A novel hyperthermophilic archaeon of strain HS-3T, belonging to the family Sulfolobaceae, was isolated from an acidic terrestrial hot spring in Hakone Ohwaku-dani, Japan. Based on 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis, the closest phylogenetic relatives of strain HS-3T were, first, Sulfolobus solfataricus (96.4 %) and, second, Sulfolobus shibatae (96.2 %), indicating that the strain belongs to the genus Sulfolobus. However, the sequence similarity to the type species of the genus Sulfolobus (Sulfolobus acidocaldarius) was remarkably low (91.8 %). In order to determine whether strain HS-3T belongs to the genus Sulfolobus, its morphological, biochemical and physiological characteristics were examined in parallel with those of S. solfataricus and S. shibatae. Although there were some differences in chemolithotrophic growth between strain HS-3T, S. solfataricus and S. shibatae, their temperature, pH and facultatively anaerobic characteristics of growth, and their utilization of various sugars were almost identical. In contrast, the utilization of various sugars by S. acidocaldarius was quite different from that of HS-3T, S. solfataricus and S. shibatae. Phylogenetic evidence based on the 16S and the 23S rRNA gene sequences also clearly distinguished the monophyletic clade composed of strain HS-3T, S. solfataricus, and S. shibatae from S. acidocaldarius. Based on these results, we propose a new genus and species, Saccharolobus caldissimus gen. nov., sp. nov., for strain HS-3T, as well as two reclassifications, Saccharolobus solfataricus comb. nov. and Saccharolobus shibatae comb. nov. The type strain of Saccharolobus caldissimus is HS-3T (=JCM 32116T and InaCC Ar80T). The type species of the genus is Saccharolobus solfataricus.
Keywords: Archaea; Saccharolobus; Sulfolobus; acidophile; hyperthermophile; terrestrial acidic hot springs.