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Concept: Halophile


Many members of the Halobacteriaceae were found to produce halocins, molecules that inhibit the growth of other halophilic archaea. Halocin H4 that is produced by Haloferax mediterranei and inhibits the growth of Halobacterium salinarum is one of the best studied halocins to date. The gene encoding this halocin had been previously identified as halH4, located on one of Hfx. mediterranei megaplasmids. We generated a mutant of the halH4 gene and examined the killing ability of the Haloferax mediterranei halH4 mutant with respect to both Halobacterium salinarum and Haloferax volcanii. We showed that both wild-type Hfx. mediterranei and the halH4 mutant strain efficiently inhibited the growth of both species, indicating halocin redundancy. Surprisingly, the halH4 deletion mutant exhibited faster growth in standard medium than the wild type, and is likely to have a better response to several nucleotides, which could explain this phenotype.

Concepts: Halophile, Halobacterium, Extremophiles, Classical genetics, Halobacteriaceae, DNA, Archaea, Gene


Laboratory cultures of a number of red extremely halophilic Archaea (Halobacterium salinarum strains NRC-1 and R1, Halorubrum sodomense, Haloarcula valismortis) and of Salinibacter ruber, a red extremely halophilic member of the Bacteria, have been investigated by Raman spectroscopy using 514.5nm excitation to characterize their carotenoids. The 50-carbon carotenoid α-bacterioruberin was detected as the major carotenoid in all archaeal strains. Raman spectroscopy also detected bacterioruberin as the main pigment in a red pellet of cells collected from a saltern crystallizer pond. Salinibacter contains the C-carotenoid acyl glycoside salinixanthin (all-E, 2’S)-2'-hydroxy-1'-[6-O-(methyltetradecanoyl)-β-d-glycopyranosyloxy]-3',4'-didehydro-1',2'-dihydro-β,ψ-carotene-4-one), for which the Raman bands assignments of are given here for the first time.

Concepts: Halophile, Halobacteria, Raman spectroscopy, Bacteria, Halobacteriaceae, Photosynthesis, Spectroscopy, Archaea


Chromium (Cr) is one of the most serious pollutants in aquatic systems. This study was performed to understand the effect of Cr (VI) on halophilic algal strains of D. salina and D. tertiolecta. The results revealed good tolerance of D. salina towards chromium (VI) up to 8 ppm concentration, whereas tolerance level in D. tertiolecta was up to 2 ppm concentration. Cr (VI) not only inhibited the growth of D. tertiolecta, but also showed increased inhibition in the level of photosynthetic pigments, protein and carbohydrate. Results have revealed that chromium (VI) induced higher increase in lipid peroxidation and H2O2 production in D. tertiolecta than the D. salina, particularly at higher concentration of chromium (VI). Chromium (VI) induced increase in the rate of RNO bleaching, loss of pigments and thiol (—SH) group was relatively higher in D. tertiolecta than the D. salina, which is indicating that D. tertiolecta was prone to Cr (VI) induced oxidative stress. Results on RNO bleaching in the presence of radical quenchers suggested that OHdeg radical played an important role in the chromium (VI)—induced general oxidative stress in D. tertiolecta.

Concepts: Chromium, Dunaliella, Oxidative stress, Halophile, Algae, Vitamin C, Dunaliella salina, Photosynthesis


Thirty-five extremely halophilic microbial strains isolated from crystallizer (TS18) and non-crystallizer (M1) ponds in the Sfax solar saltern in Tunisia were examined for their ability to exert antimicrobial activity. Antagonistic assays resulted in the selection of eleven strains that displayed such antimicrobial activity and they were further characterized. Three cases of cross-domain inhibition (archaea/bacteria or bacteria/archaea) were observed. Four archaeal strains exerted antimicrobial activity against several other strains. Three strains, for which several lines of evidence suggested the antimicrobial activity was, at least in part, due to peptide/protein agents (Halobacterium salinarum ETD5, Hbt. salinarum ETD8, and Haloterrigena thermotolerans SS1R12), were studied further. Optimal culture conditions for growth and antimicrobial production were determined. Using DNA amplification with specific primers, sequencing and RT-PCR analysis, Hbt. salinarum ETD5 and Hbt. salinarum ETD8 were shown to encode and express halocin S8, a hydrophobic antimicrobial peptide targeting halophilic archaea. Although the gene encoding halocin H4 was amplified from the genome of Htg. thermotolerans SS1R12, no transcript could be detected and the antimicrobial activity was most likely due to multiple antimicrobial compounds. This is also the first report that points to four different strains isolated from different geographical locations with the capacity to produce identical halocin S8 proteins.

Concepts: Halobacterium, Halophile, Gene, Microbiology, DNA, Protein, Bacteria, Archaea


Archaeal communities and the factors regulating their diversity in high altitude lakes are poorly understood. Here, we provide the first high-throughput sequencing study of Archaea from Tibetan Plateau lake sediments. We analyzed twenty lake sediments from the world’s highest and largest plateau and found diverse archaeal assemblages that clustered into groups dominated by methanogenic Euryarchaeota, Crenarchaeota and Halobacteria/mixed euryarchaeal phylotypes. Statistical analysis inferred that salinity was the major driver of community composition, and that archaeal diversity increased with salinity. Sediments with the highest salinities were mostly dominated by Halobacteria. Crenarchaeota dominated at intermediate salinities, and methanogenes were present in all lake sediments, albeit most abundant at low salinities. The distribution patterns of the three functional types of methanogens (hydrogenotrophic, acetotrophic and methylotrophic) were also related to changes in salinity. Our results show that salinity is a key factor controlling archaeal community diversity and composition in lake sediments on a spatial scale that spans nearly two thousand kilometers on the Tibetan Plateau.

Concepts: Sediment, Plateau, Halophile, Halobacterium, Euryarchaeota, Halobacteria, Microbiology, Archaea


Flamingoes (Phoenicopterus spp.) whose plumage displays elegant colors, inhabit warm regions close to the ocean throughout the world. The pink or reddish color of their plumage originates from carotenoids ingested from carotenoid-abundant food sources, since flamingoes are unable to synthesize these compounds de novo. In this study, viable red-colored archaeal strains classified as extremely halophilic archaea (i.e., haloarchaea) and belonging to the genera Halococcus and Halogeometricum were isolated from the plumage of flamingoes in captivity. Detailed analysis for haloarchaeal community structure in flamingo feathers based on metagenomic data identified several haloarchaeal genera and unclassified sequences of the class Halobacteria at the genus level. Carotenoid pigment analyses showed that a bacterioruberin precursor carotenoid in haloarchaea was identical to one of the pigments found in flamingo plumage. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of viable extremophilic archaea in avian plumage, thus contributing to our understanding of the ecology of haloarchaea. The potential influence of haloarchaea as an environmental factor determining avian plumage coloration should be investigated in further studies.

Concepts: Color, Microbiology, Haloarchaea, Halobacteria, Flamingo, Archaea, Carotenoid, Halophile


Hypersaline environments encompass aquatic and terrestrial habitats. While only a limited number of studies on the microbial diversity of saline soils have been carried out, hypersaline lakes and marine salterns have been thoroughly investigated, resulting in an aquatic-biased knowledge about life in hypersaline environments. To improve our understanding of the assemblage of microbes thriving in saline soils, we assessed the phylogenetic diversity and metabolic potential of the prokaryotic community of two hypersaline soils (with electrical conductivities of ~24 and 55 dS/m) from the Odiel saltmarshes (Spain) by metagenomics. Comparative analysis of these soil databases with available datasets from salterns ponds allowed further identification of unique and shared traits of microbial communities dwelling in these habitats. Saline soils harbored a more diverse prokaryotic community and, in contrast to their aquatic counterparts, contained sequences related to both known halophiles and groups without known halophilic or halotolerant representatives, which reflects the physical heterogeneity of the soil matrix. Our results suggest thatHaloquadratumand certain Balneolaeota members may preferentially thrive in aquatic or terrestrial habitats, respectively, while haloarchaea, nanohaloarchaea andSalinibactermay be similarly adapted to both environments. We reconstructed 4 draft genomes related to Bacteroidetes, Balneolaeota and Halobacteria and appraised their metabolism, osmoadaptation strategies and ecology. This study greatly improves the current understanding of saline soils microbiota.

Concepts: Microorganism, Metabolism, Halophile, Soil, Organism, Microbiology, Bacteria, Archaea


Hypersaline environments pose major challenges to their microbial residents. Microorganisms have to cope with increased osmotic pressure and low water activity and therefore require specific adaptation mechanisms. Although mechanisms have already been thoroughly investigated in the green alga Dunaliella salina and some halophilic yeasts, strategies for osmoadaptation in other protistan groups (especially heterotrophs) are neither as well known nor as deeply investigated as for their prokaryotic counterpart. This is not only due to the recent awareness of the high protistan diversity and ecological relevance in hypersaline systems, but also due to methodological shortcomings. We provide the first experimental study on haloadaptation in heterotrophic microeukaryotes, using the halophilic ciliate Schmidingerothrix salinarum as a model organism. We established three approaches to investigate fundamental adaptation strategies known from prokaryotes. First, hydrogen-1 nuclear magnetic resonance (1H-NMR) spectroscopy was used for the detection, identification, and quantification of intracellular compatible solutes. Second, ion-imaging with cation-specific fluorescent dyes was employed to analyze changes in the relative ion concentrations in intact cells. Third, the effect of salt concentrations on the catalytic performance of S. salinarum malate dehydrogenase (MDH) and isocitrate dehydrogenase (ICDH) was determined. 1H-NMR spectroscopy identified glycine betaine (GB) and ectoine (Ect) as the main compatible solutes in S. salinarum. Moreover, a significant positive correlation of intracellular GB and Ect concentrations and external salinity was observed. The addition of exogenous GB, Ect, and choline (Ch) stimulated the cell growth notably, indicating that S. salinarum accumulates the solutes from the external medium. Addition of external 13C2-Ch resulted in conversion to 13C2-GB, indicating biosynthesis of GB from Ch. An increase of external salinity up to 21% did not result in an increase in cytoplasmic sodium concentration in S. salinarum. This, together with the decrease in the catalytic activities of MDH and ICDH at high salt concentration, demonstrates that S. salinarum employs the salt-out strategy for haloadaptation.

Concepts: Microorganism, Citric acid cycle, Archaea, Dunaliella salina, Organism, Eukaryote, Halophile, Bacteria


A history of halophile research reveals the commitment of scientists to uncovering the secrets of the limits of life, in particular life in high salt concentration and under extreme osmotic pressure. During the last 40 years, halophile scientists have indeed made important contributions to extremophile research, and prior international halophiles congresses have documented both the historical and the current work. During this period of salty discoveries, female scientists, in general, have grown in number worldwide. But those who worked in the field when there were small numbers of women sometimes saw their important contributions overshadowed by their male counterparts. Recent studies suggest that modern female scientists experience gender bias in matters such as conference invitations and even representation among full professors. In the field of halophilic microbiology, what is the impact of gender bias? How has the participation of women changed over time? What do women uniquely contribute to this field? What are factors that impact current female scientists to a greater degree? This essay emphasizes the “her story” (not “history”) of halophile discovery.

Concepts: Extremophiles, Woman, Male, Extremophile, Archaea, Halophile, Female, Gender


Halophilic Archaea accumulate molar concentrations of KCl in their cytoplasm as an osmoprotectant, and have evolved highly acidic proteomes that only function at high salinity. We examine osmoprotection in the photosynthetic Proteobacteria Halorhodospira halophila and H. halochloris. Genome sequencing and isoelectric focusing gel electrophoresis show that the proteome of H. halophila is acidic. In line with this finding, H. halophila accumulates molar concentrations of KCl when grown in high salt media, as detected by X-ray microanalysis and plasma emission spectrometry. This result extends the taxonomic range of organisms using KCl as a main osmoprotectant to the Proteobacteria. The closely related organism H. halochloris does not exhibit an acidic proteome, matching its inability to accumulate K+. This observation indicates recent evolutionary changes in the osmoprotection strategy of these organisms. Upon growth of H. halophila in low salt media, its cytoplasmic K+ content matches that of Escherichia coli, revealing an acidic proteome that can function in the absence of high cytoplasmic salt concentrations. These findings necessitate a reassessment of two central aspects of theories for understanding extreme halophiles. First, we conclude that proteome acidity is not driven by stabilizing interactions between K+ ions and acidic side chains, but by the need for maintaining sufficient solvation and hydration of the protein surface at high salinity through strongly hydrated carboxylates. Secondly, we propose that obligate protein halophilicity is a non-adaptive property resulting from genetic drift in which constructive neutral evolution progressively incorporates weakly stabilizing K+ binding sites on an increasingly acidic protein surface.

Concepts: Gel electrophoresis, DNA, Cell, Bacteria, Halophile, Escherichia coli, Evolution, Protein