A new genome of Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans provides insights into adaptation to a bioleaching environment


Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans is a sulfur oxidizing acidophilic bacterium found in many sulfur-rich environments. It is particularly interesting due to its role in bioleaching of sulphide minerals. In this work, we report the genome sequence of At. thiooxidans Licanantay, the first strain from a copper mine to be sequenced and currently used in bioleaching industrial processes. Through comparative genomic analysis with two other At. thiooxidans non-metal mining strains (ATCC 19377 and A01) we determined that these strains share a large core genome of 2109 coding sequences and a high average nucleotide identity over 98%. Nevertheless, the presence of 841 strain-specific genes (absent in other At. thiooxidans strains) suggests a particular adaptation of Licanantay to its specific biomining environment. Among this group, we highlight genes encoding for proteins involved in heavy metal tolerance, mineral cell attachment and cysteine biosynthesis. Several of these genes were located near genetic motility genes (e.g. transposases and integrases) in genomic regions of over 10 kbp absent in the other strains, suggesting the presence of genomic islands in the Licanantay genome probably produced by horizontal gene transfer in mining environments.

Research in Microbiology