Flowing Electrons Help Ocean Microbes Gulp Methane

2015-09-22T08:41:17+00:00 September 22, 2015|
High magnification image of sediment enriched in syntrophic consortia. In the center of the image is an overview of sediment containing cells, and individual -- roughly spherical -- microbial communities are shown at high magnification at the ends of lines extending from the center. Fluorescent signals show the ANME-2c archaeal subgroup in red, and sulfate reducing bacteria are shown in green. Sediment particles appear yellow. (Credit: Grayson Chadwick / Caltech)

(Click here to enlarge) High magnification image of sediment enriched in syntrophic consortia. In the center of the image is an overview of sediment containing cells, and individual — roughly spherical — microbial communities are shown at high magnification at the ends of lines extending from the center. Fluorescent signals show the ANME-2c archaeal subgroup in red, and sulfate reducing bacteria are shown in green. Sediment particles appear yellow. (Credit: Grayson Chadwick / Caltech)

Good communication is crucial to any relationship, especially when partners are separated by distance.

(From Science Daily) — This also holds true for microbes in the deep sea that need to work together to consume large amounts of methane released from vents on the ocean floor. Recent work at Caltech has shown that these microbial partners can still accomplish this task, even when not in direct contact with one another, by using electrons to share energy over long distances.

This is the first time that direct interspecies electron transport–the movement of electrons from a cell, through the external environment, to another cell type–has been documented in microorganisms in nature. The results were published in the September 16 issue of the journal Nature.

“Our lab is interested in microbial communities in the environment and, specifically, the symbiosis–or mutually beneficial relationship–between microorganisms that allows them to catalyze reactions they wouldn’t be able to do on their own,” says Professor of Geobiology Victoria Orphan, who led the recent study. For the last two decades, Orphan’s lab has focused on the relationship between a species of bacteria and a species of archaea that live in symbiotic aggregates, or consortia, within deep-sea methane seeps. The organisms work together in syntrophy (which means “feeding together”) to consume up to 80 percent of methane emitted from the ocean floor–methane that might otherwise end up contributing to climate change as a greenhouse gas in our atmosphere.

Read the full article here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150918180315.htm