Almost a decade ago, the DOE Joint Genome Institute’s collaboration with University of California, Berkeley’s Jill Banfield helped pioneer the field of metagenomics, sequencing extremophiles isolated from an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site at Iron Mountain, CA.
Since this first study, the DOE JGI has gone on to sequence and analyze metagenomes for various bioenergy and environmental applications from marine and terrestrial environments, including the extremely hot and acidic springs at Yellowstone National Park.
In a study published online February 22, 2013 in Applied Environmental Microbiology, researchers isolated and sequenced four species of Hydrogenobaculum, dominant members of the microbial community found in the Dragon Spring near Norris Geyser Basin at Yellowstone National park. These genomes then compared against previously sequenced Hydrogenobaculum genomes that had been isolated from different hot springs at Yellowstone.
Using analytical tools in the DOE JGI’s Integrated Microbial Genomes system, the team found that while the Hydrogenobaculum genomes are very similar to each other, some of the genetic differences might be attributed to horizontal gene transfer. “Nearly half of the predicted HGT genes are found in a thermophile, an acidophile, or an acidothermophile,” the team reported as part of their conclusions, “providing an ecological linkage for acquisition.”