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The role and relevance of soil thermophiles

AuthorsGonzález Grau, Juan Miguel ; Delgado Romero, José A. ; Gómez Fernández, Enrique J. ; Santana, Margarida
Issue Date27-Aug-2017
PublisherUniversity of Pretoria
Citation14th International Meeting on Thermophiles: 27 Aug-1 Sep 2017, South Africa
AbstractThermophiles are present in soils. Although the soil upper layers frequently reach high temperatures above all at medium and low latitudes, high latitudes are also surprising by the presence of thermophiles. Nevertheless, the study of soil thermophiles has been neglected until recently. At present, we start understanding the role and potential implications of soil thermophiles, mainly represented by Geobacillus and related genera. Herein, we present our understanding consequence on recent research on soil thermophiles. Evaluation of temperature at soil upper layers indicated that annualy a high number of hot days (>30ºC) occur at medium and low-latitudes. Besides, arid and semi-arid sites represent important, or even major, zones at these latitudes. These soils frequently reaching high temperatures are potential niches available for thermophiles. Current climate change events increase the potential interest of thermophiles at these environments. Marchant et al. [1] reported on the presence of thermophiles in all soils tested over the United Kingdom but no ecological role was envisaged at that time. Portillo et al. [2] proposed the potential role of soil thermophiles (growing under laboratory conditions from 40ºC to 75ºC) as organic matter mineralizers leading to the release of inorganic compounds such as ammonium and sulfate and, besides, presented the capability of mobilize phosphates. Thus, soil thermophiles appeared as possible major participants in soil biogeochemical cycles of elements. Surprisingly, microbial extracellular enzymatic activities showed maximum peaks at high temperatures, generally around 60ºC in all soils tested [3]. This implies a major role of this type of thermophiles in the processing of soil organic matter with high relevance during high temperature events and seasonal periods [3, 4]. The question on whether these thermophiles remain at vegetative, active stages of they life cycle remains to be elucidated although previous reports suggested that they are active cells [1, 2]. Respiration measurements has recently confirmed that soil thermophiles can represent a major fraction of the soil microbial respiration showed by mesophiles or microorganisms adapted to temperate temperatures. The findings herein reported contribute to better understand the functioning of soils under high temperature conditions, the role of soil thermophiles and the potential implications of increasing high temperature events in soils due to the current climate change scenario [4]. [1] Marchant R, et al. (2002) The frequency and characteristics ofhighly thermophilic bacteria in cool soil environments. Environ. Microbiol. 4:595.602. [2] Portillo MC, et al. (2012) Presence and potential role of thermophilic bacteria in temperate terrestrial environments. Naturwissenschaften 99:43-53. [3] Gonzalez JM, et al. (2015) Latitude-dependent underestimation of microbial extracellular enzyme activity in soils. Int. J Environ. Sci. Technol. 12:2427-2434. [4] Santana MM, and Gonzalez JM (2015) High temperature microbial activity in upper soil layers. FEMS Microbiol. Letters 362:fnv182.
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