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 From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future
27.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Penn researchers quantify the changes that lightning inspires in rock
27.04.2017 | University of Pennsylvania

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>