Arctic microbes – The phylogenetic and functional diversity of prokaryotes at Colour Peak

Macey, Michael Christopher; Fox-Powell, Mark; Stephens, Ben; Schwenzer, Susanne P.; Pearson, Victoria K.; Cousins, Claire R. and Olsson-Francis, Karen (2018). Arctic microbes – The phylogenetic and functional diversity of prokaryotes at Colour Peak. In: Molecular Microbial Ecology Group (MMEG) Meeting 2018, 17-19 Dec 2018, Swansea.



The aquifer fed springs of Colour Peak in the Canadian arctic are perennially cold, highly saline and sulphur rich. These properties have led to the springs being considered analogous to subsurface aqueous environments on Mars[1-3]. Therefore, understanding the phylogenetic and functional diversity of prokaryotes that are capable of growing in this environment is important for understanding the mechanisms conducive to life within these extra-terrestrial environments.

Cultivation-dependant and -independent techniques were used to assess the diversity of prokaryotes present in sediment collected from a hyper-saline cold pool at Colour Peak. The microbial community that is present and active at the site was characterised through the sequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons amplified following the extraction of DNA and RNA from the sediment. To further investigate the metabolic profile of the prokaryotes within the site, the presence and expression of functional genes relating to the cycling of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur compounds was also assayed using PCR. The results gained from the cultivation-independent work was used to inform enrichment strategies, allowing for the isolation and characterisation of several halophilic isolates. Through assessment of the physiologies of the isolates it was possible to develop a further insight into the metabolic potential underpinning survival in Colour Peak.

Through this work we have been able to develop an indication as to identity of the key players and metabolic guilds within the microbial community of this site and further our understanding of survival under this range of selection pressures.

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