U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Microbes from Phyla Chloroflexi Provide Clues to Carbon Cycling, Respiration in Sediments
Published: August 05, 2013
Posted: February 12, 2014

Through metagenomics, researchers sequenced 86 organisms from the phylum Chloroflexi, representing 15 distinct lineages, to discover the secrets of microbial life within terrestrial aquifer sediment deposits.

These Chloroflexi microbes were found to have metabolic processes involved in plant biomass degradation, which could be useful for biofuels production, as well as a better understanding of the subsurface nitrogen and carbon cycles. Microorganisms in aquifer sediments are responsible for subterranean carbon turnover and the degradation of organic contaminants. Consequently, these microorganisms can heavily impact the quality of underground drinking water. In earlier studies, it was determined that Chloroflexi represent a significant amount of the microbial population in sediments. However, these microbes are poorly understood, as only six of about 30 Chloroflexi classes have been sequenced. For this reason, a team of researchers including scientists from the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) conducted a study on the microbial composition of these aquifer sediments to gain a broader knowledge of the metabolic characteristics of Chloroflexi microbes.

The researchers were able to reconstruct three near-complete Chloroflexi genomes from the metagenomic data collected at the Integrated Field-Scale Subsurface Research Challenge Site in Colorado as part of a DOE JGI Community Sequencing Program project led by Jill Banfield of the University of California, Berkeley. Metabolic analyses revealed that Chloroflexi can break down plant mass, influence subsurface carbon and nitrogen cycles, and adapt to changing oxygen levels. These traits, the researchers noted, were likely to apply to Chloroflexi in other sediment environments, making these microbes good candidates for mining useful enzymes and pathways for DOE missions of bioenergy and carbon processing as well as for biodegradation.

Reference: Hug, L. A., et al. 2013. “Community Genomic Analyses Constrain the Distribution of Metabolic Traits Across the Chloroflexi Phylum and Indicate Roles in Sediment Carbon Cycling,” Microbiome 1(22), DOI:10.1186/2049-2618-1-22. (Reference link)

Contact: Dan Drell, SC-23.2, (301) 903-4742
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Subsurface Biogeochemical Research
  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling
  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Research Area: DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI)

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)