Ignicoccus is a genus of Archaea living in marine hydrothermal vents. They were discovered in Kolbeinsey Ridge north of Iceland and in the Pacific Ocean (at 9 degrees N, 104 degrees W) in 2000 (Huber et al., 2000).


According to the comparisons of 16S rRNA genes, Ignicoccus represents a new, deeply branching lineage within the family of the Desulfurococcaceae (Huber et al., 2002). Three species are known, I. islandicus, I. pacificus and I. hospitalis strain KIN4I.

Cell structure[edit]

The archaea of the genus Ignicoccus have tiny coccoid cells with a diameter of about 2 µm, that exhibit a smooth surface, an outer membrane and no S-layer.

They have a previously unknown cell envelope structure—a cytoplasmic membrane, a periplasmic space (with a variable width of 20 to 400 nm, containing membrane-bound vesicles), and an outer membrane (approximately 10 nm wide, resembling the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria). The latter contains numerous tightly, irregularly packed single particles (about 8 nm in diameter) and pores with a diameter of 24 nm, surrounded by tiny particles, arranged in a ring (with a diameter of 130 nm) and clusters of up to eight particles (each particle 12 nm in diameter) (Rachel et al. 2002).


Ignicocci live in a temperature range of 70–98 °C (optimum around 90 °C). They gain energy by reduction of elemental sulfur to hydrogen sulfide using molecular hydrogen as the electron donor (Huber et al., 2002). A unique symbiosis with (or parasitism by) Nanoarchaeum equitans has also been reported (Huber et al., 2002).


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