Giant sulfur bacteria (Beggiatoaceae) from sediments underlying the Benguela upwelling system host diverse microbiomes

Beverly E. Flood, Deon C. Louw, Anja K. Van der Plas, Jake V. Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Due to their lithotrophic metabolisms, morphological complexity and conspicuous appearance, members of the Beggiatoaceae have been extensively studied for more than 100 years. These bacteria are known to be primarily sulfur-oxidizing autotrophs that commonly occur in dense mats at redox interfaces. Their large size and the presence of a mucous sheath allows these cells to serve as sites of attachment for communities of other microorganisms. But little is known about their individual niche preferences and attached microbiomes, particularly in marine environments, due to a paucity of cultivars and their prevalence in habitats that are difficult to access and study. Therefore, in this study, we compare Beggiatoaceae strain composition, community composition, and geochemical profiles collected from sulfidic sediments at four marine stations off the coast of Namibia. To elucidate community members that were directly attached and enriched in both filamentous Beggiatoaceae, namely Ca. Marithioploca spp. and Ca. Maribeggiatoa spp., as well as nonfilamentous Beggiatoaceae, Ca. Thiomargarita spp., the Beggiatoaceae were pooled by morphotype for community analysis. The Beggiatoaceae samples collected from a highly sulfidic site were enriched in strains of sulfur-oxidizing Campylobacterota, that may promote a more hospitable setting for the Beggiatoaceae, which are known to have a lower tolerance for high sulfide to oxygen ratios. We found just a few host-specific associations with the motile filamentous morphotypes. Conversely, we detected 123 host specific enrichments with non-motile chain forming Beggiatoaceae. Potential metabolisms of the enriched strains include fermentation of host sheath material, syntrophic exchange of H2 and acetate, inorganic sulfur metabolism, and nitrite oxidation. Surprisingly, we did not detect any enrichments of anaerobic ammonium oxidizing bacteria as previously suggested and postulate that less well-studied anaerobic ammonium oxidation pathways may be occurring instead.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0258124
JournalPloS one
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Flood et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Journal Article


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