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1.  Biodiversity of Archaea and floral of two inland saltern ecosystems in the Alto Vinalopó Valley, Spain 
Saline Systems  2010;6:10.
The extraction of salt from seawater by means of coastal solar salterns is a very well-described process. Moreover, the characterization of these environments from ecological, biochemical and microbiological perspectives has become a key focus for many research groups all over the world over the last 20 years. In countries such as Spain, there are several examples of coastal solar salterns (mainly on the Mediterranean coast) and inland solar salterns, from which sodium chloride is obtained for human consumption. However, studies focused on the characterization of inland solar salterns are scarce and both the archaeal diversity and the plant communities inhabiting these environments remain poorly described.
Two of the inland solar salterns (termed Redonda and Penalva), located in the Alto Vinalopó Valley (Alicante, Spain), were characterized regarding their geological and physico-chemical characteristics and their archaeal and botanical biodiversity. A preliminary eukaryotic diversity survey was also performed using saline water. The chemical characterization of the brine has revealed that the salted groundwater extracted to fill these inland solar salterns is thalassohaline. The plant communities living in this environment are dominated by Sarcocornia fruticosa (L.) A.J. Scott, Arthrocnemum macrostachyum (Moris) K. Koch, Suaeda vera Forsk. ex Gmelin (Amaranthaceae) and several species of Limonium (Mill) and Tamarix (L). Archaeal diversity was analyzed and compared by polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based molecular phylogenetic techniques. Most of the sequences recovered from environmental DNA samples are affiliated with haloarchaeal genera such as Haloarcula, Halorubrum, Haloquadratum and Halobacterium, and with an unclassified member of the Halobacteriaceae. The eukaryote Dunaliella was also present in the samples.
To our knowledge, this study constitutes the first analysis centered on inland solar salterns located in the southeastern region of Spain. The results obtained revealed that the salt deposits of this region have marine origins. Plant communities typical of salt marshes are present in this ecosystem and members of the Halobacteriaceae family can be easily detected in the microbial populations of these habitats. Possible origins of the haloarchaea detected in this study are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2984398  PMID: 20942947
2.  Identification of polyhydroxyalkanoates in Halococcus and other haloarchaeal species 
Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are accumulated in many prokaryotes. Several members of the Halobacteriaceae produce poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB), but it is not known if this is a general property of the family. We evaluated identification methods for PHAs with 20 haloarchaeal species, three of them isolates from Permian salt. Staining with Sudan Black B, Nile Blue A, or Nile Red was applied to screen for the presence of PHAs. Transmission electron microscopy and 1H-nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy were used for visualization of PHB granules and chemical confirmation of PHAs in cell extracts, respectively. We report for the first time the production of PHAs by Halococcus sp. (Halococcus morrhuae DSM 1307T, Halococcus saccharolyticus DSM 5350T, Halococcus salifodinae DSM 8989T, Halococcus dombrowskii DSM 14522T, Halococcus hamelinensis JCM 12892T, Halococcus qingdaonensis JCM 13587T), Halorubrum sp. (Hrr. coriense DSM 10284T, Halorubrum chaoviator DSM 19316T, Hrr. chaoviator strains NaxosII and AUS-1), haloalkaliphiles (Natronobacterium gregoryi NCMB 2189T, Natronococcus occultus DSM 3396T) and Halobacterium noricense DSM 9758T. No PHB was detected in Halobacterium salinarum NRC-1 ATCC 700922, Hbt. salinarum R1 and Haloferax volcanii DSM 3757T. Most species synthesized PHAs when growing in synthetic as well as in complex medium. The polyesters were generally composed of PHB and poly-ß-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate (PHBV). Available genomic data suggest the absence of PHA synthesis in some haloarchaea and in all other Euryarchaeota and Crenarchaeota. Homologies between haloarchaeal and bacterial PHA synthesizing enzymes had indicated to some authors probable horizontal gene transfer, which, considering the data obtained in this study, may have occurred already before Permian times.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00253-010-2611-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2895300  PMID: 20437233
Polyhydroxybutyrate; Haloarchaea; Halococcus; Halobacterium; Haloalkaliphile
3.  A traditional Japanese-style salt field is a niche for haloarchaeal strains that can survive in 0.5% salt solution 
Saline Systems  2007;3:2.
Most of the haloarchaeal strains have been isolated from hypersaline environments such as solar evaporation ponds, salt lakes, or salt deposits, and they, with some exceptions, lyse or lose viability in very low-salt concentrations. There are no salty environments suitable for the growth of haloarchaea in Japan. Although Natrialba asiatica and Haloarcula japonica were isolated many years ago, the question, "Are haloarchaea really thriving in natural environments of Japan?" has remained unanswered.
Ten strains were isolated from a traditional Japanese-style salt field at Nie, Noto Peninsula, Japan by plating out the soil samples directly on agar plates containing 30% (w/v) salts and 0.5% yeast extract. They were most closely related to strains of three genera, Haladaptatus, Halococcus, and Halogeometricum. Survival rates in 3% and 0.5% SW (Salt Water, solutions containing salts in approximately the same proportions as found in seawater) solutions at 37°C differed considerably depending on the strains. Two strains belonging to Halogeometricum as well as the type strain Hgm. borinquense died and lysed immediately after suspension. Five strains that belonged to Halococcus and a strain that may be a member of Halogeometricum survived for 1–2 days in 0.5% SW solution. Two strains most closely related to Haladaptatus possessed extraordinary strong tolerance to low salt conditions. About 20 to 34% of the cells remained viable in 0.5% SW after 9 days incubation.
In this study we have demonstrated that haloarchaea are really thriving in the soil of Japanese-style salt field. The haloarchaeal cells, particularly the fragile strains are suggested to survive in the micropores of smaller size silt fraction, one of the components of soil. The inside of the silt particles is filled with concentrated salt solution and kept intact even upon suspension in rainwater. Possible origins of the haloarchaea isolated in this study are discussed.
PMCID: PMC1828056  PMID: 17346353
4.  Community solar salt production in Goa, India 
Aquatic Biosystems  2012;8:30.
Traditional salt farming in Goa, India has been practised for the past 1,500 years by a few communities. Goa’s riverine estuaries, easy access to sea water and favourable climatic conditions makes salt production attractive during summer. Salt produced through this natural evaporation process also played an important role in the economy of Goa even during the Portuguese rule as salt was the chief export commodity. In the past there were 36 villages involved in salt production, which is now reduced to 9. Low income, lack of skilled labour, competition from industrially produced salt, losses incurred on the yearly damage of embankments are the major reasons responsible for the reduction in the number of salt pans.
Salt pans (Mithagar or Mithache agor) form a part of the reclaimed waterlogged khazan lands, which are also utilised for aquaculture, pisciculture and agriculture. Salt pans in Goa experience three phases namely, the ceased phase during monsoon period of June to October, preparatory phase from December to January, and salt harvesting phase, from February to June. After the monsoons, the salt pans are prepared manually for salt production. During high tide, an influx of sea water occurs, which enters the reservoir pans through sluice gates. The sea water after 1–2 days on attaining a salinity of approximately 5ºBé, is released into the evaporator pans and kept till it attains a salinity of 23 - 25ºBé. The brine is then released to crystallizer pans, where the salt crystallises out 25 - 27ºBé and is then harvested.
Salt pans form a unique ecosystem where succession of different organisms with varying environmental conditions occurs. Organisms ranging from bacteria, archaea to fungi, algae, etc., are known to colonise salt pans and may influence the quality of salt produced.
The aim of this review is to describe salt farming in Goa’s history, importance of salt production as a community activity, traditional method of salt production and the biota associated with salt pans.
PMCID: PMC3543363  PMID: 23198813
Salt pan; Goa; Estuary; Community; Khazan; Tidal influx; India; Salt production
5.  Combined Use of Cultivation-Dependent and Cultivation-Independent Methods Indicates that Members of Most Haloarchaeal Groups in an Australian Crystallizer Pond Are Cultivable 
Haloarchaea are the dominant microbial flora in hypersaline waters with near-saturating salt levels. The haloarchaeal diversity of an Australian saltern crystallizer pond was examined by use of a library of PCR-amplified 16S rRNA genes and by cultivation. High viable counts (106 CFU/ml) were obtained on solid media. Long incubation times (≥8 weeks) appeared to be more important than the medium composition for maximizing viable counts and diversity. Of 66 isolates examined, all belonged to the family Halobacteriaceae, including members related to species of the genera Haloferax, Halorubrum, and Natronomonas. In addition, isolates belonging to a novel group (the ADL group), previously detected only as 16S rRNA genes in an Antarctic hypersaline lake (Deep Lake), were cultivated for the first time. The 16S rRNA gene library identified the following five main groups: Halorubrum groups 1 and 2 (49%), the SHOW (square haloarchaea of Walsby) group (33%), the ADL group (16%), and the Natronomonas group (2%). There were two significant differences between the organisms detected in cultivation and 16S rRNA sequence results. Firstly, Haloferax spp. were frequently isolated on plates (15% of all isolates) but were not detected in the 16S rRNA sequences. Control experiments indicated that a bias against Haloferax sequences in the generation of the 16S rRNA gene library was unlikely, suggesting that Haloferax spp. readily form colonies, even though they were not a dominant group. Secondly, while the 16S rRNA gene library identified the SHOW group as a major component of the microbial community, no isolates of this group were obtained. This inability to culture members of the SHOW group remains an outstanding problem in studying the ecology of hypersaline environments.
PMCID: PMC520848  PMID: 15345408
6.  Investigating the Effects of Simulated Martian Ultraviolet Radiation on Halococcus dombrowskii and Other Extremely Halophilic Archaebacteria 
Astrobiology  2009;9(1):104-112.
The isolation of viable extremely halophilic archaea from 250-million-year-old rock salt suggests the possibility of their long-term survival under desiccation. Since halite has been found on Mars and in meteorites, haloarchaeal survival of martian surface conditions is being explored. Halococcus dombrowskii H4 DSM 14522T was exposed to UV doses over a wavelength range of 200–400 nm to simulate martian UV flux. Cells embedded in a thin layer of laboratory-grown halite were found to accumulate preferentially within fluid inclusions. Survival was assessed by staining with the LIVE/DEAD kit dyes, determining colony-forming units, and using growth tests. Halite-embedded cells showed no loss of viability after exposure to about 21 kJ/m2, and they resumed growth in liquid medium with lag phases of 12 days or more after exposure up to 148 kJ/m2. The estimated D37 (dose of 37 % survival) for Hcc. dombrowskii was ≥ 400 kJ/m2. However, exposure of cells to UV flux while in liquid culture reduced D37 by 2 orders of magnitude (to about 1 kJ/m2); similar results were obtained with Halobacterium salinarum NRC-1 and Haloarcula japonica. The absorption of incoming light of shorter wavelength by color centers resulting from defects in the halite crystal structure likely contributed to these results. Under natural conditions, haloarchaeal cells become embedded in salt upon evaporation; therefore, dispersal of potential microscopic life within small crystals, perhaps in dust, on the surface of Mars could resist damage by UV radiation.
PMCID: PMC3182532  PMID: 19215203
Halococcus dombrowskii; Simulated martian UV radiation; LIVE/DEAD staining; Halite fluid inclusions; UV transmittance and reflectance; Desiccation
7.  Phylogenetic appraisal of antagonistic, slow growing actinomycetes isolated from hypersaline inland solar salterns at Sambhar salt Lake, India 
Inland solar salterns established in the vicinity of Sambhar Lake are extreme saline environments with high salinity and alkalinity. In view of the fact that microbes inhabiting such extreme saline environments flourish the contemporary bioprospecting, it was aimed to selectively isolate slow growing and rare actinomycetes from the unexplored solar salterns. A total of 14 slow growing actinomycetes were selectively isolated from three composite soil samples of inland solar salterns. Among the isolates, four groups were formed according to similarity of the banding patterns obtained by amplified ribosomal DNA restriction analysis (ARDRA). A subset of representative isolates for each ARDRA group was identified using 16S rDNA sequence based phylogenetic analysis and subsequently the entire isolates were assigned under three different genera; Streptomyces, Pseudonocardia, and Actinoalloteichus. The genus Streptomyces was found to be the dominant among the isolates. Furthermore, rare actinomycete genus Actinoalloteichus was isolated for the first time from solar saltern. Determination of salt-tolerance revealed that certain level of salt-tolerance and moderate halophilism occurs among the actinomycetes isolated from the inland salterns. In addition, all the acinomycetes were screened in two levels to unravel their ability to produce antimicrobial compounds. Significant antimicrobial activity was found among the actinomycetes against a range of bacteria and fungi to worth further characterization of these persuasive actinomycetes and their antimicrobial secondary metabolites. In a nutshell, this study offered a first interesting insight on occurrence of antagonistic rare actinomycetes and streptomycetes in inland solar salterns associated with Sambhar salt Lake.
PMCID: PMC3707079  PMID: 23847611
solar saltern; rare actinomycetes; ARDRA; phylogeny
8.  Halococcus qingdaonensis sp. nov., a halophilic archaeon isolated from a crude sea-salt sample 
A Gram-negative, extremely halophilic, coccoid archaeal strain, CM5T, was isolated from a crude sea-salt sample collected near Qingdao, China. The organism grew optimally at 35–40 °C and pH 6.0 in the presence of 20 % (w/v) NaCl. Its colonies were red in colour and it could use glucose as a sole carbon source for growth. The 16S rRNA gene sequence of CM5T was most closely related to those of Halococcus species. Its pattern of antibiotic susceptibility was similar to those of other described Halococcus species. Biochemical tests revealed no sign of H2S production or gelatin liquefaction. The main polar lipids of strain CM5T were phosphatidylglycerol, phosphatidylglycerol methylphosphate and sulfated diglycosyl diether. No phosphatidylglycerol sulfate was present. The DNA G+C content of strain CM5T was 61.2 mol% and it gave DNA–DNA reassociation values of 33.7, 57.1 and 29.6 %, respectively, with Halococcus salifodinae DSM 8989T, Halococcus dombrowskii DSM 14522T and Halococcus morrhuae ATCC 17082T. Based on its morphological and chemotaxonomic properties and phylogenetic analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequence data, we propose that CM5T should be classified within a novel species, Halococcus qingdaonensis sp. nov., with strain CM5T (=CGMCC 1.4243T=JCM 13587T) as the type strain.
PMCID: PMC3182530  PMID: 17329792
9.  Growth Potential of Halophilic Bacteria Isolated from Solar Salt Environments: Carbon Sources and Salt Requirements 
Eighteen strains of extremely halophilic bacteria and three strains of moderately halophilic bacteria were isolated from four different solar salt environments. Growth tests on carbohydrates, low-molecular-weight carboxylic acids, and complex medium demonstrated that the moderate halophiles and strains of the extreme halophiles Haloarcula and Halococcus grew on most of the substrates tested. Among the Halobacterium isolates were several metabolic groups: strains that grew on a broad range of substrates and strains that were essentially confined to either amino acid (peptone) or carbohydrate oxidation. One strain (WS-4) only grew well on pyruvate and acetate. Most strains of extreme halophiles grew by anaerobic fermentation and possibly by nitrate reduction. Tests of growth potential in natural saltern brines demonstrated that none of the halobacteria grew well in brines which harbor the densest populations of these bacteria in solar salterns. All grew best in brines which were unsaturated with NaCl. The high concentrations of Na+ and Mg2+ found in saltern crystallizer brines limited bacterial growth, but the concentrations of K+ found in these brines had little effect. MgSO4 was relatively more inhibitory to the extreme halophiles than was MgCl2, but the reverse was true for the moderate halophiles.
PMCID: PMC241517  PMID: 16346609
10.  Phylogenetic diversity of actinomycetes cultured from coastal multipond solar saltern in Tuticorin, India 
Aquatic Biosystems  2012;8:23.
Hypersaline solar salterns are extreme environments in many tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. In India, there are several coastal solar salterns along with the coastal line of the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea and inland solar salterns around Sambhar saltlake, from which sodium chloride is obtained for human consumption and industrial needs. Studies on characterization of such coastal and inland solar salterns are scarce and both the bacterial and archaeal diversity of these extreme saline environment remains poorly understood. Moreover, there are no reports on exclusive diversity of actinomycetes inhabiting Indian solar salterns.
Soil sediments were collected from both concentrator and crystallizer ponds of solar salterns and subjected to detailed physico-chemical analysis. Actinomycetes were selectively isolated by employing selective processing methods and agar media. A total of 12 representatives were selected from the 69 actinomycete isolates obtained from the saltern soil samples, using Amplified Ribosomal DNA Restriction Analysis. Sequencing and analysis of 16S rDNA from chosen representative isolates displayed the presence of members affiliated to actinobacterial genera: Streptomyces, Micromonospora, Nocardia, Nocardiopsis, Saccharopolyspora and Nonomuraea. The genus Streptomyces was found to be the dominant among the isolates. Furthermore, rare actinomycete genus Nonomuraea was isolated for the first time from Indian solar salterns.
To the best of our knowledge, this study constitutes the first characterization of actinomycete diversity centred on solar salterns located in the eastern coastal region of India. Furthermore, this is the very first report of isolation of Nonomuraea species from solar salterns and also from India. As actinomycetes encompass recurrently foremost sources of biotechnologically important member of the microbial communities, the actinomycetes retrieved from the Indian saltern soil samples laid the platform to search for novel biotechnologically significant bioactive substances.
PMCID: PMC3496644  PMID: 22950748
Solar saltern; Actinomycete; ARDRA; Phylogeny; 16S rDNA; Nonomuraea
11.  Solar salt lake as natural environmental source for extraction halophilic pigments 
Iranian Journal of Microbiology  2010;2(2):103-109.
Background and Objectives
Halophilic bacteria produce a variety of pigments, which function as immune modulators and have prophylactic action against cancers. In this study, colorful halophilic bacteria were isolated from solar salt lake and their pigments was extracted in optimal environmental conditions and compared with the pigments of Halorubrum sodomense ATCC 33755.
Materials and Methods
Water samples from the solar salt lake in Imam Khomeini port in southwest of Iran were used as a source for isolation of pigment-producing bacteria. Halorubrum sodomense ATCC 33755 was used as control for pigment production. The conditions for optimum growth and pigment production were established for the isolated bacteria. Pigment were analyzed by spectrophotometer, TLC and NMR assay. The 16S rRNA genes were sequenced and results were used to differentiate haloarchaea from halophilic bacterial strains.
Among the isolated strains, YS and OS strains and Halorubrum sodomense were recognized as moderate and extremely halophile with maximum growth in the presence of 15% and 30% NaCl concentrations, respectively. Experiments conducted to find out the optimum conditions for growth and pigment production temperature at 25°C, pH = 7.2 and shaking conditions at 120 rpm for three strains. Without shaking, little growth with no pigment production was observed. Total pigment produced by red, yellow and orange strains was measured at 240, 880 and 560 mg per dry cell weight respectively. Amplification yielded bands of to isolated strains only observed with bacteria primers. This result suggesting the YS and OS strains were not haloarchaea.
The isolated halophilic bacteria produced much higher amounts of pigments than Halorubrum sodomense. Photo intermediates including metarhodopsin II (meta II, λmax=380 nm) were determined as major pigment in Halorubrum sodomense.
PMCID: PMC3279771  PMID: 22347558
Halorubrum sodomense; haloarchaea; salt lake; metarhodopsin II; pigment
12.  Comparison of prokaryotic community structure from Mediterranean and Atlantic saltern concentrator ponds by a metagenomic approach 
We analyzed the prokaryotic community structure of a saltern pond with 21% total salts located in Isla Cristina, Huelva, Southwest Spain, close to the Atlantic ocean coast. For this purpose, we constructed a metagenome (designated as IC21) obtained by pyrosequencing consisting of 486 Mb with an average read length of 397 bp and compared it with other metagenomic datasets obtained from ponds with 19, 33, and 37% total salts acquired from Santa Pola marine saltern, located in Alicante, East Spain, on the Mediterranean coast. Although the salinity in IC21 is closer to the pond with 19% total salts from Santa Pola saltern (designated as SS19), IC21 is more similar at higher taxonomic levels to the pond with 33% total salts from Santa Pola saltern (designated as SS33), since both are predominated by the phylum Euryarchaeota. However, there are significant differences at lower taxonomic levels where most sequences were related to the genus Halorubrum in IC21 and to Haloquadratum in SS33. Within the Bacteroidetes, the genus Psychroflexus is the most abundant in IC21 while Salinibacter dominates in SS33. Sequences related to bacteriorhodopsins and halorhodopsins correlate with the abundance of Haloquadratum in Santa Pola SS19 to SS33 and of Halorubrum in Isla Cristina IC21 dataset, respectively. Differences in composition might be attributed to local ecological conditions since IC21 showed a decrease in the number of sequences related to the synthesis of compatible solutes and in the utilization of phosphonate.
PMCID: PMC4021199  PMID: 24847316
metagenomics; haloarchaea; halophilic bacteria; saltern; prokaryotic diversity
13.  Microbial Diversity in Maras Salterns, a Hypersaline Environment in the Peruvian Andes 
Maras salterns are located 3,380 m above sea level in the Peruvian Andes. These salterns consist of more than 3,000 little ponds which are not interconnected and act as crystallizers where salt precipitates. These ponds are fed by hypersaline spring water rich in sodium and chloride. The microbiota inhabiting these salterns was examined by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), 16S rRNA gene clone library analysis, and cultivation techniques. The total counts per milliliter in the ponds were around 2 × 106 to 3 × 106 cells/ml, while the spring water contained less than 100 cells/ml and did not yield any detectable FISH signal. The microbiota inhabiting the ponds was dominated (80 to 86% of the total counts) by Archaea, while Bacteria accounted for 10 to 13% of the 4′,6′-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) counts. A total of 239 16S rRNA gene clones were analyzed (132 Archaea clones and 107 Bacteria clones). According to the clone libraries, the archaeal assemblage was dominated by microorganisms related to the cosmopolitan square archaeon “Haloquadra walsbyi,” although a substantial number of the sequences in the libraries (31% of the 16S rRNA gene archaeal clones) were related to Halobacterium sp., which is not normally found in clone libraries from solar salterns. All the bacterial clones were closely related to each other and to the γ-proteobacterium “Pseudomonas halophila” DSM 3050. FISH analysis with a probe specific for this bacterial assemblage revealed that it accounted for 69 to 76% of the total bacterial counts detected with a Bacteria-specific probe. When pond water was used to inoculate solid media containing 25% total salts, both extremely halophilic Archaea and Bacteria were isolated. Archaeal isolates were not related to the isolates in clone libraries, although several bacterial isolates were very closely related to the “P. halophila” cluster found in the libraries. As observed for other hypersaline environments, extremely halophilic bacteria that had ecological relevance seemed to be easier to culture than their archaeal counterparts.
PMCID: PMC1489619  PMID: 16751493
14.  Responses of Haloarchaea to Simulated Microgravity 
Astrobiology  2011;11(3):199-205.
Various effects of microgravity on prokaryotes have been recognized in recent years, with the focus on studies of pathogenic bacteria. No archaea have been investigated yet with respect to their responses to microgravity. For exposure experiments on spacecrafts or on the International Space Station, halophilic archaea (haloarchaea) are usually embedded in halite, where they accumulate in fluid inclusions. In a liquid environment, these cells will experience microgravity in space, which might influence their viability and survival. Two haloarchaeal strains, Haloferax mediterranei and Halococcus dombrowskii, were grown in simulated microgravity (SMG) with the rotary cell culture system (RCCS, Synthecon). Initially, salt precipitation and detachment of the porous aeration membranes in the RCCS were observed, but they were avoided in the remainder of the experiment by using disposable instead of reusable vessels. Several effects were detected, which were ascribed to growth in SMG: Hfx. mediterranei's resistance to the antibiotics bacitracin, erythromycin, and rifampicin increased markedly; differences in pigmentation and whole cell protein composition (proteome) of both strains were noted; cell aggregation of Hcc. dombrowskii was notably reduced. The results suggest profound effects of SMG on haloarchaeal physiology and cellular processes, some of which were easily observable and measurable. This is the first report of archaeal responses to SMG. The molecular mechanisms of the effects induced by SMG on prokaryotes are largely unknown; haloarchaea could be used as nonpathogenic model systems for their elucidation and in addition could provide information about survival during lithopanspermia (interplanetary transport of microbes inside meteorites). Key Words: Haloferax mediterranei—Halococcus dombrowskii—Simulated microgravity—Rotary cell culture system—Antibiotic resistance—Lithopanspermia. Astrobiology 11, 199–205.
PMCID: PMC3079168  PMID: 21417742
15.  The MAP kinase HwHog1 from the halophilic black yeast Hortaea werneckii: coping with stresses in solar salterns 
Saline Systems  2007;3:3.
Hortaea werneckii is one of the most salt-tolerant species among microorganisms. It has been isolated from hypersaline waters of salterns as one of the predominant species of a group of halophilic and halotolerant melanized yeast-like fungi, arbitrarily named as "black yeasts". It has previously been shown that H. werneckii has distinct mechanisms of adaptation to high salinity environments that are not seen in salt-sensitive and only moderately salt-tolerant fungi. In H. werneckii, the HOG pathway is important for sensing the changes in environmental osmolarity, as demonstrated by identification of three main pathway components: the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) HwHog1, the MAPK kinase HwPbs2, and the putative histidine kinase osmosensor HwHhk7.
In this study, we show that the expression of HwHOG1 in salt-adapted cells depends on the environmental salinity and that HwHOG1 transcription responds rapidly but reciprocally to the acute hyper-saline or hypo-saline stress. Molecular modelling of HwHog1 reveals an overall structural homology with other MAPKs. HwHog1 complements the function of ScHog1 in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae multistress response. We also show that hyper-osmolar, oxidative and high-temperature stresses activate the HwHog1 kinase, although under high-temperature stress the signal is not transmitted via the MAPK kinase Pbs2. Identification of HOG1-like genes from other halotolerant fungi isolated from solar salterns demonstrates a high degree of similarity and excellent phylogenetic clustering with orthologues of fungal origin.
The HOG signalling pathway has an important role in sensing and responding to hyper-osmolar, oxidative and high-temperature stresses in the halophilic fungi H. werneckii. These findings are an important advance in our understanding of the HOG pathway response to stress in H. werneckii, a proposed model organism for studying the salt tolerance of halophilic and halotolerant eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC1828057  PMID: 17349032
16.  Survey of Archaeal Diversity Reveals an Abundance of Halophilic Archaea in a Low-Salt, Sulfide- and Sulfur-Rich Spring 
The archaeal community in a sulfide- and sulfur-rich spring with a stream water salinity of 0.7 to 1.0% in southwestern Oklahoma was studied by cloning and sequencing of 16S rRNA genes. Two clone libraries were constructed from sediments obtained at the hydrocarbon-exposed source of the spring and the microbial mats underlying the water flowing from the spring source. Analysis of 113 clones from the source library and 65 clones from the mat library revealed that the majority of clones belonged to the kingdom Euryarchaeota, while Crenarchaeota represented less than 10% of clones. Euryarchaeotal clones belonged to the orders Methanomicrobiales, Methanosarcinales, and Halobacteriales, as well as several previously described lineages with no pure-culture representatives. Those within the Halobacteriales represented 36% of the mat library and 4% of the source library. All cultivated members of this order are obligately aerobic halophiles. The majority of halobacterial clones encountered were not affiliated with any of the currently described genera of the family Halobacteriaceae. Measurement of the salinity at various locations at the spring, as well as along vertical gradients, revealed that soils adjacent to spring mats have a much higher salinity (NaCl concentrations as high as 32%) and a lower moisture content than the spring water, presumably due to evaporation. By use of a high-salt-plus-antibiotic medium, several halobacterial isolates were obtained from the microbial mats. Analysis of 16S rRNA genes indicated that all the isolates were members of the genus Haloferax. All isolates obtained grew at a wide range of salt concentrations, ranging from 6% to saturation, and all were able to reduce elemental sulfur to sulfide. We reason that the unexpected abundance of halophilic Archaea in such a low-salt, highly reduced environment could be explained by their relatively low salt requirement, which could be satisfied in specific locations of the shallow spring via evaporation, and their ability to grow under the prevalent anaerobic conditions in the spring, utilizing zero-valent sulfur compounds as electron acceptors. This study demonstrates that members of the Halobacteriales are not restricted to their typical high-salt habitats, and we propose a role for the Halobacteriales in sulfur reduction in natural ecosystems.
PMCID: PMC383155  PMID: 15066817
17.  Halophilic Archaea Cultivated from Surface Sterilized Middle-Late Eocene Rock Salt Are Polyploid 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e110533.
Live bacteria and archaea have been isolated from several rock salt deposits of up to hundreds of millions of years of age from all around the world. A key factor affecting their longevity is the ability to keep their genomic DNA intact, for which efficient repair mechanisms are needed. Polyploid microbes are known to have an increased resistance towards mutations and DNA damage, and it has been suggested that microbes from deeply buried rock salt would carry several copies of their genomes. Here, cultivable halophilic microbes were isolated from a surface sterilized middle-late Eocene (38–41 million years ago) rock salt sample, drilled from the depth of 800 m at Yunying salt mine, China. Eight unique isolates were obtained, which represented two haloarchaeal genera, Halobacterium and Halolamina. We used real-time PCR to show that our isolates are polyploid, with genome copy numbers of 11–14 genomes per cell in exponential growth phase. The ploidy level was slightly downregulated in stationary growth phase, but the cells still had an average genome copy number of 6–8. The polyploidy of halophilic archaea living in ancient rock salt might be a factor explaining how these organisms are able to overcome the challenge of prolonged survival during their entombment.
PMCID: PMC4206341  PMID: 25338080
18.  Archaeal Diversity at the Great Salt Plains of Oklahoma Described by Cultivation and Molecular Analyses 
Microbial ecology  2009;58(3):519-528.
The Great Salt Plains of Oklahoma is a natural inland terrestrial hypersaline environment that forms evaporite crusts of mainly NaCl. Previous work described the bacterial community through the characterization of 105 isolates from 46 phylotypes. The current report describes the archaeal community through both microbial isolation and culture-independent techniques. Nineteen distinct archaea were isolated, and ten were characterized phenetically. Included were isolates phylogenetically related to Haloarcula, Haloferax, Halorubrum, Haloterrigena, and Natrinema. The isolates were aerobic, non-motile, Gram-negative organisms and exhibited little capacity for fermentation. All of the isolates were halophilic, with most requiring at least 15% salinity for growth, and all grew at 30% salinity. The isolates were mainly mesothermic and could grow at alkaline pH (8.5). A 16S rRNA gene library was generated by polymerase chain reaction amplification of direct soil DNA extracts, and 200 clones were sequenced and analyzed. At 99% and 94% sequence identity, 36 and 19 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were detected, respectively, while 53 and 22 OTUs were estimated by Chao1, respectively. Coverage was relatively high (100% and 59% at 89% and 99% sequence identity, respectively), and the Shannon Index was 3.01 at 99% sequence identity, comparable to or somewhat lower than hypersaline habitats previously studied. Only sequences from Euryarchaeota in the Halobacteriales were detected, and the strength of matches to known sequences was generally low, most near 90% sequence identity. Large clusters were observed that are related to Haloarcula and Halorubrum. More than two-thirds of the sequences were in clusters that did not have close relatives reported in public databases.
PMCID: PMC4066810  PMID: 19306116
19.  Whole Genome Duplication and Enrichment of Metal Cation Transporters Revealed by De Novo Genome Sequencing of Extremely Halotolerant Black Yeast Hortaea werneckii 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71328.
Hortaea werneckii, ascomycetous yeast from the order Capnodiales, shows an exceptional adaptability to osmotically stressful conditions. To investigate this unusual phenotype we obtained a draft genomic sequence of a H. werneckii strain isolated from hypersaline water of solar saltern. Two of its most striking characteristics that may be associated with a halotolerant lifestyle are the large genetic redundancy and the expansion of genes encoding metal cation transporters. Although no sexual state of H. werneckii has yet been described, a mating locus with characteristics of heterothallic fungi was found. The total assembly size of the genome is 51.6 Mb, larger than most phylogenetically related fungi, coding for almost twice the usual number of predicted genes (23333). The genome appears to have experienced a relatively recent whole genome duplication, and contains two highly identical gene copies of almost every protein. This is consistent with some previous studies that reported increases in genomic DNA content triggered by exposure to salt stress. In hypersaline conditions transmembrane ion transport is of utmost importance. The analysis of predicted metal cation transporters showed that most types of transporters experienced several gene duplications at various points during their evolution. Consequently they are present in much higher numbers than expected. The resulting diversity of transporters presents interesting biotechnological opportunities for improvement of halotolerance of salt-sensitive species. The involvement of plasma P-type H+ ATPases in adaptation to different concentrations of salt was indicated by their salt dependent transcription. This was not the case with vacuolar H+ ATPases, which were transcribed constitutively. The availability of this genomic sequence is expected to promote the research of H. werneckii. Studying its extreme halotolerance will not only contribute to our understanding of life in hypersaline environments, but should also identify targets for improving the salt- and osmotolerance of economically important plants and microorganisms.
PMCID: PMC3744574  PMID: 23977017
20.  Nitrogen metabolism in haloarchaea 
Saline Systems  2008;4:9.
The nitrogen cycle (N-cycle), principally supported by prokaryotes, involves different redox reactions mainly focused on assimilatory purposes or respiratory processes for energy conservation. As the N-cycle has important environmental implications, this biogeochemical cycle has become a major research topic during the last few years. However, although N-cycle metabolic pathways have been studied extensively in Bacteria or Eukarya, relatively little is known in the Archaea. Halophilic Archaea are the predominant microorganisms in hot and hypersaline environments such as salted lakes, hot springs or salted ponds. Consequently, the denitrifying haloarchaea that sustain the nitrogen cycle under these conditions have emerged as an important target for research aimed at understanding microbial life in these extreme environments.
The haloarchaeon Haloferax mediterranei was isolated 20 years ago from Santa Pola salted ponds (Alicante, Spain). It was described as a denitrifier and it is also able to grow using NO3-, NO2- or NH4+ as inorganic nitrogen sources. This review summarizes the advances that have been made in understanding the N-cycle in halophilic archaea using Hfx mediterranei as a haloarchaeal model. The results obtained show that this microorganism could be very attractive for bioremediation applications in those areas where high salt, nitrate and nitrite concentrations are found in ground waters and soils.
PMCID: PMC2483277  PMID: 18593475
21.  Phylogenetic Diversities and Community Structure of Members of the Extremely Halophilic Archaea (Order Halobacteriales) in Multiple Saline Sediment Habitats 
We investigated the phylogenetic diversity and community structure of members of the halophilic Archaea (order Halobacteriales) in five distinct sediment habitats that experience various levels of salinity and salinity fluctuations (sediments from Great Salt Plains and Zodletone Spring in Oklahoma, mangrove tree sediments in Puerto Rico, sediment underneath salt heaps in a salt-processing plant, and sediments from the Great Salt Lake northern arm) using Halobacteriales-specific 16S rRNA gene primers. Extremely diverse Halobacteriales communities were encountered in all habitats, with 27 (Zodletone) to 37 (mangrove) different genera identified per sample, out of the currently described 38 Halobacteriales genera. With the exception of Zodletone Spring, where the prevalent geochemical conditions are extremely inhospitable to Halobacteriales survival, habitats with fluctuating salinity levels were more diverse than permanently saline habitats. Sequences affiliated with the recently described genera Halogranum, Halolamina, Haloplanus, Halosarcina, and Halorientalis, in addition to the genera Halorubrum, Haloferax, and Halobacterium, were among the most abundant and ubiquitous genera, suggesting a wide distribution of these poorly studied genera in saline sediments. The Halobacteriales sediment communities analyzed in this study were more diverse than and completely distinct from communities from typical hypersaline water bodies. Finally, sequences unaffiliated with currently described genera represented a small fraction of the total Halobacteriales communities, ranging between 2.5% (Zodletone) to 7.0% (mangrove and Great Salt Lake). However, these novel sequences were characterized by remarkably high levels of alpha and beta diversities, suggesting the presence of an enormous, yet-untapped supply of novel Halobacteriales genera within the rare biosphere of various saline ecosystems.
PMCID: PMC3294467  PMID: 22179255
22.  Thermophilic and halophilic β-agarase from a halophilic archaeon Halococcus sp. 197A 
Extremophiles  2013;17(6):931-939.
An agar-degrading archaeon Halococcus sp. 197A was isolated from a solar salt sample. The agarase was purified by hydrophobic column chromatography using a column of TOYOPEARL Phenyl-650 M. The molecular mass of the purified enzyme, designated as Aga-HC, was ~55 kDa on both SDS-PAGE and gel-filtration chromatography. Aga-HC released degradation products in the order of neoagarohexose, neoagarotetraose and small quantity of neoagarobiose, indicating that Aga-HC was a β-type agarase. Aga-HC showed a salt requirement for both stability and activity, being active from 0.3 M NaCl, with maximal activity at 3.5 M NaCl. KCl supported similar activities as NaCl up to 3.5 M, and LiCl up to 2.5 M. These monovalent salts could not be substituted by 3.5 M divalent cations, CaCl2 or MgCl2. The optimal pH was 6.0. Aga-HC was thermophilic, with optimum temperature of 70 °C. Aga-HC retained approximately 90 % of the initial activity after incubation for 1 hour at 65–80 °C, and retained 50 % activity after 1 hour at 95 °C. In the presence of additional 10 mM CaCl2, approximately 17 % remaining activity was detected after 30 min at 100 °C. This is the first report on agarase purified from Archaea.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00792-013-0575-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3824881  PMID: 23949137
Halococcus; Thermophilic; Halophilic; β-agarase
23.  Properties of Halococcus salifodinae, an Isolate from Permian Rock Salt Deposits, Compared with Halococci from Surface Waters 
Life : Open Access Journal  2013;3(1):244-259.
Halococcus salifodinae BIpT DSM 8989T, an extremely halophilic archaeal isolate from an Austrian salt deposit (Bad Ischl), whose origin was dated to the Permian period, was described in 1994. Subsequently, several strains of the species have been isolated, some from similar but geographically separated salt deposits. Hcc. salifodinae may be regarded as one of the most ancient culturable species which existed already about 250 million years ago. Since its habitat probably did not change during this long period, its properties were presumably not subjected to the needs of mutational adaptation. Hcc. salifodinae and other isolates from ancient deposits would be suitable candidates for testing hypotheses on prokaryotic evolution, such as the molecular clock concept, or the net-like history of genome evolution. A comparison of available taxonomic characteristics from strains of Hcc. salifodinae and other Halococcus species, most of them originating from surface waters, is presented. The cell wall polymer of Hcc. salifodinae was examined and found to be a heteropolysaccharide, similar to that of Hcc. morrhuae. Polyhydroxyalkanoate granules were present in Hcc. salifodinae, suggesting a possible lateral gene transfer before Permian times.
PMCID: PMC4187196  PMID: 25371342
Halococcus species; Halococcus salifodinae; haloarchaea; Permian salt deposit; cell wall polymer; polyhydroxyalkanoate; prokaryotic evolution
24.  Patterns of microbial diversity along a salinity gradient in the Guerrero Negro solar saltern, Baja CA Sur, Mexico 
The goal of this study was to use environmental sequencing of 16S rRNA and bop genes to compare the diversity of planktonic bacteria and archaea across ponds with increasing salinity in the Exportadora de Sal (ESSA) evaporative saltern in Guerrero Negro, Baja CA S., Mexico. We hypothesized that diverse communities of heterotrophic bacteria and archaea would be found in the ESSA ponds, but that bacterial diversity would decrease relative to archaea at the highest salinities. Archaeal 16S rRNA diversity was higher in Ponds 11 and 12 (370 and 380 g l−1 total salts, respectively) compared to Pond 9 (180 g l−1 total salts). Both Pond 11 and 12 communities had high representation (47 and 45% of clones, respectively) by Haloquadratum walsbyi-like (99% similarity) lineages. The archaeal community in Pond 9 was dominated (79%) by a single uncultured phylotype with 99% similarity to sequences recovered from the Sfax saltern in Tunisia. This pattern was mirrored in bop gene diversity with greater numbers of highly supported phylotypes including many Haloquadratum-like sequences from the two highest salinity ponds. In Pond 9, most bop sequences, were not closely related to sequences in databases. Bacterial 16S rRNA diversity was higher than archaeal in both Pond 9 and Pond 12 samples, but not Pond 11, where a non-Salinibacter lineage within the Bacteroidetes >98% similar to environmental clones recovered from Lake Tuz in Turkey and a saltern in Chula Vista, CA was most abundant (69% of community). This OTU was also the most abundant in Pond 12, but only represented 14% of clones in the more diverse pond. The most abundant OTU in Pond 9 (33% of community) was 99% similar to an uncultured gammaproteobacterial clone from the Salton Sea. Results suggest that the communities of saltern bacteria and archaea vary even in ponds with similar salinity and further investigation into the ecology of diverse, uncultured halophile communities is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3868825  PMID: 24391633
halophile; gradient; saltern; 16S rRNA gene; bop gene; haloarchaea
25.  Prokaryotic Diversity in Aran-Bidgol Salt Lake, the Largest Hypersaline Playa in Iran 
Microbes and Environments  2011;27(1):87-93.
Prokaryotic diversity in Aran-Bidgol salt lake, a thalasohaline lake in Iran, was studied by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), cultivation techniques, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of PCR-amplified fragments of 16S rRNA genes and 16S rRNA gene clone library analysis. Viable counts obtained (2.5–4 × 106 cells mL−1) were similar to total cell abundance in the lake determined by DAPI direct count (3–4×107 cells mL−1). The proportion of Bacteria to Archaea in the community detectable by FISH was unexpectedly high and ranged between 1:3 and 1:2. We analyzed 101 archaeal isolates and found that most belonged to the genera Halorubrum (55%) and Haloarcula (18%). Eleven bacterial isolates obtained in pure culture were affiliated with the genera Salinibacter (18.7%), Salicola (18.7%) and Rhodovibrio (35.3%). Analysis of inserts of 100 clones from the eight 16S rRNA clone libraries constructed revealed 37 OTUs. The majority (63%) of these sequences were not related to any previously identified taxa. Within this sampling effort we most frequently retrieved phylotypes related to Halorhabdus (16% of archaeal sequences obtained) and Salinibacter (36% of bacterial sequences obtained). Other prokaryotic groups that were abundant included representatives of Haloquadratum, the anaerobic genera Halanaerobium and Halocella, purple sulfur bacteria of the genus Halorhodospira and Cyanobacteria.
PMCID: PMC4036037  PMID: 22185719
Archaea; Bacteria; halophilic microorganisms; prokaryotic diversity; hypersaline lake

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