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Environ Microbiol. 2000 Apr;2(2):217-26.

Matching molecular diversity and ecophysiology of benthic cyanobacteria and diatoms in communities along a salinity gradient.

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Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany.


The phylogenetic diversity of oxygenic phototrophic microorganisms in hypersaline microbial mats and their distribution along a salinity gradient were investigated and compared with the halotolerances of closely related cultivated strains. Segments of 16S rRNA genes from cyanobacteria and diatom plastids were retrieved from mat samples by DNA extraction and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and subsequently analysed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). Sequence analyses of DNA from individual DGGE bands suggested that the majority of these organisms was related to cultivated strains at levels that had previously been demonstrated to correlate with characteristic salinity responses. Proportional abundances of amplified 16S rRNA gene segments from phylogenetic groupings of cyanobacteria and diatoms were estimated by image analysis of DGGE gels and were generally found to correspond to abundances of the respective morphotypes determined by microscopic analyses. The results indicated that diatoms accounted for low proportions of cells throughout, that the cyanobacterium Microcoleus chthonoplastes and close relatives dominated the communities up to a salinity of 11% and that, at a salinity of 14%, the most abundant cyanobacteria were related to highly halotolerant cultivated cyanobacteria, such as the recently established phylogenetic clusters of Euhalothece and Halospirulina. Although these organisms in cultures had previously demonstrated their ability to grow with close to optimal rates over a wide range of salinities, their occurrence in the field was restricted to the highest salinities investigated.

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