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Microbial communities associated with Antarctic snow pack and their biogeochemical implications

Antony, Runa, Sanyal, Aritri, Kapse, Neelam, Dhakephalkar, Prashant K., Thamban, Meloth, Nair, Shanta
Microbiological research 2016 v.192 pp. 192-202
Actinobacteria, Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, Euryarchaeota, Proteobacteria, Verrucomicrobium, bacteria, beta-galactosidase, biosphere, carbohydrates, carboxylic ester hydrolases, chemistry, ecosystems, endo-1,4-beta-glucanase, functional diversity, lignin, lipids, microbial communities, proteinases, proteins, snow, snowpack, Antarctic region, Antarctica
Snow ecosystems represent a large part of the Earth's biosphere and harbour diverse microbial communities. Despite our increased knowledge of snow microbial communities, the question remains as to their functional potential, particularly with respect to their role in adapting to and modifying the specific snow environment. In this work, we investigated the diversity and functional capabilities of microorganisms from 3 regions of East Antarctica, with respect to compounds present in snow and tested whether their functional signature reflected the snow environment. A diverse assemblage of bacteria (Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Deinococcus-Thermus, Planctomycetes, Verrucomicrobia), archaea (Euryarchaeota), and eukarya (Basidiomycota, Ascomycota, Cryptomycota and Rhizaria) were detected through culture-dependent and −independent methods. Although microbial communities observed in the three snow samples were distinctly different, all isolates tested produced one or more of the following enzymes: lipase, protease, amylase, β-galactosidase, cellulase, and/or lignin modifying enzyme. This indicates that the snow pack microbes have the capacity to degrade organic compounds found in Antarctic snow (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, lignin), thus highlighting their potential to be involved in snow chemistry.