Open Access

Complete genome sequence of Ignisphaera aggregans type strain (AQ1.S1T)

  • Markus Göker
  • , Brittany Held,
  • , Alla Lapidus
  • , Matt Nolan
  • , Stefan Spring
  • , Montri Yasawong
  • , Susan Lucas
  • , Tijana Glavina Del Rio
  • , Hope Tice
  • , Jan-Fang Cheng
  • , Lynne Goodwin,
  • , Roxanne Tapia,
  • , Sam Pitluck
  • , Konstantinos Liolios
  • , Natalia Ivanova
  • , Konstantinos Mavromatis
  • , Natalia Mikhailova
  • , Amrita Pati
  • , Amy Chen
  • , Krishna Palaniappan
  • , Evelyne Brambilla
  • , Miriam Land,
  • , Loren Hauser,
  • , Yun-Juan Chang,
  • , Cynthia D. Jeffries,
  • , Thomas Brettin
  • , John C. Detter
  • , Cliff Han
  • , Manfred Rohde
  • , Johannes Sikorski
  • , Tanja Woyke
  • , James Bristow
  • , Jonathan A. Eisen,
  • , Victor Markowitz
  • , Philip Hugenholtz
  • , Nikos C. Kyrpides
  • and Hans-Peter Klenk
Corresponding author

DOI: 10.4056/sigs.1072907

Received: 20 August 2010

Published: 30 August 2010


Ignisphaera aggregans Niederberger et al. 2006 is the type and sole species of genus Ignisphaera. This archaeal species is characterized by a coccoid-shape and is strictly anaerobic, moderately acidophilic, heterotrophic hyperthermophilic and fermentative. The type strain AQ1.S1T was isolated from a near neutral, boiling spring in Kuirau Park, Rotorua, New Zealand. This is the first completed genome sequence of the genus Ignisphaera and the fifth genome (fourth type strain) sequence in the family Desulfurococcaceae. The 1,875,953 bp long genome with its 2,009 protein-coding and 52 RNA genes is a part of the Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea project.


hyperthermophileobligately anaerobicmoderately acidophilicfermentativecocci-shapedhot springCrenarchaeotaDesulfurococcaceaeGEBA


Strain AQ1.S1T (= DSM 17230 = JCM 13409) is the type strain of the species Ignisphaera aggregans, which is the type species of the genus Ignisphaera [1], one out of nine genera in the family Desulfurococcaceae [2-5]. The generic name derives from the Latin word ‘ignis’ meaning ‘fire’, and ‘sphaera’ meaning ‘ball’, referring to coccoid cells found in the high-temperature environment such as hot springs [1]. The species epithet is derived from the Latin word ‘aggregans’ meaning ‘aggregate forming or aggregating clumping’, referring to the appearance of the cells when grown on mono-, di- or polysaccharides [1]. Strain AQ1.S1T is of particular interest because it is able to ferment quite a number of polysaccharides and complex proteinaceous substrates [1]. Here we present a summary classification and a set of features for I. aggregans AQ1.S1T, together with the description of the complete genomic sequencing and annotation.

Classification and features

Strain AQ1.S1T was isolated from a near neutral, boiling spring situated in Kuirau Park, Rotorua, New Zealand [1]. Interestingly, strains of I. aggregans could not be cultivated from pools with similar characteristics in Yellowstone National Park [1]. Only three cultivated strains are reported for the species I. aggregans in addition to AQ1.S1T, these are strains Tok37.S1, Tok10A.S1 and Tok1 [1]. The 16S rRNA sequence of AQ1.S1T is 99% identical to Tok37.S1, 98% to Tok10A.S1 and 98% to Tok1. Sequence similarities between strain AQ1.S1T and members of the family Pyrodictiaceae range from 93.0% for Pyrodictium occultum to 93.4% for P. abyssi [6] but from 89.7% for Ignicoccus islandicus to 93.5% for Staphylothermus hellenicus [6] with members of the family Desulfurococcaceae in which I. aggregans is currently classified (Table 1). Genbank [16] currently contains only three 16S rRNA gene sequences with significantly high identity values to strain AQ1.S1T: clone YNP_BP_A32 (96%, DQ243730) from hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, clone SSW_L4_A01 (95%, EU635921) from mud hot springs, Nevada, USA, and clone DDP-A02 (94%, AB462559) from a Japanese alkaline geothermal pool, which does not necessarily indicate the presence of I. aggregans but probably the presence of yet to be identified other species in the genus Ignisphaera. Environmental samples and metagenomic surveys featured in Genbank contain not a single sequence with >87% sequence identity (as of June 2010), indicating that I. aggregans might play a rather limited and regional role in the environment.

Table 1

Classification and general features of I. aggregans AQ1.S1T according to the MIGS recommendations [7]




   Evidence code

     Current classification

    Domain Archaea

   TAS [8]

    Phylum Crenarchaeota

   TAS [9,10]

    Class Thermoprotei

   TAS [10,11]

    Order Desulfurococcales

   TAS [10,12]

    Family Desulfurococcaceae

   TAS [2-5]

    Genus Ignisphaera

   TAS [1]

    Species Ignisphaera aggregans

   TAS [1]

    Type strain AQ1.S1

   TAS [1]

     Gram stain

    not reported

     Cell shape

    regular or irregular cocci that occur singly,    in pairs or in aggregates

   TAS [1]





    not reported

     Temperature range


   TAS [1]

     Optimum temperature


   TAS [1]


    < 0.5% NaCl

   TAS [1]


     Oxygen requirement

    obligate anaerobic

   TAS [1]

     Carbon source

    starch, trypticase, peptone, lactose, glucose,    konjac glucomannan, amongst others (see text)

   TAS [1]

     Energy source

    carbohydrates, amino acids

   TAS [1]



    boiling spring

   TAS [1]


     Biotic relationship


   TAS [1]




   TAS [13]

     Biosafety level


   TAS [13]


    pool water

   TAS [14]


     Geographic location

    Kuirau Park, Rotorau, New Zealand

   TAS [1]


     Sample collection time


   TAS [1]




   TAS [14]




   TAS [14]



    ≤ 2 m

   TAS [14]



    268 m


Evidence codes - IDA: Inferred from Direct Assay (first time in publication); TAS: Traceable Author Statement (i.e., a direct report exists in the literature); NAS: Non-traceable Author Statement (i.e., not directly observed for the living, isolated sample, but based on a generally accepted property for the species, or anecdotal evidence). These evidence codes are from of the Gene Ontology project [15]. If the evidence code is IDA, then the property was directly observed by one of the authors or an expert mentioned in the acknowledgements.

The cells of strain AQ1.S1T are regular to irregular cocci which occur singly, in pairs or as aggregates of many cells [1]. They usually have dimensions between 1-1.5 μm (Figure 1). Aggregation of cells is common when AQ1.S1T is grown on mono-, di- or polysaccharides [1]. Strain AQ1.S1T is hyperthermophilic and grows optimally between 92°C and 95°C, the temperature range for growth is 85-98°C. The pH range for growth is 5.4-7.0, with an optimum at pH 6.4. The strain grows in the presence of up to 0.5% NaCl, however, it grows optimally without NaCl. The doubling time is 7.5 h under optimal conditions [1]. I. aggregans strain AQ1.S1T is strictly anaerobic and grows heterotrophically on starch, trypticase peptone, lactose, glucose, konjac glucomannan, mannose, galactose, maltose, glycogen, and β-cyclodextrin. Growth on beef extract and glucose is weak and not observed on yeast extract, cellobiose, methanol, ethanol, trehalose, pyruvate, acetate, malate, casamino acids (0.1% w/v), carboxymethylcellulose, amylopectin (corn), xanthan gum, locust gum (bean), guar gum, dextran, xylan (oat spelts, larch or birch), xylitol, xylose or amylose (corn and potato) [1]. Mono- and disaccharides are accumulated in AQ1.S1T cultures grown in media containing konjac glucomannan, but not in sterile media that had been exposed to the same temperature as the inoculated medium or the stock of konjac glucomannan [1]. As hypothesized by Niederberger et al. [1], this most probably indicates that the konjac glucomannan is being hydrolyzed enzymatically by AQ1.S1T into sugars for metabolism. Removal of cystine from the growth medium does not affect cell density significantly. Hydrogen sulfide is also detected in AQ1.S1T cultures grown in enrichment media. Strain AQ1.S1T is resistant to novobiocin and streptomycin but sensitive to erythromycin, chloramphenicol and rifampicin [1].

Figure 1

Scanning electron micrograph of I. aggregans AQ1.S1T


No chemotaxonomic data are currently available for I. aggregans strain AQ1.S1T. Also, chemotaxonomic information for the family Desulfurococcaceae is scarce. What is known is that the type species of this family, Desulfurococcus mucosus, lacks a murein cell wall and contains phytanol and polyisopreonoid dialcohols as major components of the cellular lipids [3].

Figure 2 shows the phylogenetic neighborhood of I. aggregans AQ1.S1T in a 16S rRNA based tree. The sequence of the single 16S rRNA gene copy in the genome of strain AQ1.S1 does not differ from the previously published 16S rRNA sequence from DSM 17230 (DQ060321).

Figure 2

Phylogenetic tree highlighting the position of I. aggregans AQ1.S1T relative to the type strains of the other genera within the order Desulfurococcales. The tree was inferred from 1,329 aligned characters [17,18] of the 16S rRNA gene sequence under the maximum likelihood criterion [19] and rooted with the type strains of the genera of the neighboring order Acidilobales. The branches are scaled in terms of the expected number of substitutions per site. Numbers above branches are support values from 250 bootstrap replicates [20] ,if greater than 60%. Lineages with type strain genome sequencing projects registered in GOLD [21] are shown in blue, published genomes in bold ([22-25], CP000504 and CP000852).

Genome sequencing and annotation

Genome project history

This organism was selected for sequencing on the basis of its phylogenetic position [26], and is part of the Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea project [27]. The genome project is deposited in the Genome OnLine Database [21] and the complete genome sequence is deposited in GenBank. Sequencing, finishing and annotation were performed by the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI). A summary of the project information is shown in Table 2.

Table 2

Genome sequencing project information





   Finishing quality



   Libraries used

    Three genomic libraries: one 454 pyrosequence standard library,    one 454 paired end 15 kb library,    and one Illumina library


   Sequencing platforms

    454 Titanium; Illumina GAii


   Sequencing coverage

    94.5× pyrosequence and Illumina



    Newbler version    PostRelease-11-05-2008-gcc-3.4.6/,     phrap, Velvet


   Gene calling method

    Prodigal 1.4, GenePRIMP



   Genbank Date of Release

    August 24, 2010



   NCBI project ID


   Database: IMG-GEBA



   Source material identifier

    DSM 17230

   Project relevance

    Tree of Life, GEBA

Growth conditions and DNA isolation

I. aggregans AQ1.S1T, DSM 17230, was grown anaerobically in DSMZ medium 1043 (Ignisphaera medium) [28] at 92°C. DNA was isolated from 0.5-1 g of cell paste using MasterPure Gram Positive DNA Purification Kit (Epicentre MGP04100). One µl lysozyme and five µl mutanolysin and lysostaphine, each, were added to the standard lysis solution for one hour at 37°C followed by 30 min incubation on ice after the MPC-step.

Genome sequencing and assembly

The genome of strain AQ1.S1T was sequenced using a combination of Illumina and 454 technologies. An Illumina GAii shotgun library with reads of 152 Mb, a 454 Titanium draft library with average read length of 320 bases, and a paired end 454 library with average insert size of 15 kb were generated for this genome. All general aspects of library construction and sequencing can be found at Web Site. Illumina sequencing data was assembled with VELVET and the consensus sequences were shredded into 1.5 kb overlapped fake reads and assembled together with the 454 data. Draft assemblies were based on 177 Mb 454 draft data, and 454 paired end data. Newbler parameters are -consed - a 50 -l 350 -g -m -ml 20. The initial assembly contained 20 contigs in 1 scaffold. The initial 454 assembly was converted into a phrap assembly by making fake reads from the consensus, collecting the read pairs in the 454 paired end library. The Phred/Phrap/Consed software package (Web Site) was used for sequence assembly and quality assessment [29] in the following finishing process. After the shotgun stage, reads were assembled with parallel phrap (High Performance Software, LLC). Possible mis-assemblies were corrected with gapResolution (Web Site), Dupfinisher [29], or sequencing cloned bridging PCR fragments with subcloning or transposon bombing (Epicentre Biotechnologies, Madison, WI). Gaps between contigs were closed by editing in Consed, by PCR and by Bubble PCR primer walks (J.-F. Chan, unpublished). A total of 32 additional reactions were necessary to close gaps and to raise the quality of the finished sequence. Illumina reads were also used to improve the final consensus quality using an in-house developed tool (the Polisher [30]). The error rate of the final genome sequence is less than 1 in 100,000

Genome annotation

Genes were identified using Prodigal [31] as part of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory genome annotation pipeline, followed by a round of manual curation using the JGI GenePRIMP pipeline [32]. The predicted CDSs were translated and used to search the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) nonredundant database, UniProt, TIGRFam, Pfam, PRIAM, KEGG, COG, and InterPro databases. Additional gene prediction analysis and functional annotation was performed within the Integrated Microbial Genomes - Expert Review (IMG-ER) platform [33].

Genome properties

The genome consists of a 1,875,953 bp long chromosome with a 35.7% G+C content (Table 3 and Figure 3). Of the 2,061 genes predicted, 2,009 were protein-coding genes, and 52 RNAs; 79 pseudogenes were also identified. The majority of the protein-coding genes (56.2%) were assigned a putative function while the remaining ones were annotated as hypothetical proteins. The distribution of genes into COGs functional categories is presented in Table 4.

Table 3

Genome Statistics



  % of Total

Genome size (bp)



DNA coding region (bp)



DNA G+C content (bp)



Number of replicons


Extrachromosomal elements


Total genes



RNA genes



rRNA operons


Protein-coding genes



Pseudo genes



Genes with function prediction



Genes in paralog clusters



Genes assigned to COGs



Genes assigned Pfam domains



Genes with signal peptides



Genes with transmembrane helices



CRISPR repeats


Figure 3

Graphical circular map of the genome. From outside to the center: Genes on forward strand (color by COG categories), Genes on reverse strand (color by COG categories), RNA genes (tRNAs green, rRNAs red, other RNAs black), GC content, GC skew.

Table 4

Number of genes associated with the general COG functional categories








   Translation, ribosomal structure and biogenesis




   RNA processing and modification








   Replication, recombination and repair




   Chromatin structure and dynamics




   Cell cycle control, cell division, chromosome partitioning




   Nuclear structure




   Defense mechanisms




   Signal transduction mechanisms




   Cell wall/membrane/envelope biogenesis




   Cell motility








   Extracellular structures




   Intracellular trafficking, secretion, and vesicular transport




   Posttranslational modification, protein turnover, chaperones




   Energy production and conversion




   Carbohydrate transport and metabolism




   Amino acid transport and metabolism




   Nucleotide transport and metabolism




   Coenzyme transport and metabolism




   Lipid transport and metabolism




   Inorganic ion transport and metabolism




   Secondary metabolites biosynthesis, transport and catabolism




   General function prediction only




   Function unknown




   Not in COGs

Insights from the genome sequence

Even though the tree depicted in Figure 1 is not particularly well resolved, the fact that I. aggregans does not cluster with the Desulfurococcaceae in 16S rRNA gene sequence-based phylogenies calls for a more detailed whole-genome-based analysis [34]. Both, in Figure 1 and in the All-Species-Living-Tree [35], I. aggregans is located deep on the branch leading to the Thermoproteaceae (and Sulfolobaceae). By circumstance, the class Thermoprotei within the phylum Crenarchaeota already offers a reasonably large set of reference genomes required for such an analysis. We thus assembled a dataset comprising all publicly available genomes from the set of organisms represented in the 16S rRNA tree (Fig. 1). Pairwise distances were calculated using the GBDP algorithm [36,37], which has recently been used to mimic DNA-DNA-hybridization values [37,38]. Here we applied the logarithmic version of formula (3) in [34,38]. The NeighborNet algorithm as implemented in SplitsTree version 4.10 [39] was used to infer a phylogenetic network from the distances, which is shown in Fig. 4.

Figure 4

Phylogenetic network inferred from whole-genome (GBDP) distances, showing the relationships between Desulfurococcaceae (Aeropyrum, Ignisphaera, Staphylothermus and Thermosphaera), Pyrodictiaceae (Hyperthermus and Pyrolobus), Thermoproteaceae (Caldivirga, Pyrobaculum, Thermoproteus and Vulcanisaeta) and Thermofilaceae (Thermofilum).

The results indicate that the placement of I. aggregans as sister group of Thermoproteales (Fig. 1) is an artifact of the 16S rRNA analysis. The whole-genome network, while showing some conflicting signal close to the backbone, is in agreement with the splitting of the considered genera into the orders Desulfurococcales and Thermoproteales. However, the analysis provides some evidence that Aeropyrum pernix (Desulfurococcaceae) is more closely related to Pyrodictiaceae (represented by Hyperthermus and Pyrolobus) than to the remaining Desulfurococcaceae. The numerous additional type strain genome sequencing projects in the Desulfurococcales (Fig. 1) are likely to shed even more light on the phylogenetic relationships within this group by enabling future whole-genome phylogenies based on many more taxa.

A separate status of I. aggregans within the Desulfurococcaceae is supported by a lack of genes encoding membrane-bound multienzyme complexes that are thought to participate in the energy metabolism of members of this group. Operons encoding a MBX-related ferredoxin-NADPH oxidoreductase and a dehydrogenase-linked MBX complex are lacking in I. aggregans, although both are present in the completed genome sequences of Thermosphaera aggregans [24], Staphylothermus marinus [25] and Desulfurococcus kamchatkensis. The genome of A. pernix also lacks genes for the MBH-related energy-coupling hydrogenase, which are found in most members of the Desulfurococcaceae including I. aggregans (Igag_1902 – Igag_1914).



We would like to gratefully acknowledge the help of Maren Schröder (DSMZ) for growth of I. aggregans and the help of Alexander Auch (Tübingen, Germany) in creating a local version of the GBDP software. This work was performed under the auspices of the US Department of Energy Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research Program, and by the University of California, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory under contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC52-07NA27344, and Los Alamos National Laboratory under contract No. DE-AC02-06NA25396, UT-Battelle and Oak Ridge National Laboratory under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725, as well as German Research Foundation (DFG) INST 599/1-2 and SI 1352/1-2 and Thailand Research Fund Royal Golden Jubilee Ph.D. Program No. PHD/0019/2548 for MY.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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