Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Climate changing gas from some surprising microbial liaisons

The climate changing gas dimethyl sulphide (DMS) is being made by microbes at the rate of more than 200 million tonnes a year in the world’s seas, scientists heard today (Tuesday 1 April 2008) at the Society for General Microbiology’s 162nd meeting being held this week at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

“This gas has many different effects”, says Dr Andrew Curson from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK. “It triggers clouds to form over the oceans – and clouds are amongst the worlds most potent climate cooling factors; it attracts birds by alerting them to a food supply; and it smells – that typical seaside smell.”

The source of the dimethyl sulphide gas is another sulphur compound made by many seaweeds and marine plankton as an anti-stress protection. Some marine bacteria can break down this compound to release chemical energy, and dimethyl sulphide is given off as a by-product, with about 10% finding its way up into the atmosphere.

“Using genetic analysis, we showed for the first time that different types of bacteria could degrade the sulphurous compound made by phytoplankton in different ways. We even found some species of bacteria that could use multiple methods to break down and release dimethyl sulphide,” says Dr Curson.

... more about:
»Curson »bacteria »microbes »sulphide

The research identified the genes needed to make DMS, and the scientists had three surprises. The first was that different bacteria use completely different biochemical mechanisms to break down compounds from phytoplankton. Secondly, the mechanisms that scientists predicted bacteria would use were generally not the ones observed during the investigation. Finally, the scientists were surprised when they identified some “terrestrial” microbes that had never even been suspected of making dimethyl sulphide gas, which have significant ecological and evolutionary consequences.

“These multiple-use genes, which we were particularly interested in, are rampantly transferred between microbes that are very distantly related. By comparing the gene sequences to some massive databases, we could predict which other microbes could also make dimethyl sulphide, even though no-one had previously suspected that they had this ability,” says Dr Curson. “This has given us new insights into the who, the how, and the where in the world microbes are producing a gas that affects our planet in so many ways”.

“We have really only just begun to interpret our findings, and to work out how significant this is. For instance, we have very recently found dimethyl sulphide producing bacteria in the guts of herrings – what does that mean?” says Dr Curson. “We don’t yet even know the entire biochemical pathway for any of the three systems we have discovered. If we want to understand climate change better, we have lots to do.”

Lucy Goodchild | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Curson bacteria microbes sulphide

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Molecular doorstop could be key to new tuberculosis drugs
20.03.2018 | Rockefeller University

nachricht Modified biomaterials self-assemble on temperature cues
20.03.2018 | Duke University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Thawing permafrost produces more methane than expected

20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>