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Keywords:

  • Archaeon;
  • Oxic;
  • Subsurface;
  • Aquifer;
  • 16S rDNA;
  • Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis

Abstract

Groundwater from an oxic, fractured basalt aquifer was examined for the presence of Archaea. DNA was extracted from cells concentrated from groundwater collected from five wells penetrating the eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer (Idaho, USA). Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of 16S rDNA was performed with Archaea-specific primers using both nested (ca. 200-bp product) and direct (ca. 600-bp product) PCR approaches. Estimates of the archaeal diversity were made by separating PCR products from all five wells by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) and phylogenetic analysis of partial 16S rDNA sequences from two wells was performed following cloning procedures. Archaea were detected in all wells and the number of DGGE bands per well ranged from two to nine and varied according to PCR approach. There were 30 unique clonal 16S rDNA partial sequences (ca. 600 bp) within a total of 100 clones that were screened from two wells. Twenty-two of the 16S rDNA fragments recovered from the aquifer were related to the Crenarchaeota and Euryarchaeota kingdoms (one large clade of clones in the former and six smaller clades in the latter), with sequences ranging from 23.7 to 95.4% similar to those found in other investigations. The presence of potentially thermophilic or methanogenic Archaea in this fully oxic aquifer may be related to deep thermal sources or elevated dissolved methane concentrations. Many sequences were similar to those that represent non-thermophilic Crenarchaeota of which there are no known cultured members and therefore no putative function.