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The production of hydrogen and methane by geochemical reactions associated with the serpentinization of ultramafic rocks can potentially support subsurface microbial ecosystems independent of the photosynthetic biosphere. Methanogenic and methanotrophic microorganisms are abundant in marine hydrothermal systems heavily influenced by serpentinization, but evidence for methane-cycling archaea and bacteria in continental serpentinite springs has been limited. This report provides metagenomic and experimental evidence for active methanogenesis and methanotrophy by microbial communities in serpentinite springs of the Voltri Massif, Italy. Methanogens belonging to family Methanobacteriaceae and methanotrophic bacteria belonging to family Methylococcaceae were heavily enriched in three ultrabasic springs (pH 12). Metagenomic data also suggest the potential for hydrogen oxidation, hydrogen production, carbon fixation, fermentation, and organic acid metabolism in the ultrabasic springs. The predicted metabolic capabilities are consistent with an active subsurface ecosystem supported by energy and carbon liberated by geochemical reactions within the serpentinite rocks of the Voltri Massif.

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APA Citation

Brazelton et al. (2017), Metagenomic identification of active methanogens and methanotrophs in serpentinite springs of the Voltri Massif, Italy. PeerJ 5:e2945; DOI 10.7717/peerj.2945