Green algae stole genes from bacteria to survive in harsh environments, Rutgers-led study suggests
Green algae that evolved to tolerate hostile and fluctuating conditions in salt marshes and inland salt flats are expected to survive climate change, thanks to hardy genes they stole from bacteria, according to a Rutgers-led study.
This image shows the cell structure of Picochlorum SE3, which was isolated from the San Elijo Lagoon in California. This species has exceptional resilience in coping with light and salt fluctuations in its natural habitat.
Credit: Susanne Ruemmele
These Picochlorum single-celled species of green algae provide clues to how nature can modify genomes, and suggest ways in which scientists may someday engineer more robust algae to serve as biofuels and provide other benefits, according to senior author Debashish Bhattacharya, distinguished professor at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
The study appears in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.
The findings reveal how the miniaturized genomes of green algae have evolved from the larger genomes of their freshwater ancestors to become resilient primary producers of organic compounds that support ecosystems. This transition to a saltier and more hostile environment achieved by Picochlorum occurred over millions of years but parallels what is happening on a more rapid scale now due to climate change, said Bhattacharya, who works in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
"These photosynthetic species are tiny and have small genomes compared with humans, but they managed to survive in hostile conditions such as salt marshes and salt flats where light and salinity fluctuate widely as seasons change," he said.
Lead author Fatima Foflonker, who earned a doctorate from Rutgers' School of Graduate Studies and is a post-doctoral researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory, discovered that Picochlorum species of green algae stole genes from bacteria, allowing them to cope with salt and other physical stresses. Foflonker found that one Picochlorum species has among the most stable photosynthetic processes known for splitting water to release oxygen.
This species works efficiently in rapidly changing low- and high-light levels typical of turbid near-shore environments or shallow water ponds in the high plains of the United States. Another species isolated from the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma keeps two very different copies (alleles) of about a third of the genes in its genome to increase its range of responses to environmental stress.
Understanding how microalgae adapt to rapidly changing environments can help clarify the potential impact of climate change on the biology at the base of the food chain, the researchers say. Next steps include developing robust Picochlorum species as biofuel feedstock and as targets for genetic engineering to produce bio-products. Such work is underway at the U.S. Department of Energy and various research labs.
These species have been studied for potential use in remediating wastewater, producing biomass and serving as feed in aquaculture, the study notes. Using genetic tools, scientists have already manipulated one species to increase lipid production.
Todd Bates | EurekAlert!
Solving the efficiency of Gram-negative bacteria
22.03.2019 | Harvard University
Bacteria bide their time when antibiotics attack
22.03.2019 | Rice University
DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.
The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...
Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.
The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...
Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.
Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...
The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.
A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...
11.03.2019 | Event News
01.03.2019 | Event News
28.02.2019 | Event News
22.03.2019 | Life Sciences
22.03.2019 | Life Sciences
22.03.2019 | Information Technology