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Microorganisms in the Accreted Ice of Lake Vostok, Antarctica

Science  10 Dec 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5447, pp. 2144-2147
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5447.2144

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Abstract

Analysis of a portion of Vostok ice core number 5G, which is thought to contain frozen water derived from Lake Vostok, Antarctica (a body of liquid water located beneath about 4 kilometers of glacial ice), revealed between 2 × 102 and 3 × 102 bacterial cells per milliliter and low concentrations of potential growth nutrients. Lipopolysaccharide (a Gram-negative bacterial cell biomarker) was also detected at concentrations consistent with the cell enumeration data, which suggests a predominance of Gram-negative bacteria. At least a portion of the microbial assemblage was viable, as determined by the respiration of carbon-14–labeled acetate and glucose substrates during incubations at 3°C and 1 atmosphere. These accreted ice data suggest that Lake Vostok may contain viable microorganisms.

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