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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 Oct;71(10):6319-24.

Genome-directed isolation of the key nitrogen fixer Leptospirillum ferrodiazotrophum sp. nov. from an acidophilic microbial community.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, 151 Hilgard Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3111, USA.


Analysis of assembled random shotgun sequence data from a low-diversity, subsurface acid mine drainage (AMD) biofilm revealed a single nif operon. This was found on a genome fragment belonging to a member of Leptospirillum group III, a lineage in the Nitrospirae phylum with no cultivated representatives. Based on the prediction that this organism is solely responsible for nitrogen fixation in the community, we pursued a selective isolation strategy to obtain the organism in pure culture. An AMD biofilm sample naturally abundant in Leptospirillum group III cells was homogenized, filtered, and serially diluted into a nitrogen-free liquid medium. The resulting culture in the terminal dilution grew autotrophically to a maximum cell density of approximately 10(6) cells/ml, oxidizing ferrous iron as the sole energy source. 16S rRNA-internal transcribed spacer region clone library analysis confirmed that the isolate is a member of Leptospirillum group III and that the culture is axenic. We propose the name Leptospirillum ferrodiazotrophum sp. nov. for this iron-oxidizing, free-living diazotroph. This study highlights how environmental sequence data can provide insights for culturing previously uncultured microorganisms.

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