Phyloprobe Analysis of Microbial Communities in the Great Salt Lake

Michele Zwolinski, Craig Oberg, Matthew Domek

The objective of this research is to describe the microbial diversity of the Great Salt Lake. To support this objective the researchers have begun to create a collection of organisms isolated from the south arm of the lake.

Another primary objective is to describe the solar evaporation ponds of the GSL. These ponds become progressively more saturated with minerals over time. One of these ponds is 35% saline, composed primarily of potassium and magnesium chloride salts. We have isolated an organism from the pond that can grow on laboratory medium containing 30% salts.

The researchers are continuing to extract DNA from lake samples for the phyloprobe analysis. Thus far they have successfully isolated and amplified DNA from the south arm of the lake where the salt concentration is relatively low. The evaporation pond brines and salts have been more difficult because of the combination of high salt content and low cell numbers. It is anticipated that analysis of the south arm samples in the phyloprobe assay will be conducted in November 2008.

The researchers plan to apply for additional funding through the Joint Genome Institute to include the study of halophile genomes in both research and teaching laboratories. JGI provides training in genomics annotation and exploration that is then worked into the curriculum and research. The research team will also be applying for a MERK/AAAS Undergraduate Science Research Program grant which fosters collaboration between Biology and Chemistry departments to improve undergraduate research.

As a result of this research, WSU has been included in a state-wide collaboration between academic institutions to study the microbiology of the Great Salt Lake. The emphasis of these collaborations will be to study the ecology and diversity of the lake using environmental genomics and microbial physiology.

Resulting Publications

Bowcutt, K.M., Burton, B. Cox, D.R., Zwolinski, M.D. and Oberg, C.J. Isolation and Characterization of Chitin-Utilizing Halophiles from the Great Salt Lake, UT.

Poster presentation at the American Society for Microbiology General Meeting, Boston, MA, 1-6 June 2008.

Poster presentation at the International Society for Salt Lake Research, Salt Lake City, UT, 11-16 May 2008.

Bowcutt, K., Burton, B., Cox, D., Zwolinski, M., and Oberg, C. 2007. Isolation and Characterization of Chitin-Utilizing Halophiles from the Great Salt Lake, UT. Journal of the Utah Academy 84:12-21.

Savage, N., Domek, M.J., Zwolinski, M.D., Dunlap, D.M., Shen, P.S., and Oberg, C.J., Characterization of Bacteriophage Isolated from the Great Salt Lake.

Poster presentation at the International Society for Salt Lake Research, Salt Lake City, UT, 11-16 May 2008.

Zwolinski, M.D., Sessions, D.L., Nichols, J.P., Scadden, J.L., and Oberg, C.J. Phosphate and Phosphonate use by Microorganisms Isolated from Hypersaline Environments of the Great Salt Lake, Utah.

Poster presentation at the American Society for Microbiology General Meeting, Boston, MA, 1-6 June 2008.

Poster presentation at the International Society for Salt Lake Research, Salt Lake City, UT, 11-16 May 2008.