Microbe's genome reveals insights into ocean ecology

Rockville, MD - Unexpected findings about the genetic makeup of a marine microbe have given scientists a new perspective on how bacteria make a living in the ocean a view that may prove useful in wider studies of marine ecology.

By deciphering and analyzing the DNA sequence of Silicibacter pomeroyi, a member of an important group of marine bacteria, scientists found that the metabolic strategies of marine bacterioplankton are more diverse and less conventional than previously thought.

In one surprise, the study found that S. pomeroyi has the genetic tools to enable it to use inorganic compounds (such as inorganic sulfur) for energy, which allows the microbes to use organic carbon more efficiently in low-nutrient ocean environments.

Analysis of the genome sequence also showed that the microbe has adapted in ways that allow it to take advantage of so-called ocean "hot spots" microscopic areas of the ocean that are rich in organic matter, typically related to living and dead microbial cells. The study, which appears in the December 16 issue of Nature, was led by scientists at the University of Georgia's Department of Marine Sciences and at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), along with several collaborators. The project was sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

S. pomeroyi named for Lawrence Pomeroy, a UGA biologist who was a pioneer in the study of marine microbial ecology is a member of an important group of marine microbes, the Roseobacter clade, found in both coastal and open oceans. Those bacteria account for an estimated 15 percent of the production of new microbial cells in the ocean.

The Nature paper's first author, Mary Ann Moran, says the DNA sequence sheds new light on ecological strategies that sustain microbial life in the world's oceans.

"This genome is especially significant for the new theories it will generate ab

Contact: Robert Koenig
The Institute for Genomic Research

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