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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2015 Mar;81(6):1988-95. doi: 10.1128/AEM.03968-14. Epub 2015 Jan 9.

A halophilic bacterium inhabiting the warm, CaCl2-rich brine of the perennially ice-covered Lake Vanda, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica.

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Department of Microbiology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois, USA.
Department of Marine Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA.
Department of Microbiology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois, USA


Lake Vanda is a perennially ice-covered and stratified lake in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. The lake develops a distinct chemocline at about a 50-m depth, where the waters transition from cool, oxic, and fresh to warm, sulfidic, and hypersaline. The bottom water brine is unique, as the highly chaotropic salts CaCl2 and MgCl2 predominate, and CaCl2 levels are the highest of those in any known microbial habitat. Enrichment techniques were used to isolate 15 strains of heterotrophic bacteria from the Lake Vanda brine. Despite direct supplementation of the brine samples with different organic substrates in primary enrichments, the same organism, a relative of the halophilic bacterium Halomonas (Gammaproteobacteria), was isolated from all depths sampled. The Lake Vanda (VAN) strains were obligate aerobes and showed broad pH, salinity, and temperature ranges for growth, consistent with the physicochemical properties of the brine. VAN strains were halophilic and quite CaCl2 tolerant but did not require CaCl2 for growth. The fact that only VAN strain-like organisms appeared in our enrichments hints that the highly chaotropic nature of the Lake Vanda brine may place unusual physiological constraints on the bacterial community that inhabits it.

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