Monday, 2 May 2016

Cuniculiplasma divulgatum: A new species of Thermoplasmate Archaeon from Spain and Wales.

Thermoplasmates are highly acid-tolerant Archaeons (Prokaryotic micro-organisms resembling Bacteria, but only distantly related to them, and more closely related to Eukaryotes) which usually lack rigid cell walls and are often amorphous in shape, and typically thrive at high temperatures. They are anaerobic (i.e. they do not need oxygen), typically gaining energy by the oxidation of iron (carrying out chemical processes in which iron acts as an electron donor).

In a paper published in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology on 1 January 2016, Olga Golyshina of the School of Biological Sciences at Bangor University, Heinrich Lünsdorf of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Ilya Kublanov of the Winogradsky Institute of Microbiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Nadine Goldenstein and Kai-Uwe Hinrichs of the Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen and Peter Golyshin, also of the School of Biological Sciences at Bangor University, describe a new species of Thermoplasmate from acid runoff at two copper mines, one at Cantareras in Spain, the other at Mynydd Parys on Anglesey.

The new species is named Cuniculiplasma divulgatum, where 'Cuniculiplasma' means 'a form living in a mine or underground' and 'divulgatum' means widespread, since it was found at two separate and distant sites. Cuniculiplasma divulgatum was confirmed as a member of the Thermoplasmatales by DNA analysis, though it is considered to be sufficiently different from other members of the group to be placed in a new family, the Cuniculiplasmataceae. Like most other Thermoplasmates it lacks a rigid cell wall, and is amorphous, tending to assume different shapes under different conditions, though the cells appear to favor ring or Y shapes. Cuniculiplasma divulgatum is acidophilic, able to survive pH conditions from 0.5 to 4.0, but only thriving at pH 2.0 or lower. Unlike most Thermoplasmates Cuniculiplasma divulgatum is mesothermic (lives at medium temperatures), surviving at temperatures of 10–48°C with the optimum at 37–40°C, and appears to gain energy by the anaerobic oxidation of organic compounds.

Electron micrographs of cells of Cuniculiplasma divulgatum strain from an acidic streamer at Mynydd Parys on  Anglesey (4 days of growth). (Main Picyure) Tight cluster of cells, showing general pleomorphism. Occasionally, cells are spherical (upper inset) or appear Y-shaped (lower inset). Appendices can be seen as fimbriae like structures (see upper inset; fi). Arrowheads indicate direction of shadow casting. Golyshina et al. (2016).

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