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Archaea, 1:277–283
© 2004 Heron Publishing—Victoria, Canada
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A proposal to rename the hyperthermophile Pyrococcus woesei as Pyrococcus furiosus subsp. woesei

Wirojne Kanoksilapatham (1), Juan M. González (1,2), Dennis L. Maeder (1), Jocelyne DiRuggiero (1,3) and Frank T. Robb (1,4)

1. Center of Marine Biotechnology, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, Baltimore, MD 21202, USA / 2. IRNAS-CSIC, P.O. Box 1052, 41080 Sevilla, Spain / 3. Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20274, USA / 4. Corresponding author ([email protected]) / Received April 8, 2004; accepted July 28, 2004; published online August 31, 2004


Pyrococcus species are hyperthermophilic members of the order Thermococcales, with optimal growth temperatures approaching 100 °C. All species grow heterotrophically and produce H2 or, in the presence of elemental sulfur (S°), H2S. Pyrococcus woesei and P. furiosus were isolated from marine sediments at the same Vulcano Island beach site and share many morphological and physiological characteristics. We report here that the rDNA operons of these strains have identical sequences, including their intergenic spacer regions and part of the 23S rRNA. Both species grow rapidly and produce H2 in the presence of 0.1% maltose and 10–100 µM sodium tungstate in S°-free medium. However, P. woesei shows more extensive autolysis than P. furiosus in the stationary phase. Pyrococcus furiosus and P. woesei share three closely related families of insertion sequences (ISs). A Southern blot performed with IS probes showed extensive colinearity between the genomes of P. woesei and P. furiosus. Cloning and sequencing of ISs that were in different contexts in P. woesei and P. furiosus revealed that the napA gene in P. woesei is disrupted by a type III IS element, whereas in P. furiosus, this gene is intact. A type I IS element, closely linked to the napA gene, was observed in the same context in both P. furiosus and P. woesei genomes. Our results suggest that the IS elements are implicated in genomic rearrangements and reshuffling in these closely related strains. We propose to rename P. woesei a subspecies of P. furiosus based on their identical rDNA operon sequences, many common IS elements that are shared genomic markers, and the observation that all P. woesei nucleotide sequences deposited in GenBank to date are > 99% identical to P. furiosus sequences.

Keywords: hyperthermophile, sulfur reduction, transposon.

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