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definition - Thermophile

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  Thermophiles produce some of the bright colors of Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

A thermophile is an organism — a type of extremophile — that thrives at relatively high temperatures, between 45 and 122  °C[1] [2] (113 and 252 °F). Many thermophiles are archaea. Thermophilic eubacteria are suggested to have been among the earliest bacteria.[3]

Thermophiles are found in various geothermally heated regions of the Earth, such as hot springs like those in Yellowstone National Park (see image) and deep sea hydrothermal vents, as well as decaying plant matter, such as peat bogs and compost.

As a prerequisite for their survival, thermophiles contain enzymes that can function at high temperatures. Some of these enzymes are used in molecular biology (for example, heat-stable DNA polymerases for PCR), and in washing agents.

"Thermophile" is derived from the Greek: θερμότητα (thermotita), meaning heat, and Greek: φίλια (philia), love.

A scientific conference for those who study thermophiles has been held since 1990 at locations throughout the world, including Viterbo, Italy; Reykjavik, Iceland; New Delhi, India; and Bergen, Norway. The 2011 edition was held in Big Sky, Montana, hosted by Montana State University.[4]



Thermophiles are classified into obligate and facultative thermophiles: Obligate thermophiles (also called extreme thermophiles) require such high temperatures for growth, whereas facultative thermophiles (also called moderate thermophiles) can thrive at high temperatures, but also at lower temperatures (below 50°C). Hyperthermophiles are particularly extreme thermophiles for which the optimal temperatures are above 80°C.

Bacteria within the Alicyclobacillus genus are acidophilic thermophiles, which can cause contamination in fruit juice drinks.[5]

  A colony of thermophiles in the outflow of Mickey Hot Springs, Oregon, the water temperature is approximately 60°C.

Thermophiles, meaning heat-loving, are organisms with an optimum growth temperature of 50°C or more, a maximum of up to 70°C or more, and a minimum of about 40°C, but these are only approximate. Some extreme thermophiles (hyperthermophiles) require a very high temperature (80°C to 105°C) for growth. Their membranes and proteins are unusually stable at these extremely high temperatures. Thus, many important biotechnological processes use thermophilic enzymes because of their ability to withstand intense heat.

Many of the hyperthermophiles Archea require elemental sulfur for growth. Some are anaerobes that use the sulfur instead of oxygen as an electron acceptor during cellular respiration. Some are lithotrophs that oxidize sulfur to sulfuric acid as an energy source, thus requiring the microorganism to be adapted to very low pH (i.e., it is an acidophile as well as thermophile). These organisms are inhabitants of hot, sulfur-rich environments usually associated with volcanism, such as hot springs, geysers, and fumaroles. In these places, especially in Yellowstone National Park, zonation of microorganisms according to their temperature optima occurs. Often, these organisms are coloured, due to the presence of photosynthetic pigments.

  See also


  1. ^ Madigan MT, Martino JM (2006). Brock Biology of Microorganisms (11th ed.). Pearson. pp. 136. ISBN 0-13-196893-9. 
  2. ^ Takai T, et al. (2008). "Cell proliferation at 122°C and isotopically heavy CH4 production by a hyperthermophilic methanogen under high-pressure cultivation". PNAS 105 (31): 10949–51. DOI:10.1073/pnas.0712334105. PMC 2490668. PMID 18664583. http://www.pnas.org/content/105/31/10949.full.pdf. 
  3. ^ Horiike T, Miyata D, Hamada K, et al. (January 2009). "Phylogenetic construction of 17 bacterial phyla by new method and carefully selected orthologs". Gene 429 (1–2): 59–64. DOI:10.1016/j.gene.2008.10.006. PMC 2648810. PMID 19000750. http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0378-1119(08)00524-6. 
  4. ^ Thermophiles 2011 Retrieved 2011-12-09.
  5. ^ G. L. Pettipher, M. E. Osmundson, J. M. Murphy. Methods for the detection and enumeration of Alicyclobacillus acidoterrestris and investigation of growth and production of taint in fruit juice and fruit juice-containing drinks. Letters in Applied Microbiology. Volume 24, Issue 3, pages 185–189, March 1997.

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