Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

2011 Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, Ricardo Amils, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Henderson James (Jim) CleavesII, William M. Irvine, Daniele L. Pinti, Michel Viso


Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-11274-4_273



A chemolithotroph is an organism that is able to use inorganic reduced compounds as a source of energy. This mode of metabolism is known as chemolithotrophy.


Chemolithotrophy was discovered by Winogradsky while studying the microorganisms involved in the oxidation of sulfur compounds.


Chemolithotrophy is found only in prokaryotes and is widely distributed among Bacteria and Archaea. The spectrum of inorganic compounds that can be used as electron donors by chemolithotrophs is rather broad (H2S, S0, S2O32−, H2, Fe2+, NO2or NH3). Some microorganisms are rather specific regarding the inorganic substrates they can use to generate energy, while others are able to use different compounds (versatile). The best characterized chemolithotrophs are aerobic respirers, which use oxygen as the electron acceptor, although the list of chemolithotrophs capable of employing anaerobic respiration is increasing rapidly. Chemolithotrophs have electron...

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References and Further Reading

  1. Ehrlich HL, Newman DK (2009) Geomicrobiology, 5th edn. CRC Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Fernandez-Remolar DC, Morris RV, Gruener JE, Amils R, Knoll AH (2005) The Rio Tinto basin, Spain: mineralogy, sedimentary geobiology, and implications for interpretation of outcrop rocks at Meridiani Planum, Mars. Earth Planet Sci Lett 240(1):149–167. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2005.09.043ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. González-Toril E, Gómez F, Malki M, Amils R (2006) Isolation and study of acidophilic microorganisms. In: Rainey F, Oren A (eds) Methods in microbiology, vol 35. Elsevier, Oxford, pp 463–502Google Scholar
  4. Leininger S, Urich T, Schloter M, Schwark L, Qi J, Nicol GW, Prosser JI, Schuster SC, Schleper C (2006) Archaea predominate among ammonia-oxidizing prokaryotes in soils. Nature 442:806–809ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Madigan MT, Martinko JM, Dunlap PV, Clark DP (2009) Brock biology of microorganisms, 12th edn. Benjamin CummingsGoogle Scholar
  6. Strous M, Fuerst JA, Kramer EH et al (1999) Missing lithotroph identified as new planctomycete. Nature 400(6743):446–449. doi:10.1038/22749ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Winogradsky S (1949) Microbiology du Sol. Masson, ParísGoogle Scholar
  8. Yamanaka T (2008) Chemolithoautotrophic bacteria, Biochemistry and Environmental Biology, XIV. Springer, JapanGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Planetología y Habitabilidad Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA)Universidad Autónoma de Madrid Campus CantoblancoTorrejón de ArdozSpain