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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2001 Oct;67(10):4566-72.

Growth and phylogenetic properties of novel bacteria belonging to the epsilon subdivision of the Proteobacteria enriched from Alvinella pompejana and deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

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  • 1College of Marine Studies, University of Delaware, Lewes, Delaware 19958, USA.


Recent molecular characterizations of microbial communities from deep-sea hydrothermal sites indicate the predominance of bacteria belonging to the epsilon subdivision of Proteobacteria (epsilon Proteobacteria). Here, we report the first enrichments and characterizations of four epsilon Proteobacteria that are directly associated with Alvinella pompejana, a deep sea hydrothermal vent polychete, or with hydrothermal vent chimney samples. These novel bacteria were moderately thermophilic sulfur-reducing heterotrophs growing on formate as the energy and carbon source. In addition, two of them (Am-H and Ex-18.2) could grow on sulfur lithoautrotrophically using hydrogen as the electron donor. Optimal growth temperatures of the bacteria ranged from 41 to 45 degrees C. Phylogenetic analysis of the small-subunit ribosomal gene of the two heterotrophic bacteria demonstrated 95% similarity to Sulfurospirillum arcachonense, an epsilon Proteobacteria isolated from an oxidized marine surface sediment. The autotrophic bacteria grouped within a deeply branching clade of the epsilon Proteobacteria, to date composed only of uncultured bacteria detected in a sample from a hydrothermal vent along the mid-Atlantic ridge. A molecular survey of various hydrothermal vent environments demonstrated the presence of two of these bacteria (Am-N and Am-H) in more than one geographic location and habitat. These results suggest that certain epsilon Proteobacteria likely fill important niches in the environmental habitats of deep-sea hydrothermal vents, where they contribute to overall carbon and sulfur cycling at moderate thermophilic temperatures.

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