February 20, 2018
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GenomeWeb/ABRF Webinar Series: A Genomic Investigation of Antarctica’s Ancient Cells


Assistant Professor of Planetary Science,
Johnson Biosignatures Lab

Postdoctoral Fellow, Johnson Biosignatures Laboratory 

Chair, ABRF Metagenomics Research Group and Extreme Microbiome Project & Manager, Massively Parallel Sequencing Facility, University of Vermont Cancer Center

This webinar discusses the findings of a recent effort to sequence microbial communities in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, one of the world's most extreme environments.

Receding lakes within the Dry Valleys of Antarctica provide a unique opportunity to study the effects of prolonged desiccation on microbial composition and function. Buried upslope from these lakes are desiccated microbial mats that inhabited the larger paleolakes thousands of years ago. These ancient mats hold insights into adaptations of life to past Antarctic conditions and also present an opportunity to explore the persistence of life in extremely harsh conditions. 

Our panelists share the details of this work. After collecting samples from three Dry Valleys, they extracted DNA using a gentle lysis technique to preserve long reads and a polyenzymatic treatment, developed by the Extreme Microbiome Project, to maximize yields from different cell types. They also recovered RNA from a subset of our paleomat samples. The results of the study demonstrate that cells appear to persist over timescales spanning thousands of years, with implications for our understanding of cell biology, Antarctic microbiology and biogeography, and the limits of life in arid environments.

Viewer can expect to learn: 

- Approaches to extremophile microbiology

- Techniques developed by the Extreme Microbiome Project 

- How new methods and new sequencing technologies like MinION and PacBio may help recover long DNA reads

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