A new niche for anoxygenic phototrophs as endoliths

Daniel Roush, Estelle Couradeau, Brandon Guida, Susanne Neuer, Ferran Garcia-Pichel

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9 Scopus citations


Anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria (APBs) occur in a wide range of aquatic habitats, from hot springs to freshwater lakes and intertidal microbial mats. Here, we report the discovery of a novel niche for APBs: endoliths within marine littoral carbonates. In a study of 40 locations around Isla de Mona, Puerto Rico, and Menorca, Spain, 16S rRNA high-throughput sequencing of endolithic community DNA revealed the presence of abundant phylotypes potentially belonging to wellknown APB clades. An ad hoc phylogenetic classification of these sequences enabled us to refine the assignments more stringently. Even then, all locations contained such putative APBs, often reaching a significant proportion of all phototrophic sequences. In fact, in some 20% of samples, their contribution exceeded that of oxygenic phototrophs, previously regarded as the major type of endolithic microbe in carbonates. The communities contained representatives of APBs in the Chloroflexales, various proteobacterial groups, and Chlorobi. The most abundant phylotypes varied with geography: on Isla de Mona, Roseiflexus and Chlorothrix-related phylotypes dominated, whereas those related to Erythrobacter were the most common in Menorca. The presence of active populations of APBs was corroborated through an analysis of photopigments: bacteriochlorophylls were detected in all samples, bacteriochlorophyll c and a being most abundant. We discuss the potential metabolism and geomicrobial roles of endolithic APBs. Phylogenetic inference suggests that APBs may be playing a role as photoheterotrophs, adding biogeochemical complexity to our understanding of such communities. Given the global extent of coastal carbonate platforms, they likely represent a very large and unexplored habitat for APBs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02055-17
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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