Life at high temperature has been a subject of interest and of studies for many years, the first work in this area having been done in the last century — e.g. by F. Cohn and F. Hoppe-Seyler. However, the presence of life in hot springs has been described already by the Romans, e.g. by Pliny, the Elder. It has also been known for a long time that temperature is one of the most important environmental factors controlling the activities and the evolution of organisms. In the living cell, temperature determines not only the rates of enzyme-catalyzed chemical reactions, but also the state of active structures of the important biopolymers (proteins, nucleic acids, lipid-membranes) and of water. In order to live within a particular temperature range, organisms have to adapt structurally and functionally to the environmental temperature. This means they must “love” these temperatures: to be alive at high temperatures, they must be thermophiles. Temperature adaptation is especially important for heterothermal organisms (the poikilotherms). for example the microorganisms, in which the cell temperature follows the varying environmental temperature. In contrast, at a higher phase of evolution, mammals and birds as homoiothermal organisms have developed a metabolic system to insure a constant cell temperature, and thus to avoid this problem of adaptation to varying temperatures.


Thermophilic Bacterium Mesophilic Bacterium Thermophilic Microorganism Thermophilic Protein Thermophilic Enzyme 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Zuber
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Molekularbiologie und BiophysikEidg. Technische HochschuleZürichSwitzerland

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