A Microbial Biorealm page on the genus Haloferax
Higher order taxa:
Archaea, Euryarchaeota, Halobacteria, Halobacteriales, Halobacteriaceae, Haloferax
NCBI: Taxonomy Genome
Description and Significance
Haloferax volcanii is a species of halophile which exists in extreme saline environments. Recently an isolate of this species was studied by researchers at University of California-Berkeley as part of a project on the survival of haloarchaea on Mars. Like other halophiles, Haloferax volcanii has been isolated in high-saline environments, most commonly the Dead Sea, the Great Salt Lake, and oceanic environments with high NaCl concentrates.
According to the TIGR Microbial Database, Haloferax volcanii's genome has only random shotgun sequencing complete. Its genes have been studied to learn more about the recombination and repair process which are prevalent in their DNA. Haloferax volcanii is one of only two archaeans thus far to demonstrate genetic transfer.
Cell Structure and Metabolism
Reproduction among Haloferax volcanii occurs when two cells fuse, establish cytoplasmic bridges, and exchange genetic information, forming two daughter cells. While this practice may sound similar to the mating habits of eukaryotes, Haloferax volcanii appears to be indiscriminatory when it comes to choosing prospective reproductive partner cells. They appear to be capable of fusing with the cells of any species within the Haloferax genus; their methods of specificity are virtually unknown. Haloferax volcanii processes carbohydrates for energy. Their cell wall S-layer, like all halobacteria, is made up of a glycoprotein. And in keeping with their halophilic categorization, Haloferax volcanii cells contain proteins to allow them to maintain balance between the cell material and the hypersaline environment.
Isolates of Haloferax volcanii are commonly found in high-salinity aquatic environments, such as the Dead Sea. Their precise role in the ecosystem is uncertain, but the proteins contained within these organisms potentially serve many practical purposes. Because of their ability to maintain homeostasis in spite of the salt around them, Haloferax volcanii could be an important player in advancements in biotechnology. As it is likely that Haloferax volcanii and comparable species are ranked among the earliest living organisms, they also provide information related to genetics and evolution.