AMHERST, Mass. - A team of scientists at the University of Massachusetts led by microbial genetics professor Shiladitya DasSarma, in collaboration with noted molecular biotechnologist Leroy Hood of the Institute of Systems Biology (ISB), Seattle, Wash., has completed the genome sequence of Halobacterium species NRC-1, an "extremophilic" microorganism that grows best in an environment 10 times saltier than sea water. The achievement will be published in the Oct. 3 edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
DasSarma and Hood led a consortium of researchers from 12 universities and research centers in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., on the three-year, $1.2-million project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Hood may be best known as the creator of DNA sequencing technology. Forty-three researchers, including the team leaders, participated in producing the manuscript outlining their findings. Wailap Victor Ng, a UMass alumnus currently on the faculty of ISB, was first author of the manuscript.
"Genome studies on Halobacterium should contribute toward some of the greatest unsolved mysteries of biology today, including our understanding of evolution as well as of the fundamental life process in higher cells," says DasSarma. "There is a tremendous genetic resource in the genomes of microorganisms. In fact, it is one of the last, largely untapped, natural resources on our planet."
Halobacterium NRC-1 is a member of the archaea, the third branch of life in the biological world. Archaea are evolutionary relics, microorganisms that are among the most ancient forms of life, yet they represent a third of all living creatures. Astronomical numbers of Halobacterium - which are microscopic, rod-shaped organisms - can be found in bodies of very salty water, including the Great Salt Lake and the Dead Sea. The single-celled organisms utilize sunlight to synthesize energy, giving off a red bypro
Contact: Paula Hartman Cohen
University of Massachusetts at Amherst