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Extremophiles. 2013 Jul;17(4):649-62. doi: 10.1007/s00792-013-0548-2. Epub 2013 May 26.

High abundance of heterotrophic prokaryotes in hydrothermal springs of the Azores as revealed by a network of 16S rRNA gene-based methods.

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  • 1Institute for Technical Microbiology, Hamburg University of Technology, Kasernenstr. 12, 21073 Hamburg, Germany.


Two hydrothermal springs (AI: 51 °C, pH 3; AIV: 92 °C, pH 8) were analysed to determine prokaryotic community composition. Using pyrosequencing, 93,576 partial 16S rRNA gene sequences amplified with V2/V3-specific primers for Bacteria and Archaea were investigated and compared to 16S rRNA gene sequences from direct metagenome sequencing without prior amplification. The results were evaluated by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). While in site AIV Bacteria and Archaea were detected in similar relative abundances (Bacteria 40 %, Archaea 35 %), the acidic spring AI was dominated by Bacteria (68 %). In spring AIV the combination of 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis and FISH revealed high abundance (>50 %) of heterotrophic bacterial genera like Caldicellulosiruptor, Dictyoglomus, and Fervidobacterium. In addition, chemolithoautotrophic Aquificales were detected in the bacterial community with Sulfurihydrogenibium being the dominant genus. Regarding Archaea, only Crenarchaeota, were detected, dominated by the family Desulfurococcaceae (>50 %). In addition, Thermoproteaceae made up almost 25 %. In the acidic spring (AI) prokaryotic diversity was lower than in the hot, slightly alkaline spring AIV. The bacterial community of site AI was dominated by organisms related to the chemolithoautotrophic genus Acidithiobacillus (43 %), to the heterotrophic Acidicaldus (38 %) and to Anoxybacillus (7.8 %). This study reveals differences in the relative abundance of heterotrophic versus autotrophic microorganisms as compared to other hydrothermal habitats. Furthermore, it shows how different methods to analyse prokaryotic communities in complex ecosystems can complement each other to obtain an in-depth picture of the taxonomic composition and diversity within these hydrothermal springs.

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