Spore formation is considered to be one of the microbial strategies for long-term survival in subseafloor sedimentary habitats. However, our knowledge of the genetic and physiological characteristics of subseafloor microbes is limited. Here, we studied the distribution and frequency of genes that are related to endospore formation in 10 subseafloor sedimentary metagenomes from Site C9001 off Japan and Site 1229 off Peru. None or very low frequencies of endospore-specific genes (e.g. dpaA, dpaB, sspA, spo0A, spoIIGA, spoIIM, spoIIIAB, spoIVA, spoIVB, yabP, yunB, spoVM) were observed in the subseafloor metagenomes. Based on the number of universally conserved single copy genes, the frequency ratio of putative endospore-formers was estimated to be < 10%, which is consistent with the frequency of Clostridia-derived genomes (2-4%) but is lower than previous estimates based on the concentration of dipicolinic acid. Conceivable explanations for this discrepancy are as follows: the efficiency of lysis and DNA extraction of subseafloor endospore cells may have been lower than those of vegetative cells, conversion factor of dipicolinic acid content per cell may differ, and/or sporulation-related genes and other functional strategies for long-term survival in the deep subseafloor biosphere are evolutionarily distinct from known spore-forming gene repertoires.
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