Image of Sulfolobus from Yellowstone. The host cell shown here is infected with SSV type virus. Virus is seen vaguely inside the cell, attached to the S-layer cell surface, and clustered heavily around the cell. Cell diameter is approximately one micron.
Why Sulfolobus makes a good viral host for use in the lab:
- Sulfolobus is an extremely thermophilic archaea with optimum growth conditions of 80 degrees centigrade and pH 3 (boiling acid).
- It is an aerobic heterotroph, meaning that it can grow in the lab without needing protection from the ambient atmosphere, and it grows on a variety of carbon sources including yeast and several sugars. It also can metabolize elemental sulfur (shown in the pool below) as a primary energy source.
- Two genomes have been completely sequenced (P2 and Tokodaii).
- Numerous viruses and plasmids of Sulfolobus have been previously been identified. Many of these extrachromosomal elements have also been sequenced.
- It can be easily cultured from samples taken from any thermal feature in the world that supports favorable growth conditions (80 degrees, pH 3).