NEW YORK, Oct. 7 - A team of researchers has sequenced the genome of a bacterium that may help remove toxic metals from the environment, The Institute for Genomic Research said today.
The sequence of Shewanella oneidensis, outlined in a paper posted online this week by Nature Biotechnology, is said to give scientists a peak into the way the bug "reduces" and precipitates chromium, uranium, and other toxic metals, according to TIGR.
"This is a very important model organism for bioremediation research because of its unusual capacities to remove environmental pollutants under diverse conditions," said John Heidelberg, a TIGR assistant investigator and the first author of the paper. He added that S. oneidensis is the first microbe his group has sequenced that "can function for metal bioremediation" and also survive in both aerobic and anaerobic environments.
Using whole genome-shotgun sequencing, Heidelberg's team found that the genome of S. oneidensis contains nearly 5 million base pairs, a large circular chromosome with 4,758 predicted genes, and a plasmid circle of DNA with 173 predicted genes. The researchers also learned that the genome has "an unusually high number" of cytochromes--"the key to the microbe's potential for bioremediation projects."
The genome project, supported by the US Department of Energy's Office of Biological and Environmental Research through its Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research and Microbial Genome programs, is expected to provide a boost for a wide-ranging research effort to develop S. oneidensis as a bioremediation agent.
Heidelberg's co-authors were Kenneth Nealson of the University of Southern California; Eric Gaidos of the University of Hawaii; Terry Meyer of the University of Arizona; Alexandre Tsapin of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and James Scott of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.