Micro-scale in situ characterisation of the organic and mineral composition of modern, hypersaline, photosynthetic microbial mats

Abstract : Physico-chemical and biological micro-scale environmental parameters within microbial mats formed in hypersaline conditions favour the precipitation of minerals, such as carbonates. We used optical microscopy and the technique "Fluorescence Induction Relaxation " (FIRe) to differentiate the photosynthetic activity of oxygenic photosynthesisers (cyanobacteria) from anoxygenic photosynthesisers (Chloroflexus-like bacteria, CFB) in samples obtained in 2011. After this preliminary investigation, we characterised the elemental composition of the different species of microorganisms, their extracellular substances (EPS), and the minerals precipitated on their surface. This study was made in-situ by µ-PIXE using the nuclear microprobe of the AIFIRA platform (CEN Bordeaux-Gradignan ; protons of 1.5 or 3MeV). With this microprobe it is possible to map the distribution of elements occurring in quantities down to several ppm, a resolution that is particularly favourable for studying microorganisms. SEM observation of the same zones allowed us to localise exactly the microbial structures (cells, EPS) and minerals analysed by nuclear probe. We were thus able to document the differential S and P concentrations in the different microbial species, the CLB being richer in P. Note that the CLB filaments are < 1 µm in diameter. We were also able to demonstrate the anti-correlation of Ca and Mg in the minerals precipitated directly on the microorganisms and on their EPS. Thus we have shown the utility of these in situ, nano-scale methods in studying microbial structures consisting of different species with different metabolic activitie, and different functional groups on their cell walls and EPS implicated in the bioprecipitation of different kinds of minerals. Such features in ancient microbial mats could aid their interpretation and possibly the distinction between ancient oxygenic and anoxygenic mats.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 4:30:09 PM
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Pascale Gautret, Claire Ramboz, R. de Wit, Frédéric Delarue, François Orange, et al.. Micro-scale in situ characterisation of the organic and mineral composition of modern, hypersaline, photosynthetic microbial mats. EGU General Assembly, Apr 2012, Vienne, Austria. ⟨insu-00840595⟩

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