Scientists find viruses can’t stick to sea bugs in the dark
Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, in the seas are as vital to the survival of life on earth as the oxygen producing plants are on land. But marine bacteria are attacked by viruses, which can seriously affect their life-sustaining abilities. Scientists have now discovered that these viruses don’t work in the dark, according to research presented today (Monday, 04 April 2005) at the Society for General Microbiology’s 156th Meeting at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.
Our earth’s breathable atmosphere relies on millions and millions of cyanobacteria in the seas absorbing the sun’s light and giving off oxygen, in exactly the same way as the photosynthetic plants and forests on land act as the other part of the planet’s lungs. The marine dwelling cyanobacteria are at the bottom of the food-web, using sunlight to produce oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide, giving them food to grow and multiply.
But the whole delicate balance of the seas, and so the overall fate of the planet, relies on even smaller microbes called cyanophages - marine viruses that specifically attack and infect cyanobacteria. These phages can seriously damage the health of the cyanobacteria, and also the sea.
Researcher Ying Jia, University of Warwick, is studying these minute pests and has discovered that cyanophages depend on light to stick to their victims, and cannot function in the dark. “Understanding the function of light as one of the most important environmental factors of the phage-cyanobacteria interaction is vital,” says Ying Jia.
Cyanophages may be an important weapon against problematic algal blooms. On hot, sunny days algae can cause massive, toxic blooms, poisoning huge areas of the sea with their waste products and killing fish, sea mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals, and even humans. Control of these blooms is vital to the health of the seas.
“Research using cyanophages to control blooms of cyanobacteria must take light into consideration,” explains Ying Jia. Algal blooms can use up the oxygen in water and block out the sunlight that other organisms need to live. “If there is not sufficient light, the spread of the phage might be decreased, which could undermine the efficiency of phage treatment.”
Ying Jia hopes that the research will lead to a better understanding of the relationship between phage and cyanobacteria and so the health of the seas, but may also eventually lead to efficient methods of controlling cyanobacteria blooms in an environmentally friendly way, by using these natural viruses.
Faye Jones | alfa
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...