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Synchrotron infrared unveils a mysterious microbial community
Date:1/22/2013

icrobes were assumed to be syntrophic dependent on each other for nourishment but the biochemical details were a mystery.

Christine Moissl-Eichinger of the University of Regensburg was among the SM1 Euryarchaeon's discoverers. Before long what she calls "another amazing lifestyle" of the new archaeon emerged; biofilms that grew deep below the surface of another cold sulfur spring, the nearby Muehlbacher Schwefelquelle. Moissl-Eichinger and her team collected samples of the slime-like biofilm which first seemed to be pure SM1 on net traps underwater.

To augment their already extensive research, Moissl-Eichinger and Alexander Probst of her staff brought the Regensburg samples to Berkeley Lab, initially attracted by the PhyloChip, a DNA microarray invented by Berkeley Lab's Gary Andersen and Todd DeSantis and their colleagues. Because the PhyloChip probes for the 16S rRNA gene, found in all Bacteria and Archaea, it can quickly and accurately sort through all known species in a sample including those, like SM1 and many other microorganisms, that can't be grown in culture.

Probst and DeSantis, both now with Second Genome, Inc., and Andersen were joined by Kasthuri Venkateswaran of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a member of NASA's Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group. Probst wanted to know who was living where in the subsurface sulfur-spring samples; Venkateswaran's interest is understanding the role of Archaea in space and analogous sites. Although SM1 was by far the dominant species in the subsurface community, they found that small amounts of other archaea were present as well and about five percent of the community consisted of bacteria.

Bring on the synchrotron

Led by Andersen, the PhyloChip's inventors had contributed to the oil-spill research, and their previous association with Holman brought her and her BSISB colleagues aboard the SM1 research team.

"Lots of biochemical techniq
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Contact: Paul Preuss
paul_preuss@lbl.gov
510-486-6249
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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