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Extremophiles. 2001 Aug;5(4):221-8.

Novel haloarchaeal 16S rRNA gene sequences from Alpine Permo-Triassic rock salt.

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  • 1Institute of Genetics and General Biology, University of Salzburg, Austria.


Prokaryotic diversity in Alpine salt sediments was investigated by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of 16S rRNA genes, sequencing of cloned products, and comparisons with culturable strains. DNA was extracted from the residue following filtration of dissolved Permo-Triassic rock salt. Fifty-four haloarchaeal sequences were obtained, which could be grouped into at least five distinct clusters. Similarity values of three clusters to known 16S rRNA genes were less than 90%-95%, suggesting the presence of uncultured novel taxa; two clusters were 98% and 99% similar to isolates from Permo-Triassic or Miocene salt from England and Poland, and to Halobacterium salinarum, respectively. Some rock salt samples, including drilling cores, yielded no amplifiable DNA and no cells or only a few culturable cells. This result suggested a variable distribution of haloarchaea within different strata, probably consistent with the known geologic heterogeneity of Alpine salt deposits. We recently reported identical culturable Halococcus salifodinae strains in Permo-Triassic salt sediments from England, Germany, and Austria; together with the data presented here, those results suggest one plausible scenario to be an ancient continuous hypersaline ocean (Zechstein sea) populated by haloarchaea, whose descendants are found today in the salt sediments. The novelty of the sequences also suggested avoidance of haloarchaeal contaminants during our isolation of strains, preparation of DNA, and PCR reactions.

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