The primary goal of this project is to sequence the genome of an organism that represents what could be one of the least evolved lineages of modern life that has been detected in nature so far. Barns et al. discovered the Korarchaeota lineage in Obsidian Pool over a decade ago, using what were highly innovative methods for the time. Since their discovery, the Korarchaeota group of microorganisms still remains mostly uncharacterized. The group is primarily defined only by 16S ribosomal RNA sequences obtained from a variety of marine and terrestrial hydrothermal environments. The 16S-rRNA-based phylogeny of the Korarchaeota suggests that this group forms a very deep, kingdom-level, major lineage within the archaeal domain.
To date, there are no representatives of the Korarchaeota in pure culture, and nothing is known about their properties. In recent years, a robust, continuous enrichment culture that harbors these organisms in significant densities has been established. The enrichment community has been phylogenetically characterized and is known to comprise a relatively low diversity of other hyperthermophilic archaea and bacteria. This sequencing project presents the ideal opportunity to use high-throughput DNA sequencing to gain a genome-level description of the Korarchaeota as well as the microbial community that supports these unique organisms. The genomic information could provide new insights into the origin of life and will be of immediate interest to microbiologists and evolutionary molecular biologists from diverse backgrounds.
CSP project participants: Karl O. Stetter (proposer) and James G. Elkins (Univ. Regensburg and Diversa Corp.); Martin Keller (Diversa Corp.).