Molecular Analysis of the Microbial Communities of Mars Analog Lakes in Western Australia


Unique, shallow interdune lakes and groundwaters with extremely low pH and high salinity exist in Australia, along with nearby lakes that possess higher pH values. These acidic hypersaline environments are possibly the best modern terrestrial analogues for past martian environments. However, no previous microbiological analyses of these lakes have been conducted. During the Australian winter of 2005, water samples were taken from several hypersaline lakes located in southern Western Australia that possessed acidic to slightly alkaline pH. These samples were subjected to molecular analysis to identify bacterial communities. DNA extraction and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of the 16S rRNA gene sequences, by using universal bacterial primers, were also performed on the samples. Extracted DNA was amplified with 1070 forward and 1392 GC-clamped reverse primers and analyzed by using denaturant gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). In addition, libraries were developed from DNA retrieved from four lakes, including a marginal marine neutral lake, an inland neutral lake, and two inland acid lakes, and selected clones with distinct operational taxonomic units were sequenced. The DGGE profiles and clone sequence data indicate that there are distinct, abundant, and diverse microbial populations in these Australian hypersaline environments, especially the acidic ones. These results are significant for two reasons: (1) they provide the first microbiological survey of natural acid saline lakes and (2) they hint at the possibility that there could have been a diverse microbial population in acidic hypersaline environments on Mars.


Biological Sciences

Keywords and Phrases

Fresh Water; Agar Gel Electrophoresis; Astronomy; Australia; Bacterium; Cell Clone; DNA Denaturation; Genetics; Geography; Isolation and Purification; Microbiology; Microclimate; Phylogeny; Salinity; Time; Bacteria; Clone Cells; Electrophoresis, Agar Gel; Extraterrestrial Environment; Fresh Water; Geography; Mars; Nucleic Acid Denaturation; Time Factors; Water Microbiology

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1531-1074; 1557-8070

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2009 Mary Ann Liebert, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Dec 2009

PubMed ID