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Abstract

Volcanic caves have been little studied for their potential as sources of novel microbial species and bioactive compounds with new scaffolds. We present the first study of volcanic cave microbiology from Canada and suggest that this habitat has great potential for the isolation of novel bioactive substances. Sample locations were plot ted on a contour map that was compiled in ArcView 3.2. Over 400 bacterial isolates were obtained from the Helmcken Falls cave in Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia. From our preliminary screen, of 400 isolates tested, 1% showed activity against extended spectrum ß-lactamase E. coli, 1.75% against Escherichia coli, 2.25% against Acinetobacter baumannii, and 26.50% against Klebsiella pneumoniae. In addition, 10.25% showed activity against Micrococcus luteus, 2% against methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, 9.25% against Mycobacterium smegmatis, 6.25% Pseudomonas aeruginosa and 7.5% against Candida albicans. Chemical and physical characteristics of three rock wall samples were studied using scanning electron microscopy and f lame atomic absorption spectrometry. Calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), and aluminum (Al) were the most abundant components while magnesium (Mg), sodium (Na), arsenic (As), lead (Pb), chromium (Cr), and barium (Ba) were second most abundant with cadmium (Cd) and potassium (K) were the least abundant in our samples. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) showed the presence of microscopic life forms in all three rock wall samples. 16S rRNA gene sequencing of 82 isolates revealed that 65 (79.3%) of the strains belong to the Streptomyces genus and 5 (6.1%) were members of Bacillus, Pseudomonas, Nocardia and Erwinia genera. Interestingly, twelve (14.6%) of the 16S rRNA sequences showed similarity to unidentified ribosomal RNA sequences in the library databases, the sequences of these isolates need to be further investigated using the EzTaxon-e database (http://eztaxon-e. ezbiocloud.net/) to determine whether or not these are novel species. Nevertheless, this suggests the possibility that they could be unstudied or rare bacteria. The Helmcken Falls cave microbiome possesses a great diversity of microbes with the potential for studies of novel microbial interactions and the isolation of new types of antimicrobial agents.

DOI

http://dx.doi.org/10.5038/1827-806X.42.1.5