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Chapter 14 : Extremophiles: pH, Temperature, and Salinity
During the past 20 years, rapidly growing research activities focused on the elucidation of the basic rules that govern extreme microorganisms such as prokaryotes, have been conducted all over the world. This new field was strongly supported by industry and academia because it became obvious that the extremophilic organisms provide a unique resource for a variety of biomolecules such as enzymes and compounds with high potential for applications in the biotechnological industry. Furthermore, the finding of novel biocatalysts will allow the development of more efficient and environmentally friendly industrial processes. This chapter focuses on a general description of the ecology, the general properties, and some examples of the biotechnological application of microorganisms that are able to grow optimally under very low or very high temperature, extreme pH, and high salinity. Such extremophiles can be found in terrestrial and marine environments all over the world and particularly in exotic ecological niches such as polar regions, solfataric fields, soda lakes, and abyssal hypothermal vents. Most of the bacteria identified were classified in four phylogenetic groups: Alphaproteobacteria, Betaproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria, and the Cytophaga-Flavobacterium-Bacteroides division, as were supported by cultivation data.