Probing the geological source and biological fate of hydrogen in Yellowstone hot springs

Melody R. Lindsay, Daniel R. Colman, Maximiliano J. Amenabar, Kirsten E. Fristad, Kristopher M. Fecteau, Randall V. Debes, John R. Spear, Everett L. Shock, Tori M. Hoehler, Eric S. Boyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Hydrogen (H2) is enriched in hot springs and can support microbial primary production. Using a series of geochemical proxies, a model to describe variable H2 concentrations in Yellowstone National Park (YNP) hot springs is presented. Interaction between water and crustal iron minerals yields H2 that partition into the vapour phase during decompressional boiling of ascending hydrothermal fluids. Variable vapour input leads to differences in H2 concentration among springs. Analysis of 50 metagenomes from a variety of YNP springs reveals that genes encoding oxidative hydrogenases are enriched in communities inhabiting springs sourced with vapour-phase gas. Three springs in the Smokejumper (SJ) area of YNP that are sourced with vapour-phase gas and with the most H2 in YNP were examined to determine the fate of H2. SJ3 had the most H2, the most 16S rRNA gene templates and the greatest abundance of culturable hydrogenotrophic and autotrophic cells of the three springs. Metagenomics and transcriptomics of SJ3 reveal a diverse community comprised of abundant populations expressing genes involved in H2 oxidation and carbon dioxide fixation. These observations suggest a link between geologic processes that generate and source H2 to hot springs and the distribution of organisms that use H2 to generate energy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3816-3830
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental microbiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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