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Diversity of halophilic microorganisms: Environments, phylogeny, physiology, and applications

The phylogenetic diversity of microorganisms living at high salt concentrations is surprising. Halophiles are found in each of the three domains: Archaea, Bacteria, and Eucarya. The metabolic diversity of halophiles is great as well: they include oxygenic and anoxygenic phototrophs, aerobic heterotrophs, fermenters, denitrifiers, sulfate reducers, and methanogens. The diversity of metabolic types encountered decreases with salinity. The upper salinity limit at which each dissimilatory process takes place is correlated with the amount of energy generated and the energetic cost of osmotic adaptation. Our understanding of the biodiversity in salt-saturated environments has increased greatly in recent years. Using a combination of culture techniques, molecular biological methods, and chemotaxonomic studies, we have obtained information on the nature of the halophilic Archaea as well as the halophilic Bacteria that inhabit saltern crystallizer ponds. Several halophilic microorganisms are being exploited in biotechnology. In some cases, such as the production of ectoine, the product is directly related to the halophilic behavior of the producing microorganism. In other cases, such as the extraction of β-carotene from Dunaliella or the potential use of Haloferax species for the production of poly-β-hydroxyalkanoate or extracellular polysaccharides, similar products can be obtained from non-halophiles, but halophilic microorganisms may present advantages over the use of non-halophilic counterparts. Journal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology (2002) 28, 56–63 DOI: 10.1038/sj/jim/7000176

Keywords: halophilic microorganisms; microbial diversity; osmotic adaptation; saltern crystallizers 

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© Society for Industrial Microbiology 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • A Oren
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Microbial and Molecular Ecology, The Institute of Life Sciences, and The Moshe Shilo Minerva Center for Marine Biogeochemistry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91904, IsraelIL

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