Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 118, Issue 1–2, pp 125–140 | Cite as

Metabolic potential of lithifying cyanobacteria-dominated thrombolitic mats

  • Jennifer M. Mobberley
  • Christina L. M. Khodadad
  • Jamie S. Foster
Regular Paper


Thrombolites are unlaminated carbonate deposits formed by the metabolic activities of microbial mats and can serve as potential models for understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the formation of lithifying communities. To assess the metabolic complexity of these ecosystems, high throughput DNA sequencing of a thrombolitic mat metagenome was coupled with phenotypic microarray analysis. Functional protein analysis of the thrombolite community metagenome delineated several of the major metabolic pathways that influence carbonate mineralization including cyanobacterial photosynthesis, sulfate reduction, sulfide oxidation, and aerobic heterotrophy. Spatial profiling of metabolite utilization within the thrombolite-forming microbial mats suggested that the top 5 mm contained a more metabolically diverse and active community than the deeper within the mat. This study provides evidence that despite the lack of mineral layering within the clotted thrombolite structure there is a vertical gradient of metabolic activity within the thrombolitic mat community. This metagenomic profiling also serves as a foundation for examining the active role individual functional groups of microbes play in coordinating metabolisms that lead to mineralization.


Thrombolites Microbial mats Metagenome Photosynthesis Carbonate mineralization Microbialites 



The authors would like to thank Louis Sherman and Pramod Wangikar for organizing the first Indo-US workshop on Cyanobacteria: Molecular Networks to Biofuels, which led to this manuscript. The research was supported by the NASA: Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology Program Element (NNX12AD64G) awarded to Jamie S. Foster. Jennifer M. Mobberley was supported by a NASA Graduate Student Research Program fellowship (NNX10AO18H).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer M. Mobberley
    • 1
  • Christina L. M. Khodadad
    • 1
  • Jamie S. Foster
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Microbiology and Cell ScienceUniversity of Florida, Space Life Sciences LabKennedy Space CenterUSA

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