Oceanic Bacterial Photopigments Converts Light
Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2001
(Science Daily) Research Institute (MBARI). Their discovery is reported in this week’s issue of the journal Nature. Last fall in the journal Science, the MBARI researchers described the first marine bacterium with this photopigment that can generate cellular energy using light.
"Advances in technology are letting us view the marine microbial world in new ways," said Ed DeLong, leader of the MBARI research group. Colleague Oded Béjà added, "We were lucky to find these different proteorhodopsins out there in the vast ocean.”
The scientists observed chemical activity stimulated by light flashes in native marine microbes, similar to the activity seen in earlier laboratory studies of proteorhodopsin and bacteriorhodopsin. These observations showed that the microbes and active photopigment were present in abundance at the ocean’s surface.
The researchers also showed that genetic variants of the photoactive microbes contain different proteorhodopsins in different ocean habitats. The protein pigments appear to be tuned to absorb light of different wavelengths that match the quality of light available in different environments. Specific adaptations in the photopigment structure have optimized different variants functioning best at different depths in the water column. More
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