Critical genetic secrets of a bacterium that holds potential for removing toxic and radioactive waste from the environment have been revealed in a study by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). The researchers have provided the first ever map of the genes that determine how these bacteria interact with their surrounding environment.
"Knowing how bacteria respond to environmental changes is crucial to our understanding of how their physiology tracks with consequences that are both good, such as bioremediation, and bad, such as biofouling," says Aindrila Mukhopadhyay, a chemist with Berkeley Lab's Physical Biosciences Division, who led this research. "We have reported the first systematic mapping of the genes in a sulfate-reducing bacterium - Desulfovibrio vulgaris that regulate the mechanisms by which the bacteria perceive and respond to environmental signals."
Mukhopadhyay, who also holds an appointment with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a DOE Bioenergy Research Center, is the corresponding author of a paper that describes this research in the journal Genome Biology. The paper is titled "Systematic mapping of two component response regulators to gene targets in a model sulfate reducing bacterium."
Desulfovibrio vulgaris is an anaerobic bacterium that is present in numerous ecological niches and serves as a model organism for the study of sulfate-reducing bacteria. The microbe has drawn much attention both good and bad - for its unique ability to metabolize metals. On the good side, D. vulgaris can generate enzymes that reduce toxic heavy metals and radioactive nuclides into non-hazardous forms. On the bad side, D. vulgaris is also notorious as a pest that corrodes the metals used in oil drilling and storage operations.
"For all of these reasons, it is important that we understand the molecular signaling syste
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DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory