Navigation Links
How to thrive in battery acid and among toxic metals
Date:3/7/2013

In the movie Alien, the title character is an extraterrestrial creature that can survive brutal heat and resist the effects of toxins.

In real life, organisms with similar traits exist, such as the "extremophile" red alga Galdieria sulphuraria.

In hot springs in Yellowstone National Park, Galdieria uses energy from the sun to produce sugars through photosynthesis.

In the darkness of old mineshafts in drainage as caustic as battery acid, it feeds on bacteria and survives high concentrations of arsenic and heavy metals.

How has a one-celled alga acquired such flexibility and resilience?

To answer this question, an international research team led by Gerald Schoenknecht of Oklahoma State University and Andreas Weber and Martin Lercher of Heinrich-Heine-Universitat (Heinrich-Heine University) in Dusseldorf, Germany, decoded genetic information in Galdieria.

They are three of 18 co-authors of a paper on the findings published in this week's issue of the journal Science.

The scientists made an unexpected discovery: Galdieria's genome shows clear signs of borrowing genes from its neighbors.

Many genes that contribute to Galdieria's adaptations were not inherited from its ancestor red algae, but were acquired from bacteria or archaebacteria.

This "horizontal gene transfer" is typical for the evolution of bacteria, researchers say.

However, Galdieria is the first known organism with a nucleus (called a eukaryote) that has adapted to extreme environments based on horizontal gene transfer.

"The age of comparative genome sequencing began only slightly more than a decade ago, and revealed a new mechanism of evolution--horizontal gene transfer--that would not have been discovered any other way," says Matt Kane, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.

Galdieria's heat tolerance seems to come from genes that exist in hundreds of copies in its genome, all descending from a single gene the alga copied millions of years ago from an archaebacterium.

"The results give us new insights into evolution," Schoenknecht says. "Before this, there was not much indication that eukaryotes acquire genes from bacteria."

The alga owes its ability to survive the toxic effects of such elements as mercury and arsenic to transport proteins and enzymes that originated in genes it swiped from bacteria.

It also copied genes offering tolerance to high salt concentrations, and an ability to make use of a wide variety of food sources. The genes were copied from bacteria that live in the same extreme environment as Galdieria.

"Why reinvent the wheel if you can copy it from your neighbor?" asks Lercher.

"It's usually assumed that organisms with a nucleus cannot copy genes from different species--that's why eukaryotes depend on sex to recombine their genomes.

"How has Galdieria managed to overcome this limitation? It's an exciting question."

What Galdieria did is "a dream come true for biotechnology," says Weber.

"Galdieria has acquired genes with interesting properties from different organisms, integrated them into a functional network and developed unique properties and adaptations."

In the future, genetic engineering may allow other algae to make use of the proteins that offer stress tolerance to Galdieria.

Such a development would be relevant to biofuel production, says Schoenknecht, as oil-producing algae don't yet have the ability to withstand the same extreme conditions as Galdieria.


'/>"/>

Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Down on the cacao farm: Sloths thrive at chocolates source
2. WSU researcher sees how forests thrive after fires and volcanoes
3. Smile: Gingivitis bacteria manipulate your immune system so they can thrive in your gums
4. Heart-powered pacemaker could one day eliminate battery-replacement surgery
5. Natures billion-year-old battery key to storing energy
6. CUNY Energy Institute battery system could reduce buildings electric bills
7. Rice researchers develop paintable battery
8. $3.2 million to develop battery management system for electric-car batteries
9. Ancient red dye powers new green battery
10. UI researcher learns mechanism of hearing is similar to car battery
11. Scientists identify prostate cancer stem cells among low-PSA cells
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
How to thrive in battery acid and among toxic metals
(Date:2/2/2016)... RESTON, Va. , Feb. 2, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... contract award from the U.S. Army Research Office ... extend the range and sensitivity of the company,s ... DoD,s Past Accounting Mission and, more generally, defense-related ... its DNA phenotyping capabilities (predicting appearance and ancestry ...
(Date:2/1/2016)... NEW YORK , Feb. 1, 2016  Today, ... Heart Association (AHA) announced plans to develop a first ... cognitive computing power of IBM Watson. In the first ... disease, AHA, IBM (NYSE: IBM ), and Welltok ... metrics and health assessments with cognitive analytics, delivered on ...
(Date:1/27/2016)... 2016  Rite Track, Inc. a leading semiconductor equipment ... Chester, Ohio announced today the acquisition of PLUS ... in Austin, Texas , will significantly ... modifications, installations and technical support offerings for TEL Track ... commented, "PLUS has provided world class service including refurbishment, ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/12/2016)... , February 12, 2016 ... Efforts by Enabling Scientific Understanding of Complex Diseases ... Rare Diseases --> ... diagnostics in South Asia and a leading provider of ... contribute $10 million to the GenomeAsia 100K consortium ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... Germany and GERMANTOWN, ... QGEN ; Frankfurt Prime Standard: QIA) today announced ... RNA Panels for gene expression profiling, expanding QIAGEN,s portfolio ... The panels enable researchers to select from over 20,000 ... and discover interactions between genes, cellular phenotypes and disease ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... February 11, 2016 , ... ... cutting-edge information focused on the development and manufacture of biopharmaceuticals and therapeutics, ... sponsor of the 2016 BioProcess International Awards – Recognizing Excellence in the ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... February 11, 2016 , ... ... than 150 years, continues today to pursue the highest level of accuracy and ... instruments: the AR9 Refractometer and the AR5 Refractometer. Accurate, reliable and tough ...
Breaking Biology Technology: