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Environ Microbiol. 1999 Dec;1(6):503-15.

Climatic influence on mesophilic Bacillus cereus and psychrotolerant Bacillus weihenstephanensis populations in tropical, temperate and alpine soil.

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  • 1Institut für Mikrobiologie, FML Weihenstephan, Technische Universität München, Germany.


Bacillus weihenstephanensis strains are psychrotolerant and grow from below 7 degrees C to 38 degrees C. Closely related mesophilic Bacillus cereus strains can grow from above 7 degrees C to 46 degrees C. We classified 1060 B. cereus group isolates from different soil samples with respect to their psychrotolerant and mesophilic genotypes by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) targeting of specific 16S rDNA and cold shock protein A gene signatures. In parallel, growth tests at 7 degrees C were carried out to determine the thermal phenotype. The geographic distribution of psychrotolerant and mesophilic isolates was found to depend significantly on the prevalent annual average temperature. In one tropical, one temperate and two alpine habitats, the proportion of psychrotolerant cspA genotypes was found to be 0%, 45% and 86% and 98%, respectively, with the corresponding annual average temperatures being 28 degrees C, 7 degrees C, 4 degrees C and 1 degrees C. In the tropical habitat, only the mesophilic B. cereus was found, characterized by correspondence of thermal genotype and phenotype. In the alpine habitat, almost only the psychrotolerant B. weihenstephanensis was isolated. In the temperate habitat, mesophilic B. cereus and psychrotolerant B. weihenstephanensis as well as 'intermediate thermal types' occurred, the latter having opposite thermal genotypes and phenotypes or opposing sets of thermal DNA signatures, characterized by the coexistence of mesophilic and psychrotolerant 16S rDNA operon copies within a single isolate. Both sugar utilization and DNA fingerprinting patterns revealed a high, probably non-clonal microsite diversity within the population of the temperate habitat. We interpret our observations in terms of a temperature-dependent selection regime, acting on recombining B. cereus/ B. weihenstephanensis populations in soil.

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