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A breathtaking finding: ancient bacteria have flexible genetic responses to extreme oxygen levels

A breathtaking finding: ancient bacteria have flexible genetic responses to extreme oxygen levels

Image: Creating extreme oxygen environments for A. Marina in the lab

New research by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis has found that the tiny bacteria responsible for transforming Earth three billion years ago into the oxygen-rich atmosphere you are breathing, are able to adapt to extreme levels of oxygen by having different genetic responses.

Lead researcher, Dr Miguel Hernandez, said “We investigated an ancient marine bacteria, called Acaryochloris marina (A. marina), which is found in extremely inhospitable habitats with very low or high levels of oxygen, where other organisms would be unable to survive. This remarkable bacteria, lives under other organisms so they don’t get much light to produce their own food, a problem they have solved by capturing sunlight using a different type of chlorophyll. Our ultimate goal is to find the gene or genes responsible of the production of chlorophyll d, the molecule responsible for capturing sunlight on these bacteria. We knew that these genes respond to extreme levels of oxygen, so we created a road map of all the genetic responses to oxygen, and we think we have found some potential chlorophyll genes.”

To learn more about how A. marina adapted to extreme environments, the team grew A. marina at different levels of oxygen, from very low (less than 0.2 %) to very high (65-75%). The results concluded that the level of oxygen triggers different genetic regulatory responses in A. marina depending on the oxygen concentration in its environment.

Media issued by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis.

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