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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1997 Jul;63(7):2876-83.

Distribution of microorganisms in deep-sea hydrothermal vent chimneys investigated by whole-cell hybridization and enrichment culture of thermophilic subpopulations.


The microbial community structure of hydrothermal vent chimneys was evaluated by the combined use of enrichment cultures and whole-cell hybridizations with fluorescently labeled 16S rRNA-based oligonucleotide probes. Chimneys were collected during the Microsmoke cruise on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and were subsampled on board and stored under reduced conditions or fixed. For estimation of culturable thermophiles, selective media were inoculated by dilution series of the samples and incubated at 65, 80, and 95(deg)C. To analyze the microbial diversity of the samples, cells were extracted from the fixed chimney structure samples and hybridized with domain- and kingdom-specific probes. Quantification of the extracted cells was assessed by whole-cell hybridization on membrane filters. By both methods, the largest amounts of microorganisms were found in the upper and outer parts of the chimneys, although even the inner parts contained culturable and detectable amounts of cells. Different morphotypes of thermophilic and hyperthermophilic microorganisms were enriched and detected in samples. Our data clearly indicate that the morphological diversity observed by using whole-cell hybridization is much larger than that assessed by use of culture-based enrichments. This new approach, including culture-independent and -dependent methods to study hydrothermal vent chimneys, showed an uneven distribution of a diverse microbial community. Application of lower-level specific probes for known families and genera within each domain by our approach will be useful to reveal the real extent and nature of the chimney microbial diversity and to support cultivation attempts.

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