Extreme extremophiles: new extremes (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Sunday, February 10, 2019, 15:03 (8 days ago) @ David Turell

A new group found that live in a very strange environment and a strange energy supply:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190207102621.htm

"Called Hydrothermarchaeota, this group of microbes lives in such an extreme environment that they have never been cultivated in a laboratory for study. A research team from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, ... bypassed the problem of cultivation with genetic sequencing methods called genomics, a suite of novel techniques used to sequence large groups of genetic information. They found that Hydrothermarchaeota may obtain energy by processing carbon monoxide and sulfate, which is an overlooked metabolic strategy. The microbes use energy from this process to grow as a form of chemosynthesis.

"'The majority of life on Earth is microbial, and most microbes have never been cultivated," said Beth Orcutt, a senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory and one of the study's senior authors. "These findings emphasize why single cell genomics are such important tools for discovering how a huge proportion of life functions."

"Analyzing Hydrothermarchaeota genomes revealed that these microbes belong to the group of single-celled life known as archaea and evolved early in the history of life on Earth -- as did their unusual metabolic processes. These observations suggest that the subsurface ocean crust is an important habitat for understanding how life evolved on Earth, and potentially other planets.

"The researchers also found genetic evidence that Hydrothermarchaeota have the ability to move on their own. Motility offers a valuable survival strategy for the extreme environment they call home, which has a limited supply of nutrients essential to life.

***

"In 2011, Orcutt and other project scientists sailed to the flank of the Juan de Fuca Ridge, a mid-ocean ridge off the coast of Washington where two ocean plates are separating and generating new oceanic crust. They used Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's deep-diving robot Jason to travel 2.6 km to the seafloor and collect samples of the fluid that flows through the deep crust.

"These crustal fluids contained microbes that had never before been studied. Working in partnership with the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, the researchers sorted and analyzed the microbes in the Single Cell Genomics Center at Bigelow Laboratory. This cutting-edge research facility is directed by Ramunas Stepanauskas, a senior research scientist and study author. The project team also analyzed the microbes using metagenomics, a technique that extracts genomic information directly from environmental samples. These analyses yielded insights into the genetic blueprints of Hydrothermarchaeota, their relationship to other archaea, and the strategies they have evolved to survive in the subseafloor."

Comment: These tough-ones are Archaea from the most ancient forms of first life. Perhaps life first appeared from critters like these. We know that the switch to a caustic oxygen metabolism appeared much later, and its attendant oxidation problems were also solved. Is this inventiveness built in to first life by design?


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