Microbial Interactions With Dissolved Organic Matter Drive Carbon Dynamics and Community Succession. Academic Article uri icon


  • Knowledge of dynamic interactions between natural organic matter (NOM) and microbial communities is critical not only to delineate the routes of NOM degradation/transformation and carbon (C) fluxes, but also to understand microbial community evolution and succession in ecosystems. Yet, these processes in subsurface environments are usually studied independently, and a comprehensive view has been elusive thus far. In this study, we fed sediment-derived dissolved organic matter (DOM) to groundwater microbes and continually analyzed microbial transformation of DOM over a 50-day incubation. To document fine-scale changes in DOM chemistry, we applied high-resolution Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS) and soft X-ray absorption spectroscopy (sXAS). We also monitored the trajectory of microbial biomass, community structure and activity over this time period. Together, these analyses provided an unprecedented comprehensive view of interactions between sediment-derived DOM and indigenous subsurface groundwater microbes. Microbial decomposition of labile C in DOM was immediately evident from biomass increase and total organic carbon (TOC) decrease. The change of microbial composition was closely related to DOM turnover: microbial community in early stages of incubation was influenced by relatively labile tannin- and protein-like compounds; while in later stages the community composition evolved to be most correlated with less labile lipid- and lignin-like compounds. These changes in microbial community structure and function, coupled with the contribution of microbial products to DOM pool affected the further transformation of DOM, culminating in stark changes to DOM composition over time. Our study demonstrates a distinct response of microbial communities to biotransformation of DOM, which improves our understanding of coupled interactions between sediment-derived DOM, microbial processes, and community structure in subsurface groundwater.

published proceedings

  • Front Microbiol

altmetric score

  • 10.18

author list (cited authors)

  • Wu, X., Wu, L., Liu, Y., Zhang, P., Li, Q., Zhou, J., ... Chakraborty, R.

citation count

  • 92

complete list of authors

  • Wu, Xiaoqin||Wu, Liyou||Liu, Yina||Zhang, Ping||Li, Qinghao||Zhou, Jizhong||Hess, Nancy J||Hazen, Terry C||Yang, Wanli||Chakraborty, Romy

publication date

  • June 2018