A metagenome was obtained by pyrosequencing the total prokaryotic DNA from the water of a pond with intermediate salinity (13% salts) from a saltern located in Santa Pola, Spain. We analyzed and compared the phylogenomic and metabolic diversity of this saltern pond with respect to other two metagenomes obtained previously from the same saltern (ponds with 19% and 37% salts, respectively) and two reference metagenomes from marine and coastal lagoon habitats. A large microbial diversity, representing seven major higher taxa (Euryarchaeota, Gammaproteobacteria, Alphaproteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Verrucomicrobia and Betaproteobacteria), was found. However, most sequences (57%) were not assigned to any previously described genus. Principal component analysis of tetranucleotide frequencies of assembled contigs showed the presence of new groups of Euryarchaeota, different from those previously described but related to Haloquadratum walsbyi and other members of the Halobacteriaceae. Besides, some new Gammaproteobacteria, several closely related to the recently isolated bacterium 'Spiribacter salinus' were observed. Metabolically, the nitrogen and carbon cycles appear to be very simplified in this extreme habitat. Light is extensively used as energy source by bacteriorhodopsins and other rhodopsins. Microorganisms known to use the 'salt-in' strategy are probably able to combine the accumulation of potassium ions and of compatible solutes.
Keywords: compatible solutes; extreme environments; haloarchaea; halophilic bacteria; metagenome; saltern.
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