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Keywords:

  • 16S rDNA;
  • 16S-23S rDNA spacer;
  • marine archaea;
  • marine assemblages;
  • microbial diversity;
  • SAR11

Abstract

The SAR11 cluster and the Group I of marine Archaea represent probably the best two examples of uncultured marine prokaryotes of widespread occurrence. To study their microdiversity and distribution, a total of 81 and 48 clones, respectively, were sequenced from Mediterranean and Antarctic waters at different locations and depths. The DNA regions chosen for the analysis were the last third, approximately, of the 16S rRNA gene and the 16S–23S intergenic spacer (also known as internal transcribed spacer [ITS]). There was a high concordance in both, even with the extremely variable ITS, where potential probes have been proposed for the identification and isolation of these micro-organisms. In terms of community structure, our results show that although depth-related factors seem to be predominant in the final associations of the clones, geography also plays a significant role. A major group of surface-associated sequences was found in both SAR11 and marine Archaea. In both cases this group was relatively homogeneous containing little diversity in terms of sequence, while sequences retrieved from deep samples and some surface clones contained much more heterogeneity. As a whole, both groups of prokaryotes seem to fall within the limits of well-defined taxonomic units.