Hydrothermal vent systems harbor rich microbial communities ranging from aerobic mesophiles to anaerobic hyperthermophiles. Among these, members of the archaeal domain are prevalent in microbial communities in the most extreme environments, partly because of their temperature-resistant and robust membrane lipids. In this study, we use geochemical and molecular microbiological methods to investigate the microbial diversity in black smoker chimneys from the newly discovered Loki's Castle hydrothermal vent field on the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge (AMOR) with vent fluid temperatures of 310-320 °C and pH of 5.5. Archaeal glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraether lipids (GDGTs) and H-shaped GDGTs with 0-4 cyclopentane moieties were dominant in all sulfide samples and are most likely derived from both (hyper)thermophilic Euryarchaeota and Crenarchaeota. Crenarchaeol has been detected in low abundances in samples derived from the chimney exterior indicating the presence of Thaumarchaeota at lower ambient temperatures. Aquificales and members of the Epsilonproteobacteria were the dominant bacterial groups detected. Our observations based on the analysis of 16S rRNA genes and biomarker lipid analysis provide insight into microbial communities thriving within the porous sulfide structures of active and inactive deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Microbial cycling of sulfur, hydrogen, and methane by archaea in the chimney interior and bacteria in the chimney exterior may be the prevailing biogeochemical processes in this system.
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.