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Journal Articles Frontiers in Microbiology Year : 2022

Preservation of exopolymeric substances in estuarine sediments


The surface of intertidal estuarine sediments is covered with diatom biofilms excreting exopolymeric substances (EPSs) through photosynthesis. These EPSs are highly reactive and increase sediment cohesiveness notably through organo-mineral interactions. In most sedimentary environments, EPSs are partly to fully degraded by heterotrophic bacteria in the uppermost millimeters of the sediment and so they are thought to be virtually absent deeper in the sedimentary column. Here, we present the first evidence of the preservation of EPSs and EPS-mineral aggregates in a 6-m-long sedimentary core obtained from an estuarine point bar in the Gironde Estuary. EPSs were extracted from 18 depth intervals along the core, and their physicochemical properties were characterized by (i) wet chemical assays to measure the concentrations of polysaccharides and proteins, and EPS deprotonation of functional groups, (ii) acid–base titrations, and (iii) Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. EPS-sediment complexes were also imaged using cryo-scanning electron microscopy. EPS results were analyzed in the context of sediment properties including facies, grain size, and total organic carbon, and of metabolic and enzymatic activities. Our results showed a predictable decrease in EPS concentrations (proteins and polysaccharides) and reactivity from the surface biofilm to a depth of 0.5 m, possibly linked to heterotrophic degradation. Concentrations remained relatively low down to ca. 4.3 m deep. Surprisingly, at that depth EPSs abundance was comparable to the surface and showed a downward decrease to 6.08 m. cryo-scanning electron microscopy (Cryo-SEM) showed that the EPS complexes with sediment were abundant at all studied depth and potentially protected EPSs from degradation. EPS composition did not change substantially from the surface to the bottom of the core. EPS concentrations and acidity were anti-correlated with metabolic activity, but showed no statistical correlation with grain size, TOC, depth or enzymatic activity. Maximum EPS concentrations were found at the top of tide-dominated sedimentary sequences, and very low concentrations were found in river flood-dominated sedimentary sequences. Based on this observation, we propose a scenario where biofilm development and EPS production are maximal when (i) the point bar and the intertidal areas were the most extensive, i.e., tide-dominated sequences and (ii) the tide-dominated deposit were succeeded by rapid burial beneath sediments, potentially decreasing the probability of encounter between bacterial cells and EPSs.
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hal-04036752 , version 1 (21-03-2023)




Thibault Duteil, Raphaël Bourillot, Olivier Braissant, Brian Grégoire, Maud Leloup, et al.. Preservation of exopolymeric substances in estuarine sediments. Frontiers in Microbiology, 2022, 13, ⟨10.3389/fmicb.2022.921154⟩. ⟨hal-04036752⟩
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