Morphological and ultrastructural characterization of an unusual purple sulfur bacterium from a marine microbial-mat community

M. Martínez-Alonso, J. Mir, N. Gaju, I. Esteve

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An unusual purple sulfur bacterium present in the pink layer of the Ebro Delta microbial mats has been identified through the study of its ultrastructural features. As pure cultures of this bacterium have not been obtained, due to its inability to grow in axenic conditions, only enrichment cultures where it reached at least 90% of total biomass have been considered. In enrichment cultures, the cells are rods that are 5.4 ± 0.6 μm wide and 11.0 ± 2.1 μm long. The color of the cell suspensions is pink to pinkish-red. Cells are motile by means of a polar tuft of flagella and multiply by binary fission. This bacterium possesses an extensive internal photosynthetic membrane system consisting of stacks of lamellae, contains bacteriochlorophyll a and carotenoids of normal spirilloxanthin series and deposits sulfur intracellularly. In natural samples, the most abundant phototrophic purple sulfur bacterium developing in this ecosystem has the same kind of intracytoplasmic membrane system, but the cells differ slightly in size and arrangement, in that they are ovoid, 4.2 ± 0.5 μm wide and 6.0 ± 1.4 μm long, and can be seen forming irregular non-motile clumps which are embedded in slime. Differences observed between field samples and enrichment cultures suggest that environmental conditions may bring about changes in the phenotypic characteristics of the cells. The morphological characteristics of the described bacterium resemble those of large Chromatia. However, this bacterium differs from known species in this group, particularly in terms of its photosynthetic membrane system and in its light absorption properties. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)538-543
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2006


  • Bacteriochlorophyll a
  • Chromatiaceae
  • Marine microbial mat
  • Purple sulfur bacteria
  • Spirilloxanthin
  • Sulfur


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