Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists find unusual use of metals in the ocean

10.05.2005


Cadmium, commonly considered a toxic metal and often used in combination with nickel in batteries, has been found to have a biological use as a nutrient in the ocean, the first known biological use of cadmium in any life form.



Scientists have discovered cadmium within an enzyme from a marine diatom, an algae or plankton common in the ocean and a major source of food for many organisms. The finding, reported in the May 5 issue of Nature, suggests that certain trace metals, found in very low concentrations in the ocean, are utilized by enzymes that have not been found in organisms from terrestrial environments.

Enzymes containing metals not typically found in biology may be more common in marine than in terrestrial organisms and could be important for the cycling of trace metals in seawater, which has implications for global carbon cycling and climate change.


Mak Saito, an assistant scientist in the WHOI Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department and co-author of the Nature study, says the oceans might be an important reservoir of novel genomic material because of the unusual chemistry of the surface oceans.

"Trace elements are extremely scarce in the ocean," Saito said. "Major regions of the surface oceans, for instance, are known to be limited by iron, rather than by nitrogen or phosphorus as in lakes and coastal waters. This fact has created a selection for novel metalloenzymes and biochemistries that utilize metals that wouldn’t otherwise be used in terrestrial or near-shore environments."

Saito notes that in the past few decades the importance of zinc as a micronutrient has become apparent in terrestrial life, but its scarcity in the oceans likely created the need for a cadmium enzyme that performs the same function. The enzyme is a common protein that regulates carbon dioxide levels in the cell. Marine diatoms can use cadmium, cobalt or zinc interchangeably for optimal growth, but this is the first use of an enzyme from a marine diatom, or from any biological system, that carries cadmium in its metal-binding site in native form.

"The phytoplankton ecology of the oceans is likely influenced by the relative abundance of these very scarce metals, particularly cadmium, zinc, and cobalt - all of which have been shown to substitute for some of the same biochemical functions," Saito said.

The team studied the marine diatoms Thalassiosira weissflogii and Thalassiosira psuedonana, purifying and sequencing a protein in the single-celled organisms that contains cadmium. Sequencing of oceanic DNA is already underway to find more genes from this unique chemical environment.

"This discovery provides a long-awaited explanation for the nutrient-like behavior of cadmium on the oceans," Saito said. "This enzyme is involved in carbon uptake in diatoms, and is probably an important component of carbon cycling in the surface oceans. That has implications for our understanding of the global carbon cycle."

Shelley Dawicki | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.whoi.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

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 >>>