Searching for extremophiles in the Andernach Geyser

My name is Katharina Runzheimer, I am a scientist at the German Aerospace Center in the Aerospace Microbiology Research Group. I conduct the research for my PhD thesis as part of the MultiKulti project. My main research interest is the isolation and investigation of extremophilic microorganisms, which are particularly tolerant and resistant to a wide range of environmental factors. Therefore, these microorganisms are very interesting for space research and biotechnological applications.

Cultivation of these unique microorganisms is done via preselection through treatments with extreme temperatures, pH, pressure, radiation or also through innovative and creative cultivation approaches. Therefore, I irradiated the geyser water with high doses of X-rays to cultivate particularly resistant microorganisms. The majority of these radiation-resistant organisms are strongly pigmented.

Some of the microorganisms could be identified via MALDI (matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization) with the help of Vera Aschmann, also a doctoral student in the MultiKulti project, at the Water Technology Center in Karlsruhe. In this procedure, the cells of the microorganisms are ionized and their masses are matched using reference spectra from a database. However, the majority of isolates remained undetectable or unidentifiable by MALDI, increasing the likelihood of rare or unknown species.

With the help of Dr. Claudio Neidhöfer from the University Hospital in Bonn, various species such as Hymenobacter sp. or Spirosoma sp. could be identified via 16s rRNA sequencing. Further characterization of these isolates is planned.