DOI: 10.1101/457259Oct 30, 2018Paper

Changes in the Active, Dead, and Dormant Microbial Community Structure Across a Pleistocene Permafrost Chronosequence

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Alex BurkertRachel Mackelprang


Permafrost hosts a community of microorganisms that survive and reproduce for millennia despite extreme environmental conditions such as water stress, subzero temperatures, high salinity, and low nutrient availability. Many studies focused on permafrost microbial community composition use DNA-based methods such as metagenomic and 16S rRNA gene sequencing. However, these methods do not distinguish between active, dead, and dormant cells. This is of particular concern in ancient permafrost where constant subzero temperatures preserve DNA from dead organisms and dormancy may be a common survival strategy. To circumvent this we applied: (i) live/dead differential staining coupled with microscopy, (ii) endospore enrichment, and (iii) selective depletion of DNA from dead cells to permafrost microbial communities across a Pleistocene permafrost chronosequence (19K, 27K, and 33K). Cell counts and analysis of 16S rRNA gene amplicons from live, dead, and dormant cells revealed how communities differ between these pools and how they change over geologic time. We found clear evidence that cells capable of forming endospores are not necessarily dormant and that the propensity to form endospores differed among taxa. Specifically, Bacilli are...Continue Reading

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