The ISME Journal: Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology , 1-13 ( 2021)
The terrestrial subsurface microbiome contains vastly underexplored phylogenetic diversity and metabolic novelty, with critical implications for global biogeochemical cycling. Among the key microbial inhabitants of subsurface soils and sediments are Thaumarchaeota, an archaeal phylum that encompasses ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) as well as non-ammonia-oxidizing basal lineages. Thaumarchaeal ecology in terrestrial systems has been extensively characterized, particularly in the case of AOA. However, there is little knowledge on the diversity and ecophysiology of Thaumarchaeota in deeper soils, as most lineages, particularly basal groups, remain uncultivated and underexplored. Here we use genome-resolved metagenomics to examine the phylogenetic and metabolic diversity of Thaumarchaeota along a 234 cm depth profile of hydrologically variable riparian floodplain sediments in the Wind River Basin near Riverton, Wyoming. Phylogenomic analysis of the metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) indicates a shift in AOA population structure from the dominance of the terrestrial Nitrososphaerales lineage in the well-drained top ~100 cm of the profile to the typically marine Nitrosopumilales in deeper, moister, more energy-limited sediment layers. We also describe two deeply rooting non-AOA MAGs with numerous unexpected metabolic features, including the reductive acetyl-CoA (Wood-Ljungdahl) pathway, tetrathionate respiration, a form III RuBisCO, and the potential for extracellular electron transfer. These MAGs also harbor tungsten-containing aldehyde:ferredoxin oxidoreductase, group 4f [NiFe]-hydrogenases and a canonical heme catalase, typically not found in Thaumarchaeota. Our results suggest that hydrological variables, particularly proximity to the water table, impart a strong control on the ecophysiology of Thaumarchaeota in alluvial sediments.