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Extremophiles. 2017 Jan;21(1):135-152. doi: 10.1007/s00792-016-0889-8. Epub 2016 Nov 2.

Microbial community analysis of pH 4 thermal springs in Yellowstone National Park.

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Department of Biology, MSC03 2020 1UNM, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, 87131, USA.
Department of Biology, MSC03 2020 1UNM, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, 87131, USA.


The pH of the majority of thermal springs in Yellowstone National Park (YNP) is from 1 to 3 and 6 to 10; relatively few springs (~5%) have a pH range of 4-5. We used 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing to investigate microbial communities sampled from four pH 4 thermal springs collected from four regions of YNP that differed in their fluid temperature and geochemistry. Our results revealed that the composition of bacterial communities varied among the sites, despite sharing similar pH values. The taxonomic composition and metabolic functional potential of the site with the lowest temperature (55 °C), a thermal spring from the Seven Mile Hole (SMH) area, were further investigated using shotgun metagenome sequencing. The taxonomic classification, based on 372 Mbp of unassembled metagenomic reads, indicated that this community included a high proportion of Chloroflexi, Bacteroidetes, Proteobacteria, and Firmicutes. Functional comparison with other YNP thermal spring metagenomes indicated that the SMH metagenome was enriched in genes related to energy production and conversion, transcription, and carbohydrate transport. Analysis of genes involved in nitrogen metabolism revealed assimilatory and dissimilatory nitrate reduction pathways, whereas the majority of genes involved in sulfur metabolism were related to the reduction of sulfate to adenylylsulfate, sulfite, and H2S. Given that pH 4 thermal springs are relatively less common in YNP and thermal areas worldwide, they may harbor novel microbiota and the communities that inhabit them deserve further investigation.


16S rRNA; Metagenomics; Microbial communities; Thermal springs; Yellowstone National Park; pH 4

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