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Deep sea methane scavengers captured
Date:5/14/2008

allow the study of microorganisms where they live: In nature. This is leading to an explosion of knowledge with no end in sight. One of these techniques is genome sequencing - learning about the genetic make-up of an organism. This works well for single organisms, such as the sequencing of the human genome. The complexity of natural microbial communities, however, is a major problem. The vast collection of genes can often not be linked to an organism or a physiological process. This plenitude of general information can be compared to a one-billion pieces puzzle of which you own only 300 pieces and you have to try to find out where which piece belongs and how the whole picture could look like.

Scientist at UFZ and Caltech now developed a method that solves this problem. Pernthaler and co-workers attached small ironbeads to the microorganisms of interest and pulled them out of the deep sea sediment by simply applying a magnet. These microbes are Archaea, which cooperate with sulfate reducing Bacteria to perform a thermodynamically tricky process: the anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM). These poorly understood consortia are globally distributed in oceanic sediments above methane hydrates and provide a significant sink for methane by substantially reducing the export of this potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. After sequencing the genomes of the purified syntrophic consortia, Pernthaler and co-workers could find all genes responsible for AOM. The scientist also discovered an unexpected diversity in the bacterial partners of this syntrophic association, which may play a role in the performance of AOM. Pernthaler and co-workers also found genes for N2 fixation and demonstrated in lab experiments that the AOM archaea are indeed fixing N2. These results are intriguing, especially since the fixation of N2 is energetically expensive processes and the energy gained by AOM is low. The potential for metabolic versatility combined with the ability to form pa
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Contact: Tilo Arnhold
presse@ufz.de
49-341-235-1635
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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Deep sea methane scavengers captured
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