Navigation Links
A war without end -- with Earth's carbon cycle held in the balance
Date:2/13/2013

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
steve.giovannoni@oregonstate.edu
541-737-1835
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/6/2017)... 6, 2017 Forecasts by Product ... Readers, by End-Use (Transportation & Logistics, Government & Public ... & Fossil Generation Facility, Nuclear Power), Industrial, Retail, Business ... Are you looking for a definitive report on ... ...
(Date:4/4/2017)... YORK , April 4, 2017   EyeLock ... today announced that the United States Patent and Trademark ... patent broadly covers the linking of an iris image ... same transaction) and represents the company,s 45 th ... latest patent is very timely given the multi-modal biometric ...
(Date:3/30/2017)... -- Trends, opportunities and forecast in this market to ... AFIS, iris recognition, facial recognition, hand geometry, vein recognition, ... industry (government and law enforcement, commercial and retail, health ... and by region ( North America , ... , and the Rest of the World) ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... For ... has won a US2020 STEM Mentoring Award. Representatives of the FirstHand program travelled ... Volunteer Experience from US2020. , US2020’s mission is to change the trajectory of ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... The Pittcon Program Committee ... honoring scientists who have made outstanding contributions to analytical chemistry and applied ... the world’s leading conference and exposition for laboratory science, which will be held ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... , ... October 09, 2017 ... ... on October 5, 2017, in the medical journal, Epilepsia, Brain Sentinel’s SPEAC® ... gold standard, video EEG, in detecting generalized tonic-clonic seizures (GTCS) using surface ...
(Date:10/6/2017)... ... October 06, 2017 , ... ... lunch discussion and webinar on INSIGhT, the first-ever adaptive clinical trial for glioblastoma ... Cancer Institute. The event is free and open to the public, but registration ...
Breaking Biology Technology: