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Extremophiles. 2005 Apr;9(2):169-84. Epub 2005 Mar 18.

Bacterial community shift along a subsurface geothermal water stream in a Japanese gold mine.

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Subground Animalcule Retrieval (SUGAR) Project, Extremobiosphere Research Center, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science & Technology (JAMSTEC), 2-15 Natsushima-cho, Yokosuka 237-0061, Japan.


Change of bacterial community occurring along a hot water stream in the Hishikari gold mine, Japan, was investigated by applying a combination of various culture-independent techniques. The stream, which is derived from a subsurface anaerobic aquifer containing plentiful CO2, CH4, H2, and NH4+, emerges in a mine tunnel 320 m below the surface providing nutrients for a lush microbial community that extends to a distance of approximately 7 m in the absence of sunlight-irradiation. Over this distance, the temperature decreases from 69 degrees C to 55 degrees C, and the oxidation-reduction potential increases from -130 mV to +59 mV. In the hot upper reaches of the stream, the dominant phylotypes were: 1) a deeply branching lineage of thermophilic methane-oxidizing gamma-Proteobacteria, and 2) a thermophilic hydrogen- and sulfur-oxidizing Sulfurihydrogenibium sp. In contrast, the prevailing phylotypes in the middle and lower parts of the stream were closely related to ammonia-oxidizing Nitrosomonas and nitrite-oxidizing Nitrospira spp.. Changes in the microbial metabolic potential estimated by competitive PCR analysis of genes encoding the enzymes, particulate methane monooxygenase (pmoA), ammonia monooxygenase (amoA), and putative nitrite oxidoreductase (norB), also substantiated the community shift indicated by 16S rRNA gene analysis. The diversity of putative norB lineages was assessed for the first time in the hot water environment. Estimation of dominant phylotypes by whole-cell fluorescent in situ hybridization and changes in inorganic nitrogen compounds such as decreasing ammonium and increasing nitrite and nitrate in the mat-interstitial water along the stream were consistent with the observed transition of the bacterial community structure in the stream.

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