Navigation Links
Scientists discover interplay between genes and viruses in tiny ocean plankton

New evidence from open-sea experiments shows there's a constant shuffling of genetic material going on among the ocean's tiny plankton. It happens via ocean-dwelling viruses, scientists report this week in the journal Science.

Conducted by biological oceanographers Sallie Chisholm and her colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the research is uncovering a new facet of evolution and helping scientists see how microbes exploit changing conditions, such as altered light, temperature and nutrients.

"These results tell us that even the smallest organisms show genetic variation related to the environment in which they exist," said Philip Taylor, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s biological oceanography program, which funded the research.

In addition to NSF, support for the research came from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and from the U.S. Department of Energy.

"Our image of ocean microbes and their role in planetary maintenance is changing," Chisholm said. "We no longer think of the microbial community as being made up of species that have a fixed genetic make-up. Rather, it is a collection of genes, some of which are shared by all microbes and contain the information that drives their core metabolism, and others that are more mobile, which can be found in unique combinations in different microbes."

The distributors or carriers of new genes, the scientists suspect, are the massive numbers of viruses also known to exist in seawater. Some of them are adept at infecting ocean microbes like Prochlorococcus, the sea's most abundant plankton species. The ocean viruses, which carry their own genes as well as transport others, provide a way of transferring genes from old cells into new ones.

"We're beginning to get a picture of gene diversity and gene flow in Prochlorococcus," Chisholm said. "These photosynthesizing bacteria form an important part of the food chain in the oceans, supply som e of the oxygen we breathe, and play a role in modulating climate. It's important that we understand what regulates their populations. Genetic diversity seems to be an important factor."

In one report, Chisholm and scientist Maureen Coleman suggest that gene-swapping in ocean microbes resembles the flow of genes already known to occur among disease-causing bacteria. In an ocean habitat, the exchange offers marine microbes a diverse palette of potential gene combinations, each of which might be best suited for a particular environment. "This would allow the overall population to persist despite complex and unpredictable environmental changes," said Chisholm.

A second report, by Zackary Johnson and Erik Zinser, compares where Prochlorococcus microbes are found with the conditions under which they thrive. These geographic patterns relate to environmental variables such as temperature, predators, light and nutrients.

Chisholm is trying to learn how the microbes function as a system in which they have co-evolved with each other, and with the chemistry and physics of the oceans. The studies show that all Prochlorococcus strains are very closely related, yet they display an array of physiologies and genetic diversity, Chisholm said.

"Genetic diversity is at the heart of the extraordinary stability of Prochlorococcus in the oceans, which maintain steady population sizes over vast regions of the sea," she said.


'"/>

Source:National Science Foundation


Related biology news :

1. Scientists ID molecular switch in liver that triggers harmful effects of saturated and trans fats
2. Scientists Replicate Hepatitis C Virus in Laboratory
3. Scientists detect probable genetic cause of some Parkinsons disease cases
4. Scientists find missing enzyme for tuberculosis iron scavenging pathway
5. Scientists seek answers on what activates deadly anthrax spores
6. Yale Scientists Find MicroRNA Regulates Ras Cancer Gene
7. Scientists collaborate to assess health of global environment
8. Scientists decipher genome of fungus that can cause life-threatening infections
9. Scientists discover the cellular roots of graying hair
10. Scientists rid stem cell culture of key animal cells
11. Scientists develop new color-coded test for protein folding
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:12/15/2016)... Calif. , Dec. 15, 2016   WaferGen ... publicly held genomics technology company, announced today that on ... Listing Qualifications Department of The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC ... closing bid price of WaferGen,s common stock had been ... Accordingly, WaferGen has regained compliance with Listing Rule 5550(a)(2) ...
(Date:12/15/2016)... "Increase in mobile transactions is driving the growth of ... expected to grow from USD 4.03 billion in 2015 ... of 29.3% between 2016 and 2022. The market is ... smart devices, government initiatives, and increasing penetration of e-commerce ... to grow at a high rate during the forecast ...
(Date:12/7/2016)... India , December 7, 2016 According to a ... Machine Learning), Software Tool (Facial Expression, Voice Recognition), Service, Application Area, End User, ... is estimated to grow from USD 6.72 Billion in 2016 to USD 36.07 ... Continue Reading ... ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:1/18/2017)... , Jan. 18, 2017   Boston Biomedical , ... designed to target cancer stemness pathways, will feature data ... napabucasin, at the 2017 ASCO Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium, held ... . Napabucasin is an orally-administered investigational ... STAT3. i Cancer stem cells (CSCs) possess the ...
(Date:1/18/2017)... ... 2017 , ... Whitehouse Labs has furthered its efforts towards ... (AMRI), the scientific staff dedicated to Extractables / Leachables & Impurities has more ... 2017. Extractable & Leachable evaluations have become increasingly more vital to successful product ...
(Date:1/18/2017)... ... January 18, 2017 , ... ... to sell research and genetic testing lab equipment from two different leading institutes. This ... and Northeast regions of the United States. This 1-day online auction will take ...
(Date:1/18/2017)... Texas , Jan. 18, 2017  Caris ... and the Lustgarten Foundation, the largest private funder ... a clinical trial evaluating the impact of immunotherapy ... providing clinical trial enrollment services to identify potential ... facilitate communication between treating physicians and study investigators. ...
Breaking Biology Technology: