Distribution of ether lipids and composition of the archaeal community in terrestrial geothermal springs: Impact of environmental variables

Wei Xie, Chuanlun L. Zhang, Jinxiang Wang, Yufei Chen, Yuanqing Zhu, José R. de la Torre, Hailiang Dong, Hilairy Hartnett, Brian P. Hedlund, Martin G. Klotz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Archaea can respond to changes in the environment by altering the composition of their membrane lipids, for example, by modification of the abundance and composition of glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs). Here, we investigated the abundance and proportions of polar GDGTs (P-GDGTs) and core GDGTs (C-GDGTs) sampled in different seasons from Tengchong hot springs (Yunnan, China), which encompassed a pH range of 2.5-10.1 and a temperature range of 43.7-93.6°C. The phylogenetic composition of the archaeal community (reanalysed from published work) divided the Archaea in spring sediment samples into three major groups that corresponded with spring pH: acidic, circumneutral and alkaline. Cluster analysis showed correlation between spring pH and the composition of P- and C-GDGTs and archaeal 16S rRNA genes, indicating an intimate link between resident Archaea and the distribution of P- and C-GDGTs in Tengchong hot springs. The distribution of GDGTs in Tengchong springs was also significantly affected by temperature; however, the relationship was weaker than with pH. Analysis of published datasets including samples from Tibet, Yellowstone and the US Great Basin hot springs revealed a similar relationship between pH and GDGT content. Specifically, low pH springs had higher concentrations of GDGTs with high numbers of cyclopentyl rings than neutral and alkaline springs, which is consistent with the predominance of high cyclopentyl ring-characterized Sulfolobales and Thermoplasmatales present in some of the low pH springs. Our study suggests that the resident Archaea in these hot springs are acclimated if not adapted to low pH by their genetic capacity to effect the packing density of their membranes by increasing cyclopentyl rings in GDGTs at the rank of community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1600-1614
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental microbiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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