Predominance of Anaerobic, Spore-forming Bacteria in Metabolically Active Microbial Communities from Ancient Siberian Permafrost


Renxing Liang, Maggie Lau, Tatiana Vishnivetskaya, Karen G. Lloyd, Wei Wang, Jessica Wiggins, Jennifer Miller, Susan Pfiffner, Elizaveta Rivkina, Tullis Onstott


Understanding the long-term survivability and associated metabolic traits of microorganisms in ancient permafrost frozen millions of years ago provides a unique window into the burial and preservation processes experienced in general by subsurface microorganisms in sedimentary deposits because of permafrost’s hydrological isolation and exceptional DNA preservation. We employed aspartic acid racemization modeling and metagenomics to determine which microbial communities were metabolically active in the 1.1-Ma permafrost from northeastern Siberia. The simultaneous sequencing of extracellular and intracellular genomic DNA provided insight into the metabolic potential distinguishing extinct from extant microorganisms under frozen conditions over this time interval. This in-depth metagenomic sequencing advances our understanding of the microbial diversity and metabolic functions of extant microbiomes from early Pleistocene permafrost. Therefore, these findings extend our knowledge of the survivability of microbes in permafrost from 33,000 years to 1.1 Ma.

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Liang R, Lau M, Vishnivetskaya T, Lloyd KG, Wang W, Wiggins J, Miller J, Pfiffner S, Rivkina EM, Onstott T. 2019. Predominance of anaerobic, spore-forming bacteria in metabolically active microbial communities from ancient Siberian permafrost. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 10.1128/aem.00560-19:AEM.00560-19.