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Advancements In Genomics Foster Deep Sea Discoveries

At one time, scientists wondered whether life existed in the deep recesses of the world’s oceans. What kinds of creatures, they wondered, could withstand the dark, cold and extreme pressure of such an environment?

Researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and their colleagues have used innovations in genomics research to begin to develop an accurate portrayal of deep sea life forms and how they survive in the harsh conditions of the marine abyss.

Scripps Institution Professor Douglas Bartlett discussed the new findings at the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) national meeting in San Diego on Monday, March 14, 2005. Related research was published in a scientific paper in the March 4 issue of the journal Science.

In the paper and ACS presentation, Bartlett and colleagues at the University of Padova (Italy), presented the first genetic blueprint for bacterial life in a cold deep-sea environment.

They also presented a detailed analysis of how the bacteria’s genetic makeup allows it to function in high-pressure environments. These findings may help lay the groundwork for a variety of research outside of the deep ocean, including the application of deep sea bacterial genes for improving human nutrition and degrading pollutants, and calculating possibilities for life in pressurized environments elsewhere in the solar system.

“These organisms live in a world that is physically very different from the skin of the planet in which we humans reside,?said Bartlett, who is part of the Scripps Marine Biology Research Division. “They live in a world where temperature, for the most part, doesn’t vary very much, but pressure as they move up and down the water column can. They sense that pressure.?/p>

The overwhelming majority of the volume of the planet where life exists, more than 75 percent, exists in the deep sea, while some 20 percent exists in the shallow water environment and a mere
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Source:UCSD


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