Authors: Ma. Fernanda Sánchez-Soto, Daniel Cerqueda-García, Rocío J. Alcántara-Hernández, Luisa I. Falcón, Daniel Pech, Flor Árcega-Cabrera, Ma. Leopoldina Aguirre-Macedo & José Q. García-Maldonado


This study investigates the community composition, structure, and abundance of sulfate-reducing microorganisms (SRM) in surficial sediments of the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico (NWGoM) along a bathymetric gradient. For these purposes, Illumina sequencing and quantitative PCR (qPCR) of the dissimilatory sulfite reductase gene beta subunit (dsrB gene) were performed. Bioinformatic analyses indicated that SRM community was predominantly composed by members of Proteobacteria and Firmicutes across all the samples. However, Actinobacteria, Thermodesulfobacteria, and Chlorobi were also detected. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that unassigned dsrB sequences were related to Deltaproteobacteria and Nitrospirota superclusters, Euryarchaeota, and to environmental clusters. PCoA ordination revealed that samples clustered in three different groups. PERMANOVA indicated that water depth, temperature, redox, and nickel and cadmium content were the main environmental drivers for the SRM communities in the studied sites. Alpha diversity and abundance of SRM were lower for deeper sites, suggesting decreasing sulfate reduction activity with respect to water depth. This study contributes with the understanding of distribution and composition of dsrAB-containing microorganisms involved in sulfur transformations that may contribute to the resilience and stability of the benthic microbial communities facing metal and hydrocarbon pollution in the NWGoM, a region of recent development for oil and gas drilling.

Keywords: Gulf of Mexico, Sulfate-reducing microorganisms, dsrB gene, Illumina sequencing, qPCR