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

BER Research Highlights

"Bold Traveler" Microbe Makes its Own Ecosystem Nearly 2 Miles Underground
Published: October 13, 2008
Posted: January 27, 2009

From 2.8 kilometers deep in the Mponeng Mine in South Africa a novel microbe has been found that reduces sulfates and fixes carbon and nitrogen apparently in the absence of any other form of life, comprising by itself, the first known single-species ecosystem. In the October 10 issue of Science, researchers Terry Hazen and Adam Arkin at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, with colleagues from other DOE labs and several academic institutions, describe the discovery, DNA sequence, and initial characterization of microbe. Named, Desulforudis audaxviator, or "Bold Traveler" in a reference to Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth, this microbe exploits hydrogen and sulfate produced by the radioactive decay of uranium. Its genome sequence, determined at the DOE-Joint Genome Institute, revealed greater genetic diversity than expected given the homogeneity and stability of its environment. Significantly, its genome contains genes equipping it to get carbon (and energy) from carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, bicarbonate, formate, and other nonbiological sources that may provide useful biological capacities for future bioenergy developments.

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

  • Research Area: Subsurface Biogeochemical Research
  • 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)
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts

Division: SC-23.2 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

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)