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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2000 Sep;66(9):3842-9.

Phylogeny of microorganisms populating a thick, subaerial, predominantly lithotrophic biofilm at an extreme acid mine drainage site.

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  • 1Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


An unusually thick ( approximately 1 cm) slime developed on a slump of finely disseminated pyrite ore within an extreme acid mine drainage site at Iron Mountain, near Redding, Calif. The slime was studied over the period of 1 year. The subaerial form of the slime distinguished it from more typical submerged streamers. Phylogenetic analysis of 16S rRNA genes revealed a diversity of sequences that were mostly novel. Nearest relatives to the majority of sequences came from iron-oxidizing acidophiles, and it appears that iron oxidation is the predominant metabolic characteristic of the organisms in the slime. The most abundant of the 16S rRNA genes detected were from organisms related to Leptospirillum species. The dominant sequence (71% of clones) may represent a new genus. Sequences within the Archaea of the Thermoplasmales lineage were detected. Most of these were only distantly related to known microorganisms. Also, sequences affiliating with Acidimicrobium were detected. Some of these were closely related to "Ferromicrobium acidophilus," and others were affiliated with a lineage only represented by environmental clones. Unexpectedly, sequences that affiliated within the delta subdivision of the Proteobacteria were detected. The predominant metabolic feature of bacteria of this subdivision is anaerobic sulfate or metal reduction. Thus, microenvironments of low redox potential possibly exist in the predominantly oxidizing environments of the slime. These results expand our knowledge of the biodiversity of acid mine drainage environments and extend our understanding of the ecology of extremely acidic systems.

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