Microbial community in a geothermal aquifer associated with the subsurface of the Great Artesian Basin, Australia.
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To investigate the biomass and phylogenetic diversity of the microbial community inhabiting the deep aquifer of the Great Artesian Basin (GAB), geothermal groundwater gushing out from the aquifer was sampled and analyzed. Microbial cells in the groundwater were stained with acridine orange and directly counted by epifluorescence microscopy. Microbial cells were present at a density of 108-109 cells per liter of groundwater. Archaeal and bacterial small-subunit rRNA genes (rDNAs) were amplified by PCR with Archaea- and Bacteria-specific primer sets, and clone libraries were constructed separately. A total of 59 clones were analyzed in archaeal and bacterial 16S rDNA libraries, respectively. The archaeal 16S rDNA clones were divided into nine operated taxonomic units (OTUs) by restriction fragment length polymorphism. These OTUs were closely related to the methanogenic genera Methanospirillum and Methanosaeta, the heterotrophic genus Thermoplasma, or miscellaneous crenarchaeota group. More than one-half of the archaeal clones (59% of total 59 clones) were placed beside phylogenetic clusters of methanogens. The majority of the methanogen-related clones (83%) was closely related to a group of hydrogenotrophic methanogens (genus Methanospirillum). The bacterial OTUs branched into seven phylogenetic clusters related to hydrogen-oxidizing thermophiles in the genera Hydrogenobacter and Hydrogenophilus, a sulfate-reducing thermophile in the genus Thermodesulfovibrio, chemoheterotropic bacteria in the genera Thermus and Aquaspirillum, or the candidate division OP10. Clones closely related to the thermophilic hydrogen-oxidizers in the genera Hydrogenobacter and Hydrogenophilus were dominant in the bacterial clone library (37% of a total of 59 clones). The dominancy of hydrogen-users strongly suggested that H2 plays an important role as a primary substrate in the microbial ecosystem of this deep geothermal aquifer.