Nav: Home

Which genes are crucial for the energy metabolism of Archaea?

November 14, 2016

Microorganisms are still often perceived only as disease promoters, although the vast majority of them plays an important ecological role in the global geochemical cycles: without the metabolic activities of the smallest of all living organisms, bacteria and archaea, life on Earth would not be possible. These microorganisms play a central role in the large geochemical cycles by decomposing organic matter and returning the resulting building blocks to the atmosphere or making them available for new life. It is now also known from microbiome research that our gut bacteria affect not only our general health, but even our psyche.

But what about Archaea? For a long time, this second group of microorganisms, which beside bacteria belong to the prokaryotes, has only been found in hot springs and other extreme locations. Only ten years ago the so-called Thaumarchaea were discovered in great numbers in the sea water of all oceans, but also in soils and lakes. These archaea oxidize ammonia to nitrite and due to their global abundance are obviously involved in this important step of the nitrogen cycle.

The first officially described strain of such an archaeon is Nitrososphaera viennensis. It stems from the garden of the university center Althanstraße in the 9th district of Vienna, and because of its form and origin is called "Nitrososphaera viennensis", the "spherical ammonia oxidizer from Vienna". A single cell has a diameter of only 0.8 micrometres, thus 0.8 millionth of a meter.

This scientific breakthrough in 2011 was the prerequisite for Christa Schleper and her team to investigate not only the individual genes, but also the proteins of an ammonia-oxidizing archaeon from soil. "As the organism grows only to very low cell densities, we had to run large fermenters to obtain enough biomass," explains Christa Schleper. The scientists have now been able to investigate which of the genes of this model organism are present in all thaumarchaeota and which are active during ammonia oxidation.

"Our study allows hypotheses to be developed about the process of ammonia oxidation which can now be verified experimentally: Because until today the energy metabolism of these archaea, which belong to the most frequent microorganisms on our planet, has not yet been elucidated," said the microbiologist.

Furthermore, the new study provides for the first time clues for special adaptations of the Archaea from soil. These include their ability to form biofilms and to interact with other microorganisms. "A better understanding of the archaea living in the soil is of great ecological importance. Since Archaea produce less greenhouse gases than Bacteria during the oxidation of ammonia, it is important to learn under which conditions they can be propagated preferentially in agricultural soils," explains Christa Schleper. In the future, exploration of Nitrososphaera viennensis could also gain medical relevance, since closely related strains are found on the human skin.
-end-
Publication in "PNAS": Melina Kerou, Pierre Offre, Luis Valledor, Sophie Abby, Michael Melcher, Matthias Nagler, Wolfram Weckwerth, and Christa Schleper: Proteomics and comparative genomics of
Nitrososphaera viennensis reveal the core genome and adaptations of terrestrial archaeal ammonia oxidizers, In: PNAS Online Early Edition, 14. November 2016
DOI: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1601212113

University of Vienna

Related Bacteria Articles:

Conducting shell for bacteria
Under anaerobic conditions, certain bacteria can produce electricity. This behavior can be exploited in microbial fuel cells, with a special focus on wastewater treatment schemes.
Controlling bacteria's necessary evil
Until now, scientists have only had a murky understanding of how these relationships arise.
Bacteria take a deadly risk to survive
Bacteria need mutations -- changes in their DNA code -- to survive under difficult circumstances.
How bacteria hunt other bacteria
A bacterial species that hunts other bacteria has attracted interest as a potential antibiotic, but exactly how this predator tracks down its prey has not been clear.
Chlamydia: How bacteria take over control
To survive in human cells, chlamydiae have a lot of tricks in store.
Stress may protect -- at least in bacteria
Antibiotics harm bacteria and stress them. Trimethoprim, an antibiotic, inhibits the growth of the bacterium Escherichia coli and induces a stress response.
'Pulling' bacteria out of blood
Magnets instead of antibiotics could provide a possible new treatment method for blood infection.
New findings detail how beneficial bacteria in the nose suppress pathogenic bacteria
Staphylococcus aureus is a common colonizer of the human body.
Understanding your bacteria
New insight into bacterial cell division could lead to advancements in the fight against harmful bacteria.
Bacteria are individualists
Cells respond differently to lack of nutrients.

Related Bacteria Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Crisis
There's no greater threat to humanity than climate change. What can we do to stop the worst consequences? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can save our planet and whether we can do it in time. Guests include climate activist Greta Thunberg, chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox, research scientist Sean Davis, food innovator Bruce Friedrich, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...