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Extremophiles. 2004 Dec;8(6):475-88. Epub 2004 Jul 14.

Diversity and cold-active hydrolytic enzymes of culturable bacteria associated with Arctic sea ice, Spitzbergen.

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Institute of Technical Microbiology, Technical University Hamburg-Harburg, Kasernenstr 12, 21073 Hamburg, Germany.


The diversity of culturable bacteria associated with sea ice from four permanently cold fjords of Spitzbergen, Arctic Ocean, was investigated. A total of 116 psychrophilic and psychrotolerant strains were isolated under aerobic conditions at 4 degrees C. The isolates were grouped using amplified rDNA restriction analysis fingerprinting and identified by partial sequencing of 16S rRNA gene. The bacterial isolates fell in five phylogenetic groups: subclasses alpha and gamma of Proteobacteria, the Bacillus-Clostridium group, the order Actinomycetales, and the Cytophaga-Flexibacter-Bacteroides (CFB) phylum. Over 70% of the isolates were affiliated with the Proteobacteria gamma subclass. Based on phylogenetic analysis (<98% sequence similarity), over 40% of Arctic isolates represent potentially novel species or genera. Most of the isolates were psychrotolerant and grew optimally between 20 and 25 degrees C. Only a few strains were psychrophilic, with an optimal growth at 10-15 degrees C. The majority of the bacterial strains were able to secrete a broad range of cold-active hydrolytic enzymes into the medium at a cultivation temperature of 4 degrees C. The isolates that are able to degrade proteins (skim milk, casein), lipids (olive oil), and polysaccharides (starch, pectin) account for, respectively, 56, 31, and 21% of sea-ice and seawater strains. The temperature dependences for enzyme production during growth and enzymatic activity were determined for two selected enzymes, alpha-amylase and beta-galactosidase. Interestingly, high levels of enzyme productions were measured at growth temperatures between 4 and 10 degrees C, and almost no production was detected at higher temperatures (20-30 degrees C). Catalytic activity was detected even below the freezing point of water (at -5 degrees C), demonstrating the unique properties of these enzymes.

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