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New Study Shows Group Of Marine Bacteria Dominate Offshore Waters Of Southeast, May Play Key Role In Ecosystem Processes

ber of locations off coastal Georgia over a three-year period were from members of the marine alpha group of bacteria. The presence of the marine alpha bacteria dropped off in the fresh-water areas of estuaries, such as where the Altamaha River empties, indicating they are exclusively marine and specialized for the salty water found along the Georgia coast.

Moran really needed more proof that the probe was correctly targeting marine alpha bacteria, however. So she and Gonzlez used a technique called polymerase chair reaction (PCR) to greatly amplify the genetic sequences of the 16S rRNA genes for study, while at the same time successfully culturing the bacteria in low-nutrient seawater agar medium.

"In addition to providing further evidence for the abundance of marine alpha bacteria in coastal seawater of the southeastern United States, successful culturing of bacteria from this group furnishes organisms for studies of the physiology and ecology of this important cluster," said Moran.

Now that it's clear that marine alpha bacteria are abundant in near-shore marine systems, the question remains: What role do they play? As it turns out, these bacteria could have an important future place in industry, since at least one described for the first time and named by Gonzles and Moran (Sagittula stellata) can break down lignin, the polymer that acts as a natural binder and support for cellulose fibers of woody plants. The potential use of such bacteria in the pulp and paper industry is obvious. And lignin and related compounds also have many natural sources in coastal waters.

Also, there is evidence that some of the bacteria may be involved in sulfur cycling - an important natural process that is also used in business and industry. Much more remains to be known before these marine bacteria can be used by humankind, however. Indeed, scientists are still trying to compl
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Contact: Phil Williams
Philwpio@uga.cc.uga.edu
706/542-8501
University of Georgia
24-Apr-1998


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