Archaea are usually minor components of a microbial community and dominated by a large and diverse bacterial population. In contrast, the SM1 Euryarchaeon dominates a sulfidic aquifer by forming subsurface biofilms that contain a very minor bacterial fraction (5%). These unique biofilms are delivered in high biomass to the spring outflow that provides an outstanding window to the subsurface. Despite previous attempts to understand its natural role, the metabolic capacities of the SM1 Euryarchaeon remain mysterious to date. In this study, we focused on the minor bacterial fraction in order to obtain insights into the ecological function of the biofilm. We link phylogenetic diversity information with the spatial distribution of chemical and metabolic compounds by combining three different state-of-the-art methods: PhyloChip G3 DNA microarray technology, fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and synchrotron radiation-based Fourier transform infrared (SR-FTIR) spectromicroscopy. The results of PhyloChip and FISH technologies provide evidence for selective enrichment of sulfate-reducing bacteria, which was confirmed by the detection of bacterial dissimilatory sulfite reductase subunit B (dsrB) genes via quantitative PCR and sequence-based analyses. We further established a differentiation of archaeal and bacterial cells by SR-FTIR based on typical lipid and carbohydrate signatures, which demonstrated a co-localization of organic sulfate, carbonated mineral and bacterial signatures in the biofilm. All these results strongly indicate an involvement of the SM1 euryarchaeal biofilm in the global cycles of sulfur and carbon and support the hypothesis that sulfidic springs are important habitats for Earth's energy cycles. Moreover, these investigations of a bacterial minority in an Archaea-dominated environment are a remarkable example of the great power of combining highly sensitive microarrays with label-free infrared imaging.
Archaea; microbial ecology; PhyloChip; SR-FTIR; SRB; CTC
The advent of phylogenetic DNA microarrays and high-throughput pyrosequencing technologies has dramatically increased the resolution and accuracy of detection of distinct microbial lineages in mixed microbial assemblages. Despite an expanding array of approaches for detecting microbes in a given sample, rapid and robust means of assessing the differential viability of these cells, as a function of phylogenetic lineage, remain elusive. In this study, pre-PCR propidium monoazide (PMA) treatment was coupled with downstream pyrosequencing and PhyloChip DNA microarray analyses to better understand the frequency, diversity and distribution of viable bacteria in spacecraft assembly cleanrooms. Sample fractions not treated with PMA, which were indicative of the presence of both live and dead cells, yielded a great abundance of highly diverse bacterial pyrosequences. In contrast, only 1% to 10% of all of the pyrosequencing reads, arising from a few robust bacterial lineages, originated from sample fractions that had been pre-treated with PMA. The results of PhyloChip analyses of PMA-treated and -untreated sample fractions were in agreement with those of pyrosequencing. The viable bacterial population detected in cleanrooms devoid of spacecraft hardware was far more diverse than that observed in cleanrooms that housed mission-critical spacecraft hardware. The latter was dominated by hardy, robust organisms previously reported to survive in oligotrophic cleanroom environments. Presented here are the findings of the first ever comprehensive effort to assess the viability of cells in low-biomass environmental samples, and correlate differential viability with phylogenetic affiliation.
viability; microarray; 454 pyrosequencing; PMA; PhyloChip; 16S rRNA gene
The spores of several Bacillus species, including Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 and B. safensis FO-36b, which were isolated from the spacecraft assembly facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, are unusually resistant to UV radiation and hydrogen peroxide. In order to identify candidate genes that might be associated with these resistances, the whole genome of B. pumilus SAFR-032, and the draft genome of B. safensis FO-36b were compared in detail with the very closely related type strain B. pumilus ATCC7061T. 170 genes are considered characteristic of SAFR-032, because they are absent from both FO-36b and ATCC7061T. Forty of these SAFR-032 characteristic genes are entirely unique open reading frames. In addition, four genes are unique to the genomes of the resistant SAFR-032 and FO-36b. Fifty three genes involved in spore coat formation, regulation and germination, DNA repair, and peroxide resistance, are missing from all three genomes. The vast majority of these are cleanly deleted from their usual genomic context without any obvious replacement. Several DNA repair and peroxide resistance genes earlier reported to be unique to SAFR-032 are in fact shared with ATCC7061T and no longer considered to be promising candidates for association with the elevated resistances. Instead, several SAFR-032 characteristic genes were identified, which along with one or more of the unique SAFR-032 genes may be responsible for the elevated resistances. These new candidates include five genes associated with DNA repair, namely, BPUM_0608 a helicase, BPUM_0652 an ATP binding protein, BPUM_0653 an endonuclease, BPUM_0656 a DNA cytosine-5- methyltransferase, and BPUM_3674 a DNA helicase. Three of these candidate genes are in immediate proximity of two conserved hypothetical proteins, BPUM_0654 and BPUM_0655 that are also absent from both FO-36b and ATCC7061T. This cluster of five genes is considered to be an especially promising target for future experimental work.
Spore-forming bacteria are of particular concern in the context of planetary protection because their tough endospores may withstand certain sterilization procedures as well as the harsh environments of outer space or planetary surfaces. To test their hardiness on a hypothetical mission to Mars, spores of Bacillus subtilis 168 and Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 were exposed for 1.5 years to selected parameters of space in the experiment PROTECT during the EXPOSE-E mission on board the International Space Station. Mounted as dry layers on spacecraft-qualified aluminum coupons, the “trip to Mars” spores experienced space vacuum, cosmic and extraterrestrial solar radiation, and temperature fluctuations, whereas the “stay on Mars” spores were subjected to a simulated martian environment that included atmospheric pressure and composition, and UV and cosmic radiation. The survival of spores from both assays was determined after retrieval. It was clearly shown that solar extraterrestrial UV radiation (λ≥110 nm) as well as the martian UV spectrum (λ≥200 nm) was the most deleterious factor applied; in some samples only a few survivors were recovered from spores exposed in monolayers. Spores in multilayers survived better by several orders of magnitude. All other environmental parameters encountered by the “trip to Mars” or “stay on Mars” spores did little harm to the spores, which showed about 50% survival or more. The data demonstrate the high chance of survival of spores on a Mars mission, if protected against solar irradiation. These results will have implications for planetary protection considerations. Key Words: Planetary protection—Bacterial spores—Space experiment—Simulated Mars mission. Astrobiology 12, 445–456.
Spacecraft hardware and assembly cleanroom surfaces (233 m2 in total) were sampled, total genomic DNA was extracted, hypervariable regions of the 16S rRNA gene (bacteria and archaea) and ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region (fungi) were subjected to 454 tag-encoded pyrosequencing PCR amplification, and 203,852 resulting high-quality sequences were analyzed. Bioinformatic analyses revealed correlations between operational taxonomic unit (OTU) abundance and certain sample characteristics, such as source (cleanroom floor, ground support equipment [GSE], or spacecraft hardware), cleaning regimen applied, and location about the facility or spacecraft. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) cleanroom floor and GSE surfaces gave rise to a larger number of diverse bacterial communities (619 OTU; 20 m2) than colocated spacecraft hardware (187 OTU; 162 m2). In contrast to the results of bacterial pyrosequencing, where at least some sequences were generated from each of the 31 sample sets examined, only 13 and 18 of these sample sets gave rise to archaeal and fungal sequences, respectively. As was the case for bacteria, the abundance of fungal OTU in the GSE surface samples dramatically diminished (9× less) once cleaning protocols had been applied. The presence of OTU representative of actinobacteria, deinococci, acidobacteria, firmicutes, and proteobacteria on spacecraft surfaces suggests that certain bacterial lineages persist even following rigorous quality control and cleaning practices. The majority of bacterial OTU observed as being recurrent belonged to actinobacteria and alphaproteobacteria, supporting the hypothesis that the measures of cleanliness exerted in spacecraft assembly cleanrooms (SAC) inadvertently select for the organisms which are the most fit to survive long journeys in space.
In this study, fosmid cloning strategies were used to assess the microbial populations in water from the International Space Station (ISS) drinking water system (henceforth referred to as Prebiocide and Tank A water samples). The goals of this study were: to compare the sensitivity of the fosmid cloning strategy with that of traditional culture-based and 16S rRNA-based approaches and to detect the widest possible spectrum of microbial populations during the water purification process. Initially, microbes could not be cultivated, and conventional PCR failed to amplify 16S rDNA fragments from these low biomass samples. Therefore, randomly primed rolling-circle amplification was used to amplify any DNA that might be present in the samples, followed by size selection by using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. The amplified high-molecular-weight DNA from both samples was cloned into fosmid vectors. Several hundred clones were randomly selected for sequencing, followed by Blastn/Blastx searches. Sequences encoding specific genes from Burkholderia, a species abundant in the soil and groundwater, were found in both samples. Bradyrhizobium and Mesorhizobium, which belong to rhizobia, a large community of nitrogen fixers often found in association with plant roots, were present in the Prebiocide samples. Ralstonia, which is prevalent in soils with a high heavy metal content, was detected in the Tank A samples. The detection of many unidentified sequences suggests the presence of potentially novel microbial fingerprints. The bacterial diversity detected in this pilot study using a fosmid vector approach was higher than that detected by conventional 16S rRNA gene sequencing.
fosmid; international space station; multiple displacement amplification; rolling-circle amplification
A bacterial spore assay and a molecular DNA microarray method were compared for their ability to assess relative cleanliness in the context of bacterial abundance and diversity on spacecraft surfaces. Colony counts derived from the NASA standard spore assay were extremely low for spacecraft surfaces. However, the PhyloChip generation 3 (G3) DNA microarray resolved the genetic signatures of a highly diverse suite of microorganisms in the very same sample set. Samples completely devoid of cultivable spores were shown to harbor the DNA of more than 100 distinct microbial phylotypes. Furthermore, samples with higher numbers of cultivable spores did not necessarily give rise to a greater microbial diversity upon analysis with the DNA microarray. The findings of this study clearly demonstrated that there is not a statistically significant correlation between the cultivable spore counts obtained from a sample and the degree of bacterial diversity present. Based on these results, it can be stated that validated state-of-the-art molecular techniques, such as DNA microarrays, can be utilized in parallel with classical culture-based methods to further describe the cleanliness of spacecraft surfaces.
Although the cultivable and noncultivable microbial diversity of spacecraft assembly clean rooms has been previously documented using conventional and state-of-the-art molecular techniques, the occurrence of obligate anaerobes within these clean rooms is still uncertain. Therefore, anaerobic bacterial communities of three clean-room facilities were analyzed during assembly of the Mars Science Laboratory rover. Anaerobic bacteria were cultured on several media, and DNA was extracted from suitable anaerobic enrichments and examined with conventional 16S rRNA gene clone library, as well as high-density phylogenetic 16S rRNA gene microarray (PhyloChip) technologies. The culture-dependent analyses predominantly showed the presence of clostridial and propionibacterial strains. The 16S rRNA gene sequences retrieved from clone libraries revealed distinct microbial populations associated with each clean-room facility, clustered exclusively within gram-positive organisms. PhyloChip analysis detected a greater microbial diversity, spanning many phyla of bacteria, and provided a deeper insight into the microbial community structure of the clean-room facilities. This study presents an integrated approach for assessing the anaerobic microbial population within clean-room facilities, using both molecular and cultivation-based analyses. The results reveal that highly diverse anaerobic bacterial populations persist in the clean rooms even after the imposition of rigorous maintenance programs and will pose a challenge to planetary protection implementation activities.
A census of clean room surface-associated bacterial populations was derived from the results of both the cloning and sequencing of 16S rRNA genes and DNA microarray (PhyloChip) analyses. Samples from the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Multiple Testing Facility (LMA-MTF), the Kennedy Space Center Payload Hazard and Servicing Facility (KSC-PHSF), and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Spacecraft Assembly Facility (JPL-SAF) clean rooms were collected during the various assembly phases of the Phoenix and Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft. Clone library-derived analyses detected a larger bacterial diversity prior to the arrival of spacecraft hardware in these clean room facilities. PhyloChip results were in agreement with this trend but also unveiled the presence of anywhere from 9- to 70-fold more bacterial taxa than cloning approaches. Among the facilities sampled, the JPL-SAF (MSL mission) housed a significantly less diverse bacterial population than either the LMA-MTF or KSC-PHSF (Phoenix mission). Bacterial taxa known to thrive in arid conditions were frequently detected in MSL-associated JPL-SAF samples, whereas proteobacterial lineages dominated Phoenix-associated KSC-PHSF samples. Comprehensive bacterial censuses, such as that reported here, will help space-faring nations preemptively identify contaminant biomatter that may compromise extraterrestrial life detection experiments. The robust nature and high sensitivity of DNA microarray technologies should prove beneficial to a wide range of scientific, electronic, homeland security, medical, and pharmaceutical applications and to any other ventures with a vested interest in monitoring and controlling contamination in exceptionally clean environments.
Spacecraft-associated spores and four non-spore-forming bacterial isolates were prepared in Atacama Desert soil suspensions and tested both in solution and in a desiccated state to elucidate the shadowing effect of soil particulates on bacterial survival under simulated Martian atmospheric and UV irradiation conditions. All non-spore-forming cells that were prepared in nutrient-depleted, 0.2-μm-filtered desert soil (DSE) microcosms and desiccated for 75 days on aluminum died, whereas cells prepared similarly in 60-μm-filtered desert soil (DS) microcosms survived such conditions. Among the bacterial cells tested, Microbacterium schleiferi and Arthrobacter sp. exhibited elevated resistance to 254-nm UV irradiation (low-pressure Hg lamp), and their survival indices were comparable to those of DS- and DSE-associated Bacillus pumilus spores. Desiccated DSE-associated spores survived exposure to full Martian UV irradiation (200 to 400 nm) for 5 min and were only slightly affected by Martian atmospheric conditions in the absence of UV irradiation. Although prolonged UV irradiation (5 min to 12 h) killed substantial portions of the spores in DSE microcosms (∼5- to 6-log reduction with Martian UV irradiation), dramatic survival of spores was apparent in DS-spore microcosms. The survival of soil-associated wild-type spores under Martian conditions could have repercussions for forward contamination of extraterrestrial environments, especially Mars.
Bacillus spores are notoriously resistant to unfavorable conditions such as UV radiation, γ-radiation, H2O2, desiccation, chemical disinfection, or starvation. Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 survives standard decontamination procedures of the Jet Propulsion Lab spacecraft assembly facility, and both spores and vegetative cells of this strain exhibit elevated resistance to UV radiation and H2O2 compared to other Bacillus species.
The genome of B. pumilus SAFR-032 was sequenced and annotated. Lists of genes relevant to DNA repair and the oxidative stress response were generated and compared to B. subtilis and B. licheniformis. Differences in conservation of genes, gene order, and protein sequences are highlighted because they potentially explain the extreme resistance phenotype of B. pumilus. The B. pumilus genome includes genes not found in B. subtilis or B. licheniformis and conserved genes with sequence divergence, but paradoxically lacks several genes that function in UV or H2O2 resistance in other Bacillus species.
This study identifies several candidate genes for further research into UV and H2O2 resistance. These findings will help explain the resistance of B. pumilus and are applicable to understanding sterilization survival strategies of microbes.
In assessing the bacterial populations present in spacecraft assembly, spacecraft test, and launch preparation facilities, extremophilic bacteria (requiring severe conditions for growth) and extremotolerant bacteria (tolerant to extreme conditions) were isolated. Several cultivation approaches were employed to select for and identify bacteria that not only survive the nutrient-limiting conditions of clean room environments but can also withstand even more inhospitable environmental stresses. Due to their proximity to spacefaring objects, these bacteria pose a considerable risk for forward contamination of extraterrestrial sites. Samples collected from four geographically distinct National Aeronautics and Space Administration clean rooms were challenged with UV-C irradiation, 5% hydrogen peroxide, heat shock, pH extremes (pH 3.0 and 11.0), temperature extremes (4°C to 65°C), and hypersalinity (25% NaCl) prior to and/or during cultivation as a means of selecting for extremotolerant bacteria. Culture-independent approaches were employed to measure viable microbial (ATP-based) and total bacterial (quantitative PCR-based) burdens. Intracellular ATP concentrations suggested a viable microbial presence ranging from below detection limits to 106 cells/m2. However, only 0.1 to 55% of these viable cells were able to grow on defined culture medium. Isolated members of the Bacillaceae family were more physiologically diverse than those reported in previous studies, including thermophiles (Geobacillus), obligate anaerobes (Paenibacillus), and halotolerant, alkalophilic species (Oceanobacillus and Exiguobacterium). Non-spore-forming microbes (α- and β-proteobacteria and actinobacteria) exhibiting tolerance to the selected stresses were also encountered. The multiassay cultivation approach employed herein enhances the current understanding of the physiological diversity of bacteria housed in these clean rooms and leads us to ponder the origin and means of translocation of thermophiles, anaerobes, and halotolerant alkalophiles into these environments.
Spore-forming microbes recovered from spacecraft surfaces and assembly facilities were exposed to simulated Martian UV irradiation. The effects of UVA (315 to 400 nm), UVA+B (280 to 400 nm), and the full UV spectrum (200 to 400 nm) on the survival of microorganisms were studied at UV intensities expected to strike the surfaces of Mars. Microbial species isolated from the surfaces of several spacecraft, including Mars Odyssey, X-2000 (avionics), and the International Space Station, and their assembly facilities were identified using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Forty-three Bacillus spore lines were screened, and 19 isolates showed resistance to UVC irradiation (200 to 280 nm) after exposure to 1,000 J m−2 of UVC irradiation at 254 nm using a low-pressure mercury lamp. Spores of Bacillus species isolated from spacecraft-associated surfaces were more resistant than a standard dosimetric strain, Bacillus subtilis 168. In addition, the exposure time required for UVA+B irradiation to reduce the viable spore numbers by 90% was 35-fold longer than the exposure time required for the full UV spectrum to do this, confirming that UVC is the primary biocidal bandwidth. Among the Bacillus species tested, spores of a Bacillus pumilus strain showed the greatest resistance to all three UV bandwidths, as well as the total spectrum. The resistance to simulated Mars UV irradiation was strain specific; B. pumilus SAFR-032 exhibited greater resistance than all other strains tested. The isolation of organisms like B. pumilus SAFR-032 and the greater survival of this organism (sixfold) than of the standard dosimetric strains should be considered when the sanitation capabilities of UV irradiation are determined.
Shewanella putrefaciens has been considered the main spoilage bacteria of low-temperature stored marine seafood. However, psychrotropic Shewanella have been reclassified during recent years, and the purpose of the present study was to determine whether any of the new Shewanella species are important in fish spoilage. More than 500 H2S-producing strains were isolated from iced stored marine fish (cod, plaice, and flounder) caught in the Baltic Sea during winter or summer time. All strains were identified as Shewanella species by phenotypic tests. Different Shewanella species were present on newly caught fish. During the warm summer months the mesophilic human pathogenic S. algae dominated the H2S-producing bacterial population. After iced storage, a shift in the Shewanella species was found, and most of the H2S-producing strains were identified as S. baltica. The 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis confirmed the identification of these two major groups. Several isolates could only be identified to the genus Shewanella level and were separated into two subgroups with low (44%) and high (47%) G+C mol%. The low G+C% group was isolated during winter months, whereas the high G+C% group was isolated on fish caught during summer and only during the first few days of iced storage. Phenotypically, these strains were different from the type strains of S. putrefaciens, S. oneidensis, S. colwelliana, and S. affinis, but the high G+C% group clustered close to S. colwelliana by 16S rRNA gene sequence comparison. The low G+C% group may constitute a new species. S. baltica, and the low G+C% group of Shewanella spp. strains grew well in cod juice at 0°C, but three high G+C Shewanella spp. were unable to grow at 0°C. In conclusion, the spoilage reactions of iced Danish marine fish remain unchanged (i.e., trimethylamine-N-oxide reduction and H2S production); however, the main H2S-producing organism was identified as S. baltica.
In this study, we demonstrate the versatility of matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOFMS) protein profiling for the species differentiation of a diverse suite of Bacillus spores. MALDI-TOFMS protein profiles of 11 different strains of Bacillus spores, encompassing nine different species, were evaluated. Bacillus species selected for MALDI-TOFMS analysis represented the spore-forming bacterial diversity of typical class 100K clean room spacecraft assembly facilities. A one-step sample treatment and MALDI-TOFMS preparation were used to minimize the sample preparation time. A library of MALDI-TOFMS spectra was created from these nine Bacillus species, the most diverse protein profiling study of the genus reported to date. Linear correlation analysis was used to successfully differentiate the MALDI-TOFMS protein profiles from all strains evaluated in this study. The MALDI-TOFMS protein profiles were compared with 16S rDNA sequences for their bacterial systematics and molecular phylogenetic affiliations. The MALDI-TOFMS profiles were found to be complementary to the 16S rDNA analysis. Proteomic studies of Bacillus subtilis 168 were pursued to identify proteins represented by the biomarker peaks in the MALDI-TOFMS spectrum. Four small, acid-soluble proteins (A, B, C, and D), one DNA binding protein, hypothetical protein ymf J, and four proteins associated with the spore coat and spore coat formation (coat JB, coat F, coat T, and spoIVA) were identified. The ability to visualize higher-molecular-mass coat proteins (10 to 25 kDa) as well as smaller proteins (<10 kDa) with MALDI-TOFMS profiling is critical for the complete and effective species differentiation of the Bacillus genus.
Arsenate [As(V); HAsO42−] respiration by bacteria is poorly understood at the molecular level largely due to a paucity of genetically tractable organisms with this metabolic capability. We report here the isolation of a new As(V)-respiring strain (ANA-3) that is phylogenetically related to members of the genus Shewanella and that also provides a useful model system with which to explore the molecular basis of As(V) respiration. This gram-negative strain stoichiometrically couples the oxidation of lactate to acetate with the reduction of As(V) to arsenite [As(III); HAsO2]. The generation time and lactate molar growth yield (Ylactate) are 2.8 h and 10.0 g of cells mol of lactate−1, respectively, when it is grown anaerobically on lactate and As(V). ANA-3 uses a wide variety of terminal electron acceptors, including oxygen, soluble ferric iron, oxides of iron and manganese, nitrate, fumarate, the humic acid functional analog 2,6-anthraquinone disulfonate, and thiosulfate. ANA-3 also reduces As(V) to As(III) in the presence of oxygen and resists high concentrations of As(III) (up to 10 mM) when grown under either aerobic or anaerobic conditions. ANA-3 possesses an ars operon (arsDABC) that allows it to resist high levels of As(III); this operon also confers resistance to the As-sensitive strains Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 and Escherichia coli AW3110. When the gene encoding the As(III) efflux pump, arsB, is inactivated in ANA-3 by a polar mutation that also eliminates the expression of arsC, which encodes an As(V) reductase, the resulting As(III)-sensitive strain still respires As(V); however, the generation time and the Ylactate value are two- and threefold lower, respectively, than those of the wild type. These results suggest that ArsB and ArsC may be useful for As(V)-respiring bacteria in environments where As concentrations are high, but that neither is required for respiration.
As 16S rRNA sequence analysis has proven inadequate for the differentiation of Bacillus cereus from closely related species, we employed the gyrase B gene (gyrB) as a molecular diagnostic marker. The gyrB genes of B. cereus JCM 2152T, Bacillus thuringiensis IAM 12077T, Bacillus mycoides ATCC 6462T, and Bacillus anthracis Pasteur #2H were cloned and sequenced. Oligonucleotide PCR primer sets were designed from within gyrB sequences of the respective bacteria for the specific amplification and differentiation of B. cereus, B. thuringiensis, and B. anthracis. The results from the amplification of gyrB sequences correlated well with results obtained with the 16S rDNA-based hybridization study but not with the results of their phenotypic characterization. Some of the reference strains of both B. cereus (three serovars) and B. thuringiensis (two serovars) were not positive in PCR amplification assays with gyrB primers. However, complete sequencing of 1.2-kb gyrB fragments of these reference strains showed that these serovars had, in fact, lower homology than their originally designated species. We developed and tested a procedure for the specific detection of the target organism in boiled rice that entailed 15 h of preenrichment followed by PCR amplification of the B. cereus-specific fragment. This method enabled us to detect an initial inoculum of 0.24 CFU of B. cereus cells per g of boiled rice food homogenate without extracting DNA. However, a simple two-step filtration step is required to remove PCR inhibitory substances.
Because biochemical testing and 16S rRNA sequence analysis have proven inadequate for the differentiation of Vibrio parahaemolyticus from closely related species, we employed the gyrase B gene (gyrB) as a molecular diagnostic probe. The gyrB genes of V. parahaemolyticus and closely related Vibrio alginolyticus were cloned and sequenced. Oligonucleotide PCR primers were designed for the amplification of a 285-bp fragment from within gyrB specific for V. parahaemolyticus. These primers recognized 117 of 117 reference and wild-type V. parahaemolyticus strains, whereas amplification did not occur when 90 strains of 37 other Vibrio species or 60 strains representing 34 different nonvibrio species were tested. In 100-μl PCR mixtures, the lower detection limits were 5 CFU for live cells and 4 pg for purified DNA. The possible application of gyrB primers for the routine identification of V. parahaemolyticus in food was examined. We developed and tested a procedure for the specific detection of the target organism in shrimp consisting of an 18-h preenrichment followed by PCR amplification of the 285-bp V. parahaemolyticus-specific fragment. This method enabled us to detect an initial inoculum of 1.5 CFU of V. parahaemolyticus cells per g of shrimp homogenate. By this approach, we were able to detect V. parahaemolyticus in all of 27 shrimp samples artificially inoculated with this bacterium. We present here a rapid, reliable, and sensitive protocol for the detection of V. parahaemolyticus in shrimp.