Bacteria that live in hydrothermal vents on land and deep underwater need to be able to tolerate high temperatures and harsh, nutrient-poor environments with high concentrations of metals. As a result of living in such environments, however, these bacteria have enzymes that are stable at high temperatures, which could be useful for producing alternative fuels.
Aquificales bacteria are often found in thermal streams and associated with sulfide precipitation. Sequencing some of these bacterial genomes — specifically, Thermocrinis ruber, S. rodmanii and S. kristjansonnii — could provide researchers with so-called “anchor genomes” that would be applied in turn to studies already being done on microbial communities in thermal environments such as the Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. The findings could also lead to a whole host of biotechnological applications. For example, the Aquificales bacteria have enzymes involved in the production of hydrogen that could be used in developing biofuels. Also, the bacteria thrive in environments with high levels of metals and thus could also offer new bioremediation pathways to remove them from contaminated sites. Additionally, the Aquificales bacteria could help reduce hydrogen sulfide emissions from geothermal power plants, a recurring problem in many such facilities.
Principal Investigators: Anna-Louise Reysenbach (Portland State University)
Program: CSP 2009