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1.  Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus modulates its membrane lipids in response to hydrogen and nutrient availability 
Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus strain ΔH is a model hydrogenotrophic methanogen, for which extensive biochemical information, including the complete genome sequence, is available. Nevertheless, at the cell membrane lipid level, little is known about the responses of this archaeon to environmental stimuli. In this study, the lipid composition of M. thermautotrophicus was characterized to verify how this archaeon modulates its cell membrane components during growth phases and in response to hydrogen depletion and nutrient limitation (potassium and phosphate). As opposed to the higher abundance of phospholipids in the stationary phase of control experiments, cell membranes under nutrient, and energy stress were dominated by glycolipids that likely provided a more effective barrier against ion leakage. We also identified particular lipid regulatory mechanisms in M. thermautotrophicus, which included the accumulation of polyprenols under hydrogen-limited conditions and an increased content of sodiated adducts of lipids in nutrient-limited cells. These findings suggest that M. thermautotrophicus intensely modulates its cell membrane lipid composition to cope with energy and nutrient availability in dynamic environments.
PMCID: PMC4302986  PMID: 25657645
archaea; stress response; polar lipids; diether; tetraether
2.  Novel Cultivation-Based Approach To Understanding the Miscellaneous Crenarchaeotic Group (MCG) Archaea from Sedimentary Ecosystems 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(20):6400-6406.
The uncultured miscellaneous crenarchaeotic group (MCG) archaea comprise one of the most abundant microbial groups in the Earth's subsurface environment. However, very little information is available regarding the lifestyle, physiology, and factors controlling the distribution of members of this group. We established a novel method using both cultivation and molecular techniques, including a pre-PCR propidium monoazide treatment, to investigate viable members of the MCG in vitro. Enrichment cultures prepared from estuarine sediment were provided with one of a variety of carbon substrates or cultivation conditions and incubated for 3 weeks. Compared with the samples from time zero, there was an order-of-magnitude increase in the number of MCG 16S rRNA genes in almost all cultures, indicating that MCG archaea are amenable to in vitro cultivation. None of the tested substrates or conditions significantly stimulated growth of MCG archaea more than the basal medium alone; however, glycerol (0.02%) had a significantly inhibitory effect (P < 0.05). Diversity analysis of populations resulting from four culture treatments (basal medium, addition of amino acids, H2-CO2 as the gas phase, or initial aerobic conditions) revealed that the majority of viable MCG archaea were affiliated with the MCG-8 and MCG-4 clusters. There were no significant differences in MCG diversity between these treatments, also indicating that some members of MCG-4 and MCG-8 are tolerant of initially oxic conditions. The methods outlined here will be useful for further investigation of MCG archaea and comparison of substrates and cultivation conditions that influence their growth in vitro.
PMCID: PMC3811208  PMID: 23934495
3.  Thermococcus kodakarensis modulates its polar membrane lipids and elemental composition according to growth stage and phosphate availability 
We observed significant changes in the elemental and intact polar lipid (IPL) composition of the archaeon Thermococcus kodakarensis (KOD1) in response to growth stage and phosphorus supply. Reducing the amount of organic supplements and phosphate in growth media resulted in significant decreases in cell size and cellular quotas of carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P), which coincided with significant increases in cellular IPL quota and IPLs comprising multiple P atoms and hexose moieties. Relatively more cellular P was stored as IPLs in P-limited cells (2–8%) compared to control cells (<0.8%). We also identified a specific IPL biomarker containing a phosphatidyl-N-acetylhexoseamine headgroup that was relatively enriched during rapid cell division. These observations serve as empirical evidence of IPL adaptations in Archaea that will help to interpret the distribution of these biomarkers in natural systems. The reported cell quotas of C, N, and P represent the first such data for a specific archaeon and suggest that thermophiles are C-rich compared to the cell carbon-to-volume relationship reported for planktonic bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3906577  PMID: 24523718
biomarker; phosphorus limitation; cell carbon quota
4.  In situ production of branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers in a great basin hot spring (USA) 
Branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (bGDGTs) are predominantly found in soils and peat bogs. In this study, we analyzed core (C)-bGDGTs after hydrolysis of polar fractions using liquid chromatography-atmospheric pressure chemical ionization-mass spectrometry and analyzed intact P-bGDGTs using total lipid extract (TLE) without hydrolysis by liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-multiple stage mass spectrometry. Our results show multiple lines of evidence for the production of bGDGTs in sediments and cellulolytic enrichments in a hot spring (62–86°C) in the Great Basin (USA). First, in situ cellulolytic enrichment led to an increase in the relative abundance of hydrolysis-derived P-bGDGTs over their C-bGDGT counterparts. Second, the hydrolysis-derived P- and C-bGDGT profiles in the hot spring were different from those of the surrounding soil samples; in particular, a monoglycosidic bGDGT Ib containing 13,16-dimethyloctacosane and one cyclopentane moiety was detected in the TLE but it was undetectable in surrounding soil samples even after sample enrichments. Third, previously published 16S rRNA gene pyrotag analysis from the same lignocellulose samples demonstrated the enrichment of thermophiles, rather than mesophiles, and total bGDGT abundance in cellulolytic enrichments correlated with the relative abundance of 16S rRNA gene pyrotags from thermophilic bacteria in the phyla Bacteroidetes, Dictyoglomi, EM3, and OP9 (“Atribacteria”). These observations conclusively demonstrate the production of bGDGTs in this hot spring; however, the identity of organisms that produce bGDGTs in the geothermal environment remains unclear.
PMCID: PMC3705189  PMID: 23847605
branched GDGTs; hot spring; Great Basin; thermophilic bacteria
5.  Thermophilic anaerobic oxidation of methane by marine microbial consortia 
The ISME Journal  2011;5(12):1946-1956.
The anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) with sulfate controls the emission of the greenhouse gas methane from the ocean floor. AOM is performed by microbial consortia of archaea (ANME) associated with partners related to sulfate-reducing bacteria. In vitro enrichments of AOM were so far only successful at temperatures ⩽25 °C; however, energy gain for growth by AOM with sulfate is in principle also possible at higher temperatures. Sequences of 16S rRNA genes and core lipids characteristic for ANME as well as hints of in situ AOM activity were indeed reported for geothermally heated marine environments, yet no direct evidence for thermophilic growth of marine ANME consortia was obtained to date. To study possible thermophilic AOM, we investigated hydrothermally influenced sediment from the Guaymas Basin. In vitro incubations showed activity of sulfate-dependent methane oxidation between 5 and 70 °C with an apparent optimum between 45 and 60 °C. AOM was absent at temperatures ⩾75 °C. Long-term enrichment of AOM was fastest at 50 °C, yielding a 13-fold increase of methane-dependent sulfate reduction within 250 days, equivalent to an apparent doubling time of 68 days. The enrichments were dominated by novel ANME-1 consortia, mostly associated with bacterial partners of the deltaproteobacterial HotSeep-1 cluster, a deeply branching phylogenetic group previously found in a butane-amended 60 °C-enrichment culture of Guaymas sediments. The closest relatives (Desulfurella spp.; Hippea maritima) are moderately thermophilic sulfur reducers. Results indicate that AOM and ANME archaea could be of biogeochemical relevance not only in cold to moderate but also in hot marine habitats.
PMCID: PMC3223311  PMID: 21697963
anaerobic methanotrophy; ANME; syntrophy; thermophilic microorganisms
6.  Novel Cardiolipins from Uncultured Methane-Metabolizing Archaea 
Archaea  2012;2012:832097.
Novel cardiolipins from Archaea were detected by screening the intact polar lipid (IPL) composition of microbial communities associated with methane seepage in deep-sea sediments from the Pakistan margin by high-performance liquid chromatography electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. A series of tentatively identified cardiolipin analogues (dimeric phospholipids or bisphosphatidylglycerol, BPG) represented 0.5% to 5% of total archaeal IPLs. These molecules are similar to the recently described cardiolipin analogues with four phytanyl chains from extreme halophilic archaea. It is worth noting that cardiolipin analogues from the seep archaeal communities are composed of four isoprenoidal chains, which may contain differences in chain length (20 and 25 carbon atoms) and degrees of unsaturation and the presence of a hydroxyl group. Two novel diether lipids, structurally related to the BPGs, are described and interpreted as degradation products of archaeal cardiolipin analogues. Since archaeal communities in seep sediments are dominated by anaerobic methanotrophs, our observations have implications for characterizing structural components of archaeal membranes, in which BPGs are presumed to contribute to modulation of cell permeability properties. Whether BPGs facilitate interspecies interaction in syntrophic methanotrophic consortia remains to be tested.
PMCID: PMC3359654  PMID: 22654563
8.  Methane-Producing Microbial Community in a Coal Bed of the Illinois Basin▿  
A series of molecular and geochemical studies were performed to study microbial, coal bed methane formation in the eastern Illinois Basin. Results suggest that organic matter is biodegraded to simple molecules, such as H2 and CO2, which fuel methanogenesis and the generation of large coal bed methane reserves. Small-subunit rRNA analysis of both the in situ microbial community and highly purified, methanogenic enrichments indicated that Methanocorpusculum is the dominant genus. Additionally, we characterized this methanogenic microorganism using scanning electron microscopy and distribution of intact polar cell membrane lipids. Phylogenetic studies of coal water samples helped us develop a model of methanogenic biodegradation of macromolecular coal and coal-derived oil by a complex microbial community. Based on enrichments, phylogenetic analyses, and calculated free energies at in situ subsurface conditions for relevant metabolisms (H2-utilizing methanogenesis, acetoclastic methanogenesis, and homoacetogenesis), H2-utilizing methanogenesis appears to be the dominant terminal process of biodegradation of coal organic matter at this location.
PMCID: PMC2293134  PMID: 18310416
9.  Phylogenetic and Metabolic Diversity of Planctomycetes from Anaerobic, Sulfide- and Sulfur-Rich Zodletone Spring, Oklahoma▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(15):4707-4716.
We investigated the phylogenetic diversity and metabolic capabilities of members of the phylum Planctomycetes in the anaerobic, sulfide-saturated sediments of a mesophilic spring (Zodletone Spring) in southwestern Oklahoma. Culture-independent analyses of 16S rRNA gene sequences generated using Planctomycetes-biased primer pairs suggested that an extremely diverse community of Planctomycetes is present at the spring. Although sequences that are phylogenetically affiliated with cultured heterotrophic Planctomycetes were identified, the majority of the sequences belonged to several globally distributed, as-yet-uncultured Planctomycetes lineages. Using complex organic media (aqueous extracts of the spring sediments and rumen fluid), we isolated two novel strains that belonged to the Pirellula-Rhodopirellula-Blastopirellula clade within the Planctomycetes. The two strains had identical 16S rRNA gene sequences, and their closest relatives were isolates from Kiel Fjord (Germany), Keauhou Beach (HI), a marine aquarium, and tissues of marine organisms (Aplysina sp. sponges and postlarvae of the giant tiger prawn Penaeus monodon). The closest recognized cultured relative of strain Zi62 was Blastopirellula marina (93.9% sequence similarity). Detailed characterization of strain Zi62 revealed its ability to reduce elemental sulfur to sulfide under anaerobic conditions, as well as its ability to produce acids from sugars; both characteristics may potentially allow strain Zi62 to survive and grow in the anaerobic, sulfide- and sulfur-rich environment at the spring source. Overall, this work indicates that anaerobic metabolic abilities are widely distributed among all major Planctomycetes lineages and suggests carbohydrate fermentation and sulfur reduction as possible mechanisms employed by heterotrophic Planctomycetes for growth and survival under anaerobic conditions.
PMCID: PMC1951033  PMID: 17545322
10.  Microbial Diversity of Hydrothermal Sediments in the Guaymas Basin: Evidence for Anaerobic Methanotrophic Communities† 
Microbial communities in hydrothermally active sediments of the Guaymas Basin (Gulf of California, Mexico) were studied by using 16S rRNA sequencing and carbon isotopic analysis of archaeal and bacterial lipids. The Guaymas sediments harbored uncultured euryarchaeota of two distinct phylogenetic lineages within the anaerobic methane oxidation 1 (ANME-1) group, ANME-1a and ANME-1b, and of the ANME-2c lineage within the Methanosarcinales, both previously assigned to the methanotrophic archaea. The archaeal lipids in the Guaymas Basin sediments included archaeol, diagnostic for nonthermophilic euryarchaeota, and sn-2-hydroxyarchaeol, with the latter compound being particularly abundant in cultured members of the Methanosarcinales. The concentrations of these compounds were among the highest observed so far in studies of methane seep environments. The δ-13C values of these lipids (δ-13C = −89 to −58‰) indicate an origin from anaerobic methanotrophic archaea. This molecular-isotopic signature was found not only in samples that yielded predominantly ANME-2 clones but also in samples that yielded exclusively ANME-1 clones. ANME-1 archaea therefore remain strong candidates for mediation of the anaerobic oxidation of methane. Based on 16S rRNA data, the Guaymas sediments harbor phylogenetically diverse bacterial populations, which show considerable overlap with bacterial populations of geothermal habitats and natural or anthropogenic hydrocarbon-rich sites. Consistent with earlier observations, our combined evidence from bacterial phylogeny and molecular-isotopic data indicates an important role of some novel deeply branching bacteria in anaerobic methanotrophy. Anaerobic methane oxidation likely represents a significant and widely occurring process in the trophic ecology of methane-rich hydrothermal vents. This study stresses a high diversity among communities capable of anaerobic oxidation of methane.
PMCID: PMC123873  PMID: 11916723
11.  Signature Lipids and Stable Carbon Isotope Analyses of Octopus Spring Hyperthermophilic Communities Compared with Those of Aquificales Representatives 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2001;67(11):5179-5189.
The molecular and isotopic compositions of lipid biomarkers of cultured Aquificales genera have been used to study the community and trophic structure of the hyperthermophilic pink streamers and vent biofilm from Octopus Spring. Thermocrinis ruber, Thermocrinis sp. strain HI 11/12, Hydrogenobacter thermophilus TK-6, Aquifex pyrophilus, and Aquifex aeolicus all contained glycerol-ether phospholipids as well as acyl glycerides. The n-C20:1 and cy-C21 fatty acids dominated all of the Aquificales, while the alkyl glycerol ethers were mainly C18:0. These Aquificales biomarkers were major constituents of the lipid extracts of two Octopus Spring samples, a biofilm associated with the siliceous vent walls, and the well-known pink streamer community (PSC). Both the biofilm and the PSC contained mono- and dialkyl glycerol ethers in which C18 and C20 alkyl groups were prevalent. Phospholipid fatty acids included both the Aquificales n-C20:1 and cy-C21, plus a series of iso-branched fatty acids (i-C15:0 to i-C21:0), indicating an additional bacterial component. Biomass and lipids from the PSC were depleted in 13C relative to source water CO2 by 10.9 and 17.2‰, respectively. The C20–21 fatty acids of the PSC were less depleted than the iso-branched fatty acids, 18.4 and 22.6‰, respectively. The biomass of T. ruber grown on CO2 was depleted in 13C by only 3.3‰ relative to C source. In contrast, biomass was depleted by 19.7‰ when formate was the C source. Independent of carbon source, T. ruber lipids were heavier than biomass (+1.3‰). The depletion in the C20–21 fatty acids from the PSC indicates that Thermocrinis biomass must be similarly depleted and too light to be explained by growth on CO2. Accordingly, Thermocrinis in the PSC is likely to have utilized formate, presumably generated in the spring source region.
PMCID: PMC93288  PMID: 11679343

Results 1-11 (11)