Chemotaxonomic characterisation of the thaumarchaeal lipidome

Felix J Elling, Martin Könneke (Corresponding Author), Graeme W Nicol, Michaela Stieglmeier, Barbara Bayer, Eva Spieck, José R de la Torre, Kevin W Becker, Michael Thomm, James I Prosser, Gerhard J Herndl, Christa Schleper, Kai-Uwe Hinrichs

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80 Citations (Scopus)
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Thaumarchaeota are globally distributed and abundant microorganisms occurring in diverse habitats and thus represent a major source of archaeal lipids. The scope of lipids as taxonomic markers in microbial ecological studies is limited by the scarcity of comparative data on the membrane lipid composition of cultivated representatives, including the phylum Thaumarchaeota. Here, we comprehensively describe the core and intact polar lipid (IPL) inventory of ten ammonia‐oxidising thaumarchaeal cultures representing all four characterized phylogenetic clades. IPLs of these thaumarchaeal strains are generally similar and consist of membrane‐spanning, glycerol dibiphytanyl glycerol tetraethers with monoglycosyl, diglycosyl, phosphohexose and hexose‐phosphohexose headgroups. However, the relative abundances of these IPLs and their core lipid compositions differ systematically between the phylogenetic subgroups, indicating high potential for chemotaxonomic distinction of thaumarchaeal clades. Comparative lipidomic analyses of 19 euryarchaeal and crenarchaeal strains suggested that the lipid methoxy archaeol is synthesized exclusively by Thaumarchaeota and may thus represent a diagnostic lipid biomarker for this phylum. The unprecedented diversity of the thaumarchaeal lipidome with 118 different lipids suggests that membrane lipid composition and adaptation mechanisms in Thaumarchaeota are more complex than previously thought and include unique lipids with as yet unresolved properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2681-2700
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number7
Early online date19 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


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