Thermophily in the Geobacteraceae: Geothermobacter ehrlichii gen. nov., sp. nov., a novel thermophilic member of the Geobacteraceae from the "Bag City" hydrothermal vent

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2003 May;69(5):2985-93. doi: 10.1128/AEM.69.5.2985-2993.2003.


Little is known about the microbiology of the "Bag City" hydrothermal vent, which is part of a new eruption site on the Juan de Fuca Ridge and which is notable for its accumulation of polysaccharide on the sediment surface. A pure culture, designated strain SS015, was recovered from a vent fluid sample from the Bag City site through serial dilution in liquid medium with malate as the electron donor and Fe(III) oxide as the electron acceptor and then isolation of single colonies on solid Fe(III) oxide medium. The cells were gram-negative rods, about 0.5 micro m by 1.2 to 1.5 micro m, and motile and contained c-type cytochromes. Analysis of the 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) sequence of strain SS015 placed it in the family Geobacteraceae in the delta subclass of the Proteobacteria. Unlike previously described members of the Geobacteraceae, which are mesophiles, strain SS015 was a thermophile and grew at temperatures of between 35 and 65 degrees C, with an optimum temperature of 55 degrees C. Like many previously described members of the Geobacteraceae, strain SS015 grew with organic acids as the electron donors and Fe(III) or nitrate as the electron acceptor, with nitrate being reduced to ammonia. Strain SS015 was unique among the Geobacteraceae in its ability to use sugars, starch, or amino acids as electron donors for Fe(III) reduction. Under stress conditions, strain SS015 produced copious quantities of extracellular polysaccharide, providing a model for the microbial production of the polysaccharide accumulation at the Bag City site. The 16S rDNA sequence of strain SS015 was less than 94% similar to the sequences of previously described members of the Geobacteraceae; this fact, coupled with its unique physiological properties, suggests that strain SS015 represents a new genus in the family Geobacteraceae. The name Geothermobacter ehrlichii gen. nov., sp. nov., is proposed (ATCC BAA-635 and DSM 15274). Although strains of Geobacteraceae are known to be the predominant Fe(III)-reducing microorganisms in a variety of Fe(III)-reducing environments at moderate temperatures, strain SS015 represents the first described thermophilic member of the Geobacteraceae and thus extends the known environmental range of this family to hydrothermal environments.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Composition
  • Cytochromes / metabolism
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Ribosomal / chemistry
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • Deltaproteobacteria / classification
  • Deltaproteobacteria / genetics
  • Deltaproteobacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Deltaproteobacteria / metabolism*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Ecosystem
  • Electron Transport
  • Geologic Sediments / microbiology
  • Hot Temperature
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Phylogeny
  • Seawater / microbiology*
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Species Specificity


  • Cytochromes
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Iron

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF546867
  • GENBANK/AF547801
  • GENBANK/AY155597
  • GENBANK/AY155598
  • GENBANK/AY155599
  • GENBANK/AY155600