Anaerobic ammonium-oxidising bacteria: A biological source of the bacteriohopanetetrol stereoisomer in marine sediments

Darci Rush*, Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté, Simon W. Poulton, Bo Thamdrup, A. Leigh Garside, Jenaro Acuña González, Stefan Schouten, Mike S M Jetten, Helen M. Talbot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Bacterially-derived bacteriohopanepolyols (BHPs) are abundant, well preserved lipids in modern and paleo-environments. Bacteriohopanetetrol (BHT) is a ubiquitously produced BHP while its less common stereoisomer (BHT isomer) has previously been associated with anoxic environments; however, its biological source remained unknown. We investigated the occurrence of BHPs in Golfo Dulce, an anoxic marine fjord-like enclosure located in Costa Rica. The distribution of BHT isomer in four sediment cores and a surface sediment transect closely followed the distribution of ladderane fatty acids, unique biomarkers for bacteria performing anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox). This suggests that BHT isomer and ladderane lipids likely shared the same biological source in Golfo Dulce. This was supported by examining the BHP lipid compositions of two enrichment cultures of a marine anammox species ('. Candidatus Scalindua profunda'), which were found to contain both BHT and BHT isomer. Remarkably, the BHT isomer was present in higher relative abundance than BHT. However, a non-marine anammox enrichment contained only BHT, which explains the infrequence of BHT isomer observations in terrestrial settings, and indicates that marine anammox bacteria are likely responsible for at least part of the environmentally-observed marine BHT isomer occurrences. Given the substantially greater residence time of BHPs in sediments, compared to ladderanes, BHT isomer is a potential biomarker for past anammox activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-64
Number of pages15
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Early online date24 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2014


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