Research Area: Environment

Metagenomics and metaproteomics of deep artic hydrothermal systems

Project Number: 6501
Project Duration: 1. March 2009 - 29. Februar 2012

Project Director: Ida Helene Steen
Division Head: Hans Kristian Kotlar


This project belongs to VISTA's previous research area Biotechnology

The main goal of the project is to use cutting-edge metagenomic and metaproteomic technologies on deep arctic hydrothermal systems to characterize the diversity, physiological potential and adaptive features of archaea and bacteria in these habitats. Samples from unusual and pristine environments of the Arctic hydrothermal vent systems are compared to those from cold methane seeps at the Nyegga region (Figure 1). Although being exposed to extremes in pressure, temperature, salinity and nutrient availability, there is a rich microbial life at these sites where the microorganisms represent key players in chemosynthetic food webs. The microbial communities in such environments most likely, possess unique biochemistry and the enzymes involved in catalyzing these reactions have allowed the microbial communities to adapt and ultimately thrive under such harsh conditions. Thus the enzymes produced by these microbes are likely to possess unique biocatalytic activities capable of functioning under extreme conditions. Extremophilic microorganisms are defined as organisms that can thrive optimally in habitats that are hostile for human life as elevated temperatures (up to 110C), high pressure in the deep sea (up to 1000 bar) and extremes of pH (0-12). It is well-known that enzymes derived from extremophiles (extremozymes) are superior to the traditional catalysts because they can perform industrial processes even under harsh conditions, under which conventional proteins are completely denatured.

Figure 1. A) Microbial mats situated on a hydrothermal chimney emitting fluids with temperatures above 317C and B) Sampling of sediments cores within Pingo-structures exposed to ice cold seawater (-0.7C) at the G11 pockmark at Nyegga.

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