Seven thermophilic anaerobic bacteria which ferment xylan were isolated from natural geothermal features in the western United States. Typically, these strains were Gram-negative non-sporeforming rods with an unusual double-layered cell wall which resembled that observed in Thermobacteroides acetoethylicus. The strains differed from known thermophilic anaerobes in their ability to utilize a very wide variety of carbohydrates and in their ability to grow in a chemically-defined medium and/or at pH 3.5. Four of the strains contained cryptic plasmids of 1.2 or 1.5 X 10(6) daltons. The taxonomic characteristics of the strains are discussed in terms of their relatedness to those of Thermoanaerobium, Thermoanaerobacter, and Thermobacteroides species.
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