Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

ORNL, UC Berkeley unravel real-world clues to Earth’s mysteries

09.05.2005


A microbial community thriving under bizarre natural conditions in California could be a gold mine to researchers in their quest to understand the complex biological relationships and how these inner workings might apply on a grander scale.



In a paper to appear today on Science Online, researchers from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of California Berkeley describe a bacterial community that flourishes in the iron sulfide-rich runoff of the Richmond Mine near Redding. A pH level of 7 is considered neutral and most proteins prefer pH levels between 5 and 7. The water trickling from the mine has a pH of about 0.8 and a temperature of 107 degrees Fahrenheit.

"This microbial community is thriving at the extreme edge," said Bob Hettich, a co-author and member of ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division. "A pH level of 0.8 is like swimming in sulfuric acid, so we’d like to know how this community can survive and how we might be able to use this information to better understand microbial systems in real-world conditions."


The work is significant on a number of levels, according to the research team, which noted that while microbial communities play key roles in the Earth’s bio-geochemical cycles, scientists know little about the structure and activities within these communities. This is because the commonly used artificially cultivated organisms lack the diversity found in nature, so potentially critical community and environmental interactions go unsampled.

Raymond Orbach, director of DOE’s Office of Science, noted that this research offers a glimpse of what will be possible in the near future. "This work illustrates the power of the genome sequencing done at the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute to contribute to understanding the microbiological communities living at contaminated sites," Orbach said. "Now scientists can investigate not only the ’community genome,’ but also the resulting ’community proteome’ for enzymes and pathways that can help clean up some of the worst environmental sites in the nation. This underscores the value of basic research carried out by the DOE Genomics: Genomes to Life program that can develop novel approaches and solutions to national challenges."

Hettich said their results would not have been possible without the collaboration with UC Berkeley, where Jill Banfield is an expert in natural microbial communities. Banfield, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, has studied this particular acid mine drainage community for several years. Meanwhile, ORNL boasts world-class mass spectrometry instrumentation and its researchers have demonstrated success in obtaining proteome information on simple microbial organisms grown in the laboratory. Working as a team, UC Berkeley and ORNL have struck it rich.

"Through this collaboration, Jill Banfield has been able to take her research up a quantum step by obtaining the first glimpse into the complex proteome dataset of this microbial community," Hettich said. "To do this, it was critical that we bring together researchers with expertise in biology and ecology of microbial communities, analytical technologies and bioinformatics."

Banfield and colleagues at UC Berkeley supplied the bacterial samples and characterized genome information while Hettich and Nathan VerBerkmoes, a post-doctoral student in ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division, performed the mass spectrometry work. Manesh Shah of ORNL’s Life Sciences Division was responsible for the informatics related to database searching and data dissemination. The team detected 2,036 proteins from the five most abundant species in the bio-film, including 48 percent of the predicted proteins from the most abundant bio-film organism, Leptosprillum group II.

Researchers noted that this work represents the first large-scale proteomics-level examination of a natural microbial community.

"As such, we are really among the leaders in this area, as evidenced by the strong interest in Science," Hettich said. "This is an area in which there is keen interest by many research groups; however, our team has been the most successful in obtaining detailed information from actual measurements."

Of particular interest to DOE is how this effort relates to its Genomes to Life program, which is focused on identifying and characterizing protein complexes, the molecular machines of life.

"Most of the current work looks at single microbial organisms grown under controlled laboratory conditions, but the longer-term plans are to extend this work to real-world microbial communities -- the natural state of these systems in the environment," Hettich said. "This goal is particularly difficult to reach due to the complexity and heterogeneity of the communities.

"However, the acid mine drainage microbial colony is an excellent starting point because it is a real-life natural world community with a limited number of members. Thus, we can measure and learn about microbial interactions and function distribution in a natural setting without being overwhelmed by an extremely large number of organisms."

The research team acknowledges that, although this study provides interesting details of microbial community structure and function, a great deal of work remains to more fully explore the spatial and temporal aspects of how such a community grows, ages and adapts to its environment.

Funding for this research was provided by DOE’s Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and by the National Science Foundation. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed for DOE by UT-Battelle.

Ron Walli | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ornl.gov

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht GPM sees deadly tornadic storms moving through US Southeast
01.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Cyclic change within magma reservoirs significantly affects the explosivity of volcanic eruptions
30.11.2016 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>