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Under the Sea

Researchers from the University of Washington managed to isolate, cultivate, and conduct a genetic analysis of an ocean bacterium belonging to the sulfur-oxidizing bacteria clade SUP05.

As the team led by UW's Robert Morris note in their The ISME Journal: Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology paper, SUP05 bacteria have been linked to nitrogen cycling and loss in ocean oxygen minimum zones. These oceanic regions of heightened nitrogen cycling are expanding due to climate change and lead to the removal of needed nitrogen from marine environments. But many bacteria living in these regions have been recalcitrant to culturing.

But as Morris and his colleagues report, they were able to culture a member of the SUP05 clade, which they dubbed Candidatus Thioglobus autotrophicus. By sequencing its genome, the researchers found that it has the genetic potential to live as a facultatively anaerobic chemolithoautotroph that oxidizes sulfur and that it can reduce O2, NO3, and NO. Their findings suggest that Ca. T. autotrophicus can consume ammonium and produce nitrite.

"We are filling in the gaps by providing a full genome," first author Vega Shah, a UW doctoral student, says in a statement. "Now we can talk about both what these organisms can and can't do."

"In the very big picture, we know that different types of oxygen minimum zones that house these organisms are getting bigger and more persistent," she adds. "So, whatever influence these bugs have on water chemistry and the atmosphere is going to get more and more important."