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Hidden diversity in key environmental cleanup microbes found by systems biology assessment
Date:8/31/2009

Researchers have completed the first thorough, system-level assessment of the diversity of an environmentally important genus of microbes known as Shewanella. Microbes belonging to that genus frequently participate in bioremediation by confining and cleaning up contaminated areas in the environment.

The team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Michigan State University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory analyzed the gene sequences, proteins expressed and physiology of 10 strains of Shewanella. They believe the study results will help researchers choose the best Shewanella strain for bioremediation projects based on each site's environmental conditions and contaminants.

The findings, which further advance the understanding of the enormous microbial biodiversity that exists on the planet, appear in the early online issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy through the Shewanella Federation consortium and the Proteomics Application project.

Similar to a human breathing in oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide, many Shewanella microbes have the ability to "inhale" certain metals and compounds and convert them to an altered state, which is typically much less toxic. This ability makes Shewanella very important for the environment and bioremediation, but selecting the best strain for a particular project has been a challenge.

"If you look at different strains of Shewanella under a microscope or you look at their ribosomal genes, which are routinely used to identify newly isolated strains of bacteria, they look identical. Thus, traditional microbiological approaches would suggest that the physiology and phenotype of these Shewanella bacteria are very similar, if not identical, but that is not true," explained Kostas Konstantinidis, an assistant professor in the Georgia Tech School of Civil and Environmenta
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Contact: Abby Vogel
avogel@gatech.edu
404-385-3364
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
Source:Eurekalert  

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