Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Marine bacteria are natural source of chemical fire retardants

Date:
June 29, 2014
Source:
University of California, San Diego Health Sciences
Summary:
Researchers have discovered a widely distributed group of marine bacteria that produce compounds nearly identical to toxic human-made fire retardants.

Some marine bacteria produce potent persistent organic compounds that are nearly identical to flame retardant chemicals.
Credit: UC San Diego School of Medicine

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered a widely distributed group of marine bacteria that produce compounds nearly identical to toxic man-made fire retardants.

Among the chemicals produced by the ocean-dwelling microbes, which have been found in habitats as diverse as sea grasses, marine sediments and corals, is a potent endocrine disruptor that mimics the human body's most active thyroid hormone.

The study is published in the June 29 online issue of Nature Chemical Biology.

"We find it very surprising and a tad alarming that flame retardant-like chemicals are biologically synthesized by common bacteria in the marine environment," said senior author Bradley Moore, PhD, a professor at the UC San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The toxic compounds are known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a subgroup of brominated flame retardants that are combined into foam, textiles and electronics to raise the temperature at which the products will burn.

Certain formulations of PBDEs are no longer used in automobile and home products in the United States, but testing by the Environmental Protection Agency indicates that most Americans and Canadians carry traces of the chemicals. Indeed, levels exceed those of Europeans and others by a factor of ten or more. Californians, in particular, have higher than average "body burdens" of the compounds.

Although the presence, persistence and ability of PBDEs to accumulate in the fatty tissues of marine animals have long been recognized, researchers had previously believed the compounds were anthropogenic in origin and due to ocean pollution.

More recent examinations have shown a pervasiveness of PBDEs in prey and predatory species, suggesting a natural microbial source of the compounds as well as an anthropogenic one.

The study is the first to isolate and identify bacteria that synthesize these compounds and whose presence may help explain the observed distribution pattern of PBDEs in the marine food chain.

In the study, the researchers identified a group of ten genes involved in the synthesis of more than 15 bromine-containing polyaromatic compounds, including some PBDEs. They have since conducted DNA sequencing analyses that will allow them to probe the ocean for other biological sources for these chemicals and to begin to assemble a complete picture of their human health risk.

"The next step is to look more broadly in the marine environment for the distribution of this gene signature and to document how these compounds are entering the food chain," said Vinayak Agarwal, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher with the Scripps Center for Oceans and Human Health at UC San Diego.

Co-authors include Abrahim El Gamal, Kazuya Yamanaka, Roland Kersten, Dennis Poth, Michelle Schorn, and Eric Allen, all at UCSD.

Funding for this study was provided, in part, by the National Science Foundation (grant OCE-1313747) and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (grant P01-ES021921) through its Oceans and Human Health program.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Vinayak Agarwal, Abrahim A El Gamal, Kazuya Yamanaka, Dennis Poth, Roland D Kersten, Michelle Schorn, Eric E Allen, Bradley S Moore. Biosynthesis of polybrominated aromatic organic compounds by marine bacteria. Nature Chemical Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.1564

Cite This Page:

University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. "Marine bacteria are natural source of chemical fire retardants." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140629141712.htm>.
University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. (2014, June 29). Marine bacteria are natural source of chemical fire retardants. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140629141712.htm
University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. "Marine bacteria are natural source of chemical fire retardants." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140629141712.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Powerful Hurricane Gonzalo Heads to Bermuda

Raw: Powerful Hurricane Gonzalo Heads to Bermuda

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) Hurricane Gonzalo pounded Bermuda with wind and heavy surf on Friday, bearing down on the tiny British territory as a powerful Category 3 storm that could raise coastal seas as much as 10 feet. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Gonzalo Is A Category 4 And Heading To Bermuda

Hurricane Gonzalo Is A Category 4 And Heading To Bermuda

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Powerful hurricane could hit Bermuda this weekend, and even if it misses it will likely do some damage. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Largest Volcano In Centuries Is Spewing Toxic Gas

The Largest Volcano In Centuries Is Spewing Toxic Gas

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) One of the largest volcanic eruptions in centuries is occurring on Iceland. The volcano Bardarbunga is producing high levels of sulfur dioxide. 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