Molecular characterization of sulfate-reducing bacteria in a New England salt marsh. Academic Article uri icon


  • Sulfate reduction, mediated by sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB), is the dominant remineralization pathway in sediments of New England salt marshes. High sulfate reduction rates are associated with the rhizosphere of Spartina alterniflora when plants elongate aboveground. The growth process concurrently produces significant amounts of new rhizome material belowground and the plants leak dissolved organic compounds. This study investigated the diversity of SRB in a salt marsh over an annual growth cycle of S. alterniflora by exploring the diversity of a functional gene, dissimilatory sulfite reductase (dsrAB). Because the dsrAB gene is a key gene in the anaerobic sulfate-respiration pathway, it allows the identification of microorganisms responsible for sulfate reduction. Conserved dsrAB primers in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) generated full-length dsrAB amplicons for cloning and DNA sequence analysis. Nearly 80% of 380 clone sequences were similar to genes from Desulfosarcina and Desulfobacterium species within Desulfobacteraceae. This reinforces the hypothesis that complete oxidizers with high substrate versatility dominate the marsh. However, the phylotypes formed several clades that were distinct from cultured representatives, indicating a greater diversity of SRB than previously appreciated. Several dsrAB sequences were related to homologues from gram-positive, thermophilic and non-thermophilic Desulfotomaculum species. One dsrAB lineage formed a sister group to cultured members of the delta-proteobacterial group Syntrophobacteraceae. A deeply branching dsrAB lineage was not affiliated with genes from any cultured SRB. The sequence data from this study will allow for the design of probes or primers that can quantitatively assess the diverse range of sulfate reducers present in the environment.

publication date

  • August 2005