BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

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

BER Research Highlights

Biochemistry of a Mysterious Microbial Community
Published: November 22, 2012
Posted: March 26, 2013

Subsurface microbial communities are highly diverse and comprise an enormous fraction of Earth’s biomass, but lack of knowledge related to their ecological function makes understanding their ongoing biogeochemical processes difficult. Using synchrotron radiation-based Fourier transform infrared (SR-FTIR) spectromicroscopy to probe biofilm samples from a cold subsurface sulfur spring, researchers recently determined how bacteria and archaea work together to influence global sulfur and carbon cycles. By revealing the bright spectral signals of akylic and methyl groups, together with sulfur functional groups, SR-FTIR unambiguously identified the bacteria’s sulfur-oxidizing metabolic activity. Archaeal cells, which were the dominant population in this biofilm, showed no such activity, suggesting a thriving mutual metabolism of archaea and bacteria. The research was conducted using resources at the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Reference: Probst, A. J., et al. 2012. “Tackling the Minority: Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria in an Archaea-Dominated Subsurface Biofilm,” The ISME Journal 7, 635–51. (Reference link)

Contact: Roland F. Hirsch, SC-23.2, (301) 903-9009
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Structural Biology, Biomolecular Characterization and Imaging
  • Research Area: Structural Biology Infrastructure

Division: SC-33.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Mar 23, 2021
Molecular Connections from Plants to Fungi to Ants
Lipids transfer energy and serve as an inter-kingdom communication tool in leaf-cutter ants&rsqu [more...]

Mar 19, 2021
Microbes Use Ancient Metabolism to Cycle Phosphorus
Microbial cycling of phosphorus through reduction-oxidation reactions is older and more widespre [more...]

Feb 22, 2021
Warming Soil Means Stronger Microbe Networks
Soil warming leads to more complex, larger, and more connected networks of microbes in those soi [more...]

Jan 27, 2021
Labeling the Thale Cress Metabolites
New data pipeline identifies metabolites following heavy isotope labeling.

Analysis [more...]

Aug 31, 2020
Novel Bacterial Clade Reveals Origin of Form I Rubisco

  • All plant biomass is sourced from the carbon-fixing enzyme Rub [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)