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Microbiological research
Vol. 167, No: 6, 2012, Pages: 372 - 80

Diversity and physiology of culturable bacteria associated with a coastal Antarctic ice core

Antony R, Krishnan KP, Laluraj CM, Thamban M, Dhakephalkar PK, Engineer AS, Shivaji S

National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Headland Sada, Vasco-da-Gama, Goa 403 804, India.


Microbiological studies of polar ice at different depths may provide important comparisons, as they preserve records of microbial cells and past climate. In this study, we examined bacterial abundance, diversity and glaciochemical composition from three depths of an ice core from coastal Dronning Maud Land, East Antarctica. Higher bacterial abundance corresponded with high in situ sea-salt Na(+) and dust concentration, suggesting that bacteria might have been transported and deposited into ice along with dust particles and marine aerosols. Fourteen bacterial isolates belonging to the genera Methylobacterium, Brevundimonas, Paenibacillus, Bacillus and Micrococcus were retrieved. Frequent isolation of similar bacterial genera from different cold environments suggests that they possess features that enable survival and metabolism for extended periods of time at sub-zero temperatures. The highest number and diversity of recoverable bacteria was obtained from 49m depth corresponding to 1926 AD and consisted of bacteria from 4 different genera whereas at 11m (1989 AD) and 33m (1953 AD) samples only species belonging to the genera Bacillus was recovered. Among the Bacillus species, Bacillus aryabhattai which has been reported only from the upper stratosphere, was isolated and is the first record from the Earth's surface. Methylobacterium was the most dominant genera at 49m depth and its prevalence is attributable to a combination of high in situ methanesulfonate concentration, specialized metabolism and environmental hardiness of Methylobacterium. Some of the isolated bacteria were found to respire and grow using methanesulfonate, suggesting that they may utilize this substrate to sustain growth in ice. In addition, NO(3)(-) (2.93-3.69ÁM), NH(4)(+) (1.45-3.90ÁM) and PO(4)(3-) (0.01-0.75ÁM) present in the ice could be potential sources fueling bacterial metabolism in this environment. It could be deduced from the study that variation in bacterial abundance and diversity was probably associated with the prevailing in situ conditions in ice.

Keywords:Methylobacterium was the most dominant genera,Bacillus species, Bacillus aryabhattai,fueling bacterial metabolism in this environment.


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