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The hot spring sulfur-turf microbial mats of Japan have long been of interest because of their conspicuous appearance However the community structure of the mats has yet to be investigated in detail mainly because of the difficulty in cultivating mat-building thermophilic prokaryotes Microbial mats in thermal habitats have been studied extensively as a peculiar microbial community of the ecosystem in relation to the phylogeny and evolution of thermophilic prokaryotes or as a source of new functional enzymes Determination of 16S rRNA genes is a useful research strategy for identifying uncultivated prokaryotes and is now commonly performed in ecological studies This technique involving PCR amplification of 16S rRNA genes or synthesis of cDNAs from bulk 16S rRNAs of natural mixed microbial populations has been used successfully for the phylogenetic characterization of prokaryotes in hydrothermal environments The sulfur-turf mats were collected from two hot springs Nakanoyu in Nagano Prefecture and Ganiba in Akita Prefecture Japan Sulfur-turf microbial mats are macroscopic bundles of white filaments consisting of colorless sulfur bacteria and elemental sulfur particles that form in shallow streams of sulfide-containing high temperature hot springs The sulfur-turf mats generally develop within a temperature range of 45 to 73 C within a pH range of 6 to 9 and at discrete sulfide-oxygen interfaces in geothermal springs These characteristics suggest that the major constituents of the sulfur-turf prokaryotic community are thermophilic neutrophilic microaerophilic and chemolithotrophic bacteria Early studies of these sulfur-turf mats distinguished microscopically three morphotypes of bacteria two of which were tentatively named Thiovibrio miyoshi and Thiothrix miyoshi Moreover in situ ecophysiological and microscopic studies have shown that one of these bacteria the large sausage-shaped Thiovibrio miyoshi predominates in sulfur-turf mats and oxidizes environmental sulfide to elemental sulfur and then to sulfate via thiosulfate In both of the sulfur-turf mats large sausage-shaped bacteria predominated and many elemental sulfur particles adhered to the surfaces of the bundles When a portion of the sulfur-turf mat was dropped into H2O2 solution it
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