Scientists identify key factors that help microbes thrive in harsh environments
by Staff Writers
College Park MD (SPX) Nov 29, 2017
Three new studies by University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) scientists have identified key factors that help microbes survive in harsh environments. The results, which have implications for biotechnology and understanding life in extreme conditions, were in the Proceedings of the National Academy Of Sciences (PNAS), Astrobiology, and the International Journal of Astrobiology.
"Our work capitalizes on the abundance of genomic and transcriptomic data. Genomic data represent road maps, and genetics, biochemistry, and microbiology are the vehicles for exploring and expanding knowledge," said the principal author on the studies, Shiladitya DasSarma, professor at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology in the UMSOM Department of Microbiology and Immunology
"Using this interdisciplinary approach in our series of recent papers, we have better defined the limits to life and the mechanisms that these hardy microbes and their proteins use to survive and function in cold, salty, and water-limited environments, such as exist on Mars. Our studies also have applications in green biotechnology here on Earth," added DasSarma.
The recent PNAS article builds on previous analysis by Prof. DasSarma and several colleagues, which identified key proteins in microbes found in extremely salty environments. They examined the amino acid composition of several of the microbe's proteins. The protein surfaces are negatively supercharged compared to all other organisms.
These proteins use the negative charges to tightly bind water molecules in order to stay in solution and combat the effects of high levels of salt and dryness. They focused on a microbe called H. lacusprofundi (Hla), from Deep Lake, a very salty lake in Antarctica.
They wanted to find out how proteins from the microbe function in the dual extremes of very salty, very cold environments. They found that certain amino acids were more prevalent in the microbe.
They focused on one enzyme, beta-galactosidase. They discovered key differences between versions of the enzyme in Hla and versions in microbes that live in temperate environments. Among the key differences: looser packing of atoms and greater flexibility in cold-functioning enzymes.
Another study, published in the journal Astrobiology, expands the study, by examining the role of enzymes in the microbe's ability to survive in the presence of toxic salts. This research has implications for decontamination of toxic environments, as well as life on other planets such as Mars, where these toxic salts, particularly one called magnesium perchlorate, have been identified on the surface.
The third study, published last month in the International Journal of Astrobiology, showed that Hla and other similarly hardy microbes can survive trips into the stratosphere, many miles above the Earth's surface, where conditions are similar to those on Mars. The stratosphere is extremely cold, has little oxygen and has high levels of damaging ultraviolet radiation.
These studies also have the potential to be useful for biotechnology. The approach in the PNAS study could be used for designing valuable enzymes that function at lower temperatures.
For example, modified beta-galactosidase can be used for making lactose-free milk in cold temperatures, and other enzymes can be tailored for other "green" industrial processes at reduced temperatures, thereby reducing the amount of energy required in the manufacturing process. Perchlorate is used in rocket fuel and fireworks and is a common toxic contaminant in some ground water. The work in Astrobiology could lead to a method for its removal.
Edinburgh UK (SPX) Nov 21, 2017
Life on our planet might have originated from biological particles brought to Earth in streams of space dust, a study suggests. Fast-moving flows of interplanetary dust that continually bombard our planet's atmosphere could deliver tiny organisms from far-off worlds, or send Earth-based organisms to other planets, according to the research. The dust streams could collide with biologi ... read more
University of Maryland School of Medicine
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.|