About Halophiles

Halophiles are defined as “salt-loving organisms”, namely organisms that require high salinity (>3% total salinity, mainly sodium salts such as NaCl or NaHCO3/Na2CO3) for their growth and multiplication. Halophiles include members of all three Domains of Life (Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukarya) with microbes (bacteria, archaea, fungi, unicellular algae, and protozoa) as the most diverse and widely dispersed.  Rotifers, copepods, crustaceans like the ‘brine shrimp’ (Artemia sp.) or insects such as ‘brine fly’ (Ephydra sp.) may be often encountered in saline aquatic systems alongside halophytes (salt-loving plants) picturing the saline environments as hotspots for peculiar biodiversity. The main challenging factor for halophiles’ integrity is the high external salt concentrations that is equivalent to very low water activity or high osmotic pressure. To counterbalance this physical constraint, the halophiles adapt through osmoregulation (i.e. the accumulation of compatible solutes).

We all greatly benefit of the knowledge of these peculiar microbes. While halophilic consortia have been long time used in the food fermentative processing such as in Asian fish sauce preparation, currently there are large-scale exploitations of green unicellular algae Dunaliella for the production of the carotene (used as food additive) or the Halomonas bacterium for the production ectoine (as component of many cosmetics recipes). The halophilic archaea Haloferax was among one of the first organisms to reveal the CRISPR-Cas system that is an exciting example of heredity of acquired characteristics in biology and is presently envisaged to be used in gene therapies. Not only the halophiles are of applicative interest but they are also intensively scrutinized as possible models of early forms of life and as inhabitants of extraterrestrial, salt-rich habitats.

Symposia and workshops on halophilic microorganisms have been held since 1978 and periodically as a coherent, self-established conference in the last twenty years:

Dates Title Organizers Venue FEMS supported
May 14-19, 1978 Energetics and structure of halophilic microorganisms S.R. Caplan, M. Ginzburg Rehovot, Israel
1981 EMBO Workshop on halophilic microorganisms J.K. Lanyi Ischia, Italy<
September 1-6, 1985 The molecular basis of haloadaptation in microorganisms W.D. Grant, M. Kogut, K. Wegmann Obermarchtal, Germany
March 23-28, 1986 Aspects of halophilism H. Eisenberg Jerusalem, Israel
March 26 – April 5, 1989 Modern aspects of halophilism – the twelfth Edmond de Rothschild School in Molecular Biophysics H. Eisenberg Neve Ilan and Rehovot, Israel
September 17-22, 1989 General & applied aspects of halophilic microorganisms F. Rodríguez-Valera Alicante, Spain
November 15-22, 1992 Halophilic bacteria: Research priorities and biotechnological potential for the 1990s R.H. Vreeland Williamsburg, VA, USA
June 22-26, 1997 Microbiology and biogeochemistry of hypersaline environments A. Oren Jerusalem, Israel
September 23-27, 2001 Halophiles 2001 A. Ventosa Sevilla, Spain
September 4-9, 2004 Halophiles 2004 N. Gunde-Cimerman, A. Plemenitaš Ljubljana, Slovenia
September 2-6, 2007 Halophiles 2007 T.J. McGenity Colchester, UK
June 29 – July 3, 2010 Halophiles 2010 Y. Ma Beijing, P.R. China
June 23-27, 2013 Halophiles 2013 R. T. Papke Storrs, CT, USA
May 22-27, 2016 Halophiles 2016 R. Montalvo-Rodríguez San Juan, Puerto Rico