The Geobacillus paradox: why is a thermophilic bacterial genus so prevalent on a mesophilic planet?

Microbiology (Reading). 2014 Jan;160(Pt 1):1-11. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.071696-0. Epub 2013 Oct 1.


The genus Geobacillus comprises endospore-forming obligate thermophiles. These bacteria have been isolated from cool soils and even cold ocean sediments in anomalously high numbers, given that the ambient temperatures are significantly below their minimum requirement for growth. Geobacilli are active in environments such as hot plant composts, however, and examination of their genome sequences reveals that they are endowed with a battery of sensors, transporters and enzymes dedicated to hydrolysing plant polysaccharides. Although they appear to be relatively minor members of the plant biomass-degrading microbial community, Geobacillus bacteria have achieved a significant population with a worldwide distribution, probably in large part due to adaptive features of their spores. First, their morphology and resistance properties enable them to be mobilized in the atmosphere and transported long distances. Second, their longevity, which in theory may be extreme, enables them to lie quiescent but viable for long periods of time, accumulating gradually over time to achieve surprisingly high population densities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Microbiology*
  • Geobacillus / growth & development
  • Geobacillus / isolation & purification*
  • Geobacillus / physiology*
  • Geobacillus / radiation effects
  • Microbial Viability
  • Temperature