A shallow-water hydrothermal vent system in the Aegean Sea close to the island of Milos (Greece) was chosen to study the diversity and distribution of the chemolithoautotrophic sulfur-oxidizing bacterium Thiomicrospira. Cell numbers in samples from different regions around a solitary vent decreased toward the center of the vent (horizontal distribution), as well as with depth (vertical distribution), corresponding to an increase in temperature (from ca. 25 to 60 degrees C) and a decrease in pH (from ca. pH 7 to 5). Thiomicrospira was one of the most abundant culturable sulfur oxidizers and was even dominant in one region. Phylogenetic analysis of Thiomicrospira spp. present in the highest most-probable-number (MPN) dilutions revealed that most of the obtained sequences grouped in two new closely related clusters within the Thiomicrospira branch. Two different new isolates, i.e., Milos-T1 and Milos-T2, were obtained from high-dilution (10(-5)) enrichments. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that isolate Milos-T1 is related to the recently described Thiomicrospira kuenenii and Hydrogenovibrio marinus, whereas isolate Milos-T2 grouped with the MPN sequences of cluster 2. The predominance of strain Milos-T2 was indicated by its identification in several environmental samples by hybridization analysis of denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) patterns and by sequencing of one of the corresponding bands, i.e., ML-1, from the DGGE gel. The results shown in this paper support earlier indications that Thiomicrospira species are important members of hydrothermal vent communities.