The recycling of the organic matter is a crucial function in any environment, especially in oligotrophic environments such as Acid Mine Drainages (AMDs). Polymer-degrading bacteria might play an important role in such ecosystem, at least by releasing by-products useful for the rest of the community. In this study, physiological, molecular and biochemical experiments were performed to decipher the role of a Paenibacillus strain isolated from the sediment of Carnoulès AMD.
Even though Paenibacillus sp. strain Q8 was isolated from an oligotrophic AMD showing an acidic pH, it developed under both acidic and alkaline conditions and showed a heterotrophic metabolism based on the utilization of a broad range of organic compounds. It resisted to numerous metallic stresses, particularly high arsenite (As(III)) concentrations (> 1,800 mg/L). Q8 was also able to efficiently degrade polymers such as cellulose, xylan and starch. Function-based screening of a Q8 DNA-library allowed the detection of 15 clones with starch-degrading activity and 3 clones with xylan-degrading activity. One clone positive for starch degradation carried a single gene encoding a "protein of unknown function". Amylolytic and xylanolytic activities were measured both in growing cells and with acellular extracts of Q8. The results showed the ability of Q8 to degrade both polymers under a broad pH range and high As(III) and As(V) concentrations. Activity measurements allowed to point out the constitutive expression of the amylase genes and the mainly inducible expression of the xylanase genes. PACE demonstrated the endo-acting activity of the amylases and the exo-acting activity of the xylanases.
AMDs have been studied for years especially with regard to interactions between bacteria and the inorganic compartment hosting them. To date, no study reported the role of microorganisms in the recycling of the organic matter. The present work suggests that the strain Q8 might play an important role in the community by recycling the scarce organic matter (cellulose, hemicellulose, starch...), especially when the conditions change. Furthermore, function-based screening of a Q8 DNA library allowed to assign an amylolytic function to a gene previously unknown. AMDs could be considered as a reservoir of genes with potential biotechnological properties.
Paenibacillus; Functional redundancy; Acid Mine Drainage (AMD); Amylase; Xylanase; Polymer degradation; Organic matter; Function-based screening; Community function
Euglena mutabilis is a photosynthetic protist found in acidic aquatic environments such as peat bogs, volcanic lakes and acid mine drainages (AMDs). Through its photosynthetic metabolism, this protist is supposed to have an important role in primary production in such oligotrophic ecosystems. Nevertheless, the exact contribution of E. mutabilis in organic matter synthesis remains unclear and no evidence of metabolite secretion by this protist has been established so far. Here we combined in situ proteo-metabolomic approaches to determine the nature of the metabolites accumulated by this protist or potentially secreted into an AMD. Our results revealed that the secreted metabolites are represented by a large number of amino acids, polyamine compounds, urea and some sugars but no fatty acids, suggesting a selective organic matter contribution in this ecosystem. Such a production may have a crucial impact on the bacterial community present on the study site, as it has been suggested previously that prokaryotes transport and recycle in situ most of the metabolites secreted by E. mutabilis. Consequently, this protist may have an indirect but important role in AMD ecosystems but also in other ecological niches often described as nitrogen-limited.
proteomics; metabolomics; Euglena mutabilis; primary production; AMD
New primers were designed for the amplification of dsrAB genes by nested PCR to investigate the diversity of sulfate-reducing prokaryotes (SRP) in environments with low bacterial cell density. The success of the nested PCR for the determination of SRP diversity was estimated by terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis in the Reigous, a small creek at an inactive mine (Carnoulès, France), which constitutes an extreme acidic arsenic-rich environment. Nested PCR limits were evaluated in dsrAB-rich sediments, and this technique was compared to direct PCR using either known primers (DSR1F/DSR4R) or new primers (dsr619AF/dsr1905BR). The comparison of clone libraries revealed that, even if the levels of diversity observed were not identical, nested PCR did not reduce the diversity compared to that of direct DSR1F/DSR4R PCR. Clone sequences were affiliated mainly with the Desulfobacteraceae and Desulfohalobiaceae families. Many sequences (∼30%) were related to a deeply branching lineage unaffiliated with any cultured SRP. Although this dsrAB cluster was found in all libraries, the new primers better amplified this lineage, providing more information on this unknown bacterial group. Thanks to these new primers in nested PCR, the SRP community from Carnoulès could be characterized. Specific SRP populations were obtained according to environmental characteristics. Desulfomicrobiaceae-related sequences were recovered in samples with low pH, low levels of dissolved oxygen, and high As content, while sequences belonging to the deeply branching group were found in a less extreme sample. Furthermore, for the first time, dsrAB sequences related to the latter group were recovered from freshwater.
Bacteria of the Thiomonas genus are ubiquitous in extreme environments, such as arsenic-rich acid mine drainage (AMD). The genome of one of these strains, Thiomonas sp. 3As, was sequenced, annotated, and examined, revealing specific adaptations allowing this bacterium to survive and grow in its highly toxic environment. In order to explore genomic diversity as well as genetic evolution in Thiomonas spp., a comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) approach was used on eight different strains of the Thiomonas genus, including five strains of the same species. Our results suggest that the Thiomonas genome has evolved through the gain or loss of genomic islands and that this evolution is influenced by the specific environmental conditions in which the strains live.
Recent advances in the field of arsenic microbial metabolism have revealed that bacteria colonize a large panel of highly contaminated environments. Belonging to the order of Burkholderiales, Thiomonas strains are ubiquitous in arsenic-contaminated environments. The genome of one of them, i.e. Thiomonas sp. 3As, was deciphered and compared to the genome of several other Thiomonas strains. We found that their flexible gene pool evolved to allow both the surviving and growth in their peculiar environment. In particular, the acquisition by strains of the same species of different genomic islands conferred heavy metal resistance and metabolic idiosyncrasies. Our comparative genomic analyses suggest that the natural environment influences the genomic evolution of these bacteria. Importantly, these results highlight the genomic variability that may exist inside a taxonomic group, enlarging the concept of bacterial species.
Pyritic mine tailings (mineral waste generated by metal mining) pose significant risk to the environment as point sources of acidic, metal-rich effluents (acid mine drainage [AMD]). While the accelerated oxidative dissolution of pyrite and other sulfide minerals in tailings by acidophilic chemolithotrophic prokaryotes has been widely reported, other acidophiles (heterotrophic bacteria that catalyze the dissimilatory reduction of iron and sulfur) can reverse the reactions involved in AMD genesis, and these have been implicated in the “natural attenuation” of mine waters. We have investigated whether by manipulating microbial communities in tailings (inoculating with iron- and sulfur-reducing acidophilic bacteria and phototrophic acidophilic microalgae) it is possible to mitigate the impact of the acid-generating and metal-mobilizing chemolithotrophic prokaryotes that are indigenous to tailing deposits. Sixty tailings mesocosms were set up, using five different microbial inoculation variants, and analyzed at regular intervals for changes in physicochemical and microbiological parameters for up to 1 year. Differences between treatment protocols were most apparent between tailings that had been inoculated with acidophilic algae in addition to aerobic and anaerobic heterotrophic bacteria and those that had been inoculated with only pyrite-oxidizing chemolithotrophs; these differences included higher pH values, lower redox potentials, and smaller concentrations of soluble copper and zinc. The results suggest that empirical ecological engineering of tailing lagoons to promote the growth and activities of iron- and sulfate-reducing bacteria could minimize their risk of AMD production and that the heterotrophic populations could be sustained by facilitating the growth of microalgae to provide continuous inputs of organic carbon.
The Tinto River is an extreme environment located at the core of the Iberian Pyritic Belt (IPB). It is an unusual ecosystem due to its size (100 km long), constant acidic pH (mean pH, 2.3), and high concentration of heavy metals, iron, and sulfate in its waters, characteristics that make the Tinto River Basin comparable to acidic mine drainage (AMD) systems. In this paper we present an extensive survey of the Tinto River sediment microbiota using two culture-independent approaches: denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and cloning of 16S rRNA genes. The taxonomic affiliation of the Bacteria showed a high degree of biodiversity, falling into 5 different phyla: Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Acidobacteria, and Actinobacteria; meanwhile, all the Archaea were affiliated with the order Thermoplasmatales. Microorganisms involved in the iron (Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans, Sulfobacillus spp., Ferroplasma spp., etc.), sulfur (Desulfurella spp., Desulfosporosinus spp., Thermodesulfobium spp., etc.), and carbon (Acidiphilium spp., Bacillus spp., Clostridium spp., Acidobacterium spp., etc.) cycles were identified, and their distribution was correlated with physicochemical parameters of the sediments. Ferric iron was the main electron acceptor for the oxidation of organic matter in the most acid and oxidizing layers, so acidophilic facultative Fe(III)-reducing bacteria appeared widely in the clone libraries. With increasing pH, the solubility of iron decreases and sulfate-reducing bacteria become dominant, with the ecological role of methanogens being insignificant. Considering the identified microorganisms—which, according to the rarefaction curves and Good's coverage values, cover almost all of the diversity—and their corresponding metabolism, we suggest a model of the iron, sulfur, and organic matter cycles in AMD-related sediments.
Weathering of the As-rich pyrite-rich tailings of the abandoned mining site of Carnoulès (southeastern France) results in the formation of acid waters heavily loaded with arsenic. Dissolved arsenic present in the seepage waters precipitates within a few meters from the bottom of the tailing dam in the presence of microorganisms. An Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans strain, referred to as CC1, was isolated from the effluents. This strain was able to remove arsenic from a defined synthetic medium only when grown on ferrous iron. This A. ferrooxidans strain did not oxidize arsenite to arsenate directly or indirectly. Strain CC1 precipitated arsenic unexpectedly as arsenite but not arsenate, with ferric iron produced by its energy metabolism. Furthermore, arsenite was almost not found adsorbed on jarosite but associated with a poorly ordered schwertmannite. Arsenate is known to efficiently precipitate with ferric iron and sulfate in the form of more or less ordered schwertmannite, depending on the sulfur-to-arsenic ratio. Our data demonstrate that the coprecipitation of arsenite with schwertmannite also appears as a potential mechanism of arsenite removal in heavily contaminated acid waters. The removal of arsenite by coprecipitation with ferric iron appears to be a common property of the A. ferrooxidans species, as such a feature was observed with one private and three collection strains, one of which was the type strain.
Metal sulfide mineral dissolution during bioleaching and acid mine drainage (AMD) formation creates an environment that is inhospitable to most life. Despite dominance by a small number of bacteria, AMD microbial biofilm communities contain a notable variety of coexisting and closely related Euryarchaea, most of which have defied cultivation efforts. For this reason, we used metagenomics to analyze variation in gene content that may contribute to niche differentiation among co-occurring AMD archaea. Our analyses targeted members of the Thermoplasmatales and related archaea. These results greatly expand genomic information available for this archaeal order.
We reconstructed near-complete genomes for uncultivated, relatively low abundance organisms A-, E-, and Gplasma, members of Thermoplasmatales order, and for a novel organism, Iplasma. Genomic analyses of these organisms, as well as Ferroplasma type I and II, reveal that all are facultative aerobic heterotrophs with the ability to use many of the same carbon substrates, including methanol. Most of the genomes share genes for toxic metal resistance and surface-layer production. Only Aplasma and Eplasma have a full suite of flagellar genes whereas all but the Ferroplasma spp. have genes for pili production. Cryogenic-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and tomography (cryo-ET) strengthen these metagenomics-based ultrastructural predictions. Notably, only Aplasma, Gplasma and the Ferroplasma spp. have predicted iron oxidation genes and Eplasma and Iplasma lack most genes for cobalamin, valine, (iso)leucine and histidine synthesis.
The Thermoplasmatales AMD archaea share a large number of metabolic capabilities. All of the uncultivated organisms studied here (A-, E-, G-, and Iplasma) are metabolically very similar to characterized Ferroplasma spp., differentiating themselves mainly in their genetic capabilities for biosynthesis, motility, and possibly iron oxidation. These results indicate that subtle, but important genomic differences, coupled with unknown differences in gene expression, distinguish these organisms enough to allow for co-existence. Overall this study reveals shared features of organisms from the Thermoplasmatales lineage and provides new insights into the functioning of AMD communities.
Metagenomics; Acid mine drainage; Thermoplasmatales; Ferroplasma; Iron oxidation; Comparative genomics
We examined the bacterial communities of epilithic biofilms in 17 streams which represented a gradient ranging from relatively pristine streams to streams highly impacted by acid mine drainage (AMD). A combination of automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis with multivariate analysis and ordination provided a sensitive, high-throughput method to monitor the impact of AMD on stream bacterial communities. Significant differences in community structure were detected among neutral to alkaline (pH 6.7 to 8.3), acidic (pH 3.9 to 5.7), and very acidic (pH 2.8 to 3.5) streams. DNA sequence analysis revealed that the acidic streams were generally dominated by bacteria related to the iron-oxidizing genus Gallionella, while the organisms in very acidic streams were less diverse and included a high proportion of acidophilic eukaryotes, including taxa related to the algal genera Navicula and Klebsormidium. Despite the presence of high concentrations of dissolved metals (e.g., Al and Zn) and deposits of iron hydroxide in some of the streams studied, pH was the most important determinant of the observed differences in bacterial community variability. These findings confirm that any restoration activities in such systems must focus on dealing with pH as the first priority.
Acid Mine Drainages (AMDs) are extreme environments characterized by acidic and oligotrophic conditions and by metal contaminations. A function-based screening of an AMD-derived metagenomic library led to the discovery and partial characterization of two non-homologous endo-acting amylases sharing no sequence similarity with any known amylase nor glycosidase. None carried known amylolytic domains, nor could be assigned to any GH-family. One amylase displayed no similarity with any known protein, whereas the second one was similar to TraC proteins involved in the bacterial type IV secretion system. According to the scarce similarities with known proteins, 3D-structure modelling using I-TASSER was unsuccessful. This study underlined the utility of a function-driven metagenomic approach to obtain a clearer image of the bacterial community enzymatic landscape. More generally, this work points out that screening for microorganisms or biomolecules in a priori incongruous environments could provide unconventional and new exciting ways for bioprospecting.
By their metabolic activities, microorganisms have a crucial role in the biogeochemical cycles of elements. The complete understanding of these processes requires, however, the deciphering of both the structure and the function, including synecologic interactions, of microbial communities. Using a metagenomic approach, we demonstrated here that an acid mine drainage highly contaminated with arsenic is dominated by seven bacterial strains whose genomes were reconstructed. Five of them represent yet uncultivated bacteria and include two strains belonging to a novel bacterial phylum present in some similar ecosystems, and which was named ‘Candidatus Fodinabacter communificans.' Metaproteomic data unravelled several microbial capabilities expressed in situ, such as iron, sulfur and arsenic oxidation that are key mechanisms in biomineralization, or organic nutrient, amino acid and vitamin metabolism involved in synthrophic associations. A statistical analysis of genomic and proteomic data and reverse transcriptase–PCR experiments allowed us to build an integrated model of the metabolic interactions that may be of prime importance in the natural attenuation of such anthropized ecosystems.
microbial genomics; extreme environment; uncultured microorganism; bacterial phylum; synecology; functional ecology
The acid waters (pH 2.7 to 3.4) originating from the Carnoulès mine tailings contain high concentrations of dissolved arsenic (80 to 350 mg · liter−1), iron (750 to 2,700 mg · liter−1), and sulfate (2,000 to 7,500 mg · liter−1). During the first 30 m of downflow in Reigous creek issuing from the mine tailings, 20 to 60% of the dissolved arsenic is removed by coprecipitation with Fe(III). The microbial communities along the creek have been characterized using terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) and 16S rRNA gene library analyses. The results indicate a low bacterial diversity in comparison with unpolluted water. Eighty percent of the sequences obtained are related to sequences from uncultured, newly described organisms or recently associated with acid mine drainage. As expected owing to the water chemistry, the sequences recovered are mainly related to bacteria involved in the geochemical Fe and S cycles. Among them, sequences related to uncultured TrefC4 affiliated with Gallionella ferruginea, a neutrophilic Fe-oxidizing bacterium, are dominant. The description of the bacterial community structure and its dynamics lead to a better understanding of the natural remediation processes occurring at this site.
During a molecular phylogenetic survey of extremely acidic (pH < 1), metal-rich acid mine drainage habitats in the Richmond Mine at Iron Mountain, Calif., we detected 16S rRNA gene sequences of a novel bacterial group belonging to the order Rickettsiales in the Alphaproteobacteria. The closest known relatives of this group (92% 16S rRNA gene sequence identity) are endosymbionts of the protist Acanthamoeba. Oligonucleotide 16S rRNA probes were designed and used to observe members of this group within acidophilic protists. To improve visualization of eukaryotic populations in the acid mine drainage samples, broad-specificity probes for eukaryotes were redesigned and combined to highlight this component of the acid mine drainage community. Approximately 4% of protists in the acid mine drainage samples contained endosymbionts. Measurements of internal pH of the protists showed that their cytosol is close to neutral, indicating that the endosymbionts may be neutrophilic. The endosymbionts had a conserved 273-nucleotide intervening sequence (IVS) in variable region V1 of their 16S rRNA genes. The IVS does not match any sequence in current databases, but the predicted secondary structure forms well-defined stem loops. IVSs are uncommon in rRNA genes and appear to be confined to bacteria living in close association with eukaryotes. Based on the phylogenetic novelty of the endosymbiont sequences and initial culture-independent characterization, we propose the name “Candidatus Captivus acidiprotistae.” To our knowledge, this is the first report of an endosymbiotic relationship in an extremely acidic habitat.
One arm of Lake Anna, Va., receives acid mine drainage (AMD) from Contrary Creek (SO42− concentration = 2 to 20 mM, pH = 2.5 to 3.5). Acid-volatile sulfide concentrations, SO42− reduction rates, and interstitial SO42− concentrations were measured at various depths in the sediment at four stations in four seasons to assess the effects of the AMD-added SO42− on bacterial SO42− reduction. Acid-volatile sulfide concentrations were always an order of magnitude higher at the stations receiving AMD than at a control station in another arm of the lake that received no AMD. Summer SO42− reduction rates were also an order of magnitude higher at stations that received AMD than at the control station (226 versus 13.5 mmol m−2 day−1), but winter values were inconclusive, probably due to low sediment temperature (6°C). Profiles of interstitial SO42− concentrations at the AMD stations showed a rapid decrease with depth (from 1,270 to 6 μM in the top 6 cm) due to rapid SO42− reduction. Bottom-water SO42− concentrations in the AMD-receiving arm were highest in winter and lowest in summer. These data support the conclusion that there is a significant enhancement of SO42− reduction in sediments receiving high SO42− inputs from AMD.
Acid mine drainage (AMD) is an extreme environment, usually with low pH and high concentrations of metals. Although the phylogenetic diversity of AMD microbial communities has been examined extensively, little is known about their functional gene diversity and metabolic potential. In this study, a comprehensive functional gene array (GeoChip 2.0) was used to analyze the functional diversity, composition, structure, and metabolic potential of AMD microbial communities from three copper mines in China. GeoChip data indicated that these microbial communities were functionally diverse as measured by the number of genes detected, gene overlapping, unique genes, and various diversity indices. Almost all key functional gene categories targeted by GeoChip 2.0 were detected in the AMD microbial communities, including carbon fixation, carbon degradation, methane generation, nitrogen fixation, nitrification, denitrification, ammonification, nitrogen reduction, sulfur metabolism, metal resistance, and organic contaminant degradation, which suggested that the functional gene diversity was higher than was previously thought. Mantel test results indicated that AMD microbial communities are shaped largely by surrounding environmental factors (e.g., S, Mg, and Cu). Functional genes (e.g., narG and norB) and several key functional processes (e.g., methane generation, ammonification, denitrification, sulfite reduction, and organic contaminant degradation) were significantly (P < 0.10) correlated with environmental variables. This study presents an overview of functional gene diversity and the structure of AMD microbial communities and also provides insights into our understanding of metabolic potential in AMD ecosystems.
Metal resistance determinants have traditionally been found in cultivated bacteria. To search for genes involved in nickel resistance, we analyzed the bacterial community of the rhizosphere of Erica andevalensis, an endemic heather which grows at the banks of the Tinto River, a naturally metal-enriched and extremely acidic environment in southwestern Spain. 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis of rhizosphere DNA revealed the presence of members of five phylogenetic groups of Bacteria and the two main groups of Archaea mostly associated with sites impacted by acid mine drainage (AMD). The diversity observed and the presence of heavy metals in the rhizosphere led us to construct and screen five different metagenomic libraries hosted in Escherichia coli for searching novel nickel resistance determinants. A total of 13 positive clones were detected and analyzed. Insights about their possible mechanisms of resistance were obtained from cellular nickel content and sequence similarities. Two clones encoded putative ABC transporter components, and a novel mechanism of metal efflux is suggested. In addition, a nickel hyperaccumulation mechanism is proposed for a clone encoding a serine O-acetyltransferase. Five clones encoded proteins similar to well-characterized proteins but not previously reported to be related to nickel resistance, and the remaining six clones encoded hypothetical or conserved hypothetical proteins of uncertain functions. This is the first report documenting nickel resistance genes recovered from the metagenome of an AMD environment.
The underground uranium mine Königstein (Saxony, Germany), currently in the process of remediation, represents an underground acid mine drainage (AMD) environment, that is, low pH conditions and high concentrations of heavy metals including uranium, in which eye-catching biofilm formations were observed. During active uranium mining from 1984 to 1990, technical leaching with sulphuric acid was applied underground on-site resulting in a change of the underground mine environment and initiated the formation of AMD and also the growth of AMD-related copious biofilms. Biofilms grow underground in the mine galleries in a depth of 250 m (50 m above sea level) either as stalactite-like slime communities or as acid streamers in the drainage channels. The eukaryotic diversity of these biofilms was analyzed by microscopic investigations and by molecular methods, that is, 18S rDNA PCR, cloning, and sequencing. The biofilm communities of the Königstein environment showed a low eukaryotic biodiversity and consisted of a variety of groups belonging to nine major taxa: ciliates, flagellates, amoebae, heterolobosea, fungi, apicomplexa, stramenopiles, rotifers and arthropoda, and a large number of uncultured eukaryotes, denoted as acidotolerant eukaryotic cluster (AEC). In Königstein, the flagellates Bodo saltans, the stramenopiles Diplophrys archeri, and the phylum of rotifers, class Bdelloidea, were detected for the first time in an AMD environment characterized by high concentrations of uranium. This study shows that not only bacteria and archaea may live in radioactive contaminated environments, but also species of eukaryotes, clearly indicating their potential influence on carbon cycling and metal immobilization within AMD-affected environment.
18S rDNA PCR; acid mine drainage; biofilm; environmental microbiology; eukaryote; microbial biodiversity; microbial ecology; uranium
Acid mine drainage (AMD) microbial communities contain microbial eukaryotes (both fungi and protists) that confer a biofilm structure and impact the abundance of bacteria and archaea and the community composition via grazing and other mechanisms. Since prokaryotes impact iron oxidation rates and thus regulate AMD generation rates, it is important to analyze the fungal and protistan populations. We utilized 18S rRNA and beta-tubulin gene phylogenies and fluorescent rRNA-specific probes to characterize the eukaryotic diversity and distribution in extremely acidic (pHs 0.8 to 1.38), warm (30 to 50°C), metal-rich (up to 269 mM Fe2+, 16.8 mM Zn, 8.5 mM As, and 4.1 mM Cu) AMD solutions from the Richmond Mine at Iron Mountain, Calif. A Rhodophyta (red algae) lineage and organisms from the Vahlkampfiidae family were identified. The fungal 18S rRNA and tubulin gene sequences formed two distinct phylogenetic groups associated with the classes Dothideomycetes and Eurotiomycetes. Three fungal isolates that were closely related to the Dothideomycetes clones were obtained. We suggest the name “Acidomyces richmondensis” for these isolates. Since these ascomycete fungi were morphologically indistinguishable, rRNA-specific oligonucleotide probes were designed to target the Dothideomycetes and Eurotiomycetes via fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH). FISH analyses indicated that Eurotiomycetes are generally more abundant than Dothideomycetes in all of the seven locations studied within the Richmond Mine system. This is the first study to combine the culture-independent detection of fungi with in situ detection and a demonstration of activity in an acidic environment. The results expand our understanding of the subsurface AMD microbial community structure.
Obligately acidophilic, heterotrophic bacteria were isolated both from enrichment cultures developed with acidic mine water and from natural mine drainage. The bacteria were grouped by the ability to utilize a number of organic acids as sole carbon sources. None of the strains were capable of chemolithotrophic growth on inorganic reduced iron and sulfur compounds. All bacteria were rod shaped, gram negative, nonencapsulated, motile, capable of growth at pH 2.6 but not at pH 6.0, catalase and oxidase positive, strictly aerobic, and capable of growth on citric acid. The bacteria were cultivatable on solid nutrient media only if agarose was employed as the hardening agent. Bacterial densities in natural mine waters ranged from approximately 20 to 250 cells per ml, depending upon source and culture medium. Ferric hydrates and stream vegetation contained from 1,500 to over 7 × 106 cells per g.
Analysis of assembled random shotgun sequence data from a low-diversity, subsurface acid mine drainage (AMD) biofilm revealed a single nif operon. This was found on a genome fragment belonging to a member of Leptospirillum group III, a lineage in the Nitrospirae phylum with no cultivated representatives. Based on the prediction that this organism is solely responsible for nitrogen fixation in the community, we pursued a selective isolation strategy to obtain the organism in pure culture. An AMD biofilm sample naturally abundant in Leptospirillum group III cells was homogenized, filtered, and serially diluted into a nitrogen-free liquid medium. The resulting culture in the terminal dilution grew autotrophically to a maximum cell density of ∼106 cells/ml, oxidizing ferrous iron as the sole energy source. 16S rRNA-internal transcribed spacer region clone library analysis confirmed that the isolate is a member of Leptospirillum group III and that the culture is axenic. We propose the name Leptospirillum ferrodiazotrophum sp. nov. for this iron-oxidizing, free-living diazotroph. This study highlights how environmental sequence data can provide insights for culturing previously uncultured microorganisms.
Microbial diversity studies based on the cloning and sequencing of DNA from nature support the conclusion that only a fraction of the microbial diversity is currently represented in culture collections. Out of over 40 known prokaryotic phyla, only half have cultured representatives. In an effort to culture the uncultured phylotypes from oligotrophic marine ecosystems, we developed high-throughput culturing procedures that utilize the concept of extinction culturing to isolate cultures in small volumes of low-nutrient media. In these experiments, marine bacteria were isolated and cultivated at in situ substrate concentrations—typically 3 orders of magnitude less than common laboratory media. Microtiter plates and a newly developed procedure for making cell arrays were employed to raise the throughput rate and lower detection sensitivity, permitting cell enumeration from 200-μl aliquots of cultures with densities as low as 103 cells/ml. Approximately 2,500 extinction cultures from 11 separate samplings of marine bacterioplankton were screened over the course of 3 years. Up to 14% of the cells collected from coastal seawater were cultured by this method, which was 14- to 1,400-fold higher than the numbers obtained by traditional microbiological culturing techniques. Among the microorganisms cultured were four unique cell lineages that belong to previously uncultured or undescribed marine Proteobacteria clades known from environmental gene cloning studies. These cultures are related to the clades SAR11 (α subclass), OM43 (β subclass), SAR92 (γ subclass), and OM60/OM241 (γ subclass). This method proved successful for the cultivation of previously uncultured marine bacterioplankton that have consistently been found in marine clone libraries.
Among the lactic acid bacteria (LAB) present in the oenological microbial ecosystem, Oenococcus oeni, an acidophilic lactic acid bacterium, is essential during winemaking. It outclasses all other bacterial species during malolactic fermentation (MLF). Oenological performances, such as malic acid degradation rate and sensorial impact, vary significantly according to the strain. The genetic diversity of the O. oeni species was evaluated using a multilocus sequence typing (MLST) scheme. Seven housekeeping genes were sequenced for a collection of 258 strains that had been isolated all over the world (particularly Burgundy, Champagne, and Aquitaine, France, Chile, South Africa, and Italy) and in several wine types (red wines, white wines, and champagne) and cider. The allelic diversity was high, with an average of 20.7 alleles per locus, many of them being rare alleles. The collection comprised 127 sequence types, suggesting an important genotypic diversity. The neighbor-joining phylogenetic tree constructed from the concatenated sequence of the seven housekeeping genes showed two major phylogenetic groups, named A and B. One unique strain isolated from cider composed a third group, rooting the phylogenetic tree. However, all other strains isolated from cider were in group B. Eight phylogenetic subgroups were statistically differentiated and could be delineated by the analysis of only 32 mutations instead of the 600 mutations observed in the concatenated sequence of the seven housekeeping genes. Interestingly, in group A, several phylogenetic subgroups were composed mostly of strains coming from a precise geographic origin. Three subgroups were identified, composed of strains from Chile, South Africa, and eastern France.
The Río Tinto (RT) is distinguished from other acid mine drainage systems by its natural and ancient origins. Microbial life from all three domains flourishes in this ecosystem, but bacteria dominate metabolic processes that perpetuate environmental extremes. While the patchy geochemistry of the RT likely influences the dynamics of bacterial populations, demonstrating which environmental variables shape microbial diversity and unveiling the mechanisms underlying observed patterns, remain major challenges in microbial ecology whose answers rely upon detailed assessments of community structures coupled with fine-scale measurements of physico-chemical parameters.
By using high-throughput environmental tag sequencing we achieved saturation of richness estimators for the first time in the RT. We found that environmental factors dictate the distribution of the most abundant taxa in this system, but stochastic niche differentiation processes, such as mutation and dispersal, also contribute to observed diversity patterns.
We predict that studies providing clues to the evolutionary and ecological processes underlying microbial distributions will reconcile the ongoing debate between the Baas Becking vs. Hubbell community assembly hypotheses.
Many different species of acidophilic prokaryotes, widely distributed within the domains Bacteria and Archaea, can catalyze the dissimilatory oxidation of ferrous iron or reduction of ferric iron, or can do both. Microbially mediated cycling of iron in extremely acidic environments (pH < 3) is strongly influenced by the enhanced chemical stability of ferrous iron and far greater solubility of ferric iron under such conditions. Cycling of iron has been demonstrated in vitro using both pure and mixed cultures of acidophiles, and there is considerable evidence that active cycling of iron occurs in acid mine drainage streams, pit lakes, and iron-rich acidic rivers, such as the Rio Tinto. Measurements of specific rates of iron oxidation and reduction by acidophilic microorganisms show that different species vary in their capacities for iron oxido-reduction, and that this is influenced by the electron donor provided and growth conditions used. These measurements, and comparison with corresponding data for oxidation of reduced sulfur compounds, also help explain why ferrous iron is usually used preferentially as an electron donor by acidophiles that can oxidize both iron and sulfur, even though the energy yield from oxidizing iron is much smaller than that available from sulfur oxidation. Iron-oxidizing acidophiles have been used in biomining (a technology that harness their abilities to accelerate the oxidative dissolution of sulfidic minerals and thereby facilitate the extraction of precious and base metals) for several decades. More recently they have also been used to simultaneously remediate iron-contaminated surface and ground waters and produce a useful mineral by-product (schwertmannite). Bioprocessing of oxidized mineral ores using acidophiles that catalyze the reductive dissolution of ferric iron minerals such as goethite has also recently been demonstrated, and new biomining technologies based on this approach are being developed.
acidophiles; iron; oxidation; reduction
We used fingerprinting and cloning-sequencing to study the spatiotemporal dynamics and diversity of Planctomycetes in two perialpine lakes with contrasting environmental conditions. Planctomycetes, which are less-abundant bacteria in freshwater ecosystems, appeared to be structured in the same way as the entire bacterial community in these ecosystems. They were more diversified and displayed fewer temporal variations in the hypolimnia than in the epilimnia. Like the more-abundant bacterial groups in aquatic systems, Planctomycetes communities seem to be composed of a very small number of abundant and widespread operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and a large number of OTUs that are present at low abundance. This indicates that the concept of “abundant or core” and “rare” bacterial phylotypes could also be applied to less-abundant freshwater bacterial phyla. The richness and diversity of Planctomycetes were mainly driven by pH and were similar in both of the lakes studied, whereas the composition of the Planctomycetes community seemed to be determined by a combination of factors including temperature, pH, and nutrients. The relative abundances of the dominant OTUs varied over time and were differently associated with abiotic factors. Our findings demonstrate that less-abundant bacterial phyla, such as Planctomycetes, can display strong spatial and seasonal variations linked to environmental conditions and suggest that their functional role in the lakes studied might be attributable mainly to a small number of phylotypes and vary over space and time in the water column.