Marine pelagic redoxclines are characterized by pronounced activities of chemolithoautotrophic microorganisms. As evidenced by the high dark CO(2) fixation rates measured around the oxic-anoxic interface but also in the upper sulfidic zone, the accordant organisms participate in important biogeochemical transformations. Although Epsilonproteobacteria have been identified as an important chemoautotrophic group in these environments, detailed species-level information on the identity of actively involved prokaryotes is lacking. In the present study, active chemolithoautotrophic prokaryotic assemblages were identified in the sulfidic zone of a pelagic Black Sea redoxcline by applying rRNA-based stable isotope probing in combination with 16S rRNA gene single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis and 16S rRNA gene cloning. The results showed that a single epsilonproteobacterium, affiliated with the genus Sulfurimonas, and two different members of the gammaproteobacterial sulfur oxidizer (GSO) cluster were responsible for dark CO(2) fixation activities in the upper sulfidic layer of the Black Sea redoxcline. Phylogenetically, these organisms were closely related to microorganisms, distributed worldwide, that are thought to be key players in denitrification and sulfide oxidation. Together, these findings emphasize the importance of chemolithoautotrophic members of the Sulfurimonas and GSO groups in the carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycles of oxic-anoxic pelagic transition zones.
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