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Res Microbiol. 2006 Oct;157(8):741-51. Epub 2006 Apr 5.

Phylogenetic diversity of culturable bacteria from alpine permafrost in the Tianshan Mountains, northwestern China.

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Key Laboratory of Arid and Grassland Agroecology of Ministry of Education, School of Life Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou Gansu 730000, PR China.


Microbes have been discovered in permafrost sediments for nearly a century. However, microbiological analyses of alpine permafrost are very scarce. This study is a first attempt to describe the phylogenetic diversity of a culturable bacterial community isolated from alpine permafrost in the Tianshan Mountains in northwestern China. Aerobic 2.5-6.0x10(5) CFU/gdw (CFU per 1 gram of dry weight) on modified PYGV medium were recovered from alpine permafrost samples at 4 degrees C; among these, 91 bacterial isolates with different morphotypes were characterized by phenotypic properties, such as morphology, colony pigmentation, Gram staining, endospore formation and temperature range of growth. The isolates were further categorized based on amplified rDNA restriction analysis (ARDRA), and 51 representative isolates possessing distinct ARDRA patterns selected for subsequent 16S rDNA sequencing and phylogenetic analysis. The phylogenetic trees placed the 51 isolates in four major groups: the high-G+C Gram-positives, the low-G+C Gram-positives, Proteobacteria and the Cytophaga-Flavobacterium-Bacteroides (CFB) phylum. The most abundant and diverse isolates were members of Gram-positive bacteria, particularly the Arthrobacter as a dominant group in alpine permafrost culturable populations. Results of the Jukes-Cantor evolutionary distance matrix suggested that the vast majority of the isolates were different strains of known species, and three may represent new species within the genus Chryseobacterium of the CFB phylum. From this study, it is proposed that alpine permafrost sediments in the Tianshan Mountains provide a specific ecological niche for prolonging survival of diverse microbial lineages.

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