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      Microbial diversity in ikaite tufa columns: an alkaline, cold ecological niche in Greenland.

      Environmental Microbiology

      Alkalies, Bacteria, classification, genetics, isolation & purification, metabolism, Cold Climate, Ecosystem, Genetic Variation, Greenland, epidemiology, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Phylogeny, RNA, Ribosomal, 16S, Sequence Analysis, DNA, Water Microbiology

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          Ikaite tufa columns from the Ikka Fjord in south-western Greenland constitute a natural, stable environment at low temperature and with a pH ranging from neutral at the exterior to very alkaline (pH 10.4) at the interior of the column. Phylogenetic analysis of culturable organisms revealed ten different isolates representing three of the major bacterial divisions. Nine of the isolates showed 94-99% similarity to known sequences, whereas one isolate displayed a low degree of similarity (less than 90%) to a Cyclobacterium species. Seven of the isolates were shown to be cold active alkaliphiles, whereas three isolates showed optimal growth at neutral pH. Phylogenetic analysis of DNA isolated directly from the ikaite material demonstrated the presence of a microbial flora more diverse than the culturable isolates. Whereas approximately half of the phylotypes showed 90-99% similarity to known meso- or thermophilic alkaliphiles, the rest of the sequences displayed less than 90% similarity when compared to known 16S rRNA gene sequences in databases. Thus, in the present paper, we demonstrate that ikaite columns that host a specialized macroscopic flora and fauna also contain a unique, cold active, alkaliphilic microflora.

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