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Microb Ecol. 2012 Jul;64(1):162-70. doi: 10.1007/s00248-012-0012-3. Epub 2012 Feb 11.

Phototrophic phylotypes dominate mesothermal microbial mats associated with hot springs in Yellowstone National Park.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0347, USA.


The mesothermal outflow zones (50-65°C) of geothermal springs often support an extensive zone of green and orange laminated microbial mats. In order to identify and compare the microbial inhabitants of morphologically similar green-orange mats from chemically and geographically distinct springs, we generated and analyzed small-subunit ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene amplicons from six mesothermal mats (four previously unexamined) in Yellowstone National Park. Between three and six bacterial phyla dominated each mat. While many sequences bear the highest identity to previously isolated phototrophic genera belonging to the Cyanobacteria, Chloroflexi, and Chlorobi phyla, there is also frequent representation of uncultured, unclassified members of these groups. Some genus-level representatives of these dominant phyla were found in all mats, while others were unique to a single mat. Other groups detected at high frequencies include candidate divisions (such as the OP candidate clades) with no cultured representatives or complete genomes available. In addition, rRNA genes related to the recently isolated and characterized photosynthetic acidobacterium "Candidatus Chloracidobacterium thermophilum" were detected in most mats. In contrast to microbial mats from well-studied hypersaline environments, the mesothermal mats in this study accrue less biomass and are substantially less diverse, but have a higher proportion of known phototrophic organisms. This study provides sequences appropriate for accurate phylogenetic classification and expands the molecular phylogenetic survey of Yellowstone microbial mats.

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