Tetraether-linked membrane monolayers in Ferroplasma spp: A key to survival in acid

Jennifer L. Macalady, Martha M. Vestling, David Baumler, Nick Boekelheide, Charles W. Kaspar, Jillian F. Banfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


Ferroplasma acidarmanus thrives in hot, extremely low pH, metal-rich solutions associated with dissolving metal sulfide ore deposits. Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry and thin layer chromatography analyses of F. acidarmanus membranes indicate that tetraether lipids predominate, with at least three core lipid structures. NMR measurements indicate that the cytoplasmic pH of F. acidarmanus is ∼5.6. The optimal growth pH is ∼1.2, and the lowest growth pH is ∼0.0. Thus, these organisms maintain pH gradients across their membranes that approach 5 pH units. Tetraether lipids were originally thought to be specifically associated with thermophiles but are now known to be widely distributed within the archaeal domain. Our data, in combination with recently published results for thermophilic and mesothermophilic acidophilic archaea, indicate that there may be a stronger association between tetraether lipids and tolerance to acid and/or large metal ion gradients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-419
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2004


  • Acid mine drainage
  • Acidophile
  • Archaea
  • Membrane monolayer
  • Tetraether lipid


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