Subsurface microbial diversity in deep-granitic-fracture water in Colorado

Jason W. Sahl, Raleigh Schmidt, Elizabeth D. Swanner, Kevin W. Mandernack, Alexis S. Templeton, Thomas L. Kieft, Richard L. Smith, William E. Sanford, Robert L. Callaghan, Jeffry B. Mitton, John R. Spear

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


A microbial community analysis using 16S rRNA gene sequencing was performed on borehole water and a granite rock core from Henderson Mine, a >1,000-meter-deep molybdenum mine near Empire, CO. Chemical analysis of borehole water at two separate depths (1,044 m and 1,004 m below the mine entrance) suggests that a sharp chemical gradient exists, likely from the mixing of two distinct subsurface fluids, one metal rich and one relatively dilute; this has created unique niches for microorganisms. The microbial community analyzed from filtered, oxic borehole water indicated an abundance of sequences from iron-oxidizing bacteria (Gallionella spp.) and was compared to the community from the same borehole after 2 weeks of being plugged with an expandable packer. Statistical analyses with UniFrac revealed a significant shift in community structure following the addition of the packer. Phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis suggested that Nitrosomonadales dominated the oxic borehole, while PLFAs indicative of anaerobic bacteria were most abundant in the samples from the plugged borehole. Microbial sequences were represented primarily by Firmicutes, Proteobacteria, and a lineage of sequences which did not group with any identified bacterial division; phylogenetic analyses confirmed the presence of a novel candidate division. This "Henderson candidate division" dominated the clone libraries from the dilute anoxic fluids. Sequences obtained from the granitic rock core (1,740 m below the surface) were represented by the divisions Proteobacteria (primarily the family Ralstoniaceae) and Firmicutes. Sequences grouping within Ralstoniaceae were also found in the clone libraries from metal-rich fluids yet were absent in more dilute fluids. Lineage-specific comparisons, combined with phylogenetic statistical analyses, show that geochemical variance has an important effect on microbial community structure in deep, subsurface systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-152
Number of pages10
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


Dive into the research topics of 'Subsurface microbial diversity in deep-granitic-fracture water in Colorado'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this