A piezophile, also sometimes called a barophile, is an organism which thrives at high pressures, such as deep sea bacteria or archaea. Piezophile is from the Greek for pressure-lover. They are generally found on ocean floors, where pressure often exceeds 380 atm (38 MPa). Some have been found at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean where the maximum pressure is roughly 117 MPa. The high pressures experienced by these organisms can cause the normal fluid cell membrane to become waxy and relatively impermeable to nutrients. The high pressure decreases the ability of the sub-units of multi-subunit proteins to interact. Thus, large protein complexes must interact to decrease pressure-related effects and regulate processes such as protein and DNA synthesis, which are sensitive to high pressure. Piezophilic bacteria have a high proportion of fatty acids in their cytoplasmic membrane, which allows membranes to remain functional and keep from gelling at high pressures.
These organisms have adapted in novel ways to become tolerant of these pressures in order to colonize deep sea habitats. One example, xenophyophores, have been found in the deepest ocean trench, 6.6 miles (10,541 meters) below the surface.
Barotolerant bacteria are able to survive at high pressures, but can exist in less extreme environments as well. Obligate barophiles cannot survive outside such environments. For example, the Halomonas species Halomonas salaria requires a pressure of 1000 atm (100 MPa). Most piezophiles grow in darkness and are usually very UV-sensitive; they lack many mechanisms of DNA repair.
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- MSNBC Staff (22 October 2011). "Giant amoebas discovered in deepest ocean trench". MSNBC. Retrieved 2011-10-24.