Microbiomes in an acidic rock-water cave system.

Burow K, Grawunder A, Harpke M, Pietschmann S, Ehrhardt R, Wagner L, Voigt K, Merten D, Büchel G, Kothe E (2019) Microbiomes in an acidic rock-water cave system. FEMS Microbiol Lett 366(13), fnz167.


Belowground ecosystems are accessible by mining, where a specific microbial community can be discovered. The biodiversity of a former alum mine rich in carbon, but with a low pH of 2.6-3.7, was evaluated by DNA- and cultivation-dependent methods using samples of the black slate rock material, secondary mineralization phases and seepage water. Pyrite oxidation within the low-grade metamorphic Silurian black slate established high concentrations of Fe and $\rm{SO}_4^{2-}$ forming the extreme conditions visible with acidophilic and Fe-oxidizing microorganisms. In addition, an unexpected predominance of fungi in this C-rich and acidic cave ecosystem, including high numbers of Mucoromycota and Mortierellomycota, was detected. Therefore, fungal cultures were obtained, mainly from the secondary mineral phases that are iron phosphates. Hence, the fungi might well have been involved in phosphate mobilization there. The rock material itself is rich in organic carbon that can be used by oxidase activity. The cultivation setup mimicked the cave conditions (low temperature, low pH, oxic conditions), with one oligotrophic and one medium rich in nutrients that allowed for isolation of different fungal (and eutrophic bacterial) groups. The acidic conditions prevented the occurrence of many basidiomycetes, while the isolated fungi could survive these adverse conditions.


Kerstin Voigt
Lysett Wagner


doi: 10.1093/femsle/fnz167

PMID: 31365079