Goa University alumnus maps life in extreme, stressful environments

December 28th, 2007 - 3:13 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, December 28 (ANI): A Goa University alumnus and his biologist colleagues have developed a model representing how Halobacterium salinaruma free-living microbe that lives in hyper-extreme environments like the Dead Sea or Utahs Great Salt Lakeresponds to changing environmental conditions.

Dr. Nitin Baliga, who is currently associated with the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, has authored this work with New York University Assistant Biology Professor Richard Bonneau.

The researchers say that their study is based on systems biology, a new scientific field that examines how genes influence each other via extremely large networks of interaction and how such networks respond to stimuli, adapting over time to new environments and cell states.

They claim that they are the first to predict that 80 per cent of the total genome (several thousand genes) of the organism responds to stimuli over time, dynamically rearranging the cells makeup to meet environmental stresses.

This organism is amazingly versatile and tolerates lots of different extreme environmental stresses. It does this by making decisions and dynamically changing the levels of genes and proteins; if it makes incorrect decisions it dies. Our model shows how these decisions get made, how the bug responds, said Bonneau.

This is also a good model to explain how, in general, cells make stable decisions as they move through time scales. If you want to understand how cells respond to their environments, the model offers a clearer window than previously existed for this domain of life, he added.

The authors say that by understanding how biological systems function, scientists can then turn their attention to engineering the biosynthesis of biofuels and pharmaceuticals.

We are now gearing up to try this sort of analysis on several other organisms, Bonneau said.

In addition, because this study examined the dynamics of a key environmental microbe it offers a window into understanding life in extreme environments, in some cases created by human activities, such as the concentration of pollution by evaporation or high salt marine environments, he added. (ANI)

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