Cultivation and characterization of a novel clade of deep-sea Chloroflexi: providing a glimpse of the phylum Chloroflexi involved in sulfur cycling

Chloroflexi bacteria are abundant and globally distributed in various unexplored biospheres on Earth. However, only few Chloroflexi members have been cultivated, hampering further understanding of this important group. In the current study, we firstly clarify the high abundance of the phylum Chloroflexi in deep-sea sediments via the operational taxonomic units analysis. We further successfully isolate a novel Chloroflexi strain ZRK33 from cold seep sediments by using an enrichment medium constantly supplemented with rifampicin.

Phylogenetic analyses based on 16S rRNA gene, genome, RpoB and EF-tu proteins indicate that strain ZRK33 represents a novel class, and the class is designated as Sulfochloroflexia because whole set of genes encoding key enzymes responsible for assimilatory sulfate reduction are identified in the genome of strain ZRK33. Indeed, assimilation of sulfate or thiosulfate by strain ZRK33 evidently benefits its growth and morphogenesis. Proteomic results suggest that metabolization of sulfate or thiosulfate significantly promotes the transport and degradation of various macromolecules and thereby stimulating the energy production.

Notably, the putative genes associated with assimilatory and dissimilatory sulfate reduction ubiquitously distribute in the metagenome-assembled genomes of 27 Chloroflexi members derived from deep-sea sediments, strongly suggesting that Chloroflexi bacteria play undocumented key roles in deep-sea sulfur cycling.

Authors: Rikuan Zheng, Ruining Cai, Rui Liu, Yeqi Shan, Ge Liu, Chaomin Sun