, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 891–901 | Cite as

Characterization of a cold-active bacterium isolated from the South Pole “Ice Tunnel”

  • Michael T. Madigan
  • Megan L. Kempher
  • Kelly S. Bender
  • Paul Sullivan
  • W. Matthew Sattley
  • Alice C. Dohnalkova
  • Samantha B. Joye
Original Paper


Extremely cold microbial habitats on Earth (those below −30 °C) are rare and have not been surveyed for microbes as extensively as environments in the 0 to −20 °C range. Using cryoprotected growth media incubated at −5 °C, we enriched a cold-active Pseudomonas species from −50 °C ice collected from a utility tunnel for wastewater pipes under Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica. The isolate, strain UC-1, is related to other cold-active Pseudomonas species, most notably P. psychrophila, and grew at −5 °C to +34–37 °C; growth of UC-1 at +3 °C was significantly faster than at +34 °C. Strain UC-1 synthesized a surface exopolymer and high levels of unsaturated fatty acids under cold growth conditions. A 16S rRNA gene diversity screen of the ice sample that yielded strain UC-1 revealed over 1200 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) distributed across eight major classes of Bacteria. Many of the OTUs were Clostridia and Bacteriodia and some of these were probably of wastewater origin. However, a significant fraction of the OTUs were Proteobacteria and Actinobacteria of likely environmental origin. Our results shed light on the lower temperature limits to life and the possible existence of functional microbial communities in ultra-cold environments.


Antarctic microbiology Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station Pseudomonas psychrophila 



This project was supported in part by NASA Exobiology/Astrobiology Program Award NNX11AG45G to SBJ. Electron microscopy was performed at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), a national scientific user facility sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research, located at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA. Special thanks are extended to Dr. Michael New (NASA) and Dr. Roberta Marinelli (NSF) for arranging the sample collection visit of MTM to Amundsen–Scott Station, and to the New York Air National Guard for round trip LC-130 transportation from McMurdo to the South Pole. MTM thanks Deborah Jung and Spencer Horn for technical assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael T. Madigan
    • 1
  • Megan L. Kempher
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kelly S. Bender
    • 1
  • Paul Sullivan
    • 3
  • W. Matthew Sattley
    • 4
  • Alice C. Dohnalkova
    • 5
  • Samantha B. Joye
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of MicrobiologySouthern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Microbiology and Plant BiologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA
  3. 3.United States Antarctic ProgramAmundsen-Scott StationAntarctica
  4. 4.Division of Natural SciencesIndiana Wesleyan UniversityMarionUSA
  5. 5.Pacific Northwest National LaboratoryRichlandUSA
  6. 6.Department of Marine SciencesUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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