Vertical stratification of microbial communities in the Red Sea revealed by 16S rDNA pyrosequencing

Pei-Yuan Qian, Yong Wang, Onon Lee, Chunkwan Lau, Jiangke Yang, Feras Fawzi Lafi, Abdulaziz M. Al-Suwailem, Tim Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


The ecosystems of the Red Sea are among the least-explored microbial habitats in the marine environment. In this study, we investigated the microbial communities in the water column overlying the Atlantis II Deep and Discovery Deep in the Red Sea. Taxonomic classification of pyrosequencing reads of the 16S rRNA gene amplicons showed vertical stratification of microbial diversity from the surface water to 1500 m below the surface. Significant differences in both bacterial and archaeal diversity were observed in the upper (2 and 50 m) and deeper layers (200 and 1500 m). There were no obvious differences in community structure at the same depth for the two sampling stations. The bacterial community in the upper layer was dominated by Cyanobacteria whereas the deeper layer harbored a large proportion of Proteobacteria. Among Archaea, Euryarchaeota, especially Halobacteriales, were dominant in the upper layer but diminished drastically in the deeper layer where Desulfurococcales belonging to Crenarchaeota became the dominant group. The results of our study indicate that the microbial communities sampled in this study are different from those identified in water column in other parts of the world. The depth-wise compositional variation in the microbial communities is attributable to their adaptations to the various environments in the Red Sea. © 2011 International Society for Microbial Ecology All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-518
Number of pages12
JournalThe ISME Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 29 2010

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We thank ML Sogin for his constructive comments on this article, the crew of the R/V Oceanus for providing technical assistance during the expedition and A Bower and S Swift of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for providing environmental data and useful information of the study sites. We also thank R-L Liu of HKUST for the enumeration of microbial cells densities in water samples. This study was supported by an award (SA-C0040/UK-C0016) granted to PY Qian from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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