We examined the presence of bacteriorhodopsin and other retinal protein pigments in the microbial community of the saltern crystallizer ponds in Eilat, Israel, and assessed the effect of the retinal-based proton pumps on the metabolic activity. The biota of the hypersaline (~309 g salts l−1) brine consisted of ~2200 β-carotene-rich Dunaliella cells and ~3.5 × 107 prokaryotes ml−1, most of which were flat, square or rectangular Haloquadratum-like archaea. No indications were obtained for massive presence of Salinibacter. We estimated a concentration of bacteriorhodopsin and bacteriorhodopsin-like pigments of 3.6 nmol l−1. When illuminated, the community respiration activity of the brine samples in which oxygenic photosynthesis was inhibited by 3-(3-4-dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea, decreased by 40–43 %. This effect was interpreted to be the result of competition between two energy yielding systems: the bacteriorhodopsin proton pump and the respiratory chain. The results presented have important implications for the interpretation of many published data on photosynthetic and respiratory activities in hypersaline environments.
- Community respiration