Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Minorities accomplish most - watching micoorganisms at work

04.11.2008
Modern NanoSIMS-Technology allows insights into the metabolism of single cells - and provides some surprising findings.

In an alpine lake, the lion's share of the lakes metabolic activity in the investigated layer was accomplished by a tiny part of the bacterial community. Such minorities have often been neglected in ecosystem studies. However, they appear to be of crucial importance in some ecosystems, the authors point out.

Microorganisms are all over the place - but who does what, and when?

An international group of scientists around Niculina Musat from Max-Planck-Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany, managed to determine simultaneously the metabolism and identity of single bacterial cells. At Lake Cadagno, an alpine lake in Switzerland, the scientists compared the metabolic activity of three species of bacteria. They now publish their surprising results in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science" (PNAS): The lion's share of the lakes metabolic activity in the investigated layer was accomplished by a tiny part of the bacterial community. The species constituting only 0.3 percent of all bacterial cells was responsible for more than 40 percent of the ammonium- and 70 percent of the carbon uptake.

Opposite to most inland waters, Lake Cadagno is permanently stratified (meromictic). The transition zone between an upper, oxic and a lower, anoxic layer is the habitat of Chromatium okenii, Lamprocystis purpurea and Chlorobium clathratiforme - all of these microorganisms are living photosynthetically in the absence of oxygen. Chlorobium clathratiforme, being the most abundant species, accounts for up to 80 percent of all cells in the investigated layer. Nevertheless, C. clathratiforme contributes only about 15 percent of the total ammonium and carbon uptake. Lamprocystis purpurea, an abundant, small species, took up less than 2 percent of the investigated nutrients. On the contrary, the comparatively large cells of Chromatium okenii, comprising a tiny part of the bacterial community, contributed the major part to the uptake of ammonium and carbon.

"Most studies on the ecology of microbial communities deal with the abundant organisms. This is also true for genetical analyses of environmental samples. Groups of microorganisms with a frequency of less than one percent, however, are often neglected and regarded as minor or of no importance. However, our results clearly show that exactly those minorities can be essential for the understanding of an ecosystem. Neglecting them can easily lead to erroneous conclusions", underlines co-author Marcel Kuypers.

Comparing cells within one species, Musat and her colleagues found even more surprises: Metabolic rates vary greatly between individual cells of the same species, showing that microbial populations in the environment are heterogeneous, being comprised of physiologically distinct individuals. The scientists suspect genetic reasons for this heterogeneity. Differences between individual cells probably result from minor variability within the genome, springing from mutations during evolution.

The results at hand are available thanks to the so-called NanoSIMS-Technology. The scientists from the Max-Planck-Institute in Bremen operate their NanoSIMS since mid 2008 and have optimized this special mass spectrometer for ecological issues. This allows to analyze the distribution of various labelled carbon and nitrogen compounds within single cells. At the same time, single microbial cells are identified by the scientists applying molecular techniques. "This method will revolutionize ecological investigations", Marcel Kuypers is confident.

Manfred Schlösser
Fanni Aspetsberger
For further information please contact:
Dr. Marcel Kuypers 0421 2028 647
Dr. Niculina Musat 0421 2028 653
or the MPI press officers
Dr. Manfred Schlösser 0421 2028704
Dr. Fanni Aspetsberger 0421 2028 704
Original article:
A single cell view on the ecophysiology of anaerobic phototrophic bacteria
Niculina Musat, Hannah Halm, Bärbel Winterholler, Peter Hoppe, Sandro Peduzzi, Francois Hillion, Francois Horreard, Rudolf Amann, Bo B. Jørgensen, and Marcel M.M. Kuypers.

doi:_10.1073/pnas.0809329105

Participating institutions
Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Celsiusstrasse 1, 28359 Bremen, Germany
Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Joh.-J.-Becher Weg 27, 55128 Mainz, Germany
Cantonal Institute of Microbiology and Alpine Biology Center Foundation Piora, Via Mirasole 22A, CH-6500 Bellinzona, Switzerland

Cameca, Quai des Gresillons 29, 92622 Gennevilliers Cedex, France

Dr. Manfred Schloesser | idw
Further information:
http://www.mpi-bremen.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Newly designed molecule binds nitrogen
23.02.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Atomic Design by Water
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>