Eavesdropping on deep sea biofilms through transcriptomics

Lab work for the DeepSeaQuence project is underway, and our first goal is to establish a transcriptomics-workflow for samples recovered from the deep sea. Transcriptomics (or RNA-sequencing) gives us unique snapshots of all the genes that the microbial communities living at hydrothermal vents were actively using at the moment that we sampled them – for example genes that help them to use volcanic gasses as energy sources, to break down organic matter, or to defend themselves against competing microbes. RNA molecules are very fragile, so we have to work carefully and find an optimal protocol that allows us to recover as much RNA from our frozen samples, copy it into DNA and sequence it without losing too much along the way. We are excited to soon get a glimpse into the private life of these communities that hide at the seafloor in total darkness!

DeepSeaQuence on its way!

DeepSeaQuence has officially started! The project was kicked off by joining the Center for Deep Sea Research (CDeepSea) to the Arctic mid-Ocean Ridge. Sampling was conducted at different hydrothermal vent sites.

                          Majestic structures and dense biofilms at Ægir’s Kilde

The microbiomes at deep-sea hydrothermal vent sites are fueled by the energy from the hydrothermal fluids, and thus, primary production is independent of photosynthesis. This is also the case for Ægir’s vent microbiome surrounding the chimneys at both focused-flow as well as diffuse-flow, emitting either white or shimmering hot fluids.

                  Blade coring and biofilm sampling at Seven Sisters Vent Field

On the other hand, the Seven Sisters vent field (~130 meters depth), at the southern part of the Arctic mid-Ocean Ridge, is situated in the epipelagic zone on top of a flat-top volcano. The microbiomes at this vent field could to a larger extent be influenced by photosynthesis and a larger organic input.