Scientists have sequenced the genome of the microorganism Silicibacter pomeroyi, a member of an abundant group of marine bacteria known to impact the Earths ecosystem by releasing and consuming atmospheric gases. This genetic blueprint provides insight into the biochemical pathways the bacterium uses to regulate its release of sulfur and carbon monoxide. Atmospheric sulfur serves as a catalyst for cloud formation, in turn, directly affecting the planets temperature and energy regulation, while carbon monoxide is a greenhouse gas.
The interdisciplinary research team, led by Mary Ann Moran at the University of Georgia, includes collaborators at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) and six universities. Their work appears in the December 16 issue of Nature.
While everyone is aware that bacteria can cause disease, its less obvious that these microorganisms play an important part in the global ecosystem. "Having the genome of S. pomeroyi completely sequenced provides an invaluable tool to understand how an ocean bacterium functions and how it affects the Earths atmosphere," says Moran. The knowledge gained from continued study of S. pomeroyi and its genome will be used in the study of related organisms that likewise mediate carbon and sulfur cycling in the ocean. Moran continued, "Admittedly, this is not the only bacterium that influences gas exchange between the ocean and atmosphere, but once we understand how S. pomeroyi functions, we can apply the knowledge to other related marine bacteria."
Randi Vines | EurekAlert!
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