Microbial communities of halite deposits and other hypersaline environments

Thomas P. Thompson*, Julianne Megaw, Stephen A. Kelly, Jason Hopps, Brendan F. Gilmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Large regions of Earth's surface are underlain by salt deposits that evaporated from ancient oceans and are populated by extreme halophilic microbes. While the microbiology of ancient evaporites has been well studied, the ecology of halite deposits and more recently formed NaCl “salticle” stalactite structures (speleothems) in a Triassic halite mine are less well characterized. The microbiome of Kilroot Salt Mine was profiled using conventional and enhanced culturing techniques. From this, 89 halophilic archaeal isolates from six known genera, and 55 halophilic or halotolerant bacterial isolates from 18 genera were obtained. Culture-independent metagenomic approaches also revealed that culturing techniques were inadvertently biased toward specific taxa, and the need for optimized isolation procedures are required to enhance cultivation diversity. Speleothems formed from saturated brines are unique structures that have the potential to entomb haloarchaea cells for thousands of years within fluid inclusions. The presence of such fluid inclusions, alongside the high abundance of genes related to glycerol metabolism, biofilm formation, and persister cell formation is highly suggestive of an environmental niche that could promote longevity and survivability. Finally, previous studies reporting the discovery of novel biocatalysts from the Kilroot mine microbiome, suggests that this environment may be an untapped source of chemical diversity with high biodiscovery potential.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Applied Microbiology
PublisherElsevier Academic Press
Publication statusEarly online date - 21 Jul 2022

Publication series

NameAdvances in Applied Microbiology
ISSN (Print)0065-2164

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Inc.


  • Archaea
  • Biotechnology
  • Halophiles
  • Halophilic bacteria
  • Halophilic enzymes
  • Metagenomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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