Polar Biology

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 701–712 | Cite as

Microscopic characterization of the bacterial cell envelope of Planococcus halocryophilus Or1 during subzero growth at −15 °C

  • N. C. S. MykytczukEmail author
  • J. R. Lawrence
  • C. R. Omelon
  • G. Southam
  • L. G. Whyte
Original Paper


Microbial psychrophiles continue to expand our understanding of the adaptations required to thrive in cold environments. Planococcus halocryophilus strain Or1, a gram-positive, aerobic bacterial isolate from a Canadian high Arctic permafrost active layer, divides at temperatures as low as −15 °C and high salinity of 18 % NaCl. Initial studies of P. halocryophilus Or1 identified that under subzero conditions the cell envelope changed in appearance and composition. Our goal was to further analyze these features using scanning and transmission electron microscopy (SEM, TEM), confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM), and scanning transmission X-ray microscopy (STXM), which showed progressive changes in cell envelope composition during growth from optimal (25 °C) down to subzero (−15 °C) temperatures. S/TEM and CLSM illustrate that growth at −15 °C coincides with increasing hydrophobicity and distinct extracellular encrustations closely associated with the cell wall. STXM analyses resolved differences in cell composition with temperature, favoring higher amounts of protein and polysaccharide at higher temperatures compared to cells grown at −15 °C that were characterized by a cell envelope comprised of 20 % calcium carbonate, 50 % peptidoglycan, and 29 % choline. Analyses of the sequenced genome found the presence of several copies of carbonic anhydrase, a protein responsible for mineralization of calcium carbonate, and transcriptomic analyses revealed increased expression of a single copy at −15 °C along with the synthesis of peptidoglycan. The unique cell features of P. halocryophilus Or1 grown at −15 °C demonstrate unusual physiology that expands our understanding of psychrophilic adaptations and provides an example of microbially mediated calcium carbonate precipitation at subzero temperatures.


Psychrophile Arctic Cellular adaptation Carbonate precipitation 



Funding for this research was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Canada Research Chair program (CRC), Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Polar Continental Shelf Program (PCSP), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Canadian Analogue Research Network (CARN) Program, and NSERC CREATE postdoctoral research/rotation support grants to NCSM and CRO. STXM data were acquired at beamline 10ID1 at the Canadian Light Source. CLS is supported by NSERC, the National Research Council Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Province of Saskatchewan, Western Economic Diversification Canada, and the University of Saskatchewan. We thank George D.W. Swerhone (Environment Canada) and the staff scientists at the CLS (Chithra Karunakaran, Jian Wang) for their work on the SM beamline.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors state no conflict of interest. This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects.

Supplementary material

300_2015_1826_MOESM1_ESM.doc (2.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 2280 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. C. S. Mykytczuk
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. R. Lawrence
    • 2
  • C. R. Omelon
    • 3
  • G. Southam
    • 4
  • L. G. Whyte
    • 5
  1. 1.Vale Living with Lakes CentreLaurentian UniversitySudburyCanada
  2. 2.National Hydrology Research CentreEnvironment CanadaSaskatoonCanada
  3. 3.Department of Geological SciencesThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  4. 4.School of Earth SciencesThe University of QueenslandSt. LuciaAustralia
  5. 5.Department of Natural Resource SciencesMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada

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