Summary: A new anaerobic microbial consortium has been discovered: the partners are the ciliated protozoon sp. and a single species of methanogen. The consortium has been maintained in culture for more than four years. Each ciliate contains up to 300 symbiotic bacteria; many are relatively small and irregularly disc-shaped, and these are distributed throughout the host's cytoplasm, whereas those which are attached to the ciliate's hydrogenosomes are significantly larger and profusely dentate. This attachment is interpreted as an adaptation to maximize capture by the bacteria of the H escaping from hydrogenosomes. The 16S rRNA gene of the symbionts has been partially sequenced, and fluorescent oligonucleotide probes have been constructed and used to detect the different morphotypes of the symbiont within the ciliate. The symbionts belong to a new species of archaeobacterium which is a close relative of the free-living methanogen .


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