarbonates / metabolism
  • Biomass
  • Carbon / metabolism*
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Centrifugation, Density Gradient
  • Chloroflexi / growth & development
  • Chloroflexi / metabolism*
  • Glucose / chemistry
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Hot Springs / microbiology*
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Synechococcus / growth & development
  • Synechococcus / metabolism*
  • United States


  • Bicarbonates
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Lipids
  • Carbon
  • calcium bicarbonate
  • Glucose