In situ cultivation of subsurface microorganisms in a deep mafic sill: Implications for SLiMEs

B. J. Silver, Tullis C. Onstott, G. Rose, L. H. Lin, C. Ralston, B. Sherwood-Lollar, S. M. Pfiffner, T. L. Kieft, S. McCuddy

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12 Scopus citations


An in situ culturing device was incubated within a flowing borehole in a mafic sill at 1.474 km depth in Evander Au mine, South Africa. The device was designed to enrich methanogenic, Fe3+-reducing and SO42- -reducing microorganisms using acetate, formate, methanol, Fe3+-citrate and SO42- - enriched agar and sand cartridges. At the end of the 33 day incubation geochemical analyses detected elevated H2, acetate, CH4 and Fe concentrations and depleted SO42- - concentrations. 16S rDNA sequences and PLFA analyses revealed that the microbial community composition of the substrate-bearing cartridges were distinct from that of the original borehole water and the non-substrate-bearing control cartridge. 16S rDNA and dissimilatory sulfite reductase, dsrAB, gene sequences indicated the device successfully targeted SO42- - reducing bacteria (SRB), which were not detected in the original borehole water. 16S rDNA sequences also revealed a shift in the microbial community from one relying on H2 based methanogenesis to one suggestive of H2 based acetogenesis supporting aceticlastic methanogenesis and SO42- - reduction compatible with the subsurface lithoautotrophic hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-348
Number of pages20
JournalGeomicrobiology Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Environmental Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • 16S rDNA
  • Acetogenesis
  • Au mine
  • In situ microbial cultivation
  • Lithoautotrophic
  • Methanogenesis
  • SLiMEs
  • SO - reduction
  • South Africa
  • Subsurface microbial ecosystem
  • dsrAB


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