Insights into the diversity of eukaryotes in acid mine drainage biofilm communities

Brett J. Baker, Gene W. Tyson, Lindsey Goosherst, Julian F. Banfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)


Microscopic eukaryotes are known to have important ecosystem functions, but their diversity in most environments remains vastly unexplored. Here we analyzed an 18S rRNA gene library from a subsurface iron-and sulfur-oxidizing microbial community growing in highly acidic (pH < 0.9) runoff within the Richmond Mine at Iron Mountain (northern California). Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the majority (68%) of the sequences belonged to fungi. Protists falling into the deeply branching lineage named the acidophilic protist clade (APC) and the class Heterolobosea were also present. The APC group represents kingdom-level novelty, with <76% sequence similarity to 18S rRNA gene sequences of organisms from other environments. Fluorescently labeled oligonucleotide rRNA probes were designed to target each of these groups in biofilm samples, enabling abundance and morphological characterization. Results revealed that the populations vary significantly with the habitat and no group is ubiquitous. Surprisingly, many of the eukaryotic lineages (with the exception of the APC) are closely related to neutrophiles, suggesting that they recently adapted to this extreme environment. Molecular analyses presented here confirm that the number of eukaryotic species associated with the acid mine drainage (AMD) communities is low. This finding is consistent with previous results showing a limited diversity of archaea, bacteria, and viruses in AMD environments and suggests that the environmental pressures and interplay between the members of these communities limit species diversity at all trophic levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2192-2199
Number of pages8
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes

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