, Volume 161, Issue 1, pp 17-24

Spirochaeta caldaria sp. nov., a thermophilic bacterium that enhances cellulose degradation by Clostridium thermocellum

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Two strains of obligately anaerobic, thermophilic spirochetes were isolated from cyanobacterial mat samples collected at freshwater hot springs in Oregon and Utah, USA. The isolates grew optimally between 48° and 52°C, and did not grow at 25° or 60°C. Both strains fermented various pentoses, hexoses, and disaccharides. Amino acids or cellulose did not serve as fermentable substrates for growth. H2, CO2, acetate, and lactate were end products of d-glucose fermentation. On the basis of physiological characteristics, guanine + cytosine content of DNA, and comparisons of 16S ribosomal RNA sequences, it was concluded that the two isolates were representatives of a novel species of Spirochaeta for which the name Spirochaeta caldaria is proposed. One of the two strains was grown in coculture with a thermophilic cellulolytic bacterium (Clostridium thermocellum) in a medium containing cellulose as the only fermentable substrate. In the coculture cellulose was broken down at a faster rate than in the clostridial monoculture. The results are consistent with the suggestion that interactions between cellulolytic bacteria and non-cellulolytic spirochetes enhance cellulose breakdown in natural environments in which cellulose-containing plant material is biodegraded.