Monday, 28 April 2014

Genetic Mix Of Bacterial Diversity Found In One Milliliter Of Sea Water

April 25, 2014

Brett Smith for – Your Universe Online

Countless marine microbes called Prochlorococcus are the primary basis for most ocean food webs, yet microbiologists know very little about the diversity with this group of photosynthetic bacteria.

A new study, published in the journal Science, describes hundreds of subpopulations of these essential marine bacteria. An international team of researchers were able to identify the different subgroups through a comprehensive genomic analysis of microbes found in a milliliter of ocean water.

“The sheer enormity of diversity that must be in the octillion Prochlorococcus cells living in the seas is daunting to consider,” said study author Sallie Chisholm, a professor of environmental studies at MIT. “It creates a robust and stable population in the face of environmental instability.”

The study team found that the Prochlorococcus subpopulations all shared the same “genomic backbone” – a primary set of alleles connected to a few flexible genes. While the various subpopulations diverged at least a couple of million years ago, the genomic backbone is an older, slow changing component of the genome, the flexible genes inhabit parts of the genome where swapping is fairly frequent, creating a more speedy evolution.

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