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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Environmental Genomic Characterization of a Deep subsurface Microorganism Desulforudis audaxviator


A more complete picture of life on Earth, and even life in the Earth, has recently become possible through the application of environmental genomics, in which DNA is extracted from an environmental sample and then sequenced and analyzed. The field of environmental genomics is expanding our view of the extent of life on this planet and allowing us to begin to characterize the abilities of microbes that inhabit niches previously thought to be inhospitable, even when isolation of the organisms present in those environments is not possible. A team of researchers is using this approach to study life deep within the crust of the earth, and report here the genome sequence of the dominant organism found in the deep subsurface of South Africa. This organism, which they have named Desulforudis audaxviator in honor of its bold travels, its rod-like morphology, and its apparent use of sulfate instead of oxygen for the generation of energy, demonstrates a successful strategy for life in the deep subsurface, and may prove to be similar to organisms in equivalent environments in other regions of the Earth's crust. The study reported here at the ASM General Meeting in Orlando, Florida, on May 22nd, 2006 has required the abilities of a team of investigators. Tullis C. Onstott from Princeton University led the team that collected the sample, Fred J. Brockman and David E. Culley from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory isolated the DNA, Alla Lapidus from the DOE Joint Genome Institute led the sequencing efforts, and Eric J. Alm of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Eoin L. Brodie, Adam P. Arkin, Terry C. Hazen, and Dylan Chivian from the E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory performed the analysis of the genome. This project has received funding from the DOE Genomics:GTL program, as well as from the NASA Astrobiology Institute, as such deep subsurface environments on Earth allow us to understand by analogy environments that may be conducive to life on Mars. The G

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