Community Analysis of Plant Biomass-Degrading Microorganisms from Obsidian Pool, Yellowstone National Park


Tatiana A. Vishnivetskaya, Scott D. Hamilton-Brehm, Mircea Podar, Jennifer J. Mosher, Anthony V. Palumbo, Tommy J. Phelps, Martin Keler, James G. Elkins


The conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into biofuels can potentially be improved by employing robust microorganisms and enzymes that efficiently deconstruct plant polysaccharides at elevated temperatures. Many of the geothermal features of Yellowstone National Park (YNP) are surrounded by vegetation providing a source of allochthonic material to support heterotrophic microbial communities adapted to utilize plant biomass as a primary carbon and energy source. In this study, a well-known hot spring environment, Obsidian Pool (OBP), was examined for potential biomass-active microorganisms using cultivation-independent and enrichment techniques. Analysis of 33,684 archaeal and 43,784 bacterial quality-filtered 16S rRNA gene pyrosequences revealed that archaeal diversity in the main pool was higher than bacterial; however, in the vegetated area, overall bacterial diversity was significantly higher. Of notable interest was a flooded depression adjacent to OBP supporting a stand of Juncus tweedyi, a heat-tolerant rush commonly found growing near geothermal features in YNP. The microbial community from heated sediments surrounding the plants was enriched in members of the Firmicutes including potentially (hemi)cellulolytic bacteria from the genera Clostridium, Anaerobacter, Caloramator, Caldicellulosiruptor, and Thermoanaerobacter. Enrichment cultures containing model and real biomass substrates were established at a wide range of temperatures (55-85 °C). Microbial activity was observed up to 80 °C on all substrates including Avicel, xylan, switchgrass, and Populus sp. Independent of substrate, Caloramator was enriched at lower (<65 °C) temperatures while highly active cellulolytic bacteria Caldicellulosiruptor were dominant at high (>65 °C) temperatures.

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Vishnivetskaya TA, Hamilton-Brehm SD, Podar M, Mosher JJ, Palumbo AV, Phelps TJ, Keller M, Elkins JG. 2015. Community analysis of plant biomass-degrading microorganisms from Obsidian Pool, Yellowstone National Park. Microbial Ecology 69:333-345.