Isolation and phylogenetic characterization of acidophilic microorganisms indigenous to acidic drainage waters at an abandoned Norwegian copper mine


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The biodiversity of culturable acidophilic microbes in three acidic (pH 2.7–3.7), metal-rich waters at an abandoned subarctic copper mine in central Norway was assessed. Acidophilic bacteria were isolated by plating on selective solid media, and dominant isolates were identified from their physiological characteristics and 16S rRNA gene sequences. The dominant iron-oxidizing acidophile in all three waters was an Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans-like eubacterium, which shared 98% 16S rDNA identity with the type strain. A strain of Leptospirillum ferrooxidans was obtained from one of the waters after enrichment in pyrite medium, but this iron oxidizer was below detectable levels in the acidic waters themselves. In two sites, there were up to six distinct heterotrophic acidophiles, present at 103 ml−1. These included Acidiphilium-like isolates (one closely related to Acidiphilium rubrum, a second to Acidiphilium cryptum and a third apparently novel isolate), an Acidocella-like isolate (96% 16S rDNA identity to Acidocella facilis) and a bacterium that shared 94.5% 16S rDNA identity to Acidisphaera rubrifaciens. The other numerically significant heterotrophic isolate was not apparently related to any known acidophile, with the closest match (96% 16S rDNA sequence identity) to an acetogen, Frateuria aurantia. The results indicated that the biodiversity of acidophilic bacteria, especially heterotrophs, in acidic mine waters may be much greater than previously recognized.