BACKGROUNDFor decades it has been recognized that neutrophilic Fe-oxidizing bacteria (FeOB) are associated with hydrothermal venting of Fe(II)-rich fluids associated with seamounts in the world's oceans. The evidence was based almost entirely on the mineralogical remains of the microbes, which themselves had neither been brought into culture or been assigned to a specific phylogenetic clade. We have used both cultivation and cultivation-independent techniques to study Fe-rich microbial mats associated with hydrothermal venting at Loihi Seamount, a submarine volcano.METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPLE FINDINGSUsing gradient enrichment techniques, two iron-oxidizing bacteria, strains PV-1 and JV-1, were isolated. Chemolithotrophic growth was observed under microaerobic conditions; Fe(II) and Fe(0) were the only energy sources that supported growth. Both strains produced filamentous stalk-like structures composed of multiple nanometer sized fibrils of Fe-oxyhydroxide. These were consistent with mineralogical structures found in the iron mats. Phylogenetic analysis of the small subunit (SSU) rRNA gene demonstrated that strains PV-1 and JV-1 were identical and formed a monophyletic group deeply rooted within the Proteobacteria. The most similar sequence (85.3% similarity) from a cultivated isolate came from Methylophaga marina. Phylogenetic analysis of the RecA and GyrB protein sequences confirmed that these strains are distantly related to other members of the Proteobacteria. A cultivation-independent analysis of the SSU rRNA gene by terminal-restriction fragment (T-RF) profiling showed that this phylotype was most common in a variety of microbial mats collected at different times and locations at Loihi.CONCLUSIONSOn the basis of phylogenetic and physiological data, it is proposed that isolate PV-1(T) ( = ATCC BAA-1019: JCM 14766) represents the type strain of a novel species in a new genus, Mariprofundus ferrooxydans gen. nov., sp. nov. Furthermore, the strain is the first cultured representative of a new candidatus class of the Proteobacteria that is widely distributed in deep-sea environments, Candidatus zeta (zeta)-Proteobacteria cl. nov.