Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Small, but mighty

Breakthrough analysis raises questions about link between minute organism and climate

While phytoplankton scientists focus their research on some of the smallest organisms in the world, the impacts can be global. This week, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a genomic analysis of the smallest, free-living eukaryote offers insight into its ability to thrive in the world's oceans and evolutionary biology. Known as Ostreococcus tauri, the analyzed phytoplankton has been thought to be not only the smallest eukaryote, but also ancient, dating back 1,500 million years and capable of photosynthesis that helps with carbon cycling. This genomic analysis offers important clues regarding the minimum genome size necessary for an organism to be able to live as a free living cell, perform photosynthesis, impact carbon cycling, and influence the climate.

In biology, organisms are divided into two major groupings: prokaryotes and eukaryotes, with eukaryotes being the more structurally complex. Humans, other animals, plants, fungi, and multi-cellular and complex unicellular microorganisms all fall within the "superkingdom" of eukaryotes.

"This is pretty big news," said Dr. Alexandra Worden, one of the paper's authors and an assistant professor at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, who was named a Moore Foundation Young Investigator in Marine Microbiology in 2004. Worden worked with the Osteococcus genome consortium, a european initiative to sequence this important organisms genome. "We have recently found that at times organisms such as Ostreococcus can photosynthetically produce more biomass than cyanobacteria, which are found in much greater numbers. Also, there is pretty good evidence that predators are consuming the carbon that is produced. This is important since these organisms don't sink on their own, so their fate – whether destroyed by viruses or consumed by larger organisms – dictates how they contribute to the global carbon cycle."

The prevailing indicator of climate change and global warming has been the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Scientists agree that the ocean plays a key role in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in a process known as the carbon cycle. Photosynthesizing organisms, such as the Ostreococcus consume carbon and release oxygen in its place.

"Certainly, the dynamics of these organisms are very important to understand since they are the photosynthesizers of the ocean. How much carbon they produce and where it goes are really important," Worden said. "Right now, we can only say that understanding the physiological controls of their growth – which is what the genome sequence helps us do – will help us to be more predictive of what changes might occur in such populations and how the oceans' ability to deal with climate change will be affected."

The study in the current Proceedings unveils the complete genome sequence of the world's smallest free-living eukaryote known to date. Scientists were able to observe the genetic basis of nutrient uptake and photosynthesis capabilities. Additionally, the scientists found that while the organism is compact, its genome is structurally complex, but quite streamlined.

Ivy Kupec | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht ‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Calcium Induces Chronic Lung Infections
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

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

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>