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Publication Date


Publication Title

Applied and Environmental Microbiology








High concentrations of particulate ATP were found in the anoxic brines of the Orca Basin and East Flower Garden, Gulf of Mexico. Other measurements indicative of growth and respiration suggested that the microbial community in the brines was inactive, but somehow the ATP associated with the cells persisted. Conceivably, when cells growing just above the interface sank into the brine, the increased osmotic stress could elicit an osmoregulatory response resulting in increased ATP. It was also possible that hydrolytic enzymes were inactivated, resulting in the preservation of ATP. Experiments in which a culture of marine bacteria was suspended in menstrua of different salinities comparable to those found across the Orca Basin interface revealed that as salinity increased, ATP increased three- to sixfold. Within 24 h the ATP fell to its initial level and remained at that concentration for 3 days, at which time the experiment was terminated. In contrast, the control suspensions, at a salinity of 28%o (grams per liter) had 1/10th of the initial ATP concentration when the experiment was ended. Cells were also exposed to killing UV irradiation, enabling us to demonstrate with absolute certainty that cellular ATP could be preserved. At the end of the experiment, the viable component of the population was reduced by orders of magnitude by UV irradiation, but the ATP levels of the cells suspended in brine did not decrease. In certain environments it appears that the conventional analytical tools of the microbial ecologist must be interpreted with caution.

Original Publication Citation

Tuovila, B.J., Dobbs, F.C., Larock, P.A., & Siegel, B.Z. (1987). Preservation of ATP in hypersaline environments. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 53(12), 2749-2753.