Cyanobacterial Mats in Calcite-Precipitating Serpentinite-Hosted Alkaline Springs of the Voltri Massif, Italy

Microorganisms. 2020 Dec 29;9(1):62. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms9010062.


(1) Background: Microbial communities in terrestrial, calcifying high-alkaline springs are not well understood. In this study, we investigate the structure and composition of microbial mats in ultrabasic (pH 10-12) serpentinite springs of the Voltri Massif (Italy). (2) Methods: Along with analysis of chemical and mineralogical parameters, environmental DNA was extracted and subjected to analysis of microbial communities based upon next-generation sequencing. (3) Results: Mineral precipitation and microbialite formation occurred, along with mat formation. Analysis of the serpentinite spring microbial community, based on Illumina sequencing of 16S rRNA amplicons, point to the relevance of alkaliphilic cyanobacteria, colonizing carbonate buildups. Cyanobacterial groups accounted for up to 45% of all retrieved sequences; 3-4 taxa were dominant, belonging to the filamentous groups of Leptolyngbyaceae, Oscillatoriales, and Pseudanabaenaceae. The cyanobacterial community found at these sites is clearly distinct from creek water sediment, highlighting their specific adaptation to these environments.

Keywords: alkaliphilic; carbonate; cyanobacteria; microbial diversity; serpentinite.