Nonmarine crenarchaeol in Nevada hot springs

A. Pearson, Z. Huang, A. E. Ingalls, C. S. Romanek, J. Wiegel, K. H. Freeman, R. H. Smittenberg, C. L. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


Glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs) are core membrane lipids of the Crenarchaeota. The structurally unusual GDGT crenarchacol has been proposed as a taxonomically specific biomarker for the marine planktonic group I archaea. It is found ubiquitously in the marine water column and in sediments. In this work, samples of microbial community biomass were obtained from several alkaline and neutral-pH hot springs in Nevada, United States. Lipid extracts of these samples were analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Each sample contained GDGTs, and among these compounds was crenarchaeol. The distribution of archaeal lipids in Nevada hot springs did not appear to correlate with temperature, as has been observed in the marine environment. Instead, a significant correlation with the concentration of bicarbonate was observed. Archaeal DNA was analyzed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis. All samples contained 16S rRNA gene sequences which were more strongly related to thermophilic crenarchaeota than to Cenarchaeum symbiosum, a marine nonthermophilic crenarchaeon. The occurrence of crenarchaeol in environments containing sequences affiliated with thermophilic crenarchaeota suggests a wide phenotypic distribution of this compound. The results also indicate that crenarchaeol can no longer be considered an exclusive biomarker for marine species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5229-5237
Number of pages9
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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