The oceans, which make up 71 percent of our planet’s surface, are home to microorganisms that are adapted to life strategies along a continuum of two extremes: those that thrive in nutrient-rich waters often associated with warmer regions and those that prefer nutrient-poor waters. Collected from waters off the Alaskan coast, the bacterium Sphingopyxis alaskensis was sequenced by the DOE JGI under the DOE’s plan to study the biochemical pathways in microbial genomes and lay the groundwork for technologies based on that data which might be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This bacterium, which has a nutrient-poor lifestyle, serves as a model microorganism that thrives in low-nutrient waters and is key to carbon sequestration in the oceans.
Cavicchioli and his lab compared the traits of S. alaskensis‘ genome against the genome of Photobacterium angustum, a bacterium collected and sequenced from the warmer, nutrient-rich waters off Sydney, Australia. They then tested the model developed based on these two genomes to successfully predict whether several dozen bacterial samples were those that grow in nutrient-rich environments like P. angustum or under nutrient-poor conditions, like S. alaskensis.
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