Revealing the unexplored fungal communities in deep groundwater of crystalline bedrock fracture zones in Olkiluoto, Finland

Elina Sohlberg (Corresponding Author), Malin Bomberg, Hanna Miettinen, Mari Nyyssönen, Heikki Salavirta, Minna Vikman, Merja Itävaara

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    64 Citations (Scopus)


    The diversity and functional role of fungi, one of the ecologically most important groups of eukaryotic microorganisms, remains largely unknown in deep biosphere environments. In this study we investigated fungal communities in packer-isolated bedrock fractures in Olkiluoto, Finland at depths ranging from 296 to 798 m below surface level. DNA- and cDNA-based high-throughput amplicon sequencing analysis of the fungal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) gene markers was used to examine the total fungal diversity and to identify the active members in deep fracture zones at different depths. Results showed that fungi were present in fracture zones at all depths and fungal diversity was higher than expected. Most of the observed fungal sequences belonged to the phylum Ascomycota. Phyla Basidiomycota and Chytridiomycota were only represented as a minor part of the fungal community. Dominating fungal classes in the deep bedrock aquifers were Sordariomycetes, Eurotiomycetes, and Dothideomycetes from the Ascomycota phylum and classes Microbotryomycetes and Tremellomycetes from the Basidiomycota phylum, which are the most frequently detected fungal taxa reported also from deep sea environments. In addition some fungal sequences represented potentially novel fungal species. Active fungi were detected in most of the fracture zones, which proves that fungi are able to maintain cellular activity in these oligotrophic conditions. Possible roles of fungi and their origin in deep bedrock groundwater can only be speculated in the light of current knowledge but some species may be specifically adapted to deep subsurface environment and may play important roles in the utilization and recycling of nutrients and thus sustaining the deep subsurface microbial community.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number573
    JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • fungal communities
    • high-throughput sequencing
    • crystalline bedrock fracture
    • Fennoscandian shield
    • deep biosphere


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