STATES CHRONICLE – Scientists have discovered a bacterial group that is essential for our climate regulation.
In a research paper called “The abundant marine bacterium Pelagibacter (…)” published this week in Nature Microbiology, an international team has discovered the tremendous role a tiny bacteria plays in the regulation of Earth’s atmosphere.
The microscopic bacterial group lives in the ocean, and it is called Pelagibacterales.
Pelagibacterales are the most abundant microorganism on our planet. In every drop of seawater, there are almost 500,000 of these microbial cells. And it looks like they play a huge role in the stabilization of our plant’s atmosphere.
Dimethylsulfide (DMS) is a chemical compound (a gas) involved in cloud formation, and our worker bacterial group Pelagibacterales are an important production source for the formation of this compound.
Thus, they’re both involved in a hypothesis that theorizes how a “negative feedback loop” uses the sunlight to increase the number of other ocean microorganisms which in turn produce more of this gas to regulate the amount of rain and sunlight that hits the surface of the ocean.
Doctor Ben Temperton, currently a lecturer at the University of Exeter, was a member of the team that first discovered this bacterial group. They say the bacterial group is a fascinating bunch of microorganisms because they had to evolve in an environment with few nutrients, so they have the smallest genomes.
The Pelagibacterales bacterial group don’t have the regulatory mechanisms other bacteria have, but still they simply and skillfully produce DMS in a system similar to a “pressure release valve”, says Dr. Temperton.
When there is too much dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) for the Pelagibacterales to handle, they eliminate DMS as a waste product. It is a kinetic regulation known to bacteria, but it was seen for the first time in “such an important biogeochemical process” as climate control.
These abundant marine microbial cells use a previously unknown enzyme to generate DMS, an enzyme present in other marine microbial species.
Dr. Emily Fowler of the UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, who has worked at the characterization of the bacterial group, say the microbial contribution to the production of such an important climate regulating gas has been “vastly underestimated”.
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