Microbial Extremophiles at the Limits of Life

Crit Rev Microbiol. 2007;33(3):183-209. doi: 10.1080/10408410701451948.


Prokaryotic extremophiles were the first representatives of life on Earth and they are responsible for the genesis of geological structures during the evolution and creation of all currently known ecosystems. Flexibility of the genome probably allowed life to adapt to a wide spectrum of extreme environments. As a result, modern prokaryotic diversity formed in a framework of physico-chemical factors, and it is composed of: thermophilic, psychrophilic, acidophilic, alkaliphilic, halophilic, barophilic, and radioresistant species. This artificial systematics cannot reflect the multiple actions of different environmental factors since one organism could unite characteristics of several extreme-groups. In this review we show the current status of studies in all fields of extremophiles and summarize the limits of life for different species of microbial extremophiles. We also discuss the finding of extremophiles from unusual places such as soils, and briefly review recent studies of microfossils in meteorites in the context of the significance of microbial extremophiles to Astrobiology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / physiology*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Environmental Microbiology*
  • Microbial Viability*