Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Metabolomics & Lipidomics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

A Toxic Menu

Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Last Updated: Monday, April 30, 2012
Bookmark and Share
Marine worm feeds on carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide with the help of symbiotic bacteria.

In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen and Greifswald University, together with colleagues from Freiburg, Italy and the USA, have revealed that a small marine worm, faced with a scarce food supply in the sandy sediments it lives in off the coast of Elba, must deal with a highly poisionous menu: this worm lives on carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide.

The worm, Olavius algarvensis, can thrive on these poisons thanks to millions of symbiotic bacteria that live under its skin. They use the energy from carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide to produce food for the worm. The symbionts do this just like plants by fixing carbon dioxide into carbohydrates but instead of using light energy from the sun, the symbionts use the energy from chemical compounds like carbon monoxide. “They do this so effectively, that the worm has lost its entire digestive system, including its mouth and gut, during the course of evolution, and feeds only through its symbionts”, explains Nicole Dubilier, Head of the Symbiosis Group at the Bremen-based Max Planck Institute.

Carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide, however, are by no means the only energy sources this worm can live on. Some of the symbiotic bacteria in the worm can take up hydrogen and organic nutrients from the environment, even if these are present in only tiny amounts. Olavius algarvensis also has other tricks up its sleeve that allow it to survive in its nutrient-poor environment: in contrast to most animals, which are not capable of recycling their waste products and must excrete them, the worm can make further use of these, again thanks to its symbiotic microbes. The symbionts are true recycling masters when it comes to use products that still contain a lot of energy for their own purposes, but are no longer any use to the worm. “This is the reason why the worm has been able to not only reduce its digestive system, but also its kidney-like excretory organs”, stresses Dubilier, “something that has not been discovered in any other marine animal.”

For their investigations, the researchers used a combination of cutting-edge techniques, such as metaproteomics and metabolomics, which make it possible to analyse a large proportion of the proteins and metabolic products in an organism. Metaproteomic analysis presented a particular challenge, as it required the researchers to separate the cells of the symbionts and the host. Thomas Schweder from the Institute of Pharmacy at Greifswald University explains: “Using metaproteomics, we were able to identify thousands of proteins and assign them to the individual partners in the symbiosis. This gave us direct insights into the metabolism of the bacterial symbionts and their interactions with the host.”

The researchers were very surprised when their analyses revealed that the worm has large amounts of proteins that allow it to use carbon monoxide as an energy source, because this gas is so poisonous. “Also, we couldn't imagine that carbon monoxide is present in the worm's environments”, says Manuel Kleiner, a doctoral student in Nicole Dubilier's research group, “so we were amazed to find such unusually high concentrations of carbon monoxide in the Elba sandy sediments.”

Nicole Dubilier has been working with the worm for more than 15 years: “We have known for quite some time that the symbiotic bacteria in Olavius algarvensis can interact with one another to use the energy-rich sulphur compounds to gain energy.” But it is only now that the researchers have been able to work out other metabolic pathways – and to discover new energy sources. The study highlights the importance of complementing metagenomic analyses with metaproteomics and metabolomics. “The worm provides us with an example of the power of evolution. Over the course of millions of years, adaptation and selection have led to the development of an optimally adapted host-symbiont system. And these seemingly modest worms are an excellent model for a better understanding of other complex symbioses, such as those of the human gut”, says Dubilier.


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.


Scientific News
New ACE-inhibiting Molecule Found in the Asparagus
Scientists have determined that sulfur-containing compounds in plants can inhibit ACE.
A Metabolic Master Switch Underlying Human Obesity
Researchers find pathway that controls metabolism by prompting fat cells to store or burn fat.
Shedding Light On Century-Old Biochemical Mystery
Yale scientists have used magnetic resonance measurements to show how glucose is metabolized in yeast to answer the puzzle of the “Warburg Effect.”
PTR-MS Breath Test Shows Potential for Detecting Liver Disease
Researchers at the University of Birmingham have published results that suggest a non-invasive breath test for liver disease using an IONICON PTR-MS.
Metabolon and BCM Show Metabolomics May Play Key Role in Precision Medicine
Metabolon’s technology enhances understanding of genetic data and improves health assessment in newly published study.
Newly Discovered Cells Restore Liver Damage in Mice Without Cancer Risk
The liver is unique among organs in its ability to regenerate after being damaged. Exactly how it repairs itself remained a mystery until recently, when researchers supported by the NIH discovered a type of cell in mice essential to the process
Study Finds Cutting Dietary Fat Reduces Body Fat More than Cutting Carbs
In a recent study, restricting dietary fat led to body fat loss at a rate 68 percent higher than cutting the same number of carbohydrate calories when adults with obesity ate strictly controlled diets.
Inappropriate Medical Food Use in Managing Patients with a Type of Metabolic Disorder
Researchers have proposed that there is a need for more rigorous clinical study of dietary management practices for patients with IEMs, including any associated long-term side effects, which may in turn result in the need to reformulate some medical foods.
Medical Researchers a Step Closer to Developing Anti-Obesity Pill
A weight loss pill could soon be possible thanks to the work of Deakin University medical researchers.
Engineered Bacterium Produces Important Industrial Chemical
A Korean research team has reported the production of 1,3-diaminopropane via fermentation of an engineered bacterium.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!