They live several kilometers under the surface of the earth, need no light or oxygen and can only be seen in a microscope. By sequencing genomes of a newly discovered group of microbes, the Hadesarchaea, an international team of researchers have found out how these microorganisms make a living in the deep subsurface biosphere of our planet.
Microorganisms that live below the surface of the earth remain one of the last great areas of exploration. Organisms that live there have not been grow in the laboratory and therefore their lifestyles are unknown.
They live several kilometers under the surface of the earth, need no light or oxygen and can only be seen in a microscope. By sequencing genomes of a newly discovered group of microbes, the Hadesarchaea, an international team of researchers have found out how these microorganisms make a living in the deep subsurface biosphere of our planet. This Yellowstone hot spring was in focus in the study.
Credit: Dan Coleman (Univ of Montana)
An international team led by microbiologists Brett Baker, Assistant Professor at The University of Texas and Thijs Ettema, senior lecturer at Uppsala University, along with scientists from UNC Chapel Hill and the University of Bremen, have discovered how microorganisms, first discovered in a South African gold mine at a depth of two miles, are able to make a living in the absence of oxygen and light. The study is published in Nature Microbiology.
Baker and Ettema found these microbes in vastly different aquatic and terrestrial environments; the deep mud of a temperate estuary in North Carolina and underneath hot springs at Yellowstone National Park.
- This new class of microbes are specialized for survival beneath the surface, so we called them "Hadesarchaea", after the ancient Greek god of the underworld, says Brett Baker, lead author of the study.
As its name suggests, the Hadesarchaea belong to a relatively unknown group of microorganisms, the archaea. Like bacteria, archaea are single-celled and microscopically small, but from an evolutionary perspective, they differ more from each other than a human does from a tree.
Archaea were discovered only some 40 years ago, by the acclaimed American biologist Carl Woese. To date, archaea remain poorly studied in comparison to bacteria and more complex life forms, such as animals and plants.
- The discovery of the Hadesarchaea will help us increase our understanding of the biology and lifestyle of archaea that thrive in the deep biosphere, says Thijs Ettema.
In order to understand these elusive organisms, Baker and Ettema sequenced the genomes of several Hadesarchaea. They were able to determine how these microbes should be classified and what physiologies they use to survive under these extreme conditions. Hadesarchaea have the ability to live in areas devoid of oxygen and the scientists suggest that they are able to survive there by using carbon monoxide to gain energy. Interestingly, the chemical pathways the Hadesarchaea cells use to metabolize carbon monoxide are unique to what has been seen before.
- Before this essentially nothing was known about the Hadesarchaea's ecological role and what makes them so prominent throughout the world. The new discovery expands our knowledge of how these organisms may have adapted to the extreme conditions of the deep biosphere, says Jimmy Saw, researcher at Uppsala University and co-author of the paper.
The discovery is published in the new journal, Nature Microbiology, released by Nature Publishing Group.
Baker et al (2016) Genomic inference of the metabolism of cosmopolitan subsurface Archaea, Hadesarchaea, Nature Microbiology, DOI: 10.1038/NMICROBIOL.2016.2
For more information please contact: Thijs Ettema (Uppsala University), e-mail: email@example.com, tel: + 46 18 471 4521, cell: +46 70 5384219, Brett Baker (UT Austin, Marine Science Institute), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thijs Ettema | EurekAlert!
Mass spectrometry sheds new light on thallium poisoning cold case
14.12.2018 | University of Maryland
Protein involved in nematode stress response identified
14.12.2018 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy