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article imageHot spring bacteria use red light for growth

By Tim Sandle     Aug 26, 2014 in Science
Scientists have long been puzzled how bacteria grow in the near darkness of hot springs. It transpires that the bacteria can harness small quantities of red light from the little sunlight that permeates the depths.
Researchers have discovered that some cyanobacteria, also erroneously called blue-green algae, can grow in far-red wavelengths of light, a range not seen well by most humans. Cyanobacteria can be found in almost every terrestrial and aquatic habitat—oceans, fresh water, damp soil, temporarily moistened rocks in deserts, bare rock and soil, and even Antarctic rocks.
Specifically the scientists found that a cyanobacterial strain named Leptolyngbya, completely changes its photosynthetic apparatus in order to use far-red light, which has wavelengths longer than 700 nanometers -- a little longer than the range of light that most people can see.
The bacteria utilize the light by quickly turning on a large number of genes to modify cellular metabolism and simultaneously turning off a large number of other genes. The researchers have named this process “Far-Red Light Photoacclimation”.
The bacteria studied were collected from collected at LaDuke hot spring in Montana, near Yellowstone National Park. To reach their conclusions, the scientists used a range of biochemical analyses, spectroscopic analyses, studies of the structures and functions of proteins, profiles of gene-transcription processes, and sequencing and comparisons of cyanobacteria genomes.
The discovery lays the foundation for further research aimed at improving plant growth, harvesting energy from the sun, and understanding dense blooms like those now occurring on Lake Erie and other lakes worldwide. In the near-term, the research raises questions about the possibility of introducing into plants the capacity to use far-red wavelengths for photosynthesis.
The research was led by scientists working at Penn State University. The findings have been published in the journal Science, in a paper titled “Extensive remodeling of a cyanobacterial photosynthetic apparatus in far-red light”.
More about Red light, infrared, cyna, bluegreen algae, Algae
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