Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract An unidentified filamentous purple bacterium, probably belonging to a new genus or even a new family, is found in close association with the filamentous, mat-forming cyanobacterium Microcoleus chthonoplastes in a hypersaline pond at Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur, Mexico, and in Solar Lake, Sinai, Egypt. This organism is a gliding, segmented trichome, 0.8–0.9 μm wide. It contains intracytoplasmic stacked lamellae which are perpendicular and obliquely oriented to the cell wall, similar to those described for the purple sulfur bacteria Ectothiorhodospira. These bacteria are found inside the cyanobacterial bundle, enclosed by the cyanobacterial sheath. Detailed transmission electron microscopical analyses carried out in horizontal sections of the upper 1.5 mm of the cyanobacterial mat show this cyanobacterial-purple bacterial association at depths of 300–1200 μm, corresponding to the zone below that of maximal oxygenic photosynthesis. Sharp gradients of oxygen and sulfide are established during the day at this microzone in the two cyanobacterial mats studied. The close association, the distribution pattern of this association and preliminary physiological experiments suggest a co-metabolism of sulfur by the two-membered community. This probable new genus of purple bacteria may also grow photoheterotrophically using organic carbon excreted by the cyanobacterium. Since the chemical gradients in the entire photic zone fluctuate widely in a diurnal cycle, both types of metabolism probably take place. During the morning and afternoon, sulfide migrates up to the photic zone allowing photoautotrophic metabolism with sulfide as the electron donor. During the day the photic zone is highly oxygenated and the purple bacteria may either use oxidized species of sulfur such as elemental sulfur and thiosulfate in the photoautotrophic mode or grow photoheterotrophically using organic carbon excreted by M. chthonoplastes. The new type of filamentous purple sulfur bacteria is not available yet in pure culture, and its taxonomical position cannot be fully established. This organism is suggested to be a new type of gliding, filamentous, purple phototroph.
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