U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Microbial Carboxysomes: Key to Understanding Ocean Carbon Cycle
Published: December 09, 2011
Posted: August 21, 2012

Bacteria play a key role in sequestering carbon dioxide (CO2) in the oceans. In particular, Prochlorococcus cyanobacteria are considered the world's most abundant photosynthetic organisms, able to convert sunlight to energy at ocean depths of up to 200 meters. Despite their small size, they are estimated to contribute up to half of all marine biological carbon sequestration. This microbe's ability to use carbon is attributed in part to the RuBisCO enzymes that fix CO2 and are stored in microcompartments known as carboxysomes. Learning about these tiny cellular structures can help researchers understand how their composition and design support their function, contributing to a better understanding of the ocean carbon cycle. Scientists at the University of Mississippi, the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI), and University of California at Berkeley report the first successful purification and characterization of these carboxysomes from a strain of P. marinus. Comparisons against 29 cyanobacterial genomes in a phylogenetic assay suggested, based on the numbers and types of genes that the team identified, that the carboxysome's structure is more complex than had been previously assumed. "Our findings have important implications for the structure, function, and regulation of α-carboxysomes and suggest that the protein composition of these important bacterial organelles warrants a closer look beyond what was assumed to be a solved problem," the team concluded.

Reference: Roberts, E. J., et al. 2012. "Isolation and Characterization of the Prochlorococcus Carboxysome Reveal the Presence of the Novel Shell Protein CsoS1D," Journal of Bacteriology 194(4), 787-95. DOI: 10.1128/JB.06444-11. (Reference link)

Contact: Dan Drell, SC-23.2, (301) 903-4742
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling
  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI)

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER

 

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