Nitrate respiration in the hydrothermal vent tubeworm <i>Riftia pachyptila</i>

Hentschel, U, Felbeck H.  1993.  Nitrate respiration in the hydrothermal vent tubeworm Riftia pachyptila. Nature. 366:338-340.

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Animals, bacterial symbiont, chemoautotrophic symbionts, cycle, jones, sulfide oxidation, vestimentifera, worm


THE vestimentiferan tubeworm Riftia packyptila is found around hydrothermal vent areas in the deep sea. Intracellular bacterial chemoautotrophic symbionts use the oxidation of sulphide from the effluent of the vents as an energy source for CO2 fixation. They apparently provide most or all of the nutritional requirements for their gutless hosts1-5. This kind of symbiosis has since been found in many other species from various other phyla from other habitats6-9. Here we present results that the bacteria of R. pachyptila may cover a significant fraction of their respiratory needs by the use of nitrate in addition to oxygen. Nitrate is reduced to nitrite, which may be the end product (nitrate respiration)10 or it may be further reduced to nitrogen gas (denitrification)11. This metabolic trait may have an important role in the colonization of hypoxic habitats in general by animals with this kind of symbiosis.