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ISME J. 2015 Dec;9(12):2642-56. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2015.60. Epub 2015 May 1.

Contrasting taxonomic stratification of microbial communities in two hypersaline meromictic lakes.

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Institute for Interdisciplinary Research in Bio-Nano-Sciences, Molecular Biology Center, Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
Biosciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, USA.
Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA.
National Institute of Research and Development for Biological Sciences (NIRDBS), Institute of Biological Research, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
Faculty of Environmental Science and Engineering, Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Rome, Italy.
Faculty of Geography, Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
Biological Research Center, Jibou, Romania.
Department of Microbiology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA.


Hypersaline meromictic lakes are extreme environments in which water stratification is associated with powerful physicochemical gradients and high salt concentrations. Furthermore, their physical stability coupled with vertical water column partitioning makes them important research model systems in microbial niche differentiation and biogeochemical cycling. Here, we compare the prokaryotic assemblages from Ursu and Fara Fund hypersaline meromictic lakes (Transylvanian Basin, Romania) in relation to their limnological factors and infer their role in elemental cycling by matching taxa to known taxon-specific biogeochemical functions. To assess the composition and structure of prokaryotic communities and the environmental factors that structure them, deep-coverage small subunit (SSU) ribosomal RNA (rDNA) amplicon sequencing, community domain-specific quantitative PCR and physicochemical analyses were performed on samples collected along depth profiles. The analyses showed that the lakes harbored multiple and diverse prokaryotic communities whose distribution mirrored the water stratification patterns. Ursu Lake was found to be dominated by Bacteria and to have a greater prokaryotic diversity than Fara Fund Lake that harbored an increased cell density and was populated mostly by Archaea within oxic strata. In spite of their contrasting diversity, the microbial populations indigenous to each lake pointed to similar physiological functions within carbon degradation and sulfate reduction. Furthermore, the taxonomy results coupled with methane detection and its stable C isotope composition indicated the presence of a yet-undescribed methanogenic group in the lakes' hypersaline monimolimnion. In addition, ultrasmall uncultivated archaeal lineages were detected in the chemocline of Fara Fund Lake, where the recently proposed Nanohaloarchaeota phylum was found to thrive.

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