Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

MSU team overcomes challenges, proves that microbes swim to hydrogen gas

11.11.2013
Scientists have long believed that microorganisms that produce methane swim toward the hydrogen gas they need to stay alive, but it has been too hard to prove in the lab.

Montana State University researchers have now overcome those challenges, allowing them to verify it for the first time, said Matthew Fields, an associate professor in MSU’s Department of Microbiology and co-author of a new paper describing the find.

In the process, the researchers discovered hydrogenotaxis, the movement of a biological cell toward hydrogen gas, and noticed that the cells were especially speedy when starving. They also made a video of the microorganism rushing toward its next meal. The methane-producing organism lives without oxygen, and it’s classified as Archaea, one of the three domains of life.

An article explaining MSU’s find is published in the Nov. 5 issue of Scientific Reports, an online journal affiliated with the international journal Nature.

The MSU breakthrough helps fill in gaps of knowledge about microorganisms that are crucial to Earth’s carbon cycle, early Earth processes and climate change, Fields said. It will also have implications across a wide range of disciplines since methanogenic Archaea live in anaerobic environments, ranging from salt marshes to wastewater treatment to the human microbiota. Whenever organic matter is being degraded, these microorganisms are typically present.

“They are the bottom of the food chain,” Fields said.

MSU microbiologist Gill Geesey, who encouraged the team to pursue the project, added that the scientists demonstrated hydrogenotaxis for the first time in any domain of life. He noted that the movement likely gives microorganisms a competitive advantage for accessing hydrogen in the environment.

“Hydrogenotaxis may also promote the establishment and maintenance of microbial interactions at the population- and community-level, which has been a focus of research at the Center for Biofilm Engineering at Montana State University since its establishment in 1990,” Geesey said. “The observed hydrogenotaxis could represent an important strategy used by methanogens and other hydrogen-utilizing microbes for cyclingof elements in natural and engineered processes. “

Fields and four collaborators conducted their research in the Center for Biofilm Engineering (CBE), using a common microorganism that converts hydrogen gas into methane. Methanococcus maripaludis is approximately one micron in diameter -- one millionth of a meter -- and can only be seen under the microscope. It is difficult to grow in a lab, one reason that researchers have been unable to verify earlier that Archaea organisms swim toward hydrogen gas, Fields said.

To conduct their research, the scientists created an oxygen-free environment in a fragile tube. Creating that environment was challenging, another reason that their discovery didn’t occur earlier, Fields said.

After varying lengths of time, they released the cells into a solution to encounter hydrogen gas from the opposite end of the tube. That’s where they proved what everyone had suspected – that Archaea swim through liquid toward hydrogen gas.

Every step in their experiments had to be done without breaking the tube or introducing oxygen, Fields said. It also had to be done inside an incubator with microscopes and computers. Computer software tracked the cells, proved they responded to hydrogen gas, and determined their speed.

Considering that speed relates to body length, Fields said the microbes moved faster than cheetahs, the fastest land animal on Earth.

Lead author of the study was Kristen Brileya, a former student of Fields’ in the CBE and MSU’s Department of Microbiology. Co-authors in addition to Fields were James Connolly, a current graduate student in the CBE and Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering; Carey Downey, a previous undergraduate student in the Department of Microbiology; and Robin Gerlach, faculty member in the CBE and Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

Funding for the project was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu

Evelyn Boswell | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.montana.edu

Further reports about: Biofilm chemical engineering hydrogen gas microbiology

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

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...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

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...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

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...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

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...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

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)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>