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 Energys 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 ORNLs Chemical Sciences Division. "A pH level of 0.8 is like swimming in sulfuric acid, so wed 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."
Ron Walli | EurekAlert!
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