A previously unknown ecotype of obligately chemolithoautotrophic, sulfur-oxidizing bacteria was discovered in sediments of various inland hypersaline lakes and a solar saltern. The salt requirements for these bacteria were similar to those of haloarchaea, representing the first example of extreme halophiles occurring among the chemolithoautotrophs. They were enriched and isolated at 4 M NaCl under aerobic conditions with thiosulfate or tetrathionate as the electron donor or under micro-oxic conditions with sulfide. In total, 20 strains were obtained from hypersaline inland lakes in central Asia, central Russia and Crimea and a sea saltern of the Adriatic Sea. The isolates were thin, motile spirilla, some of which possessed a yellow, membrane-bound pigment. They were obligately aerobic, chemolithoautotrophic, sulfur-oxidizing bacteria that used thiosulfate, sulfide, sulfur and tetrathionate as electron donors. The characteristic feature of the group was the production of large amounts of tetrathionate as an intermediate during the oxidation of thiosulfate to sulfate. All but one of the strains grew within the pH range 6.5–8.2 (optimally at pH 7.3–7.8) and at NaCl concentrations from 2.0 to 5 M (optimally at 3.0 M). A single strain, designated ALgr 6sp, obtained (by enrichment) from the hypersaline alkaline lakes of the Wadi Natrun valley, was found to be moderately halophilic and facultatively alkaliphilic (capable of growth at pH 10). The predominant cellular fatty acids were quite unusual, with 10-methyl C and C predominating. Cells grown at 4 M NaCl accumulated extremely high concentrations of glycine betaine as a compatible solute. The 20 neutrophilic isolates contained three genospecies (on the basis of DNA–DNA relatedness data) but could not be discriminated phenotypically. On the basis of the phenotypic and genotypic analyses, the isolates constitute a novel genus and species, for which the name gen. nov., sp. nov. is proposed. The type strain of is HL 3 (=DSM 15071=UNIQEM U219). The haloalkaliphilic strain ALgr 6sp represents a second species of the new genus, for which the name sp. nov. is proposed. The type strain of is ALgr 6sp (=DSM 17116=UNIQEM U372).


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