Deep-sea hydrothermal vents are unique environments on Earth, as they host chemosynthetic ecosystems fuelled by geochemical energy with chemolithoautotrophic microorganisms at the basis of the food webs. Whereas discrete high-temperature venting systems have been studied extensively, the microbiotas associated with low-temperature diffuse venting are not well understood. We analysed the structure and functioning of microbial communities in two diffuse venting sediments from the Jan Mayen vent fields in the Norwegian-Greenland Sea, applying an integrated 'omics' approach combining metatranscriptomics, metaproteomics and metagenomics. Polymerase chain reaction-independent three-domain community profiling showed that the two sediments hosted highly similar communities dominated by Epsilonproteobacteria, Deltaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria, besides ciliates, nematodes and various archaeal taxa. Active metabolic pathways were identified through transcripts and peptides, with genes of sulphur and methane oxidation, and carbon fixation pathways highly expressed, in addition to genes of aerobic and anaerobic (nitrate and sulphate) respiratory chains. High expression of chemotaxis and flagella genes reflected a lifestyle in a dynamic habitat rich in physico-chemical gradients. The major metabolic pathways could be assigned to distinct taxonomic groups, thus enabling hypotheses about the function of the different prokaryotic and eukaryotic taxa. This study advances our understanding of the functioning of microbial communities in diffuse hydrothermal venting sediments.
© 2013 Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.