Oxygen isotope biogeochemistry of pore water sulfate in the deep biosphere: Dominance of isotope exchange reactions with ambient water during microbial sulfate reduction (ODP Site 1130)

Ulrich G. Wortmann, Boris Chernyavsky, Stefano M. Bernasconi, Benjamin Brunner, Michael E. Böttcher, Peter K. Swart

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81 Scopus citations


Microbially mediated sulfate reduction affects the isotopic composition of dissolved and solid sulfur species in marine sediments. Experiments and field data show that the δ 18 OSO42 - composition is also modified in the presence of sulfate-reducing microorganisms. This has been attributed either to a kinetic isotope effect during the reduction of sulfate to sulfite, cell-internal exchange reactions between enzymatically-activated sulfate (APS), and/or sulfite with cytoplasmic water. The isotopic fingerprint of these processes may be further modified by the cell-external reoxidation of sulfide to elemental sulfur, and the subsequent disproportionation to sulfide and sulfate or by the oxidation of sulfite to sulfate. Here we report δ 18 OSO42 - values from interstitial water samples of ODP Leg 182 (Site 1130) and provide the mathematical framework to describe the oxygen isotope fractionation of sulfate during microbial sulfate reduction. We show that a purely kinetic model is unable to explain our δ 18 OSO42 - data, and that the data are well explained by a model using oxygen isotope exchange reactions. We propose that the oxygen isotope exchange occurs between APS and cytoplasmic water, and/or between sulfite and adenosine monophosphate (AMP) during APS formation. Model calculations show that cell external reoxidation of reduced sulfur species would require up to 3000 mol/m3 of an oxidant at ODP Site 1130, which is incompatible with the sediment geochemical data. In addition, we show that the volumetric fluxes required to explain the observed δ 18 OSO42 - data are on average 14 times higher than the volumetric sulfate reduction rates (SRR) obtained from inverse modeling of the porewater data. The ratio between the gross sulfate flux into the microbes and the net sulfate flux through the microbes is depth invariant, and independent of sulfide concentrations. This suggests that both fluxes are controlled by cell density and that cell-specific sulfate reduction rates remain constant with depth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4221-4232
Number of pages12
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 2007


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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