Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

, Volume 111, Issue 8, pp 1449–1465 | Cite as

Rhodobacter sp. Rb3, an aerobic anoxygenic phototroph which thrives in the polyextreme ecosystem of the Salar de Huasco, in the Chilean Altiplano

  • Vilma Pérez
  • Cristina Dorador
  • Verónica Molina
  • Carolina Yáñez
  • Martha Hengst
Original Paper


The Salar de Huasco is an evaporitic basin located in the Chilean Altiplano, which presents extreme environmental conditions for life, i.e. high altitude (3800 m.a.s.l.), negative water balance, a wide salinity range, high daily temperature changes and the occurrence of the highest registered solar radiation on the planet (> 1200 W m−2). This ecosystem is considered as a natural laboratory to understand different adaptations of microorganisms to extreme conditions. Rhodobacter, an anoxygenic aerobic phototrophic bacterial genus, represents one of the most abundant groups reported based on taxonomic diversity surveys in this ecosystem. The bacterial mat isolate Rhodobacter sp. strain Rb3 was used to study adaptation mechanisms to stress-inducing factors potentially explaining its success in a polyextreme ecosystem. We found that the Rhodobacter sp. Rb3 genome was characterized by a high abundance of genes involved in stress tolerance and adaptation strategies, among which DNA repair and oxidative stress were the most conspicuous. Moreover, many other molecular mechanisms associated with oxidative stress, photooxidation and antioxidants; DNA repair and protection; motility, chemotaxis and biofilm synthesis; osmotic stress, metal, metalloid and toxic anions resistance; antimicrobial resistance and multidrug pumps; sporulation; cold shock and heat shock stress; mobile genetic elements and toxin–antitoxin system were detected and identified as potential survival mechanism features in Rhodobacter sp. Rb3. In total, these results reveal a wide set of strategies used by the isolate to adapt and thrive under environmental stress conditions as a model of polyextreme environmental resistome.


Environmental resistome Alphaproteobacteria Extremotolerance Microbial mat 



We thank Juan Ugalde for support in bioinformatic analysis. We thank Jaime Guerrero, Pedro Luca, Margarita Luca for assistance during field trips.


This research was supported by Grants Fondecyt No. 1140179, No. 1140356 and CeBiB FB0001. Vilma Pérez is the recipient of a Conicyt PhD scholarship.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10482_2018_1067_MOESM1_ESM.doc (570 kb)
Supplementary Table 1 Environmental resistome of Rhodobacter sp. Rb3. Genes encoding for proteins involved in each putative class of adaptation strategies to extreme environmental conditions. COG: Clusters of Orthologous Groups. Supplementary material 1 (DOC 570 kb)
10482_2018_1067_MOESM2_ESM.doc (109 kb)
Supplementary Table 2 Metabolic profile of Rhodobacter sp. Rb3. Supplementary material 2 (DOC 109 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vilma Pérez
    • 1
    • 2
  • Cristina Dorador
    • 2
    • 3
  • Verónica Molina
    • 4
  • Carolina Yáñez
    • 5
  • Martha Hengst
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratory of Molecular Ecology and Applied Microbiology, Departamento de Ciencias FarmacéuticasUniversidad Católica del NorteAntofagastaChile
  2. 2.Centre for Biotechnology & Bioengineering (CeBiB)SantiagoChile
  3. 3.Laboratorio de Complejidad Microbiana y Ecología Funcional, Instituto Antofagasta & Departamento de BiotecnologíaUniversidad de AntofagastaAntofagastaChile
  4. 4.Departamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y ExactasUniversidad de Playa AnchaValparaisoChile
  5. 5.Laboratorio Microbiología, Instituto de Biología, Facultad de CienciasPontificia Universidad Católica de ValparaísoValparaisoChile

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