Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

Functional shifts in microbial mats recapitulate early Earth metabolic transitions

Gutierrez-Preciado, Ana; Saghai, Aurelien; Moreira, David; Zivanovic, Yvan; Deschamps, Philippe; Lopez-Garcia, Purificacion


Phototrophic microbial mats dominated terrestrial ecosystems for billions of years, largely causing, through cyanobacterial oxygenic photosynthesis, but also undergoing, the Great Oxidation Event approximately 2.5 billion years ago. Taking a space-for-time approach based on the universality of core metabolic pathways expressed at ecosystem level, we studied gene content and co-occurrence networks in high-diversity metagenomes from spatially close microbial mats along a steep redox gradient. The observed functional shifts suggest that anoxygenic photosynthesis was present but not predominant under early Precambrian conditions, being accompanied by other autotrophic processes. Our data also suggest that, in contrast to general assumptions, anoxygenic photosynthesis largely expanded in parallel with the subsequent evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis and aerobic respiration. Finally, our observations might represent space-for-time evidence that the Wood-Ljungdahl carbon fixation pathway dominated phototrophic mats in early ecosystems, whereas the Calvin cycle probably evolved from pre-existing variants before becoming the dominant contemporary form of carbon fixation.

Published in

Nature ecology & evolution
2018, Volume: 2, number: 11, pages: 1700-1708

    UKÄ Subject classification


    Publication identifier


    Permanent link to this page (URI)