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ORNL, UC Berkeley unravel real-world clues to Earth's mysteries

nation of a natural microbial community.

"As such, we are really among the leaders in this area, as evidenced by the strong interest in Science," Hettich said. "This is an area in which there is keen interest by many research groups; however, our team has been the most successful in obtaining detailed information from actual measurements."

Of particular interest to DOE is how this effort relates to its Genomes to Life program, which is focused on identifying and characterizing protein complexes, the molecular machines of life.

"Most of the current work looks at single microbial organisms grown under controlled laboratory conditions, but the longer-term plans are to extend this work to real-world microbial communities -- the natural state of these systems in the environment," Hettich said. "This goal is particularly difficult to reach due to the complexity and heterogeneity of the communities.

"However, the acid mine drainage microbial colony is an excellent starting point because it is a real-life natural world community with a limited number of members. Thus, we can measure and learn about microbial interactions and function distribution in a natural setting without being overwhelmed by an extremely large number of organisms."

The research team acknowledges that, although this study provides interesting details of microbial community structure and function, a great deal of work remains to more fully explore the spatial and temporal aspects of how such a community grows, ages and adapts to its environment.


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Contact: Ron Walli
wallira@ornl.gov
865-576-0226
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory
5-May-2005


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