Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Strain 121

Vent chimneys with tubeworms on the Juan de Fuca Ridge.
The tops of the chimneys are too hot for animals. 

There's an article about Geogemma barossii, aka Strain 121, at Microbe Wiki but it doesn't contain a lot of information. I found this article at Microbe News Network more interesting. Click for the full article, I've only posted an excerpt.

World’s Hottest Microbe: Loving Life in Hell

Move over, Pyrolobus fumarii. A new entry for the record books has just been discovered. The hottest organism known to man has been isolated from a thermal vent deep in the Pacific Ocean.

The previous record-holder, P. fumarii, could live at temperatures as high as 113 °C (235 °F), well above the boiling point of water. But the new microbe, for now called “Strain 121,” thrives at 121 °C and can even survive for two hours at 130 °C.

The new organism is also unusual because it relies on iron to digest food and produce energy. Such organisms show promise in generating electricity from waste products and in removing radioactive metals from the environment.

“No one had ever seen a bug like this before,” says Derek R. Lovley of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, who along with colleague Kazem Kashefi reported their discovery in Science. Researchers believe that many high-temperature microbes rely on iron to grow, but none had ever been isolated or cultured until now.

“The trick was to grow it in the presence of iron,” says Lovley. Many underwater structures are rich in metals and the microbes that live there are likely to use things like iron in their metabolism, he says.
In addition to their possible use in cleaning up toxic wastes and in generating energy, the microbes may also yield useful substances and pharmaceuticals with commercial and technological applications, such as heat-resistant enzymes that can be used in detergents.

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