Extremely thermophilic endospores germinate and metabolise organic carbon in sediments heated to above 80°C

Emma Bell, Jayne E. Rattray, Kathryn Sloan, Angela Sherry, Giovanni Pilloni, Casey R.J. Hubert*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Working paperPreprint


Endospores of thermophilic bacteria are widespread in cold seabed environments where they remain dormant during initial burial in accumulating sediments. The temperature increase during sedimentation can be simulated in experimental heating of sediments, resulting in the temperature-dependent activation of different endospore populations from the microbial seed bank. Here we investigated the response of endospore populations to heating at extreme high temperature (80– 99°C). Metabolites for germination and organic matter degradation (dipicolinic acid and organic acids) revealed both endospore germination and subsequent metabolism at ≥80°C. Endospore-forming Firmicutes with the genomic potential for organic carbon and nitrogen transformation were recovered by genome-resolved metagenomics. Genomes from Symbiobacteriales, Thermosediminibacteriales, Moorellales and Calditerricolales encode multiple mechanisms for high temperature degradation of sedimentary organic carbon and features of necromass that accumulate during sediment burial including saccharides, amino and nucleic acids. The results provide insight into the metabolism of novel carbon cycling microorganisms activated at high temperature, and suggest that extremely thermophilic Firmicutes dispersed in the ocean are poised to germinate in response to sediment heating during burial and transform a wide range of organic substrates.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2021


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