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Microbial Ecology
Vol. 69 (1), 2015, Pages: 106-117

Evidence of Novel Phylogenetic Lineages of Methanogenic Archaea from Hypersaline Microbial Mats

José Q. García-Maldonado, Brad M. Bebout, R. Craig Everroad, Alejandro López-Cortés

Laboratorio de Geomicrobiología y Biotecnología, Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste, La Paz, BCS, Mexico.


Methanogenesis in hypersaline and high-sulfate environments is typically dominated by methylotrophic methanogens because sulfate reduction is thermodynamically favored over hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis in these environments. We characterized the community composition of methanogenic archaea in both unmanipulated and incubated microbial mats from different hypersaline environments in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Clone libraries of methyl coenzyme-M reductase (mcrA) sequences and DGGE band patterns of 16S rRNA and mcrA sequences showed that the methanogen community in these microbial mats is dominated by methylotrophic methanogens of the genus Methanohalophilus. However, phylogenetic analyses of mcrA sequences from these mats also revealed two new lineages corresponding to putative hydrogenotrophic methanogens related with the strictly hydrogenotrophic order Methanomicrobiales. Stimulated methane production under decreased salinity and sulfate concentrations also suggested the presence of hydrogenotrophic methanogens in these samples. The relative abundance of mcrA gene and transcripts, estimated by SYBR green I qPCR assays, suggested the activity of different phylogenetic groups of methanogens, including the two novel clusters, in unmanipulated samples of hypersaline microbial mats. Using geochemical and molecular approaches, we show that substrate limitation and values of salinity and sulfate higher than 3 % and 25 mM (respectively) are potential environmental constraints for methanogenesis in these environments. Microcosm experiments with modifications of salinity and sulfate concentrations and TMA addition showed that upper salt and sulfate concentrations for occurrence of methylotrophic methanogenesis were 28 % and 263 mM, respectively. This study provides phylogenetic information about uncultivated and undescribed methanogenic archaea from hypersaline environments.


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