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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1990 May;56(5):1440-7.

Particulate DNA in smoker fluids: evidence for existence of microbial populations in hot hydrothermal systems.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742; School of Oceanography, WB-10, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195 ; and Center of Marine Biotechnology, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland 20201.


As part of an interdisciplinary study of hydrothermal vents on the Endeavour Segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge, we used the submersible ALVIN to collect 57 fluid samples in titanium syringes and Go Flo Niskin bottles from 17 different hot vents (smokers and flanges) and their environs for the purpose of extracting particulate DNA. The relative purity of the vent fluids collected was determined by Mg content as an indicator of seawater entrainment. Particulate material concentrated from these samples was lysed enzymatically (enz) and by a combination of enzyme and French press treatment (fp). Concentrations of partially purified DNA recovered from these lysates were determined spectrofluorometrically by using the dye Hoechst 33258. Ambient seawater surrounding the vents was found to contain low DNA concentrations, 0.18 to 0.32 ng of DNA per ml (n = 4; mean(enz) = 0.23 +/- 0.05; mean(fp) = 0.26 +/- 0.05), while low-temperature vent samples yielded significantly higher concentrations of 0.37 to 2.12 ng of DNA per ml (n = 4; mean(enz) = 0.97 +/- 0.68; mean(fp) = 1.05 +/- 0.54). Although DNA recovery values from superheated (210 to 345 degrees C) flange samples (mean(enz) = 0.14 +/- 0.10; mean(fp) = 0.12 +/- 0.14) were not significantly different from ambient seawater values, most of the superheated (174 to 357 degrees C) smoker fluid samples contained particulate DNA in concentrations too high to be attributable to entrained seawater. Detailed sampling at one smoker site demonstrated not only the existence of significant levels of particulate DNA in the superheated smoker fluids but also the presence of an elevated microbial population in the buoyant plume 20 to 100 m above the smoker. These results underscore the heterogeneity of smoker environments within a given hydrothermal vent field and indicate that microorganisms exist in some superheated fluids.

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