Scientists first managed to isolate and propagate the “alien” archaea from acidic lakes in Yellowstone national Park, whose study will help us understand how life might survive in extreme conditions on Earth and beyond.
“Our study shows how living organisms can adapt and interact with other creatures through symbiosis or parasitism in order to survive in a hostile environment. Now we can make these “wild” microbes and even use them for energy production and medical purposes,” said Mircea Gift (Mircea Podar) of the National laboratory in Oak ridge (USA).
Lakes and geysers in the crater of the Yellowstone volcano in the Western United States are some of the most extreme and bizarre habitats on Earth, where live a very unusual organisms that can live in hellish conditions, to carry a huge dose of radiation, heat, eat drab and live in almost pure acid.
How to explain a Gift to his colleagues, scientists have been aware of their existence, but hitherto they were not able to extract a sufficient number of these “alien” microbes – bacteria and archaea – from the waters of the Yellowstone hot springs and acid lakes and force them to live and reproduce in a normal environment, which is necessary to decode their DNA, determining their position on the “tree of life” and further study.
The authors were able to identify microbes from Yellowstone acidic “soup” thanks to the technology that allows you to select a single RNA of microbes from solution, and multiply them with a special habitat, which was maintained temperature at 82 degrees Celsius and pH 3.6 pH.
Having grown up a few colonies of these “acid” microbes, the team of Gift found that they managed to find not one, but two different species of archaea, one of them lives inside the other. The larger the body, the basis of this dolls, known to scholars under the name of Acidilobus –representatives of this kind of microbes scientists have found in the springs of Kamchatka and in the lakes, and her “roommate” – the archaea Nanopusillus acidilobi, have never been found.
This “nano-archaea” are extremely unusual in nature, as it is adapted to live inside other organisms and lost the ability to synthesize some amino acids, enzymes and cellular “Energobalance” ATP – she “steals” from a larger microbe. Because of this, the dimensions of its cells are very small – their diameter is less than 300 nanometers, which is extremely modest rates for microbes, and the genome consists of only 600 thousand “letters”.
Observing the life cycle indicate that while the archaea is still not completely lost the ability for independent living, as many other endosymbionts and endoparasites – it can leave cell Acidilobus and live some time separately from them, while not shrivas and without melting in boiling acid. This probably allows the microbe to escape from a dying host cell without dying along with it.
The discovery of this microbe, as scientists hope, will expand our understanding of possible life and the inanimate world, and will also help us to understand what to look for alien life. In addition, these microbes due to their ability to eat a variety of chemical substances can find application in the search for alternative energy sources.