Subsurface processes influence oxidant availability and chemoautotrophic hydrogen metabolism in Yellowstone hot springs

Melody R. Lindsay, Maximiliano J. Amenabar, Kristopher M. Fecteau, Randal V. Debes, Maria C. Fernandes Martins, Kirsten E. Fristad, Huifang Xu, Tori M. Hoehler, Everett Shock, Eric S. Boyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The geochemistry of hot springs and the availability of oxidants capable of supporting microbial metabolisms are influenced by subsurface processes including the separation of hydrothermal fluids into vapor and liquid phases. Here, we characterized the influence of geochemical variation and oxidant availability on the abundance, composition, and activity of hydrogen (H2)-dependent chemoautotrophs along the outflow channels of two-paired hot springs in Yellowstone National Park. The hydrothermal fluid at Roadside East (RSE; 82.4°C, pH 3.0) is acidic due to vapor-phase input while the fluid at Roadside West (RSW; 68.1°C, pH 7.0) is circumneutral due to liquid-phase input. Most chemotrophic communities exhibited net rates of H2 oxidation, consistent with H2 support of primary productivity, with one chemotrophic community exhibiting a net rate of H2 production. Abundant H2-oxidizing chemoautotrophs were supported by reduction in oxygen, elemental sulfur, sulfate, and nitrate in RSW and oxygen and ferric iron in RSE; O2 utilizing hydrogenotrophs increased in abundance down both outflow channels. Sequencing of 16S rRNA transcripts or genes from native sediments and dilution series incubations, respectively, suggests that members of the archaeal orders Sulfolobales, Desulfurococcales, and Thermoproteales are likely responsible for H2 oxidation in RSE, whereas members of the bacterial order Thermoflexales and the archaeal order Thermoproteales are likely responsible for H2 oxidation in RSW. These observations suggest that subsurface processes strongly influence spring chemistry and oxidant availability, which in turn select for unique assemblages of H2 oxidizing microorganisms. Therefore, these data point to the role of oxidant availability in shaping the ecology and evolution of hydrogenotrophic organisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)674-692
Number of pages19
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • boiling
  • chemosynthesis
  • electron acceptor
  • hydrogen
  • oxidant
  • phase separation
  • primary production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Subsurface processes influence oxidant availability and chemoautotrophic hydrogen metabolism in Yellowstone hot springs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this