Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How microbes survive at bare minimum: Archaea eat protein

Date:
March 27, 2013
Source:
University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Summary:
Beneath the ocean floor is a desolate place with no oxygen and sunlight. Yet microbes have thrived in this environment for millions of years. Scientists have puzzled over how these microbes survive, but today there are more answers.

This is an image of archaea.
Credit: Richard Kevorkian, University of Tennessee.

Beneath the ocean floor is a desolate place with no oxygen and sunlight. Yet microbes have thrived in this environment for millions of years.

Scientists have puzzled over how these microbes survive, but today there are more answers.

A study led by Karen Lloyd, a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, assistant professor of microbiology, reveals that these microscopic life-forms called archaea slowly eat tiny bits of protein. The study was released today in Nature.

The finding has implications for understanding the bare minimum conditions needed to support life.

"Subseafloor microbes are some of the most common organisms on earth," said Lloyd. "There are more of them than there are stars or sand grains. If you go to a mud flat and stick your toes into the squishy mud, you're touching these archaea. Even though they've literally been right under our noses for all of human history, we've never known what they're doing down there."

Archaea are one of three life forms on earth, including bacteria and eukarya cells.

Scientists are interested in archaea's extreme way of life because it provides clues about the absolute minimum conditions required to sustain life as well as the global carbon cycle.

"Scientists had previously thought that proteins were only broken down in the sea by bacteria," said Lloyd. "But archaea have now turned out to be important new key organisms in protein degradation in the seabed."

Proteins make up a large part of the organic matter in the seabed, the world's largest deposit of organic carbon.

To reveal the cells' identities and way of life, Lloyd and her colleagues collected ocean mud containing the archaea cells from Aarhus Bay, Denmark. Then they pulled out four individual cells and sequenced their genomic DNA to discover the presence of the extracellular protein-degrading enzymes predicted in those genomes.

"We were able to go back to the mud and directly measure the activity of these predicted enzymes," said Andrew Steen, another UT researcher and coauthor of the study. "I was shocked at how high the activities were."

This novel method opens the door for new studies by microbiologists. Scientists have been unable to grow archaea in the laboratory, limiting their studies to less than one percent of microorganisms. This new method allows scientists to study microorganisms directly from nature, opening up the remaining 99 percent to research.

Lloyd collaborated with other researchers from UT, as well as, Aarhus University in Denmark, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine, Ribocon GmbH in Germany, and the Max Planck Institute for Marine Biology in Germany.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Karen G. Lloyd, Lars Schreiber, Dorthe G. Petersen, Kasper U. Kjeldsen, Mark A. Lever, Andrew D. Steen, Ramunas Stepanauskas, Michael Richter, Sara Kleindienst, Sabine Lenk, Andreas Schramm, Bo Barker Jψrgensen. Predominant archaea in marine sediments degrade detrital proteins. Nature, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nature12033

Cite This Page:

University of Tennessee at Knoxville. "How microbes survive at bare minimum: Archaea eat protein." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130327163256.htm>.
University of Tennessee at Knoxville. (2013, March 27). How microbes survive at bare minimum: Archaea eat protein. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130327163256.htm
University of Tennessee at Knoxville. "How microbes survive at bare minimum: Archaea eat protein." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130327163256.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) — Cultural transmission — the passing of knowledge from one animal to another — has been caught on camera with chimps teaching other chimps. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins