September 23, 2005

International Genome Research Facilitated Using HPWREN for Data Exchange and Communication

Marine microbiologists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and genome analysts at the University of Padua, Italy have announced the elucidation of the complete genome sequence of a remarkable microorganism that thrives at 4,000 pounds per square inch in the deep sea. The results were published this year in the journal Science.

Genome research is an ever growing part of biology today, but determining the blueprints of life requires large amounts of computer analyses to stitch sequences together and decode their meaning. HPWREN enabled Professor Douglas Bartlett from Scripps Institution of Oceanography to stay in close contact with collaborating scientists in Italy, even while at his home in Ramona. This enabled the swapping of experimental data and discussions of the significance of the genes present in the bacterium Photobacterium profundum. The results of this investigation revealed the inner workings of a microbe that while lacking the ability to cope with sunlight is perfectly suited to life in the ocean abyss at near freezing temperatures, bone crushing pressures and a variable food supply. The Italian and American teams have been able to compare the blueprint of their P. profundum bacterium with that of related microbes not adapted to such extreme environments, to investigate the environmental conditions which activate or inactivate the expression of its genes and to look for the rules governing protein and membrane stability at great depth. Among the potential biotechnological benefits of this research is the discovery of genes governing the biosynthesis of the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid, a "heart smart" fatty acid important in human nutrition for its benefits to the circulatory system and for the prevention of certain diseases. Since the early days of HPWREN communication the two groups have visited each others laboratories, exchanged researchers and embarked on genome characterization of four additional marine microbes.

Electron microscopic image of a Photobacterium profundum cell and its long wavy flagellum. The cell is about 1 micron long. <i>Photobacterium profundum</i> cell

<i>Photobacterium profundum</i> chromosome

Color-coded image of one of the P. profundum chromosomes. Each ring indicates particular types of data related to the genes present, their function and activation, and relationship (if any) to genes present in other microbes.

More information can be found at http://bartlettlab.ucsd.edu/.

Research in the Bartlett laboratory has been supported by the National Science Foundation.

Professor Douglas Bartlett
Marine Biology Research Division
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

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