Navigation Links
A war without end -- with Earth's carbon cycle held in the balance

CORVALLIS, Ore. The greatest battle in Earth's history has been going on for hundreds of millions of years, isn't over yet, and until now no one knew it existed, scientists reported today in the journal Nature.

In one corner is SAR11, a bacterium that's the most abundant organism in the oceans, survives where most other cells would die and plays a major role in the planet's carbon cycle. It had been theorized that SAR11 was so small and widespread that it must be invulnerable to attack.

In the other corner, and so strange looking that scientists previously didn't even recognize what they were, are "Pelagiphages," viruses now known to infect SAR11 and routinely kill millions of these cells every second. And how this fight turns out is of more than casual interest, because SAR11 has a huge effect on the amount of carbon dioxide that enters the atmosphere, and the overall biology of the oceans.

"There's a war going on in our oceans, a huge war, and we never even saw it," said Stephen Giovannoni, a professor of microbiology at Oregon State University. "This is an important piece of the puzzle in how carbon is stored or released in the sea."

Researchers from OSU, the University of Arizona and other institutions today outlined the discovery of this ongoing conflict, and its implications for the biology and function of ocean processes. The findings disprove the theory that SAR11 cells are immune to viral predation, researchers said.

"In general, every living cell is vulnerable to viral infection," said Giovannoni, who first discovered SAR11 in 1990. "What has been so puzzling about SAR11 was its sheer abundance, there was simply so much of it that some scientists believed it must not get attacked by viruses."

What the new research shows, Giovannoni said, is that SAR11 is competitive, good at scavenging organic carbon, and effective at changing to avoid infection. Because of that, it thrives and persists in abundance even though it's constantly being killed by the new viruses that have been discovered.

The discovery of the Pelagiphage viral families was made by Yanlin Zhao, Michael Schwalbach and Ben Temperton, postdoctoral researchers working with Giovannoni. They used traditional research methods, growing cells and viruses from nature in a laboratory, instead of sequencing DNA from nature. The new viruses were so unique that computers could not recognize the virus DNA.

"The viruses themselves, of course, appear to be just as abundant as SAR11," Giovannoni said. "Our colleagues at the University of Arizona demonstrated this with new technologies they developed for measuring viral diversity."

SAR11 has several unique characteristics, including the smallest known genetic structure of any independent cell. Through sheer numbers, this microbe has a huge role in consuming organic carbon, which it uses to generate energy while producing carbon dioxide and water in the process. SAR11 recycles organic matter, providing the nutrients needed by algae to produce about half of the oxygen that enters Earth's atmosphere every day.

This carbon cycle ultimately affects all plant and animal life on Earth.


Contact: Stephen Giovannoni
Oregon State University

Related biology news :

1. How to make high-end perfumes without whale barf
2. Feeding without the frenzy
3. Plant growth without light control
4. Production of chemicals without petroleum
5. NPointer from Neurotechnology Uses Hand Gestures to Control and Navigate Computer Programs Without a Mouse or Touchpad
6. Survival without water: A key trait of an aquatic invader to spread
7. Surviving without ice
8. How bumblebees find efficient routes without a GPS
9. Production of FRP components without release agents
10. Bugs without borders
11. Not without my microbes
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/23/2017)... ITHACA, N.Y. , June 23, 2017  IBM ... in dairy research, today announced a new collaboration using ... the chances that the global milk supply is impacted ... project, Cornell University has become the newest academic institution ... Chain, a food safety initiative that includes IBM Research, ...
(Date:5/6/2017)... -- RAM Group , Singaporean based technology ... biometric authentication based on a novel  quantum-state ... perform biometric authentication. These new sensors are based on a ... Group and its partners. This sensor will have widespread ... security. Ram Group is a next generation sensor ...
(Date:4/13/2017)... 2017 UBM,s Advanced Design and Manufacturing event ... emerging and evolving technology through its 3D Printing and ... alongside the expo portion of the event and feature ... focused on trending topics within 3D printing and smart ... event will take place June 13-15, 2017 at the Jacob ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/10/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... October 10, ... ... development-stage cancer-focused pharmaceutical company advancing targeted antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) therapeutics, today confirmed ... targeted HPLN (Hybrid Polymerized Liposomal Nanoparticle), a technology developed in collaboration with ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... SANTA CRUZ, Calif. , Oct. 10, 2017 /PRNewswire/ ... SBIR grant from the NIH to develop RealSeq®-SC (Single ... preparation kit for profiling small RNAs (including microRNAs) from ... Cell Analysis Program highlights the need to accelerate development ... "New techniques for ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... The award-winning American Farmer television ... quarter 2018. American Farmer airs Tuesdays at 8:30aET on RFD-TV. , With global ... the challenge of how to continue to feed a growing nation. At the same ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... , ... October 06, 2017 ... ... experience providing advanced instruments and applications consulting for microscopy and surface analysis, ... in application consulting, Nanoscience Analytical offers a broad range of contract analysis ...
Breaking Biology Technology: