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Taxonomy of halophilic Archaea: current status and future challenges

Abstract

Several groups of Archaea, all Euryarchaeota, develop in hypersaline environments (from >10 % salt up to saturation). The cultured diversity of halophilic Archaea includes the family Halobacteriaceae of aerobic or facultative anaerobic, generally red-pigmented species (47 genera and 165 species as of February 2014) and seven representatives of four genera of methanogens, most of which obtain energy from methylated amines under anaerobic conditions. Metagenomic studies have identified an additional deep lineage of Archaea in salt lakes and ponds with brines approaching NaCl saturation. Genomic information is now available for representatives of these ‘Nanohaloarchaea’, but no members of this lineage have yet been cultured. Multilocus sequence analysis is becoming increasingly popular in taxonomic studies of the Halobacteriaceae, and such studies have demonstrated that recombination of genetic traits occurs at an extremely high frequency at least in some genera. Metagenomic studies in an Antarctic lake showed that large identical regions of up to 35 kb in length can be shared by members of different genera living together in the same environment. Such observations have important implications not only for the taxonomy of the Halobacteriaceae, but also for species concepts and questions on taxonomy and classification for prokaryotic microorganisms in general.

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Fig. 1

Abbreviations

ANI:

Average nucleotide identity

MLSA:

Multilocus sequence analysis

Hbt. :

Halobacterum

Hfx. :

Haloferax

Hht. :

Halohasta

Hqr. :

Haloquadratum

Hrr. :

Halorubrum

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Correspondence to Aharon Oren.

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This article is part of a special issue based on the 10th International Congress on Extremophiles held in Saint Petersburg, Russia, September 7–11, 2014.

Three-letter abbreviations for genera of Halobacteriaceae were used as recommended (Oren and Ventosa 2013)

Communicated by G. Antranikian.

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Oren, A. Taxonomy of halophilic Archaea: current status and future challenges. Extremophiles 18, 825–834 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00792-014-0654-9

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Keywords

  • Halobacteriaceae
  • Halophilic methanogens
  • Nanohaloarchaea
  • Taxonomy
  • Nomenclature
  • Species concepts