Acanthamoeba everywhere: high diversity of Acanthamoeba in soils

Stefan Geisen*, Anna Maria Fiore-Donno, Julia Walochnik, Michael Bonkowski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


Acanthamoeba is a very abundant genus of soil protists with fundamental importance in nutrient cycling, but several strains can also act as human pathogens. The systematics of the genus is still unclear: currently 18 small-subunit (SSU or 18S) ribosomal RNA sequence types (T1-T18) are recognized, which sometimes contain several different morphotypes; on the other hand, some morphological identical strains belong to different sequence types, sometimes appearing in paraphyletic positions. In this study, we cultivated 65 Acanthamoeba clones from soil samples collected under grassland at three separate locations in the Netherlands, in Sardinia and at high altitude mountains in Tibet. We obtained 24 distinct partial sequences, which predominantly grouped within sequence type T4 followed by T2, T13, T16 and "OX-1" (in the T2/T6 clade). Our sequences were 98-99 % similar, but none was identical to already known Acanthamoeba sequences. The community composition of Acanthamoeba strains differed between locations, T4 being the dominant sequence type in Sardinia and Tibet, but represented only half of the clones from soils in the Netherlands. The other half of clones from the Dutch soils was made up by T2, T16 and "OX-1", while T13 was only found in Sardinia and Tibet. None of the sequences was identical between localities. Several T4 clones from all three localities and all T13 clones grew at 37°C while one T4 clone was highly cytopathogenic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3151-3158
JournalParasitology Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Acanthamoeba
  • Free-living amoebae
  • Molecular ecology
  • Phylogeny
  • Protists
  • Soil microbiology


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