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Mine runoff continues to provide clues to microbial diversification

from proteins derived from quite closely related organisms,?Banfield said. “This opens the way for detailed studies of how a wide range of microbial communities are structured and how they function.?

Hettich agreed that today’s powerful molecular tools are playing a vital role in investigating the complexity of how bacterial consortia cooperate and compete in nature. In fact, ORNL mass spectrometry provided the ability to resolve and differentiate peptides that differ by as little as one amino acid.

Nathan VerBerkmoes of the lab’s Chemical Sciences Division was instrumental in designing the experiments and acquiring the mass spectrometry data while Manesh Shah of the Biosciences Division provided the bioinformatics horsepower to sort through the massive datasets.

“A key aspect of this paper is the ability to get proteome information on organisms that do not directly have complete genome sequencing information,?VerBerkmoes said. “As a result we could study organisms related to those completely sequenced ?such as the bacterial clades, or ‘cousins,?that are likely to exist in natural environments.

“This also might have implications into helping study human proteomics because not everyone’s individual genome will be sequenced.?

The pink microbial biofilm communities found in the mine runoff provide perfect research subjects because they have fewer organisms than most communities found in nature. The reason, Hettich noted, is that these environmental conditions ?a pH of 0.8 -- are too extreme for most organisms to survive. A pH level of 7 is considered neutral and most proteins prefer pH levels between 5 and 7. In addition, the water from the mine often exceeds 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of their simpler makeup, the Banfield Laboratory established these communities as a model system in the mid-1990s.

This latest publication builds upon research that was published in May 2005 by Science. In that paper, Banfiel
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Source:DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory


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