Microbial Life Under Pressure

Created by: Scott N. Montross, Montana State University

Pressure has a substantial effect on the physiology and biochemistry of living cells. Microorganisms inhabiting the deep-sea and subsurface of Earth have the ability to survive at hydro- and litho- static pressures greater than 1 atmosphere (atm). Studies of barotolerant (tolerate high pressure) and barophilic (dependent on high pressure) cultures of deep-sea bacteria show that both types are present, and the distribution of these organisms is a function of depth.

-Madigan, M., Martinko, J., Parker, J. 2003. Brock Biology of Microorganisms, tenth edition.

How microbes deal with high pressure


Barotolerant bacteria under high hydrostatic pressure regulate the fluidity of membrane phospholipids to compensate for pressure gradients between the inside of the cell and the environment.

Characterization of organisms by tolerance


Barotolerant-

viable microorganisms found in the ocean up to depths of 4 km, nearly 400 atm but grow better at 1 atm
High Pressure Sign
Dr. Paul H. Yancey, Deep Sea Biology, Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA. USA

Barophilic-

organisms found in the ocean at depths consistant with pressures greater than 400 atm and grow better under high pressure

Extreme Barophiles-

organisms that obligately grow at pressures greater than 700 atm and do not grow at low pressures

High Pressure Environment Collections



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