Subsurface Stappia

success through defence, specialisation and putative pressure-dependent carbon fixation

Silas H. W. Vick*, Paul Greenfield, Robert D. Willows, Sasha G. Tetu, David J. Midgley, Ian T. Paulsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Diverse microbial communities living in subsurface coal seams are responsible for important geochemical processes including the movement of carbon between the geosphere, biosphere and atmosphere. Microbial conversion of the organic matter in coal to methane involves a complex assemblage of bacteria and archaea working in syntrophic relationships. Despite the importance and value of this microbial process, very few of the microbial taxa have defined metabolic or ecological roles in these environments. Additionally, the genomic features mediating life in this chemically reduced, energy poor, deep subsurface environment are not well characterised. Here we describe the isolation and genomic and catabolic characterisation of three alphaproteobacterial Stappia indica species from three coal basins across Australia. S. indica genomes from coal seams were compared with those from closely related S. indica isolated from diverse surface waters, revealing a coal seam-specific suite of genes associated with life in the subsurface. These genes are linked to processes including viral defence, secondary metabolite production, polyamine metabolism, polypeptide uptake membrane transporters and putative energy neutral pressure-dependent CO2 fixation. This indicates that subsurface Stappia have diverse metabolisms for biomass recycling and pressure-dependent CO2 fixation and require a suite of defensive and competitive strategies relative to their surface-dwelling relatives.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Dec 2019



  • CO fixation
  • Coal seam
  • Comparative genomics
  • Geomicrobiology
  • Terrestrial subsurface
  • Viral defence

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