Confocal Raman microspectroscopy reveals a convergence of the chemical composition in methanogenic archaea from a Siberian permafrost-affected soil

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Methanogenic archaea are widespread anaerobic microorganisms responsible for the production of biogenic methane. Several new species of psychrotolerant methanogenic archaea were recently isolated from a permafrost-affected soil in the Lena Delta (Siberia, Russia), showing an exceptional resistance against desiccation, osmotic stress, low temperatures, starvation, UV and ionizing radiation when compared to methanogens from non-permafrost environments. To gain a deeper insight into the differences observed in their resistance, we described the chemical composition of methanogenic strains from permafrost and non-permafrost environments using confocal Raman microspectroscopy (CRM). CRM is a powerful tool for microbial identification and provides fingerprint-like information about the chemical composition of the cells. Our results show that the chemical composition of methanogens from permafrost-affected soils presents a high homology and is remarkably different from strains inhabiting non-permafrost environments. In addition, we performed a phylogenetic reconstruction of the studied strains based on the functional gene mcrA to prove the different evolutionary relationship of the permafrost strains. We conclude that the permafrost methanogenic strains show a convergent chemical composition regardless of their genotype. This fact is likely to be the consequence of a complex adaptive process to the Siberian permafrost environment and might be the reason underlying their resistant nature.

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