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Diversity of Thermophilic Anaerobes


Address for correspondence: Juergen Wiegel, 212 Biological Sciences Building, 1000 Cedar Street, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-2605. Voice: +1-706-542-2651; fax: +1-706-542-2651.


Thermophilic anaerobes are Archaea and Bacteria that grow optimally at temperatures of 50°C or higher and do not require the use of O2 as a terminal electron acceptor for growth. The prokaryotes with this type of physiology are studied for a variety of reasons, including (a) to understand how life can thrive under extreme conditions, (b) for their biotechnological potential, and (c) because anaerobic thermophiles are thought to share characteristics with the early evolutionary life forms on Earth. Over 300 species of thermophilic anaerobes have been described; most have been isolated from thermal environments, but some are from mesobiotic environments, and others are from environments with temperatures below 0°C. In this overview, the authors outline the phylogenetic and physiological diversity of thermophilic anaerobes as currently known. The purpose of this overview is to convey the incredible diversity and breadth of metabolism within this subset of anaerobic microorganisms.