Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Microbe has huge role in ocean life, carbon cycle

19.08.2005


Researchers at Oregon State University and Diversa Corporation have discovered that the smallest free-living cell known also has the smallest genome, or genetic structure, of any independent cell - and yet it dominates life in the oceans, thrives where most other cells would die, and plays a huge role in the cycling of carbon on Earth. In nature, apparently, bigger is not always better.



In a publication today in the journal Science, scientists outlined the growing knowledge about SAR11, a group of bacteria so dominant that their combined weight exceeds that of all the fish in the world’s oceans. In a marine environment that’s low in nutrients and other resources, they are able to survive and replicate in extraordinary numbers – a milliliter of sea water off the Oregon coast might contain 500,000 of these cells.

"The ocean is a very competitive environment, and these bacteria apparently won the race," said Stephen Giovannoni, an OSU professor of microbiology. "Our analysis of the SAR11 genome indicates that they became the dominant life form in the oceans largely by being the simplest."


The new study outlines how SAR11 has one of the most compact, streamlined genomes ever discovered, with only 1.3 million base pairs – the smallest ever found in a free living organism and a number that’s literally tiny compared to something like the human genome.

"SAR11 has almost no wasted DNA," Giovannoni said. "This organism is extremely small and efficient. Every genetic part serves a purpose, more so than any other genome we’ve studied."

The organism is able to survive as an unattached cell in a hostile environment, has a complete set of biosynthetic pathways, and can reproduce efficiently by consuming dissolved organic matter.

"By comparison, humans are mostly junk DNA, with large parts of the human genome having no important function," Giovannoni said.

This type of genome streamlining, researchers say, appears to be a major factor in the evolutionary success of SAR11, which they believe may have been thriving for a billion years or more. One scientific hypothesis holds that natural selection acts to reduce genome size because of the metabolic burden of replicating "junk" DNA with no adaptive value – SAR11 supports that theory.

Researchers are particularly interested in SAR11, Giovannoni said, because of the critical role it plays in geochemistry. Photosynthesis is a process used by plants to convert sunlight energy into organic molecules, creating the foundation of the food chain and producing oxygen. About half of photosynthesis and the resulting oxygen on Earth are produced by algae in the ocean, and microbes like SAR11 recycle organic carbon - producing the nutrients needed for algal growth.

"Ultimately, SAR11 through its sheer abundance plays a major role in the Earth’s carbon cycle," Giovannoni said. "Quite simply, this is something we need to know more about. SAR11 is a major consumer of the organic carbon in the oceans, which nearly equals the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The carbon cycle affects all forms of plant and animal life, not to mention the atmosphere and fossil fuel formation."

SAR11 was first discovered at OSU in 1990. Since then researchers have learned that populations of SAR11 increase during the summer and decrease during the winter, in a cycle that correlates to the ebb and flow of organic carbon in the ocean surface. Molecular probes, gene cloning, sequencing techniques and other tools have been used in this exploration.

Stephen Giovannoni | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.oregonstate.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cloud Formation: How Feldspar Acts as Ice Nucleus
09.12.2016 | Karlsruher Institut für Technologie

nachricht Closing the carbon loop
08.12.2016 | University of Pittsburgh

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Closing the carbon loop

08.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems

08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D

08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>