Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Undersea microbes active but living on the slow side

21.02.2006


University Park, Pa. Ð Deeply buried ocean sediments may house populations of tiny organisms that have extremely low maintenance energy needs and population turnover rates of anywhere from 200 to 2,000 years, according to an international team of researchers.

"The microbial ecosystem in deeply buried marine sediments may comprise a tenth of Earth’s living biomass, but little is known about the organisms, their physiologies, and their influence on surface environments," says Jennifer F. Biddle, graduate student in biochemistry, microbiology and molecular biology and member of the NASA- sponsored Penn State Astrobiology Research Center.

The populations of interest are two groups of Archaea Ð tiny bacteria-like organisms that are often found in extreme environments such as deep-sea hot vents, inside cows or termites or in deep sediments. The samples were gathered during the National Science Foundation-sponsored Ocean Drilling Program Leg 201 off the coast of Peru.



"The samples showed strikingly elevated concentrations of cells in deeply buried sulfate-methane transition zones," says Dr. Christopher H. House, assistant professor of geosciences, Penn State. "Sulfate methane transition zones are areas where both methane and sulfate diffuse and both compounds are used by local denizens."

The researchers looked for 16S rRNA in the sediment samples and found the transition zones dominated by two groups Ð Marine Benthic Group B and Miscellaneous Crenarchaeotal Group. rRNA is found in a cell’s ribosome and is part of the protein manufacturing mechanism of a cell. The presence of a specific sequence of 16S rRNA distinguishes the types of Archaea and the analysis also identifies Archaea that are active, excluding inactive cells and fossils.

"Other researchers have found DNA analysis of sediments from some sites to indicate that the majority of organisms were Bacteria and not Archaea," says House. "We used methods that identify only active cells and found Archaea."

Another method of identifying the active populations Ð both in size and type Ð looked at intact polar lipids, an indication of live rather than fossil cells.

"These tests and others indicate that there is a sizeable and active archaeal community," says House.

Besides simply knowing that populations of Archaea exist in the deep sediment layers at the sulfate-methane transition zones, the researchers looked at the energy sources for these microbes. Many organisms living in environments with methane use the methane for energy and use the methane’s carbon to grow, repair and reproduce. Looking at the carbon isotopes the researchers found that few if any of these Archaea used methane as a carbon source. They also found that conversion of carbon dioxide to methane was not fueling these Archaea.

"Because the carbon isotopes from the Archaea match the total organic carbon found in the sediment in general, it suggests that the bulk archaeal community uses organic compounds derived from fossil organic matter," says House.

The researchers suggest in this weekÕs issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online, that degradation of organic matter in the sediment, especially the formation of small molecules like acetate and formate, are the likely sources of carbon.

"Real maintenance energies in subsurface environments must be much lower than what has been experimentally determined in laboratory cultures," says Biddle. "If conventional maintenance energies are used, only about 2 percent maximum of the population could survive. However, cellular maintenance energies are expected to be significantly lower when cells divide at extremely low rates."

In fact, the researchers estimate that these Archaea may completely turn over population as frequently as every 70 years, or as infrequently as 2,150 years. They also suggest that the sulfate-methane transition zone is a much better environment than other areas in the sediment and that turnover rates are even lower away from the transition zone.

This is because the Archaea in the transition zone, while not using the carbon from methane oxidation, are still getting some energy from breaking down the methane molecules, energy that is not available in other portions of the sediment.

"These Archaea subsist on the sedimentary organic carbon available and the energy from breaking down methane until they accumulate enough resources to divide," says House. "Surprisingly they require much less energy to maintain and take much longer than expected until they can divide."

This international research team was lead by House, Kai-Uwe Hinrichs from the University of Bremen and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Andreas Teske from the University of North Carolina. The team included graduate students Biddle, Julius S. Lipp, Mark Lever and Karen Lloyd.

A’ndrea Elyse Messer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psu.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht New mathematical model can help save endangered species
14.01.2019 | University of Southern Denmark

nachricht Foxes in the city: citizen science helps researchers to study urban wildlife
14.12.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Ten-year anniversary of the Neumayer Station III

The scientific and political community alike stress the importance of German Antarctic research

Joint Press Release from the BMBF and AWI

The Antarctic is a frigid continent south of the Antarctic Circle, where researchers are the only inhabitants. Despite the hostile conditions, here the Alfred...

Im Focus: Ultra ultrasound to transform new tech

World first experiments on sensor that may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles

The new sensor - capable of detecting vibrations of living cells - may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles.

Im Focus: Flying Optical Cats for Quantum Communication

Dead and alive at the same time? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have implemented Erwin Schrödinger’s paradoxical gedanken experiment employing an entangled atom-light state.

In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger formulated a thought experiment designed to capture the paradoxical nature of quantum physics. The crucial element of this gedanken...

Im Focus: Nanocellulose for novel implants: Ears from the 3D-printer

Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing.

It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains:

Im Focus: Elucidating the Atomic Mechanism of Superlubricity

The phenomenon of so-called superlubricity is known, but so far the explanation at the atomic level has been missing: for example, how does extremely low friction occur in bearings? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM and IWS jointly deciphered a universal mechanism of superlubricity for certain diamond-like carbon layers in combination with organic lubricants. Based on this knowledge, it is now possible to formulate design rules for supra lubricating layer-lubricant combinations. The results are presented in an article in Nature Communications, volume 10.

One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility is minimizing friction. Research and industry have been dedicated...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Our digital society in 2040

16.01.2019 | Event News

11th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Aachen, 3-4 April 2019

14.01.2019 | Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Additive manufacturing reflects fundamental metallurgical principles to create materials

18.01.2019 | Materials Sciences

How molecules teeter in a laser field

18.01.2019 | Life Sciences

The cytoskeleton of neurons has been found to be involved in Alzheimer's disease

18.01.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>