Genomic DNA extracted from ancient Antarctic glacier ice for molecular analyses on the indigenous microbial communities

Sang Hoon Lee, Kay Bidle, Paul Falkowski, David Marchant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


From ancient Antarctic glacier ice, we extracted total genomic DNA that was suitable for prokaryotic 16S rDNA gene cloning and sequencing, and bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) library and end-sequencing. The ice samples were from the Dry Valley region. Age dating by 40Ar/39Ar analysis on the volcanic ashes deposited in situ indicated the ice samples are minimum 100,000-300,000 yr (sample DLE) and 8 million years (sample EME) old. Further assay proved the ice survived freeze-thaw cycles or other re-working processes. EME, which was from a small lobe of the basal Taylor glacier, is the oldest known ice on Earth. Microorganisms, preserved frozen in glacier ice and isolated from the rest of the world over a geological time scale, can provide valuable data or insight for the diversity, distribution, survival strategy, and evolutionary relationships to the extant relatives. From the 16S gene cloning study, we detected no PCR amplicons with Archaea-specific primers, however we found many phylotypes belonging to Bacteria divisions, such as Actinobacteria, Acidobacteria, Proteobacteria (α, β, and γ), Firmicutes, and Cytophaga-Flavobacterium-Bacteroid. BAC cloning and sequencing revealed protein codings highly identical to phenylacetic acid degradation protein paaA, chromosome segregation ATPases, or cold shock protein B of present day bacteria. Throughput sequencing of the BAC clones is underway. Viable and culturable cells were recovered from the DLE sample, and characterized by their 16S rDNA sequences. Further investigation on the survivorship and functional genes from the past should help unveil the evolution of life on Earth, or elsewhere, if any.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-214
Number of pages10
JournalOcean and Polar Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aquatic Science
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Geology
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


  • Ancient genes
  • Antarctic bacteria
  • Glacial microbiology
  • Microbial diversity


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