Effects of trace element concentrations on culturing thermophiles

D. R. Meyer-Dombard, Everett Shock, J. P. Amend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The majority of microorganisms in natural environments resist laboratory cultivation. Sometimes referred to as 'unculturable', many phylogenetic groups are known only by fragments of recovered DNA. As a result, the ecological significance of whole branches of the 'tree of life' remains a mystery; this is particularly true when regarding genetic material retrieved from extreme environments. Geochemically relevant media have been used to improve the success of culturing Archaea and Bacteria, but these efforts have focused primarily on optimizing pH, alkalinity, major ions, carbon sources, and electron acceptor-donor pairs. Here, we cultured thermophilic microorganisms from 'Sylvan Spring' (Yellowstone National Park, USA) on media employing different trace element solutions, including one that mimicked the source fluid of the inocula. The growth medium that best simulated trace elements found in 'Sylvan Spring' produced a more diverse and faster growing mixed culture than media containing highly elevated trace element concentrations. The elevated trace element medium produced fewer phylotypes and inhibited growth. Trace element concentrations appear to influence growth conditions in extreme environments. Incorporating geochemical data into cultivation attempts may improve culturing success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-331
Number of pages15
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Culturing
  • Hydrothermal systems
  • Microbial ecology
  • Thermophiles
  • Trace element composition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Medicine


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