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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2007 Oct;73(19):6172-80. Epub 2007 Aug 10.

Microbial community biofabrics in a geothermal mine adit.

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  • 1Division of Environmental Science and Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado 80401, USA.

Abstract

Speleothems such as stalactites and stalagmites are usually considered to be mineralogical in composition and origin; however, microorganisms have been implicated in the development of some speleothems. We have identified and characterized the biological and mineralogical composition of mat-like biofabrics in two novel kinds of speleothems from a 50 degrees C geothermal mine adit near Glenwood Springs, CO. One type of structure consists of 2- to 3-cm-long, 3- to 4-mm-wide, leather-like, hollow, soda straw stalactites. Light and electron microscopy indicated that the stalactites are composed of a mineralized biofabric with several cell morphotypes in a laminated form, with gypsum and sulfur as the dominant mineral components. A small-subunit rRNA gene phylogenetic community analysis along the stalactite length yielded a diverse gradient of organisms, with a relatively simple suite of main constituents: Thermus spp., crenarchaeotes, Chloroflexi, and Gammaproteobacteria. PCR analysis also detected putative crenarchaeal ammonia monooxygenase subunit A (amoA) genes in this community, the majority related to sequences from other geothermal systems. The second type of speleothem, dumpling-like rafts floating on a 50 degrees C pool on the floor of the adit, showed a mat-like fabric of evidently living organisms on the outside of the dumpling, with a multimineral, amorphous, gypsum-based internal composition. These two novel types of biofabrics are examples of the complex roles that microbes can play in mineralization, weathering, and deposition processes in karst environments.

PMID:
17693567
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2075011
Free PMC Article

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