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Figure 1. Meiothermus silvanus. Image from Mark Kolari at the University of Helsinki [1]


Domain: Bacteria, Phylum: Deinococcus-Thermus, Class: Deinococci, Order: Thermales, Family: Thermaceae


NCBI: Taxonomy

  • Meiothermus chiliarophilus
  • Meiothermus cerbereus
  • Meiothermus granaticius
  • Meiothermus rosaceus
  • Meiothermus ruber
  • Meiothermus rufus
  • Meiothermus silvanus
  • Meiothermus taiwanensis
  • Meiothermus timidus

Description and Significance

Figure 2. Microbial "slime" found in paper machines. Image from Mark Kolari at the University of Helsinki [2]

Before the recognition of the genus Meiothermus, the species under the genus Thermus were designated as either high or low-temperature species. The proposal of a new genus Meiothermus in 1996 was made to designate the phylogenetic, phenotypic, and chemotaxonomic distinctiveness of the species that have low optimum growth temperatures. Meiothermus indicates an organism living in a "less-hot" place [1]. The cells are 0.5 to 0.8 μm in diameter and cell length is variable - often forming short filaments. The colonies that form vary from red to yellow pigment and are often found in hydrothermal vents.

Meiothermus spp. have the ability to form biofilms and stick to any surface by using specific adhesion organelles [2]. Specifically, M. silvanus and M. ruber have been found to form colored biofilms on machine surfaces and spots in produced paper and board [3] - left unchecked, these biofoulers pose an economic threat to the paper industry [4]. Several techniques have been proposed to minimize biofilm growth on stainless steel and other materials used in the paper industry. One such technique used is the coating of stainless steel with diamond-like carbon or certain fluoropolymers to prevent adhesion and biofilm growth of Meiothermus spp. [2]. Another technique used is the inactivation of microbes by electrochemical oxidation to prevent biofilm formation - this technique inactivates microbes by electrochemically generating chlorine/hypochlorite [5].

Genome Structure

The entire genome of Meiothermus silvanus DSM 9946 has been sequenced and consist of a 3,249,394 bp long circular chromosome and two plasmids, pMESIL01 and pMESIL02, of 347,854 bp and 124,421 bp lengths, respectively. It's 16S rRNA is located on the chromosome at base pairs 7197 to 8677 on the negative strand and is 1481 bp long. Of the 3,720 genes predicted, 3,505 were protein-coding genes and 55 were structural-RNAs. Using the Conserved Domain Database, it was found that conserved domains were present in 2,782 of the 3,505 protein-coding gene sequences. The GC content for its chromosome, pMESIL01 and PMESIL02, are: 62%, 64%, and 66%, respectively. M. silvanus DSM 9946 was sequenced at the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute on June 4, 2010. [6]

Cell Structure, Metabolism and Life Cycle

Figure 3. "A: Electron micrograph of Meiothermus ruber forming a short filaments, B: Electron micrograph Meiothermus silvanus forming as individual cells". Image from Dr. Manfred Rohde of the Helmholz for Infection Research, Braunschweig [3]

Meiothermus spp., is a Gram-negative, aerobic microorganism that is variable in length and often forms short filaments. It is primarily an oxygenic chemoorganoheterotroph, but some species grow with nitrate as the terminal electron acceptor. As such, it utilizes such organic substrates such as starch, hexoses, pentoses, disaccharides, amino acids, and organic acids as both a carbon and energy source. The optimum growth conditions varies in a moderate temperature range (50-65°C) and alkaline environments (pH ~8.0).

The ability of thermophilic bacteria much like those from the genus Meiothermus to withstand high temperatures are thought to stem from the possession of special mechanisms for membrane stabilization. Meiothermus spp. most often have a red-orange appearance that stems from the production of carotenoids via the metabolism of tepernoids and polyketides [7]. Carotenoid production may be one of the mechanisms that these bacteria possess, based on the length of carotenoid molecules and its analogue to the fatty acids of the lipid bilayer [8]. In addition, the presence of polar lipids may play a role in this membrane stabilization; these polar lipids are not found in any other known group of bacteria except those of the genera Thermus, Meiothermus, and Deinococcus [9].

Ecology and Pathogenesis

Figure 4. "A and B: Electron micrograph of the crosswise pattern of a biofilm found in a bioreactor tank". Image from Dr. Bengt R. Johansson from the University of Göteborg, Sweden [4]

Genetic evidence of these microorganisms have been found throughout the world. The geothermal areas in which Meiothermus spp. have been found include: Rockville, Maryland of the United States; Brawnschweig, Germany [1], Island of S. Miguel, Zores [10], Glysir area of Iceland [10], Yunnan, China [12]; Chandes-Aigues area in Auvergne region of France [13]; and Sao Pedro de Sul, Central Portugal [14]. Microorganisms of the Meiothermus genus often are a dominant component of biofilm matrices in these dynamic environments. Figure 4 illustrates the filamentous crosswise pattern made by Meiothermus that is the dominant genus in biofilm composition [15]. The optimum growth conditions varies slightly from habitat to habitat with moderate temperatures (ranging from 50 to 65°C) and an alkaline environment (pH ~8.0) - no species grows beyond 70°C [1].


[1] Nobre, M.F., Truper, H.G. and Da Costa, M.S. "Transfer of Thermus ruber (Loginova et al. 1984), T. silvanus (Tenreiro et al. 1995), and T. chiliarophilus (Tenreiro et al. 1995) to Meiothermus gen. nov. as Meiothermus ruber comb. nov., Me. silvanus comb. nov., and Me. chilarophilus comb. nov., respectively, and emendation of the genus Thermus". "International Journal of Systematic Bacteriology". 1996. Volume 56. p. 604-606.

[2] Raulio, M., Järn, M., Ahola, J., Peltonen, J., Rosenholm, J.B., Tervakangas, S., Kolehmainen, J., Ruokolainen, T., Narko, P., and Salkinoja-Salonen, M. "Microbe repelling coated stainless steel analysed by field emission scanning electron microscopy and physicochemical methods". Journal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology. 2008. Volume 35. Number 7. p. 751-760

[3] Ekman, J., Kosonen, M., Jokela, S., Kolari, M., Korhonen, P., and Salkinoja-Salonen, M. "Detection and quantitation of colored deposit-forming Meiothermus spp. in paper industry processes and end products". Journal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology. 2007. Volume 34. Number 3. p. 203-211

[4] Kolari, M., Nuutinen, J., Rainey, F.A., and Salkinoja-Salonen, M.S. "Colored moderately thermophilic bacteria in paper-machine biofilms". Journal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology. 2003. Volume 30. Number 4. p. 225-238

[5] Särkkä, H., Vepsäläinen, M., Pulliainen, M., Sillanpää, M. "Electrochemical inactivation of paper mill bacteria with mixed metal oxide electrode". Journal of Hazardous Materials. 2008. Volume 156. Issues 1-3. p. 208-213

[6] NCBI genome sequence for Meiothermus genus

[7] Kanehisa Laboratories. "Carotenoid biosynthesis - Meiothermus ruber". 2011.

[8] Burgess, M.L., Barrow, K.D., Gao, C., Heard, G.M., and Glenn, D. "Carotenoid Glycoside Esters from the Thermophilic Bacterium Meiothermus ruber". "American Chemical Society and American Society of Pharmacognosy". 1999. Volume 62. p. 859-863.

[9] Costa, M.S., Nobre, M.F., and Wait, R. "6 Analysis of Lipids from Extremophilic Bacteria". "Methods in Microbiology". 2006. Volume 35. p.127-159

[10] Albuquerque, L., Rainey, F.A., Nobre, M.F., Costa, M.S. "Meiothermus granaticius sp. nov., a new slightly thermophilic red-pigmented species from the Azores". "Systematic and Applied Microbiology". 2010. Volume 33. p. 243-246

[11] Chung, A.P., Rainey, F., Nobre, M.F., Burghardt, J., and Costa, M.S. "Meiothermus cerbereus sp. nov., a New Slightly Thermophilic Species with High Levels of 3-Hydroxy Fatty Acids". "International Journal of Systematic Bacteriology". 1997. Volume 47. p. 1225-1230

[12] Chen, C., Lin, L., Peng, Q., Ben, K., Zhou, Z. "Meiothermus rosaceus sp. nov. isolated from Tengchong hot spring in Yunnan, China". "FEMS Microbiology Letters". 2002. Volume 216. p. 263-268

[13] Albuquerque, L., Ferreira, C., Tomaz, D., Tiago, I., Verissimo, A., Costa, M.S., Nobre, M.F. "Meiothermus rufus sp. nov., a new slightly thermophilic red-pigmented species and emended description of the genus Meiothermus". "Systematic and Applied Microbiology". 2009. Volume 32. p. 306-313

[14] Pires, A.L., Albuquerque, L., Tiago, I., Nobre, M.F., Empadinhas, N., Verissimo, A., Costa, M.S. "Meiothermus timidus sp. nov., a new slightly thermophilic yellow-pigmented species" 2005. Volume 245. p. 39-45

[15] Masurat, P., Fru, E.C., Pedersen, K. "Identification of Meiothermus as the dominant genus in a storage system for spent nuclear fuel". "Journal of Applied Microbiology". 2005. Volume 98. p. 727-740


Page authored by Michael Huarng and Steven Huynh, student of Prof. Jay Lennon at Michigan State University.

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