Ecotypes of Planktonic Actinobacteria with Identical 16S rRNA Genes Adapted to Thermal Niches in Temperate, Subtropical, and Tropical Freshwater Habitats


American Society for Microbiology


Seven strains with identical 16S rRNA genes affiliated with the Luna2 cluster (Actinobacteria) were isolated from six freshwater habitats located in temperate (Austria and Australia), subtropical (People's Republic of China), and tropical (Uganda) climatic zones. The isolates had sequence differences at zero to five positions in a 2,310-nucleotide fragment of the ribosomal operon, including part of the intergenic spacer upstream of the 16S rRNA gene, the complete 16S rRNA gene, the complete 16S-23S internal transcribed spacer (ITS1), and a short part of the 23S rRNA gene. Most of the few sequence differences found were located in the internal transcribed spacer sequences. Two isolates obtained from habitats in Asia and Europe, as well as two isolates obtained from different habitats in the People's Republic of China, had identical sequences for the entire fragment sequenced. In spite of minimal sequence differences in the part of the ribosomal operon investigated, the strains exhibited significant differences in their temperature response curves (with one exception), as well as pronounced differences in their temperature optima (25.0 to 35.6°C). The observed differences in temperature adaptation were generally in accordance with the thermal conditions in the habitats where the strains were isolated. Strains obtained from temperate zone habitats had the lowest temperature optima, strains from subtropical habitats had intermediate temperature optima, and a strain from a tropical habitat had the highest temperature optimum. Based on the observed temperature responses, we concluded that the strains investigated are well adapted to the thermal conditions in their home habitats. Consequently, these closely related strains represent different ecotypes adapted to different thermal niches.

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