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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Feb 1;97(3):1247-51.

A habitat for psychrophiles in deep Antarctic ice.

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  • 1Physics Department, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.

Abstract

Microbes, some of which may be viable, have been found in ice cores drilled at Vostok Station at depths down to approximately 3,600 m, close to the surface of the huge subglacial Lake Vostok. Two types of ice have been found. The upper 3,500 m comprises glacial ice containing traces of nutrients of aeolian origin including sulfuric acid, nitric acid, methanosulfonic acid (MSA), formic acid, sea salts, and mineral grains. Ice below approximately 3,500 m comprises refrozen water from Lake Vostok, accreted to the bottom of the glacial ice. Nutrients in the accretion ice include salts and dissolved organic carbon. There is great interest in searching for living microbes and especially for new species in deepest Antarctic ice. I propose a habitat consisting of interconnected liquid veins along three-grain boundaries in ice in which psychrophilic bacteria can move and obtain energy and carbon from ions in solution. In the accretion ice, with an age of a few 10(4) years and a temperature a few degrees below freezing, the carbon and energy sources in the veins can maintain significant numbers of cells per cubic centimeter that are metabolizing but not multiplying. In the 4 x 10(5)-year-old colder glacial ice, at least 1 cell per cm(3) in acid veins can be maintained. With fluorescence microscopy tuned to detect NADH in live organisms, motile bacteria could be detected by direct scanning of the veins in ice samples.

PMID:
10655516
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC15584
Free PMC Article
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