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Microorganism Response to Stressed Terrestrial Environments: A Raman Spectroscopic Perspective of Extremophilic Life Strategies

Author(s):Susana E. Jorge-Villar -- Howell G.M. Edwards
Journal: Life
Publisher:
Abstract
| Pages: 276-294
Raman spectroscopy is a valuable analytical technique for the identification of biomolecules and minerals in natural samples, which involves little or minimal sample manipulation. In this paper, we evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of this technique applied to the study of extremophiles. Furthermore, we provide a review of the results published, up to the present point in time, of the bio- and geo-strategies adopted by different types of extremophile colonies of microorganisms. We also show the characteristic Raman signatures for the identification of pigments and minerals, which appear in those complex samples.

Magnetotactic Bacteria from Extreme Environments

Author(s):Dennis A. Bazylinski -- Christopher T. Lefèvre
Journal: Life
Publisher:
Abstract
| Pages: 295-307
Magnetotactic bacteria (MTB) represent a diverse collection of motile prokaryotes that biomineralize intracellular, membrane-bounded, tens-of-nanometer-sized crystals of a magnetic mineral called magnetosomes. Magnetosome minerals consist of either magnetite (Fe3O4) or greigite (Fe3S4) and cause cells to align along the Earth’s geomagnetic field lines as they swim, a trait called magnetotaxis. MTB are known to mainly inhabit the oxic–anoxic interface (OAI) in water columns or sediments of aquatic habitats and it is currently thought that magnetosomes function as a means of making chemotaxis more efficient in locating and maintaining an optimal position for growth and survival at the OAI. Known cultured and uncultured MTB are phylogenetically associated with the Alpha-, Gamma- and Deltaproteobacteria classes of the phylumProteobacteria, the Nitrospirae phylum and the candidate division OP3, part of the Planctomycetes-Verrucomicrobia-Chlamydiae (PVC) bacterial superphylum. MTB are generally thought to be ubiquitous in aquatic environments as they are cosmopolitan in distribution and have been found in every continent although for years MTB were thought to be restricted to habitats with pH values near neutral and at ambient temperature. Recently, however, moderate thermophilic and alkaliphilic MTB have been described including: an uncultured, moderately thermophilic magnetotactic bacterium present in hot springs in northern Nevada with a probable upper growth limit of about 63 °C; and several strains of obligately alkaliphilic MTB isolated in pure culture from different aquatic habitats in California, including the hypersaline, extremely alkaline Mono Lake, with an optimal growth pH of >9.0.

Hot Spring Metagenomics

Author(s):Olalla López-López -- María Esperanza Cerdán -- María Isabel González-Siso
Journal: Life
Publisher:
Abstract
| Pages: 308-320
Hot springs have been investigated since the XIX century, but isolation and examination of their thermophilic microbial inhabitants did not start until the 1950s. Many thermophilic microorganisms and their viruses have since been discovered, although the real complexity of thermal communities was envisaged when research based on PCR amplification of the 16S rRNA genes arose. Thereafter, the possibility of cloning and sequencing the total environmental DNA, defined as metagenome, and the study of the genes rescued in the metagenomic libraries and assemblies made it possible to gain a more comprehensive understanding of microbial communities—their diversity, structure, the interactions existing between their components, and the factors shaping the nature of these communities. In the last decade, hot springs have been a source of thermophilic enzymes of industrial interest, encouraging further study of the poorly understood diversity of microbial life in these habitats.

Is Struvite a Prebiotic Mineral?

Author(s):Maheen Gull -- Matthew A. Pasek
Journal: Life
Publisher:
Abstract
| Pages: 321-330
The prebiotic relevance of mineral struvite, MgNH4PO4·6H2O, was studied experimentally as a phosphorylating reagent and, theoretically, to understand the geochemical requirements for its formation. The effectiveness of phosphorylation by the phosphate mineral, monetite, CaHPO4, was also studied to compare to the efficiency of struvite. The experiments focused on the phosphorylation reactions of the minerals with organic compounds, such as nucleosides, glycerol and choline chloride, and heat at 75 °C for about 7–8 days and showed up to 28% phosphorylation of glycerol. In contrast, the compositional requirements for the precipitation of struvite are high ammonium and phosphate concentrations, as well as a little Ca2+ dissolved in the water. Combined, these requirements suggest that it is not likely that struvite was present in excess on the early Earth to carry out phosphorylation reactions. The present study focuses on the thermodynamic aspects of struvite formation, complementing the results given by Orgel and Handschuh (1973), which were based on the kinetic effects.

Prebiotic Chemistry: Geochemical Context and Reaction Screening

Author(s):Henderson James Cleaves II
Journal: Life
Publisher:
Abstract
| Pages: 331-345
The origin of life on Earth is widely believed to have required the reactions of organic compounds and their self- and/or environmental organization. What those compounds were remains open to debate, as do the environment in and process or processes by which they became organized. Prebiotic chemistry is the systematic organized study of these phenomena. It is difficult to study poorly defined phenomena, and research has focused on producing compounds and structures familiar to contemporary biochemistry, which may or may not have been crucial for the origin of life. Given our ignorance, it may be instructive to explore the extreme regions of known and future investigations of prebiotic chemistry, where reactions fail, that will relate them to or exclude them from plausible environments where they could occur. Come critical parameters which most deserve investigation are discussed.

Heterotrophic Protists in Hypersaline Microbial Mats and Deep Hypersaline Basin Water Columns

Author(s):Virginia P. Edgcomb -- Joan M. Bernhard
Journal: Life
Publisher:
Abstract
| Pages: 346-362
Although hypersaline environments pose challenges to life because of the low water content (water activity), many such habitats appear to support eukaryotic microbes. This contribution presents brief reviews of our current knowledge on eukaryotes of water-column haloclines and brines from Deep Hypersaline Anoxic Basins (DHABs) of the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as shallow-water hypersaline microbial mats in solar salterns of Guerrero Negro, Mexico and benthic microbialite communities from Hamelin Pool, Shark Bay, Western Australia. New data on eukaryotic diversity from Shark Bay microbialites indicates eukaryotes are more diverse than previously reported. Although this comparison shows that eukaryotic communities in hypersaline habitats with varying physicochemical characteristics are unique, several groups are commonly found, including diverse alveolates, strameonopiles, and fungi, as well as radiolaria. Many eukaryote sequences (SSU) in both regions also have no close homologues in public databases, suggesting that these environments host unique microbial eukaryote assemblages with the potential to enhance our understanding of the capacity of eukaryotes to adapt to hypersaline conditions.

Eukaryotic Organisms in Extreme Acidic Environments, the Río Tinto Case

Author(s):Angeles Aguilera
Journal: Life
Publisher:
Abstract
| Pages: 363-374
A major issue in microbial ecology is to identify the limits of life for growth and survival, and to understand the molecular mechanisms that define these limits. Thus, interest in the biodiversity and ecology of extreme environments has grown in recent years for several reasons. Some are basic and revolve around the idea that extreme environments are believed to reflect early Earth conditions. Others are related to the biotechnological potential of extremophiles. In this regard, the study of extremely acidic environments has become increasingly important since environmental acidity is often caused by microbial activity. Highly acidic environments are relatively scarce worldwide and are generally associated with volcanic activity or mining operations. For most acidic environments, low pH facilitates metal solubility, and therefore acidic waters tend to have high concentrations of heavy metals. However, highly acidic environments are usually inhabited by acidophilic and acidotolerant eukaryotic microorganisms such as algae, amoebas, ciliates, heliozoan and rotifers, not to mention filamentous fungi and yeasts. Here, we review the general trends concerning the diversity and ecophysiology of eukaryotic acidophilic microorganims, as well as summarize our latest results on this topic in one of the largest extreme acidic rivers, Río Tinto (SW, Spain).

Domain Structures and Inter-Domain Interactions Defining the Holoenzyme Architecture of Archaeal D-Family DNA Polymerase

Author(s): Ikuo Matsui -- Eriko Matsui -- Kazuhiko Yamasaki -- Hideshi Yokoyama
Journal: Life
Publisher:
Abstract
| Pages: 375-385
Archaea-specific D-family DNA polymerase (PolD) forms a dimeric heterodimer consisting of two large polymerase subunits and two small exonuclease subunits. According to the protein-protein interactions identified among the domains of large and small subunits of PolD, a symmetrical model for the domain topology of the PolD holoenzyme is proposed. The experimental evidence supports various aspects of the model. The conserved amphipathic nature of the N-terminal putative α-helix of the large subunit plays a key role in the homodimeric assembly and the self-cyclization of the large subunit and is deeply involved in the archaeal PolD stability and activity. We also discuss the evolutional transformation from archaeal D-family to eukaryotic B-family polymerase on the basis of the structural information.

Phosphate Activation via Reduced Oxidation State Phosphorus (P). Mild Routes to Condensed-P Energy Currency Molecules

Author(s):Terence P. Kee -- David E. Bryant -- Barry Herschy -- Katie E. R. Marriott -- Nichola E. Cosgrove -- Matthew A. Pasek -- Zachary D. Atlas -- Claire R. Cousins
Journal: Life
Publisher:
Abstract
| Pages: 386-402
The emergence of mechanisms for phosphorylating organic and inorganic molecules is a key step en route to the earliest living systems. At the heart of all contemporary biochemical systems reside reactive phosphorus (P) molecules (such as adenosine triphosphate, ATP) as energy currency molecules to drive endergonic metabolic processes and it has been proposed that a predecessor of such molecules could have been pyrophosphate [P2O74−; PPi(V)]. Arguably the most geologically plausible route to PPi(V) is dehydration of orthophosphate, Pi(V), normally a highly endergonic process in the absence of mechanisms for activating Pi(V). One possible solution to this problem recognizes the presence of reactive-P containing mineral phases, such as schreibersite [(Fe,Ni)3P] within meteorites whose abundance on the early Earth would likely have been significant during a putative Hadean-Archean heavy bombardment. Here, we propose that the reduced oxidation state P-oxyacid, H-phosphite [HPO32−; Pi(III)] could have activated Pi(V) towards condensation via the intermediacy of the condensed oxyacid pyrophosphite [H2P2O52−; PPi(III)]. We provide geologically plausible provenance for PPi(III) along with evidence of its ability to activate Pi(V) towards PPi(V) formation under mild conditions (80 °C) in water.
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