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Keywords:

  • biogeography;
  • ecophysiology;
  • metal cycling

Abstract

Moderately halophilic and euryhaline bacteria are routinely found in cool to warm hydrothermal vent and nearby cold, deep-sea environments. To elucidate the diversity of these microorganisms – with the goal of determining which among them constitute ecotypes specifically associated with hydrothermal vent and subseafloor habitats – PCR primers were designed to detect natural populations of euryhaline Gammaproteobacteria belonging to the cosmopolitan genera Halomonas and Marinobacter. The distribution patterns of 16S rRNA gene sequence data revealed that Halomonas group 2A comprised a subseafloor population at Axial Seamount on the Juan de Fuca Ridge. Complementary biogeographic and physiological data suggested that other Halomonas clades include members that are cold adapted (Halomonas group 2B) or associated with massive sulfide deposits (Halomonas group 2C). Similarly, a monophyletic Marinobacter clade may represent Fe2+-oxidizing facultative chemoautotrophs based on the phylogenetic data presented here and previously reported phenotypic characterizations. The biogeographic distributions of Halomonas and Marinobacter isolates and clones reveal that these are cosmopolitan genera, commonly found in the deep sea and in hydrothermal vent settings. As such, they are good candidates for further laboratory investigations into the biogeochemical processes in these environments.