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Communities of archaea and bacteria in a subsurface radioactive thermal spring in the Austrian Central Alps, and evidence of ammonia-oxidizing Crenarchaeota.


ABSTRACT: Scanning electron microscopy revealed great morphological diversity in biofilms from several largely unexplored subterranean thermal Alpine springs, which contain radium 226 and radon 222. A culture-independent molecular analysis of microbial communities on rocks and in the water of one spring, the "Franz-Josef-Quelle" in Bad Gastein, Austria, was performed. Four hundred fifteen clones were analyzed. One hundred thirty-two sequences were affiliated with 14 bacterial operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and 283 with four archaeal OTUs. Rarefaction analysis indicated a high diversity of bacterial sequences, while archaeal sequences were less diverse. The majority of the cloned archaeal 16S rRNA gene sequences belonged to the soil-freshwater-subsurface (1.1b) crenarchaeotic group; other representatives belonged to the freshwater-wastewater-soil (1.3b) group, except one clone, which was related to a group of uncultivated Euryarchaeota. These findings support recent reports that Crenarchaeota are not restricted to high-temperature environments. Most of the bacterial sequences were related to the Proteobacteria (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta), Bacteroidetes, and Planctomycetes. One OTU was allied with Nitrospina sp. (delta-Proteobacteria) and three others grouped with Nitrospira. Statistical analyses suggested high diversity based on 16S rRNA gene analyses; the rarefaction plot of archaeal clones showed a plateau. Since Crenarchaeota have been implicated recently in the nitrogen cycle, the spring environment was probed for the presence of the ammonia monooxygenase subunit A (amoA) gene. Sequences were obtained which were related to crenarchaeotic amoA genes from marine and soil habitats. The data suggested that nitrification processes are occurring in the subterranean environment and that ammonia may possibly be an energy source for the resident communities.

SUBMITTER: Weidler GW 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC1797131 | BioStudies | 2007-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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