Culturable and molecular phylogenetic diversity of microorganisms in an open-dumped, extremely acidic Pb/Zn mine tailings
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A combination of cultivation-based and molecular-based approaches was used to reveal the culturable and molecular diversity of the microbes inhabiting an open-dumped Pb/Zn mine tailings that was undergoing intensive acid generation (pH 1.9). Culturable bacteria found in the extremely acidic mine tailings were Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans, Leptospirillum ferriphilum, Sulfobacillus thermotolerans and Acidiphilium cryptum, where the number of acidophilic heterotrophs was ten times higher than that of the iron- and sulfur-oxidizing bacteria. Cloning and phylogenetic analysis revealed that, in contrast to the adjacent AMD, the mine tailings possessed a low microbial diversity with archaeal sequence types dominating the 16S rRNA gene library. Of the 141 clones examined, 132 were represented by two sequence types phylogenetically affiliated with the iron-oxidizing archaea Ferroplasma acidiphilum and three belonged to two tentative groups within the Thermoplasma lineage so far represented by only a few environmental sequences. Six clones in the library were represented by the only bacterial sequence type and were closely related to the well-described iron-oxidizer L. ferriphilum. The significant differences in the prokaryotic community structures of the extremely acidic mine tailings and the AMD associated with it highlights the importance of studying the microbial communities that are more directly involved in the iron and sulfur cycles of mine tailings.
KeywordsMine tailings Acid mine drainage Acidophiles Microbial diversity 16S rRNA gene
This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (30100024) and Key Project of the Ministry of Education of China (031280). We thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the manuscript.
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