, Volume 58, Issue 2, pp 290-306

Molecular Characterization of an Endolithic Microbial Community in Dolomite Rock in the Central Alps (Switzerland)

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Abstract

Endolithic microorganisms colonize the pores in exposed dolomite rocks in the Piora Valley in the Swiss Alps. They appear as distinct grayish-green bands about 1–8 mm below the rock surface. Based on environmental small subunit ribosomal RNA gene sequences, a diverse community driven by photosynthesis has been found. Cyanobacteria (57 clones), especially the genus Leptolyngbya, form the functional basis for an endolithic community which contains a wide spectrum of so far not characterized species of chemotrophic Bacteria (64 clones) with mainly Actinobacteria, Alpha-Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and Acidobacteria, as well as a cluster within the Chloroflexaceae. Furthermore, a cluster within the Crenarchaeotes (40 clones) has been detected. Although the eukaryotic diversity was outside the scope of the study, an amoeba (39 clones), and several green algae (51 clones) have been observed. We conclude that the bacterial diversity in this endolithic habitat, especially of chemotrophic, nonpigmented organisms, is considerable and that Archaea are present as well.