The genetic diversity of a collection of 336 spore-forming isolates recovered from five salt-saturated brines and soils (Chott and Sebkhas) mainly located in the hyper-arid regions of the southern Tunisian Sahara has been assessed. Requirements and abilities for growth at a wide range of salinities\ showed that 44.3 % of the isolates were extremely halotolerant, 23 % were moderate halotolerant, and 32.7 % were strict halophiles, indicating that they are adapted to thrive in these saline ecosystems. A wide genetic diversity was documented based on 16S-23S rRNA internal transcribed spacer fingerprinting profiles (ITS) and 16S rRNA gene sequences that clustered the strains into seven genera: Bacillus, Gracilibacillus, Halobacillus, Oceanobacillus, Paenibacillus, Pontibacillus, and Virgibacillus. Halobacillus trueperi was the most encountered species in all the sites and presented a large intraspecific diversity with a multiplicity of ITS types. The most frequent ITS type included 42 isolates that were chosen for assessing of the intraspecific diversity by BOX-PCR fingerprinting. A high intraspecific microdiversity was documented by 14 BOX-PCR genotypes whose distribution correlated with the strain geographic origin. Interestingly, H. trueperi isolates presented an uneven geographic distribution among sites with the highest frequency of isolation from the coastal sites, suggesting a marine rather than terrestrial origin of the strains. The high frequency and diversity of H. trueperi suggest that it is a major ecosystem-adapted microbial component of the Tunisian Sahara harsh saline systems of marine origin.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Soil Science